Kenneth MacAlpin: King of the Picts and Legendary Founder of Scotia

Kenneth MacAlpin: King of the Picts and Legendary Founder of Scotia


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There is scarcely any concrete information about the man widely credited with the foundation of medieval Scotia, the precursor to today’s Scotland. There are facts about battles that occurred and kingdoms that were defeated. Yet about the man himself, there is little more than legend. In the 1200 years since the reign of Cináed mac Ailpín (anglicized to Kenneth MacAlpin), his legend has only grown. The King of the Picts now seems to have been caught up in the Stone of Destiny also known as the Holy Grail. Yet beneath all of the extraordinary claims about the 9th century Scot, there is a real-life man who faced impossible odds to save his people and found a country.

Quhen Alpyne this kyng was dede, He left a sowne wes cal'd Kyned,
Dowchty man he wes and stout, All the Peychtis he put out.
Gret bataylis than dyd he, To pwt in freedom his cuntre!

This short verse, taken from Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland by the 15th-century author Andrew of Wyntoun, is one of the earliest accounts of Kenneth’s noble deeds. Most of what is known today has been pieced together by historians. It is known that throughout much of the 8th and 9th centuries, the coastlines and northern interior of the British Isles and Ireland were relentless assaulted by the Vikings. The fear and confusion of their raids produced a sense of chaos and anarchy. Into this vacuum of power stepped Kenneth MacAlpin.

Alpin

Kenneth was born sometime between 800 and 810 AD. His father was King Alpin II of Dalriada (Dál Riata), a Gaelic kingdom founded in 500 AD by Irish invaders led by Fergus Mor. At the time of Kenneth’s birth, the Gaels were dominated by the powerful Pictish Kingdom. Kenneth’s mother was, according to legend, a Pictish Princess of extraordinary beauty. Alpin II was ultimately beheaded by the Gaels for fighting on the behalf of a Pictish King, the second most hated enemy of the Gaels (after the Vikings). Little is known about Kenneth’s parents but there is reason to suspect that Alpin abandoned his comrades for love of the unnamed Pictish Princess, an act that cost him his life.

Bearded Pictish warrior from the Bullion Stone, Angus, now in the National Museum of Scotland. ( CC by SA 3.0 )

Around the same time that Alpin was killed in the battles between the Picts and the Gaels, the Viking raids became increasingly frequent and ferocious, perhaps because they knew many of the land’s men were otherwise engaged. By 839 AD the Pictish kingship was almost entirely wiped out by Viking warriors. It is here that Kenneth enters the story. Many fighters sought to fill the vacuum of power and become the next king. Kenneth sought to claim the Gaelic and the Pictish throne, both of which he had some right to. However, according to legend, he was challenged by the seven royal houses of the Picts, especially the Pict Drust X.

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The Viking invaders almost entirely wiped out the Picts. ‘Vikings Heading for Land’ by Frank Dicksee

MacAlpin’s Treason

Caught between the Gaels and the Vikings, the Picts knew that they needed a strong leader so a great meeting was called at Scone at which all of the claimants to the Crown were to attend, including Kenneth. The story goes that “the alcohol flowed freely at the meeting. Then, in what has since been referred to as Mac Alpin's treason, Drust and the Pictish nobles were all killed by the Scots: allegedly (and improbably) by having their booby-trapped benches collapsed so Kenneth's rivals plunged into pits in the floor and impaled themselves on spikes set there for the purpose” (Undiscovered Scotland, 2016).

This probably did not happen – the engineering feats alone seem hard to believe – but Kenneth most likely did kill, one way or another, all of his rivals to the throne. “What is fairly clear is that at some point between 839 and 848 AD Kenneth (with blood claims to both thrones) claims the kingdoms of the Picts and the Gaels” (BBC, 2014).

The First King

Kenneth became the first king of the House of Alpin, named after his father. His lands included the Pictish Fortrio region and the Gaelic Dál Riata kingdom. Kenneth dubbed his new kingdom Scotia (in Gaelic, Alba). Yet, just because he was now the undisputed king did not mean peace was anywhere near in sight. Young Scotia was surrounded by hostile enemies: to the north were the highlanders, called the Men of Moray; to the west were the Irish, lying in wait to reclaim Fergus Mor’s conquest; to the south was the Anglo-Saxon realm of North Umbria; and at all times in all places, especially on the coasts and the islands, there was the threat of a Viking invasion.

Map showing the approximate areas of the kingdoms. ( Rexfactor)

It was this last threat that was most worrisome for King Kenneth MacAlpin. Legend has it that a huge fleet of 140 Viking ships was headed toward Dál Riata, intend on destroying the Gaels once and for all. With surprising speed and foresight, Kenneth order to Gaels to collect all of their religious relics (including the treasured remains of St. Columba) and move them to the safety of the interior Pict lands, once enemy territory but now unified. Scotia’s ecclesiastical capital was thus transferred from the coastal Iona to the interior Dunkeld. At this time, “Dál Riata vanishes from the chronicles and we only hear of Pictland from this point” (BBC, 2014).

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Kenneth’s Death

The Gaels took a risk in trusting the Pictish king and Kenneth made certain to reward them for their faith in him. He distributed among his Gaelic supporters’ lands that had been taken from his defeated rivals. The Pictish commoners may have resented their new Gaelic landlords but Kenneth did not give anyone the chance to rekindle old ethnic rivalries. What was needed now was unity, “something the Picts and Gaels had in common, to define them as a single people, and, as is so often the case throughout history, this came in the form of a common enemy” (BBC, 2014). Fortunately for nascent Scotland, Kenneth had this in spades. He rallied his people to fend off the Viking attacks and even launched a raid or two of his own across Hadrian’s Wall into Anglican North Umbria.

Kenneth died in 858 A.D. of natural causes (most likely a tumorous cancer). He was buried on the island of Iona and succeeded by his brother, Donald I. The Kingdom of Alba lasted until 1296 when the English invaded. Kenneth MacAlpin is the 33rd great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.


Kenneth KING OF SCOTLAND ( -859)

1. Kenneth I MacAlpin KING OF SCOTLAND (also known as Cinaed 1), son of Alpin av Kintyre KING OF SCOTLAND (778-834), experienced Uniting of the Picts and Scots in 0844. He died in 0859 in Scone.

He succeeded to the title of King Kenneth I of Galloway on 20 July 834.1 He gained the title of King Kenneth I of Dalriada in 841.1 He gained the title of King Kenneth I of the Picts between 843 and 844.1 He gained the title of King Kenneth I of Scotland in 846.1 He has an extensive biographical entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.2

Kenneth Mac Alpin is generally considered the first king the united Scots of Dalriada and the Picts, and so of Scotland, north of a line between the Forth and Clyde rivers.

Ancient Gaelic-speaking people of northern Ireland settled in western Scotland sometime in the 5th century AD. Originally (until 10th century) "Scotia" often denoted Ireland, and the inhabitants Scotia were Scotti. [This is of course based upon the area of Northern Ireland where the Scotti dwelt]. This ancient Dalriadic land, later the area of Argyll and Bute, where these Scots settled, became known as the kingdom of Dal Riada the counterpart to Dal Riata in Ireland. St. Columba introduced them to Christianity and helped raise one person, Aidan, to the kingship Scottish Dalriada in 574.

Footprint in Stone, Dunadd
[Footprint, Dunadd] The original seat of the Scottish Dalriada is thought to be Dunadd, in north Lochgilphead, Argyll. The dark age fortifications on top of the isolated crag of Dunadd, on the edge of the Crinan Moss, were probably the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dalriada. Dalriada was established by Irish immigrants, or raiders, from county Antrim, Ireland around 500 AD., although Scottish raiders had been coming to these shores since circa 330 AD. The site now consists of a series of eroded terraces which, from three separate excavations, have shown evidence of metal-working, including many beautiful brooches, making it consistent with its interpretation of a royal residence of the first Kings of Dalriada. Interestingly, below the summit, on one of the lower terraces are a rock carving of a boar, (an ancient Celtic spiritual symbol, also found in Gaul) an enigmatic description in ogam, and the outline of a footprint! All this seems to indicate that not only was this spot a place of ancient Dalriada, but possibly the place of original inauguration of ancient kings.

This is echoed by the later inauguration of the Lords of the Isles, whose own inauguration ceremonies at Finlaggan on Islay purposely recalled the kings of Dalriada. Other centres of this ancient seat, (seemingly to be connected with the tribute of grains), are at locations of other ancient royal forts, notably: Dunollie (Oban), Tarbert and Dunaverty (Kintyre).

