Introduction --- Kings of Alba --- Macbeth --- David I --- Robert --- Stewarts
According to national myth, Kenneth I is the first king of Scots.
The genealogy of the Kings of Alba is rather confusing, so here is a family tree. The numbers in brackets are the dates of the reigns, so anyone without numbers was not a king. This is all AD, of course.
Alpín | -------------------------------------- | | Kenneth I (843-858) Donald I (858-862) | ------------------------------------------ | | Constantine I (862-877) Áed (877-878) | | Donald II (889-900) Constantine II (900-943) | | Malcolm I (943-954) Indulf (954-962) | | --------------------------------- Colin (967-971) | | | Duff (962-967) Kenneth II (971-995) Constantine III (995-997) | | Kenneth III (997-1005) Malcolm II (1005-1034) | Bethóc | Duncan I (1034-1040)
If you look at that family tree carefully, you will see that no-one managed to inherit the kingdom directly from his father! In those times, there was no primogeniture (oldest son inherits). The king could chose his heir, or someone could simply take the kingdom by force. You may also notice a gap from 878 to 889. Giric may have been king then (see below) but he was not descended from Kenneth I.
Here is a chronological list of kings of the Picts and kings of Alba. The Gaelic names show their fathers, since mac means son of. Their deaths (if known) shows how violent the times were. The Vikings were attacking Scotland, but many battles were between Scots themselves.
|Anglicised name||Mediaeval Gaelic name||Reigned||Length of reign||End of reign|
|Kenneth I||Cináed mac Ailpín||843-858||15||died from a tumour|
|Donald I||Domnall mac Ailpín||858-862||4||?|
|Constantine I||Causantín mac Cináeda||862-877||15||killed fighting Vikings|
|Áed||Áed mac Cináeda||877-878||1||killed|
|Giric||Giric mac Dúngail||878-889||11||?|
|Donald II||Domnall mac Causantín||889-900||11||killed fighting Vikings|
|Constantine II||Constantín mac Áeda||900-943||43||retired to monastery|
|Malcolm I||Máel Coluim mac Domnaill||943-954||11||killed|
|Indulf||Ildulb mac Causantín||954-962||8||killed fighting Vikings|
|Duff||Dub mac Maíl Coluim||962-967||5||killed or driven out by Colin|
|Colin||Cuilén mac Ildulb||967-971||4||killed in a hall-burning|
|Kenneth II||Cináed mac Maíl Coluim||971-995||24||killed by his own men|
|Constantine III||Causantín mac Cuiléin||995-997||2||killed in battle|
|Kenneth III||Cináed mac Duib||997-1005||8||killed by Malcolm II|
|Malcolm II||Máel Coluim mac Cináeda||1005-1034||29||?|
|Duncan I||Donnchad mac Crínáin||1034-1040||6||killed in battle with Macbeth|
Kenneth I or Kenneth MacAlpin is the founder of the dynasty which ruled Scotland for much of the medieval period. During his reign and after, the Vikings were attacking Scotland, and settling in Shetland,the Orkneys, Caithness, Sutherland, the Western Isles and the Isle of Man. Kenneth and his immediate descendents are called Kings of the Picts. The Picts lived in Scotland north of the Forth and Clyde from Roman times to the tenth century. However, little in the way of Pictish writing has survived, so records are limited, and little is known of them.
From 878 to 889, the descendants of Kenneth I in the male line lost the kingship. Giric may have been king then, or he may have ruled jointly with Eochaid who may have been descended from Kenneth's daughter.
By the time of Constantine II, the kings are starting to be called Kings of Alba, rather than the Kings of the Picts. The Gaels and the Picts needed to unite against the Vikings, and the Gaels (who came originally from Ireland) gradually took over the language and culture of Scotland. Alba is the Gaelic name for Scotland. Constantine II was not king of the modern area of Scotland. His kingdom was centred on the River Tay. Its southern limit was the River Forth, northwards it extended at least to the Mounth, and perhaps to the River Spey, while its western limits are uncertain (see right).
There seems to have been disputes between the various descendents of Kenneth I. Duff was killed or driven out by Colin and Kenneth III was killed by Malcolm II.
By the time of Malcolm II, he was one of several kings within the geographical boundaries of modern Scotland: his fellow kings included the king of Strathclyde, who ruled much of the south-west, various Norse-Gael kings of the western coasts and the Hebrides and, nearest and most dangerous rivals, the Kings or Mormaers of Moray. To the south, in the kingdom of England, the Earls of Bernicia and Northumbria, whose predecessors as kings of Northumbria had once ruled most of southern Scotland, still controlled large parts of the south-east. Malcolm did lead raids into England, and by his death, a client of his was in control of Caithness and Orkney, although, as with all such relationships, it is unlikely to have lasted beyond his death.
Duncan I is the king at the start of Shakespeare's play Macbeth. See next page.
© Jo Edkins 2008 - return to index