[Ancient DalRiada] They then expanded eastward into what came to be known as the Forest of Atholl and Strathearn (from the river Earn) and northward into the area of Elgin. The union of the lands of modern Scotland began in 843, when Kenneth MacAlpin, then King of the Dalriada, became also king of the Picts and Scots (within a few years, joined "Pict-land" to "Scot-land" to form the kingdom of Alba). By 1034, by inheritance and warfare the Scots had secured hegemony over not only Alba but also Lothian, Cumbria, and later Strathclyde--roughly the territory of modern mainland Scotland, except for the far north and the western Isles. In the 12th century the kingdom was divided into Scotland, Lothian, and Galloway later Scotland came to be the name for the whole land, and all its inhabitants came to be known as Scots, whatever their origin. The 11th century Duan Albanach, Scotland's earliest Gaelic poem, still gives the country this name, and it remains the Gaelic term for Scotland to this day. But 'Scotland' superceded it in the new language of the Lowland administration, whilst Alba (Albany) was relegated to the title of a royal dukedom in 1398.

Ciniodh (Kenneth) MacAlpin, known aslo as "Kenneth the Hardy", was believed born around the year 810 AD, but later took the Christian name of Kenneth. His father, Alpin MacEochaid, was king of Scots in name only, as at that time some of the area around Dalriada was actually ruled by the Picts of Caledonia.

His mother is said to have been either a daughter of Achalas, King of Argyllshire or a princess of the royal lines of the Picts. In either case, he was born into a strong royal bloodline. On his father's side he could lay claim as righful heir to the throne of Dalriada and his mother's bloodline gave him the right to petition for the throne of South Pictland, or Caledonia, to use the Roman term.

Mac Alpin
[Kenneth MacAlpin]Little is known about his father Alpin although, according to tradition, he took advantage of the Viking raids of early 830's to lead a revolt against the Caledonians. (More on this in Scottish Origins). In 836, after some early success during which he possibly destroyed Galloway, Alpin son of Eochaid the Venomous , virtually the last of the Dalriadic Scottish kings, fell near Laicht Castle, on the ridge which separated Kyle from Galloway, supposedly killed by a single man who lay in wait in a thick wood overhanging the entrance of the ford of a river. He was succeeded by his son Kenneth.

The Picts victory over Alpin MacEochaid only earned them the right to face the Vikings in battle. A battle they had to be somewhat concerned about, for the Vikings had suffered very few defeats in this century to anyone. They were defeated by the Norsemen in a fierce battle but had not been destroyed.

After Kenneth had ruled his father's land for only a few years, the Vikings struck at the Picts and Scots in 839. It was an odd battle. The Scots were engaged in a losing battle against a branch of the southern Picts still resisting the Scoto-Pictish union the Vikings watching to see the outcome. When the Scots withdrew the Vikings promptly attacked the Picts delivering a serious defeat to the Southern Picts. The Scots managed to escape to fight another day. The outcome was a disaster for the Picts. This was described by the Irish annalists as a battle between the Gentiles and the men of Fortren. According to tradition, Fortren was the new name given to the combined kingdoms of the Scots and Picts. In the great slaughter that ensued, Eoganan son of Oengus, his brother and successor, and many others were killed. After this battle, the warrior and royal class of the Picts was so severely depleted that they never again offered any serious threat to Vikings or Scots for control of their country. In an unintentional way, the Vikings had helped the Scots rule the Picts y so weaking them.

By Pictish marriage custom, inheritance passed through female (matriarchal descent) and Kenneth's maternal ancestry probably provided some claim to the Caledonian throne, to which now he applied himself.

Though a marriage to the daughter of Constantine (his second cousin) increased his standing, his petition was not accepted during the next four ascensions of the Caledonian Crown. Now Kenneth's sovereignty of Dalriada was regarded as an obstacle to his becoming Ard-righ (High King) of Alban just as there is was sometimes a tendency to prevent the merging of two ancient noble families or houses. The Pictish nobles seem to have resisted his claim and it appears to have taken several years for Kenneth to gain rule over all of the Picts. In the reign of Drust, the last Pictish King of Caledonia, it is said that Kenneth planned and executed an episode that is now known as 'MacAlpins treason'.

Less than eight years had passed since the disastrous defeat by the Vikings in c. 839 and Caledonian rule was still greatly weakened. The country was largely occupied by Viking forces, and he could not mount any serious challenge to their forced authority. It was in those conditions, c. 847 AD, that Kenneth invited the seven remaining Mormaers (Earls) of Caledonia to court to discuss his claim to the throne. According to legend, a great banquet was held at Scone which had become the sacred centre of Pictavia, and the guests were plied with food and wine. Late in the evening, after the guests - including Drust the King - were sufficiently inebriated, they were attacked and slaughtered by Kenneth's men in a scene right from a Shakespearean tragedy and treachery. This is but one version of "MacAlpin's Treason", of which, as with many oral traditions, there are many. One version of the story tells of the benches, on which the mormears were seated, being pulled out from under them, dropping them into a killing pit. Such was the way of Kings of Scotland in this era.

Kenneth cleared the way for his claim to the throne of Caledonia and was crowned not long after in the Pictish monastery of Scone on the ancient Stone of Destiny. This traditions exists, to the present day, the Coronation Stone for all the British monarchs, becoming King of the Picts as well as the Scots (although officially there is only a king/queen of all Britian). The Stone of Destiny (or Scone) has a sacred, religious and ceremonial heritage to the Scots dating back to the 6th - 7th century when the stone, then called the Li Fail and once used to crown the Irish kings at Tara. Allegedly, the stone was brought by Fergus (MacErc) to Dalriada. There are a great many legends about the origins of the stone, but despite the legendary claims it seems to have been quite an indigenous rock. Over time it became known as the Stone of Scone, in reference to its new location in Scone. (The seat of Alba). Kenneth MacAlpin, now king of the Scots and the Picts, and the whole of Scotland north of the Forth and Clyde established Alba, the first united kingdom in Scotland. Its territory ranged from modern Argyll and Bute to the north, across much of southern and central Scotland. Alba was one of the few areas in the British Isles to withstand the invasions of the Vikings, although they did suffer terrible defeats. The ancient link with Ireland (from which the Celtic Scots had emerged) was eventually broken as a cordon of Scandinavian settlements was established in the Western Isles, the far north of Scotland, and Ireland. With southern England also conquered by the Norsemen, (the Saxons called them all generically Danes), Alba was left isolated.

Moot Hill
[Moot Hill]Kenneth and his successors waged many wars against the English and the Norsemen who continually raided the coasts and threatened the independence of Scotland. The early capital of King Kenneth was at Dunkeld, which was later enlarged to hold the remnants of Saint Columba. It was not long after his accession to the kingship of the unitied Picts and Scots that the capital of the kingdom was moved to Scone, where the historic "Moot Hill" became from then forward the legal center of all Scotland, as it had previously been of Pictland.

Kenneth has a skillful reputation in politics as well as warfare, at a time when being a successful warrior was the only way to hold on to power. It is said that he was proclaimed king at Scone, a masterstroke as this was in the centre of Pictish territory, and brought with him the Stone of Destiny.

[Ancient DalRiada] He ruled until his death as Kenneth I, King of Alba, the New Kingdom created by the combination of the two previous nations. During this time he seems to have made some further conquests against factions of the resisting Picts and possibly invaded Lothian, Dunbar and Melrose. After attacks on Iona by Vikings he removed relics of St. Columba, probably in 849 or 850, to Dunkeld, which became the headquarters of the Scottish Columban church.

Kenneth I died in 858, near Scone in Pictish territory, and was buried on the island of Iona. Upon his death in c. 858, his brother Donald became King and ruled as a member of the House of Alpin. Kenneth MacAlpin was the founder of the dynasty that ruled Scotland for centuries.

It is considered unlikely that Kenneth was ever "crowned" king in the modern understanding of the sense of a coronation. He certainly did not get the Papal blessing, as this did not happen to a Scottish king until 1329. But certainly he was the King of Picts and Scots even if these ceremonies were altogether different than we know today. Kenneth's importance in Scottish history lies in the fact that he is traditionally seen as the monarch who became the first to unite the Picts and Scots.

Due to an absence of written records, it remains unclear what happened to the Picts after this time. Apart from their ornately carved stones, jewellery, and a few (possible) graves and settlement sites, the Pictish culture vanishes from history. The future of the land was now Scottish. However it is important not to underplay the importance of the Picts and their effects and contributions to Scottish history and culture. They didn't simply disappear, but were assimilated into a culture known henceforth as Scots, not Picts. The Picts, genetically speaking, are still very present in the blood of most all Scots.

As usual with early history there is more than a touch of myth and legend surrounding him. It isn't wholly accurate to say that he united the Picts and Scots for the first time, as several kings had already done so. The significance of Kenneth's reign is that after him the Picts and Scots stayed united. Nevertheless, he remains one of the most important of early Scottish rulers and the most important leader of a young and struggling nation.

While the male descendants of Mary Magdalene and Jesus became the noted Fisher Kings in Gaul, the female line retained its Dragon Queen status, in a quite separate dynasty, as the matriarchal Queens of Avallon in Burgundy. They were known as the House del Acqs (the House of the Waters), and among their number was the great 6th-century Queen Viviane, revered as the Lady of the Lake in Arthurian romance. This heritage was so important to the Celtic Church that, when King Kenneth MacAlpin united the Scots and Picts in 844, his extant installation document made special mention of his descent from the Queens of Avallon.

In c. 841 AD, a man came to power in Dalriada who would change the face of politics in Scotland forever. He was born Ciniod Mac Alpin, but later took the Christian name of Kenneth. In c. 841, he became Kenneth I, King of Alba.

Kenneth MacAlpin was born around the year 810 AD. His father, Alpin Mac Eochaid, was king of Scots in name only, as at that time Dalriada was ruled by the Picts. Kenneth's mother is said to have been either a daughter of Achalas, King of Argyllshire or a princess of the royal lines of the Picts. In either case, he was born into a strong royal bloodline. On his father's side he could lay claim as rightful heir to the throne of Dalriada and his mother's bloodline gave him the right to petition for the throne of Caledonia.

A Pictish WarriorKenneth grew up under the heel of a Pictish rule and apparently disliked it immensely. As a Scot of Irish descent, he naturally resented Caledonian control of Dalriada and their pre-emptive usurping of his fathers' throne. Meanwhile, his father Alpin took advantage of the Viking raids of the early 830's to lead a revolt against the Caledonians. Alpin died in battle against the Picts, which probably did little to change his son's attitude towards their rule.

The Picts victory over Kenneth MacAlpin's father only earned them the right to face the Vikings in battle. In their weakened state, the Picts were soundly defeated and not only lost their King, Eogan, but his brother and successor as well. After this battle, the warrior and royal class of the Picts was so severely depleted that they never again offered any serious threat to Viking or Scot for control of their country. Thus, a very jaded Kenneth took the reigns of a now independent Dalriada in approximately 841 AD.

Through Kenneth's ample ancestry he had the right to become a claimant to the Caledonian throne. Through a rumored marriage to the daughter of Constantine he increased his standing, but his petition was not accepted during the next four ascensions of the Caledonian Crown. When Drust, reigned as the last Pictish King of Caledonia, it is said that Kenneth planned and executed an episode that is now known as 'MacAlpins treason'.

During the reign of Drust, Caledonian rule was still greatly weakened. Less than eight years had passed since the disastrous defeat by the Vikings in c. 839. The country was largely occupied by Viking forces and could not mount any serious challenge to their forced authority. It was then, in c. 847 AD, that Kenneth invited the seven remaining Moramers (Earls) of Caledonia to his court to discuss his claim to the throne.

A great banquet was held, and the guests were plied with food and wine. Late in the evening, after the guests - including Drust the King - were sufficiently inebriated, they were attacked and slaughtered by Kenneth's men. Thus Kenneth cleared the way for his claim to the throne of Caledonia and became King of Scots and Picts. He ruled from c. 841-859 as King of Alba, the New Kingdom created by the combination of the two previous nations. He moved the capital from Dunndald to Scone, and in the process transferred the Stone of Destiny to its new home. After many years, this stone became known as the Stone of Scone, in reference to its new location in Scone.

Upon Kenneth's death in c. 859, his brother Donald became King and ruled as a member of the House of Alpin. As for Kenneth himself, he was rumored to be a man of astuteness, while his method of uniting the two kingdoms belies this fact and brings the term ruthless to mind. Either way, he successfully united the rule of the two Kingdoms permanently. As for the country of Caledonia itself, its territory was divided between the Vikings and the Scots and later became known as a part of Scotland itself.


Pictish kings ruled in northern and eastern Scotland. In 843 tradition records the replacement of the Pictish kingdom by the Kingdom of Alba, although the Irish annals continue to use Picts and Fortriu for half a century after 843. The king lists are thought to have been compiled in the early 8th century, probably by 724, placing them in the reigns of the sons of Der-Ilei, Bridei and Nechtan. [1]

Irish annals (the Annals of Ulster, Annals of Innisfallen) refer to some kings as king of Fortriu or king of Alba. The kings listed are thought to represent overkings of the Picts, at least from the time of Bridei son of Maelchon onwards. In addition to these overkings, many less powerful subject kings existed, of whom only a very few are known from the historical record.

Mythical kings of the Picts are listed in the Lebor Bretnach's account of the origins of the Cruithne. The list begins with Cruithne son of Cing, who is reported to be "father of the Picts". The account of the Pictish Chronicle then splits into four lists of names:

  • The first is a list of the sons of Cruithne.
  • The second is a list of early kings with no distinguishing information other than dates.
  • The third is another list of early kings with neither stories nor dates, all of whom have two names that begin with "Brude". It is possible that "Brude" is an ancient title for "king" from another source, which was misinterpreted as a name by the compiler (cf. Skene p.cv).
  • The fourth is a list of later kings. The first of these to be attested in an independent source is Galam Cennalath.

The dates given here are drawn from early sources, unless specifically noted otherwise. The relationships between kings are less than certain and rely on modern readings of the sources.

Orthography is problematic. Cinioch, Ciniod and Cináed all represent ancestors of the modern Anglicised name Kenneth. Pictish "uu", sometimes printed as "w", corresponds with Gaelic "f", so that Uuredach is the Gaelic Feredach and Uurguist the Gaelic Fergus, or perhaps Forgus. As the Dupplin Cross inscription shows, the idea that Irish sources Gaelicised Pictish names may not be entirely accurate.

Colouring indicates groups of kings presumed to be related.

Early kings Edit

Reign Ruler Other names [2] Family Remarks
311-341 Vipoig Reigned 30 years
341–345 Canutulachama [3] Reigned 4 years
345–347 Uradech Reigned 2 years
347–387 Gartnait II Reigned 40 years
387–412 Talorc mac Achiuir Reigned 25 years
412–452 Drest I Drest son of Erp First king of the Pictish Chronicle lists whose reign includes a synchronism (the coming of Saint Patrick to Ireland "ruled a hundred years and fought a hundred battles"
452–456 Talorc I Talorc son of Aniel An entry in the king lists reigned 2 or 4 years
456–480 Nechtan I Nechtan son of Uuirp (or Erip), Nechtan the Great, Nechtan Celcamoth Possibly a brother of Drest son of Erp The foundation of the monastery at Abernethy is fathered on this king, almost certainly spuriously. A similar name nehhtton(s) was found on the Lunnasting stone one interpretator of which suggested it containing the phrase "the vassal of Nehtonn"
480–510 Drest II Drest Gurthinmoch (or Gocinecht) An entry in the king lists reigned 30 years
510–522 Galan Galan Erilich or Galany An entry in the king lists
522–530 Drest III Drest son of Uudrost (or Hudrossig) An entry in the king lists
522–531 Drest IV Drest son of Girom (or Gurum) An entry in the king lists
531–537 Gartnait I Garthnac son of Girom, Ganat son of Gigurum An entry in the king lists
537–538 Cailtram Cailtram son of Girom, Kelturan son of Gigurum Brother of the preceding Gartnait An entry in the king lists
538–549 Talorc II Talorc son of Murtolic, Tolorg son of Mordeleg An entry in the king lists
549–550 Drest V Drest son of Manath, Drest son of Munait An entry in the king lists

Early historical kings Edit

The first king who appears in multiple early sources is Bridei son of Maelchon, and kings from the later 6th century onwards may be considered historical as their deaths are generally reported in Irish sources.

Reign Ruler Other names Family Remarks
550–555 Galam Galam Cennalath The death of "Cennalaph, king of the Picts" is recorded, may have ruled jointly with Bridei son of Maelchon
554–584 Bridei I Bridei son of Maelchon
Brude son of Melcho
His death and other activities are recorded, he is named in Adomnán's Life of Saint Columba the first Pictish king to be more than a name in a list
584–595 Gartnait II Gartnait son of Domelch, [4] Gernard son of Dompneth
595–616 Nechtan II Nechtan grandson of Uerb [5]
Nechtan son of Cano [6]
His reign is placed in the time of Pope Boniface IV
616–631 Cinioch Cinioch son of Lutrin
Kinet son of Luthren
631–635 Gartnait III Gartnait son of Uuid [7] son of Gwid son of Peithon?
635–641 Bridei II Bridei son of Uuid or son of Fochle son of Gwid son of Peithon?
641–653 Talorc III Talorc son of Uuid or son of Foth son of Gwid son of Peithon?
653–657 Talorgan I Talorgan son of Eanfrith son of Eanfrith of Bernicia
657–663 Gartnait IV Gartnait son of Donnel or son of Dúngal
663–672 Drest VI Drest son of Donnel or son of Dúngal

Later historical kings Edit

Reign Ruler Other names Family Remarks
672–693 Bridei III Bridei son of Bili Son of Beli I of Alt Clut son of Nechtan II At war with the Scots in 683. Defeated Ecgfrith of Northumbria at the Battle of Dun Nechtain in 685.
693–697 Taran Taran son of Ainftech Possibly a uterine half-brother of Bridei and Nechtan mac Der-Ilei
697–706 Bridei IV Bridei son of Der-Ilei Brother of Nechtan, Cenél Comgaill Son of Der-Ilei, a Pictish princess, and Dargart mac Finnguine, a member of the Cenél Comgaill of Dál Riata listed as a guarantor of the Cáin Adomnáin
706–724 Nechtan III Nechtan son of Der-Ilei Brother of Bridei, Cenél Comgaill Adopted the Roman dating of Easter c. 712, a noted founder of churches and monasteries
724–726 Drest VII Drust Perhaps son of a half-brother of Nechtan and Bridei. Possibly of Cenél nGabráin of Atholl ['New Ireland'] (T.O. Clancy, 2004) Succeeded Nechtan, imprisoned him in 726, may have been deposed that year by Alpín
726–728 Alpín I Alpin mac Echach Possibly of Cenél nGabráin (M.O. Anderson, 1973) Probably a co-ruler with Drest. Also King of Dal Riata, AT726.4 "Dungal was removed from rule, and Drust of the rule of the Picts removed, and Elphin reigns for them."
728–729 Nechtan III
restored
Nechtan son of Der-Ilei, second reign Cenél Comgaill It has been suggests that Óengus defeated the enemy of Nechtan in 729, and Nechtan continued to rule until 732.
729–761 Óengus I Onuist son of Vurguist Claimed as a kinsman by the Eóganachta
736–750 Talorcan II Talorcan son of Fergus Brother of Óengus Killed in battle against the Britons of Alt Clut
761–763 Bridei V Bridei son of Fergus Brother of Onuist King of Fortriu
763–775 Ciniod I Ciniod son of Uuredach, Cinadhon Sometimes thought to be a grandson of Selbach mac Ferchair and hence of Cenél Loairn Granted asylum to the deposed King Alhred of Northumbria
775–778 Alpín II Alpin son of Uuroid Death reported as Eilpín, king of the Saxons but this is taken to be an error
778–782 Talorc II Talorc son of Drest Death reported in the Ulster Annals
782–783 Drest VIII Drest son of Talorgan Son of the preceding Talorgan or of Talorgan, brother of Óengus
783–785 Talorc III Talorgan son of Onuist, also Dub Tholarg Son of Óengus
785–789 Conall Conall son of Tarla (or of Tadg) Perhaps rather a king in Dál Riata
789–820 Caustantín Caustantín son of Fergus [8] A grandson or grandnephew of Onuist or perhaps a son of Fergus mac Echdach [9] His son Domnall may have been king of Dál Riata
820–834 Óengus II Óengus son of Fergus Brother of Caustantín
834–837 Drest IX Drest son of Caustantín Son of Caustantín
834–837 Talorc IV Talorcan son of Wthoil
837–839 Eógan Eógan son of Óengus Son of Óengus, his brothers were Nechtan and Finguine. Killed in 839 with his brother Bran in battle against the Vikings this led to a decade of conflict

Kings of the Picts 839–848 (not successively) Edit

The deaths of Eógan and Bran appear to have led to a large number of competitors for the throne of Pictland.

Reign Ruler Other names Family Remarks
839–842 Uurad Uurad son of Bargoit Unknown Said to have reigned for three years, probably named on the Drosten Stone
842–843 Bridei VI Bridei son of Uurad Possibly the son of the previous king Said to have reigned one year
843 Ciniod II Kenneth son of Ferath Possibly the brother of the previous king Said to have reigned one year in some lists
843–845 Bridei VII Brudei son of Uuthoi Unknown Said to have reigned two years in some lists
845–848 Drest X Drest son of Uurad As previous sons of Uurad Said to have reigned three years in some lists the myth of MacAlpin's treason calls the Pictish king Drest
848–
13 February 858
Cináed Ciniod son of Elphin,
Cináed mac Ailpín,
Kenneth MacAlpin
Unknown, but his descendants made him a member of the Cenél nGabráin of Dál Riata

Kings of the Picts traditionally counted as King of Scots Edit

Cináed mac Ailpín (Kenneth MacAlpin in English) defeated the rival kings, winning out by around 845–848. He is traditionally considered first "King of Scots", or of "Picts and Scots", allegedly having conquered the Picts as a Gael, which is turning history back to front, as most modern scholars point out, he was actually 'King of Picts', and the terms 'King of Alba' and the even later 'King of Scots' were not used until several generations after him.


Contents

According to the genealogy of the Scottish kings, Kenneth's father was Alpín mac Echdach, the King of Dál Riada, which existed in what is now western Scotland. Alpín is considered to be the grandson of Áed Find, a descendant of Cenél nGabráin, who ruled in Dál Riada. The Synchronism of the Irish Kings lists Alpín among the kings of Scotland. [b] Modern historians are sceptical about the reign of Alpín in Dál Riada and his relationship with Áed, and believe this misconception is the result of negligence on the part of the scribes in some texts. [2] [3] The genealogy of the kings of Scotland and Dál Riada dates back to an original manuscript that was written during the reign of Malcolm III in the mid-to-late 11th century. [4] The Rawlinson B 502 manuscript provides the following ancestry for Kenneth:

. Cináed son of Alpín son of Eochaid son of Áed Find son of Domangart son of Domnall Brecc son of Eochaid Buide son of Áedán son of Gabrán son of Domangart son of Fergus Mór . [5]

There is very limited information about Alpín, the father of Kenneth. Some of Dál Riada's royal lists, which contain many scribal errors, say he ruled from 841 to 843. The Chronicle of Huntingdon, which was written in the late 13th century, states Alpín defeated the Picts at Galloway but the Picts then defeated him in a battle that took place in the same year, during which Alpín was killed. [6] According to the chronicle, Alpín died on 20 July 834. [7] [8] [9] This date is given in other sources but several researchers claim the date was probably copied from another source and the year of his death was obtained by recalculating the dates in the erroneous royal lists so they attribute Alpín's date of death to 840, [10] or 841. [11]

Alpín's mother is likely to have been a Pictish princess, the sister of Constantine I and Óengus II. According to the Pictish tradition, a female representative of the royal dynasty could inherit the crown. This origin gave Kenneth a legitimate claim to the Pictish throne. [11]

Kenneth I had at least one brother, Donald I, who succeeded him as king. [7]

Early years Edit

Kenneth MacAlpin is believed to have been born around 810 [12] [13] on the island of Iona, which is part of modern-day Scotland. After his father's death, Kenneth succeeded him as the King of Dál Riada. His coronation took place in 840 or 841. One of the main sources on the life of Kenneth is the 10th-century Chronicle of the Kings of Alba and describes the reigns of Scottish kings from Kenneth I to Kenneth II ( r . 971–995 ). [14] [15] [16]

Conquest of Pictavia Edit

According to the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, Kenneth came to a region that was inhabited by the Picts, during the second year of his reign in Dál Riada. Having defeated the Picts, Kenneth ruled there for 16 years. According to the Annals of Ulster, compiled in the 15th century, Kenneth I he became the King of the Picts in 842 or 843, and died in 858. [3] [6] Although some sources state Kenneth ruled the Picts from 841 to 856, according to the Chronicle of Melrose, he became king in 843, a date that is generally accepted by most modern-day historians. [11]

In the first half of the 9th century, the geopolitical situation in Dál Riada deteriorated. Almost the entire territory of the kingdom was mountainous, and was filled with uneasy terrain. Kenneth's realm lay between the powerful Kingdom of Strathclyde in the south and the Druim Alban mountain ridge in the east. It was difficult to pass through the provinces of Dál Riada, most of the land was infertile, and the kingdom had lost its western territories in the Hebrides to the Vikings, who had settled in the area and were raiding the borders of Dál Riada. These conditions may have forced Kenneth to attack the Picts. [6]

After the death of Eóganan mac Óengusa in 839, Uurad, and then Bridei VI succeeded him as the King of the Picts. According to List One, [c] Uurad's reign lasted three years, while Brude VI reigned for a year. According to List Two, Uurad reigned for two years, while Bridei VI's reign lasted a month. The reigns of Uurad's three sons were also present in List Two. Based on these accounts, the Pictish kingdom fell in 849 or 850. Many sources dating to the following periods state that the historical kingdom of the Picts and the Scots unified in 850. List Two states that the last Pictish King was killed in Forteviot or Scone. This is probably a reference to MacAlpin's treason, a medieval legend first recorded in the 12th century by Giraldus Cambrensis. According to the legend, a Pictish nobleman is invited by the Scots to a meeting or a feast in Scone and is treacherously killed there. At the same time, List One gives the year 843 as the date when Kenneth received the title of King of the Picts. [3] [6]

Sources do not detail Kenneth's conquest of Pictavia. [d] No chronicle mentions either Kenneth's continuing his father's campaign against the Picts or his supposed claim to the Pictish crown. Modern-day historians suggest Kenneth was a descendant of Pictish kings thorough his mother or had ties with them thorough his wife. It is likely the death of Eóganan, and the heavy losses sustained on the Picts in a battle against the Viking invaders, had weakened the Picts' military might. It is also possible Kenneth's visit to Pictavia began as a rebellion against the Pictish dominion as the Pictish forces of Óengus had occupied Dál Riada and made it its vassal in 741. [17] The Chronicle of Huntingdon gives the following interpretation of the events that took place after Eóganan's death:

Kynadius [Kenneth] succeeded his father Alpin in his kingdom, and that in the seventh year of his reign [the year 839], while the Danish pirates, having occupied the Pictish shores, had crushed the Picts, who were defending themselves, with a great slaughter, Kynadius, passing into their remaining territories, turned his arms against them, and having slain many, compelled them to take flight, and was the first king of the Scots who acquired the monarchy of the whole of Alban, and ruled in it over the Scots. [18]

It is likely Kenneth killed the Pictish leaders and destroyed their armies during his conquest of Pictavia, after which he devastated the whole country. The Annals of the Four Masters record a single battle during Kenneth's campaign, which according to Isabel Henderson, proves the Picts did not show any significant resistance to Kenneth's forces. [6]

King of Alba Edit

According to historical tradition, a new kingdom was formed after Kenneth annexed the kingdom of the Picts. This kingdom's Gaelic name was Alba, which was later replaced with Scotia and Scotland. The rulers of the kingdom initially held the title of King of Alba. Kenneth is listed in the royal lists dating to later periods as the first King of Scotland modern historians, however, believe the final unification of the kingdom took place half a century later and that Kenneth's main political achievement should be considered the creation of a new dynasty. This dynasty sought to dominate all of Scotland, under which the Scots assimilated the Picts, resulting in their quick disappearance of the Picts' language and institutions. [3] [11] [19]

After the conquest of Pictavia, the Scots from Dál Riada began to migrate en masse to the territories populated by the Picts. The list of Pictish kings concludes in 850 and the list of kings of Dál Riada also ends around the same time, meaning the title ceased to exist. Kenneth I and his administration moved to Pictavia it is possible the Scots moved to the region before the war and that such settlements played a major role in the selection of Scone as the kingdom's capital. Kenneth moved relics from an abandoned abbey on Iona, where Viking raids made life untenable, to Dunkeld, which was the centre of the Church of Scotland, in 848 or 849, according to The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba. The coronation stone was also moved from the island to Scone, for which it is referred to as the Stone of Scone. According to archaeological excavations, Forteviot was probably originally a royal residence but the place is not mentioned in the chronicles after the death of Donald I. The mass migration of Scots to the east most likely led to the assimilation of the Picts. Although the Irish annals, which dates to the late 9th century, mentions the title King of the Picts, the Picts may not have remained independent. The Pictish civil system and clerical laws were completely replaced with the Scottish legal system, and it is likely similar changes occurred in other spheres of the Pictish society. The Picts did not revolt against this assimilation process. [3] [6] [9] [20]

The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba describes the events that occurred during Kenneth's reign without specifying their dates. He invaded Lothian in the Kingdom of Northumbria six times, and captured the towns of Melrose and Dunbar, and razed them. The Celtic Britons from the Kingdom of Strathclyde attacked Kenneth's kingdom and burnt Dunblane. Furthermore, Viking invaders raided Pictavia, ravaging the territories "from Clunie to Dunkeld". [3] [21]

Kenneth strengthened his power by arranging royal marriages with neighbouring states, marrying his daughters to the kings of Strathclyde and Ireland. [3] [21] According to the Chronicle of Melrose, Kenneth was one of the first Scottish lawgivers but his laws have not survived to the 21st century. [22]

According to the Annals of Ulster, Kenneth died in 858. The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba states he died in February in Forteviot due to a tumour. Historians suggest this date might be 13 February. Kenneth was buried in Iona Abbey. Succession in the kingdom was carried out in the form of tanistry so Kenneth's successor was his brother Donald rather than his eldest son. After the death of Donald I, the sons of Kenneth, Causantín mac Cináeda and Áed mac Cináeda, inherited the crown. The Alpínid dynasty, which ruled Scotland until the beginning of the 11th century, was formed during this period. [3] [7] [23] [24]

Contemporaneous Irish annals give Kenneth and his immediate successors the title King of the Picts but do not call him the King of Fortriu, a title that was only given to four Pictish kings who reigned in the 7th to 9th centuries. It is possible the use of the title of King of the Picts was in reference to Kenneth and his immediate successors' claim to all of Pictavia, though there is very little evidence of the extent of their domain. [3]

The name of Kenneth's wife is unknown. There is a hypothesis she may have been a Pictish princess. Kenneth's children were: [7]

There is also a theory the wife of Amlaíb Conung ( r . 853–871 ), the King of Dublin, was a daughter of Kenneth. [9]


Kenneth MacAlpin: King of the Picts and Legendary Founder of Scotia - History

In this pedigree Alpín's father is Eochaid, an Irish name, yet he becomes the father of Cináed i.e. Kenneth MacAlpin. Cináed and Alpín are the names of Pictish kings in the 8th century: the brothers Ciniod and Elphin who ruled from 763 to 780. Alpín's alleged father Eochaid IV is not mentioned in any contemporary source. Alpín's mother was Fergusa, daughter of Fergus of Dalriada.

KENNETH MACAlPIN ( 834 - 859 AD)
Cináed mac Ailpín (Modern Gaelic: Coinneach mac Ailpein), commonly anglicised as Kenneth MacAlpin and known in most modern regnal lists as Kenneth I (810 – 13 February 858), was a king of the Picts who, according to national myth, was the first king of Scots. He was thus later known by the posthumous nickname of An Ferbasach, "The Conqueror". The dynasty that ruled Scotland for much of the medieval period claimed descent from him. Compared with the many questions on his origins, Kenneth's ascent to power and subsequent reign can be dealt with simply.

Kenneth's rise can be placed in the context of the recent end of the previous dynasty, which had dominated Fortriu for two or four generations. This followed the death of king Uen son of Óengus of Fortriu, his brother Bran, Áed mac Boanta "and others almost innumerable" in battle against the Vikings in 839. The resulting succession crisis seems, if the Pictish Chronicle king-lists have any validity, to have resulted in at least four would-be kings warring for supreme power.

St Columba

Kenneth's reign is dated from 843, but it was probably not until 848 that he defeated the last of his rivals for power. The Pictish Chronicle claims that he was king in Dál Riata for two years before becoming Pictish king in 843, but this is not generally accepted. In 849, Kenneth had relics of Columba, which may have included the Monymusk Reliquary, transferred from Iona to Dunkeld. Other than these bare facts, the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba reports that he invaded Saxonia six times, captured Melrose and burnt Dunbar, and also that Vikings laid waste to Pictland, reaching far into the interior. The Annals of the Four Masters, not generally a good source on Scottish matters, do make mention of Kenneth, although what should be made of the report is unclear:

Gofraid mac Fergusa, chief of Airgíalla, went to Alba, to strengthen the Dal Riata, at the request of Kenneth MacAlpin. The reign of Kenneth also saw an increased degree of Norse settlement in the outlying areas of modern Scotland. Shetland, Orkney, Caithness, Sutherland, the Western Isles and the Isle of Man, and part of Ross were settled the links between Kenneth's kingdom and Ireland were weakened, those with southern England and the continent almost broken. In the face of this, Kenneth and his successors were forced to consolidate their position in their kingdom, and the union between the Picts and the Gaels, already progressing for several centuries, began to strengthen. By the time of Donald II, the kings would be called kings neither of the Gaels or the Scots but of Alba.

Kenneth died from a tumour on 13 February 858 at the palace of Cinnbelachoir, perhaps near Scone. The annals report the death as that of the "king of the Picts", not the "king of Alba". The title "king of Alba" is not used until the time of Kenneth's grandsons, Donald II (Domnall mac Causantín) and Constantine II (Constantín mac Áeda). The Fragmentary Annals of Ireland quote a verse lamenting Kenneth's death: Because Cináed with many troops lives no longer, there is weeping in every house there is no king of his worth under heaven, as far as the borders of Rome.

Kenneth left at least two sons, Constantine and Áed, who were later kings, and at least two daughters. One daughter married Run, king of Strathclyde, Eochaid being the result of this marriage. Kenneth's daughter Máel Muire married two important Irish kings of the Uí Néill. Her first husband was Aed Finliath of the Cenél nEógain. Niall Glúndub, ancestor of the O'Neill, was the son of this marriage. Her second husband was Flann Sinna of Clann Cholmáin. As the wife and mother of kings, when Máel Muire died in 913, her death was reported by the Annals of Ulster, an unusual thing for the male-centred chronicles of the age.

Eochaid & Giric

834 - Kenneth succeeds his father Alpin MacEchdach
839 - Eóganan mac Óengusa and his brother Bran killed in battle with Vikings end of dominance of Fortriu.
844 - Kenneth MacAlpin becomes the dominant king of the lands of Dál Riata and of the Picts which would become known as Scotia,
849 - Kenneth MacAlpin moves St Columba's relics to Dunkeld making it an important Christian Centre
858 - Death of Kenneth MacAlpin

Eochaid mac Run was the son of a daughter of Kenneth MacAlpin, whose name has gone unrecorded by history and Run Macarthuragail, King of Strathclyde. His paternal grandfather was Artgal, King of Strathclyde, who had died at the hand of Aodh, the brother of Constantine I. The evidence for Eochaid's rule as king of the Picts rests on the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, which records :-

'And Eochodius son of Run king of the Britons, grandson of Kenneth by his daughter, reigned for 11 years although others say that Ciricium (Giric) son of another reigned at this time, because he became Eochaid's foster-father and guardian. And in his second year Aed son of Niall [Aed Finliath] died. And in his ninth year, on the very day of St. Cirici (Cyrus), an eclipse of the sun occurred. Eochaid and his foster father was now expelled from the kingdom.

He ruled jointly with Giric or Grig, (Gaelic - Griogair mac Dhunghail) the murderer of his uncle and Scotland's previous King, Aodh 'Swiftfoot'. Giric was probably of Pictish descent. Very little is actually known about either of them. It is thought that Eochaid was a minor for whom Giric may have acted in a capacity as Protector or Regent.


CLAN CARRUTHERS: Carruthers and Kenneth McAlpin (King of Scots)

Kenneth II

Accuracy, tenacity and solid evidence are the bedrock of any historical research, otherwise it simply becomes hypothetical and conjecture, which in itself leads to statements that are sadly false.

The questions that continually arise relates to our family and their relationship with historical figures, usually of some famous royal heritage and in this instance Kenneth MacAlpin, king of Scots.

In order to investigate this further we need to look at the evidence regarding the possibility of any links between Carruthers and king Kenneth II (MacAlpin).

The facts suggest that:

1.) Kenneth MacAlpin, King of Alba (died 995, Fettercairn, Scot.) was king of the united Picts and Scots (from 971). His new kingdom was called Scotia (Alba in Gaelic). He was king of Dál Riata from 841 until 850. His father was Ailpín MacEchdach, who was killed during a battle against the Picts in 834, and some historical sources suggest that his mother was a Pictish princess. Kenneth himself was of proud Gaelic descent ie a Gael from what is now Ireland, and it seems took descendancy from ancient Irish kings.

2.) However, as has been clearly defined in the past, Carruthers were definately not Gaels but maternally Brythonic and paternally Scandinavian in origin.

3.) Carruthers are, through accurate yDNA testing, clearly descended from a Swedish male line (but no evidence of Gutland) who appeared in the area of Carruthers in the early 900’s. As it was unusual for Swedes, rather than Norse (Norway) or Danes (Denmark) who had invaded and settled in the UK to appear in Dumfriesshire of all places, we are not quite sure how he actually got there.

4.) What we are sure of is he had children with the indigenous population (of Brythonic descent), which started our chiefly line and led to the first recorded ‘Carruthers’ ie William of Carruthers, in the reign of Alexander II (1214-1249).

5.) It also seems that there is no actual DNA sample in existance from Kenneth MacAlpin.

6.) However, DNA evidence among many Scottish surnames strongly linked to MacAlpin suggests that Kenneth’s Dál Riata lineage has been identified as SNP R-L1065— SNP L1065 (aka CTS11722 & S749, consistent with STR profile known as Scots I Modal).

7.) Surnames associated with this SNP are… MacGregor, MacRae, Campbell, Buchanan, MacKinnon, MacFie, MacQuarrie.— McGregor being the most prevalent.

8.) Y-DNA evidence suggest that the R-L1065 SNP of the Highland Scots are descendants of the Dál Riata from Ireland, while Carruthers are lowland Scots and descendants of Scandinavia as stated above.

9) The R-Haplogroup (MacAlpin) wasn’t even seen in Europe until 3,000 BC, while the I-Haplogroup (Carruthers) has been there since 8,000 BC

In conclusion, it is just not feasable for Carruthers to claim descendancy from Kenneth MacAlpin nor any Irish kings through him. Beside current history, yDNA research has clearly shown that genetically, Carruthers do not sit downstream of Kenneth MacAlpin.

But who was Kenneth MacAlpin?

One figure looms large in Scottish history. A king who united Scotland and fought off the Norse invaders to save his country from doom. That man was Kenneth MacAlpin.

The problem with this heroic tale is that it bears little relation to the known facts. A further problem is that there are very few known facts. What we do know is further compounded by confusing and contradictory accounts and a fair degree of myth and legend.

Kenneth was born around 800AD in the Gaelic Kingdom of Dál Riata at a time when the Gaels were dominated by the more powerful Pictish kingdom. His father, Ailpín, was beheaded fighting for a Pictish king and historical sources suggest that his mother was a Pictish princess.

In the confusion and terror caused by the ferocious ninth century Viking raids, the Pictish kingship was almost completely destroyed in 839 AD.

It is at this point that Kenneth appears in the annals. In the power vacuum left as a result of the Viking slaughter of the Pict royal line MacAlpin sees off competitors to become King of Picts. Some accounts allude to Kenneth killing Pict rivals for the throne though this account is of dubious origin.

What is fairly clear is that at some point between 839 and 848 AD Kenneth (with blood claims to both thrones) claims the kingdoms of the Picts and the Gaels.

As Kenneth MacAlpin triumphed in Pictland, he faced a new challenge. A Viking fleet of 140 ships intent on destruction attacked Dál Riata. It spelled doom for the Gaelic kingdom the Gaels collected the relics of their saints and moved them to Kenneth’s new Pictish kingdom. Dál Riata vanishes from the chronicles and we only hear of Pictland from this point.

Kenneth was able to reward his Gaelic followers with lands taken from the men who supported his rivals, but he no doubt faced resentment from the Picts over their new Gaelic overlords. Unity was needed: something the Picts and Gaels had in common, to define them as a single people, and, as is so often the case throughout history, this came in the form of a common enemy. Kenneth raided the Angles of Northumbria for booty.

A piece by Dauvit Broun in the Oxford companion of British History goes on to state: He (Kenneth MacAlpin) repeatedly raided northern England and attacked the Britons of Strathclyde, who defeated him at ‘Moin Uacornar’ (unidentified). His rule over Lothian was recognized c.975 by Edgar, king of England. (However this clearly shows that Kenneth’s rule and control did not reach,what was to become the Borders of Scotland (lands of Carruthers)

It is likely, however, that Lothian was lost to the Earls of Northumbria in the last year of his reign. He met his end at Fettercairn (30 miles south of Aberdeen), assassinated by the daughter of the Earl of Angus in revenge for the killing of her only son. It is possible that his wife was a daughter of one of the Uí Dúnlainge kings of Leinster (Ireland). He founded (or refounded) a monastery at Brechin, probably the community of céli Dé (‘clients of God’) attested in later record.

The true legacy of Kenneth MacAlpin is of course that he founded a dynasty that would see the unification of the Pictish and Gaelic kingdoms evolve into a new entity – the Kingdom of Alba. This embryonic kingdom would become the country we now know as Scotland.

Sadly however, the claim (like many others beforehand) that Carruthers are descended from King Kenneth MacAlpin is invalid, as is Carruthers being descended from the ancient kings of Ireland. Based on the facts above there is obviously no real evidence to support that this is the case and clearly these claims should be ignored.


Kenneth MacAlpin is traditionally seen as the first King of Scots, unifying the northern kingdoms against the Vikings and establishing a new nation in the process. However, the truth is a little more nuanced and involves a host of disputed events including warfare, skulduggery, lost animals and a curious smell of fish. So, just who was Kenneth MacAlpin and does he have the Rex Factor? Read our latest blog to find out and vote in our poll to give your verdict.

Backgroundy Stuff

The world Kenneth MacAlpin inhabited was complicated, and the idea of a country called “Scotland” did not yet exist. When the Romans left Britain in 410, they left a power vacuum which in modern-day Scotland contained four key kingdoms:

  • Picts – the resident Celtic peoples in north and north-east Scotland
  • Scots – Irish settlers in the kingdom of Dalriata in western Scotland
  • Britons – the native southerners pushed up to the south-west of Scotland by…
  • Saxons – the new power in England, pushing into south-east Scotland by the kingdom of Northumbria

After a topsy-turvy few hundred years, the Picts emerged as the dominant power at the start of the ninth century and showed signs of forming a larger, centralised state. However, this was thrown into yet more turmoil by the arrival of the Vikings. Initially, these were just raiding parties, sacking coastal areas and the Scottish islands (particularly monasteries like Iona, which proved both easy and rich targets). However, they soon started to push further inland and in 839, the Picts lost a disastrous battle in which their king, his sons and brothers (effectively all the key royal males) were killed.

This created a new power vacuum and a rather confusing period of history. The post-Roman age has often been characterised as the “Dark Ages” due to a lack of written evidence and this is particularly relevant in this period because of the Viking attacks. The monks of Iona and Northumbria were a bit too busy being hacked up by the Vikings to maintain their written records, while the Irish chroniclers struggled to keep up to speed with events in Scotland. Consequently, the sources for this period are a little fragmented and often contradictory, while some of the accounts from the medieval period a few centuries later should often be read with a pinch of salt!

Kenneth was born in…well, we’re not really sure! Some time early in the ninth century (esteemed medieval source the Chronicles of Wikipedia goes for 810!) and he was the son of Alpin (hence Mac Alpin) and…again, we’re not really sure – Mrs Alpin! Kenneth’s background is frankly somewhat murky, which in itself is quite revealing.

According to his official genealogy, K-Mac was descended from the Cenel nGabrain line of Dalriatan kings, thus going all the way back to Fergus Mor (the great and first king). The problem is, this genealogy was written retrospectively by later medieval writers looking to provide a regal continuity for Kenneth MacAlpin (by now established as Scotland’s first king). As such, it’s not entirely correct, there being a few generations missing and there is actually very little evidence of Alpin’s existence beyond his status as Kenneth’s father. However, Kenneth could not have become king without any royal connections, so it is possible that his father was from a minor royal line (perhaps in Galloway) and that the battle of 839 created the conditions necessary for Kenneth to emerge from obscurity onto the centre stage.

However, it was not an empty throne, for there were still Pictish rulers after 839. In fact, there were quite a few of them, with Urad ruling from 839-42, then Bridei VI briefly ruling in 842, then a Ciniod in 843, Bridei VII in 843-45 and finally Drust X in 845-48. Kenneth’s reign is often dated to either 843 or 848, so it is probable that he became king of Dalriata in 843 and then spent five years battling for the throne until by 848 his rivals had been defeated. So, how did he become king? Some accounts suggest that he conquered the Picts in battle and wiped them out with a virtual genocide, others suggest something more akin to a political coup with a merging of the Picts and the Scots rather than something as dramatic as conquest or genocide. Kenneth’s unknown mother may have been of Pictish royal stock and he himself was described as rex pictorum (King of the Picts), so the idea of him as the first king of “Scots” is arguably a later invention.

Clearly, everything up to Kenneth becoming king is open for debate (even what he was king of!) but thankfully what he actually did as king is more widely accepted. The key source for this is the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, a king-list of twelve reigns from (handily) Kenneth I (i.e. MacAlpin) to Kenneth II. Later historians have had to interpret some of the contradictory or slightly inaccurate information given but it is the best single account of Kenneth’s reign and brief enough to quote in full:

And so Kenneth, the son of Alpín, the foremost of the Scots, ruled that Pictavia successfully for 16 years. However Pictavia was named after the Picts whom, as we said, Kenneth destroyed. For God, to punish them for the fault of their malice, deigned to make them estranged and indifferent to their heritage: because they not only scorned the Lord’s mass and injunctions but also were unwilling to be reckoned equal to others in the law of impartiality. Indeed, two years before he came to Pictavia, he took over the kingdom of Dál Riata. In the seventh year of his rule, he transferred the remains of Saint Columba to the church which he built, and he attacked Saxonia [Northumbria] six times and he burnt down Dunbar and captured Melrose [then part of Northumbria]. However the Britons burnt down Dunblane, and the Danes [Vikings] laid waste to Pictavia, as far as Clunie and Dunkeld. He finally died of a tumour, before the Ides of February on the third day of the week in the palace of Forteviot.

Kenneth’s reign, then, was largely taken up by warfare but despite this he was able to die in bed and was buried on the island of Iona, the heartland of the Scottish kings. However, how will he fare when we review him?

Battleyness

For Kenneth MacAlpin, the Picts stealing his dog was an act of war!

If we assume that Kenneth did conquer the Picts, then his record looks pretty impressive. Indeed, he has been given the epithet An Ferbasach (Conqueror) The wonderfully named Scotichronicon (a medieval account written by Walter Bower) details a wonderful story about Kenneth’s dodgy dossier to justify war with the Picts, for which he had four reasons:

  1. The Picts killed his father and kinsmen
  2. They had stolen his dog
  3. They had allied with the Saxons
  4. They’d gone against an agreement to marry Scottish princesses and choose their kings from the female line

However, it seems that the injustice of Kenneth’s K-9 was not enough to convince his men, who were afraid of fighting “like idiots or weaklings” leading to Kenneth coming up with a cunning ruse to convince them, namely by building an angel costume out of fish scales that glowed in the dark and then going into their bedrooms and telling them that he was an angel of God and they should obey their king! Suitably convinced, the next day they destroyed the Picts in battle.

The veracity of story is perhaps slightly dubious. However, that a whole series of Pictish kings were eliminated in just five years hints at some violence so even if there were no dogs or fish involved, this does not mean there was no battle.

Irrespective of this, we do know that he invaded Northumbria six times, plundering a fortress at Dunbar and a monastery at Melrose. These were probably just raids for money and supplies rather than territory but shows Kenneth’s power that he could raid so far south.

On the other hand, if Kenneth did not conquer the Picts and instead enjoyed a much more boring gentle merger between the kingdoms then Kenneth is not such a conqueror after all. He also suffered some defeats in this period, with the British kingdom of Strathclyde re-asserting its independence and burning Dunblane (towards the south of his kingdom). However, he did offset this with a marriage alliance, making this a one-off bonfire.

More significant was the presence of the Vikings. There is no evidence to suggest that Kenneth fought the Vikings off, rather we know that they raided quite far inland (Clunie and Dunkeld) and probably also took control of the western islands. Indeed, in 848, Kenneth moved the relics of Columba from Iona because they could no longer be protected. Still, given events in Ireland and England, one raid in the reign is not too disastrous (and may have occurred when he was beating up the Saxons).

While the full extent of his activity is debated, Kenneth took the throne (likely involving some force), gave the Saxons a good kicking and never really had much trouble from the Vikings in a period when kingdoms were disappearing in their wake.

In addition to his fishy angel antics, Kenneth seems to have acquired a reputation among medieval scholars as something of a crafty ruler. There have been suggestions that the lack of Viking invasions were due to some form of collaboration – the raid he suffered was from the Danes to the east but the Norse Vikings in Dublin seem to have been rather less battley in this period.

Much better, however, is the Treachery of Scone. In this interpretation, Kenneth did not conquer the Picts (entirely) by battle but rather by deceit. To resolve the succession crisis, he invited his Pictish rivals to a banquet and sat them down on special benches being held above a pit by bolts. When the Picts were suitably inebriated, Kenneth gave the signal for the bolts to be removed and the Picts fell into the pits, where they were killed. This is evil cunning on a Bond villain scale of skulduggery!

Sadly, Kenneth does not seem to have been notably naughty in the bedroom to really push up his score to the higher echelons!

In a brutal age, anyone can commit murder, but Kenneth took this to a new level with his overly-elaborate takedown of his rivals. Some bedroom frolicking would have upped his score but Crafty Kenny gets a decent score for his conniving ways!

The Monymusk Reliquary, containing the holy relics of St Columba.

There are hints that Kenneth had a slightly more noble hinterland beyond sword-waving and fancy dress. Transfering Columba’s relics from Iona to Dunkeld show not just the way that he valued the bones of the Gaelic saint but also some political symbolism, transferring the prized possessions from Iona (Dalriata) to Dunkeld (Pictland), in other words creating the heart of his new kingdom. That this happened in 848 (the year he defeated his final Pictish rival) is surely not a coincidence.

When not waging war and looking for his dog, Kenneth enjoyed his downtime at Forteviot, a palace rather than a fortress, famed for its art and architecture. Kenneth cannot take the credit for this (though it does suggest he may have appreciated the finer things in life) because it is a Pictish palace in Strathhearn. Again, however, his presence here is symbolic, demonstrating his dominance over Pictland.

Aside from political symbolism, Kenneth’s sophistication in realpolitik is shown by his marriage alliances. Following a raid on his lands by Strathclyde, Kenneth married one of his daughters to Rhun, the son (and heir) of King Artgal, thus preventing further raids and giving his family a stake in a rival kingdom. Another daughter, Mael Muire, married Aed Findliath, the High King of Ireland (and after he died another High King, Flann Sinna). Kenneth was clearly a major figure of the period and veryastute in his alliances.

It’s all very well making points of political symbolism, but Kenneth could be rather less subtle. Some have suggested that he perpetrated genocide upon the Picts, causing the disappearance of their language and culture in this period. In reality, the Pictish language was already in decline and Gaelic influences (and indeed kings) were in Pictland in the half century before Kenneth’s reign. If anything, the Gaelic church was more significant in merging the two kingdoms. Kenneth is, therefore, not such a significant figure – not the first Scot to rule the Picts and Dalriata, not the first “King of Scots” and not the most significant cause of the fusion of the two kingdoms.

Furthermore, while he may have resided at a palace, there is no actual evidence or tradition that Kenneth was, himself, interested in art or culture or that his patronage has bequeathed anything to history.

This was a brutal age and not one in which you would have wanted to have been a subject, particularly not to a rather scary-sounding king smelling fishy and waging war when his dog goes missing. On the other hand, he was clearly a respected figure, able to make impressive marriage alliances and to keep his borders largely secure. In context, given that the decades before and after his reign saw devastating Viking raids, Kenneth’s reign was probably better than most in this period.

Taking the first date listed, Kenneth reigned from 843-58, a reign of 15 years. In fairness to Kenneth, 15 years in the ninth century is actually pretty good, it’s just that much later successors will rule for much longer!

Again, it’s difficult to be entirely sure but we can be pretty confident that Kenneth had at least two sons and two daughters, leaving him four children in total.

It seems inexplicable that a man who dresses up as a glow-in-the-dark fish angel so that he can declare war to get his dog back could be anything other than a Rex Factor winner. However, many of the legends about Kenneth MacAlpin are unreliable and his significance has probably been over-emphasised by later historians to create a “founding father” myth for Scotland. That said, Kenneth did create the dynasty that would gradually create Scotland and he was a successful and (politically) sophisticated ruler, an unusual success in an era of Viking chaos.

Our verdict: Yes – Kenneth MacAlpin has the Rex Factor!

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Kenneth MacAlpin: King of the Picts and Legendary Founder of Scotia - History

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Pict, (possibly from Latin picti, “painted”), one of an ancient people who lived in what is now eastern and northeastern Scotland, from Caithness to Fife. Their name may refer to their custom of body painting or possibly tattooing.

The origin of the Picts is uncertain some evidence suggests that they were descendants of pre-Celtic aborigines, but some linguistic evidence suggests they spoke a Celtic language. The Picts were first noticed in ad 297, when a Roman writer spoke of the “Picts and Irish [Scots] attacking” Hadrian’s Wall. Their warfare with the Romans during the occupation was almost continual. By the 7th century there was a united “Pict-land,” which already had been penetrated by Christianity. In 843, Kenneth I MacAlpin, king of the Scots (centred in Argyll and Bute), became also king of the Picts, uniting their two lands in a new kingdom of Alba, which evolved into Scotland.

The Pictish kingdom is notable for the stylized but vigorous beauty of its carved memorial stones and crosses. The round stone towers known as brochs, or “Pictish towers,” and the underground stone houses called weems, or “Picts’ houses,” however, both predate this kingdom.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Chelsey Parrott-Sheffer, Research Editor.


Colouring indicates groups of kings presumed to be related.

Early kings

The kings before Drest son of Erp are omitted to reduce the length of the lists.

Reign Ruler Other names ΐ] Family Remarks
312–342 Vipoig Reigned 30 years
342–345 Canutulachama Α] Reigned 4 years
345–347 Vuradech Reigned 2 years
347–387 Gartnait Reigned 40 years
387–412 Talorg
412–452 Drest Drest son of Erp First king of the Pictish Chronicle lists whose reign includes a synchronism (the coming of Saint Patrick to Ireland "ruled a hundred years and fought a hundred battles"
452–456 Talorc Talorc son of Aniel An entry in the king lists reigned 2 or 4 years
456–480 Nechtan Nechtan son of Uuirp (or Erip), Nechtan the Great, Nechtan Celcamoth Possibly a brother of Drest son of Erp The foundation of the monastery at Abernethy is fathered on this king, almost certainly spuriously. A similar name nehhtton(s) was found on the Lunnasting stone one interpretator of which suggested it containing the phrase "the vassal of Nehtonn"
480–510 Drest Drest Gurthinmoch (or Gocinecht) An entry in the king lists reigned 30 years
510–522 Galan Galan Erilich or Galany An entry in the king lists
522–530 Drest Drest son of Uudrost (or Hudrossig) An entry in the king lists
522–531 Drest Drest son of Girom (or Gurum) An entry in the king lists
531–537 Gartnait Garthnac son of Girom, Ganat son of Gigurum An entry in the king lists
537–538 Cailtram Cailtram son of Girom, Kelturan son of Gigurum Brother of the preceding Gartnait An entry in the king lists
538–549 Talorc Talorc son of Murtolic, Tolorg son of Mordeleg An entry in the king lists
549–550 Drest Drest son of Manath, Drest son of Munait An entry in the king lists

Early historical kings

The first king who appears in multiple early sources is Bridei son of Maelchon, and kings from the later 6th century onwards may be considered historical as their deaths are generally reported in Irish sources.

Reign Ruler Other names Family Remarks
550–555 Galam Galam Cennalath The death of "Cennalaph, king of the Picts" is recorded, may have ruled jointly with Bridei son of Maelchon
554–584 Bridei Bridei son of Maelchon
Brude son of Melcho
His death and other activities are recorded, he is named in Adomnán's Life of Saint Columba the first Pictish king to be more than a name in a list
584–595 Gartnait Gartnait son of Domelch, Β] Gernard son of Dompneth
595–616 Nechtan Nechtan grandson of Uerb Γ]
Nechtan son of Cano Δ]
His reign is placed in the time of Pope Boniface IV
616–631 Cinioch Cinioch son of Lutrin
Kinet son of Luthren
631–635 Gartnait Gartnait son of Uuid Ε] Brother of the following two kings
635–641 Bridei Bridei son of Uuid or son of Fochle Brother of the preceding and following kings
641–653 Talorc Talorc son of Uuid or son of Foth Brother of the preceding two kings
653–657 Talorgan Talorgan son of Eanfrith Son of Eanfrith of Bernicia
657–663 Gartnait Gartnait son of Donnel or son of Dúngal
663–672 Drest Drest son of Donnel or son of Dúngal

Later historical kings

Reign Ruler Other names Family Remarks
672–693 Bridei Bridei son of Bili Son of Beli I of Alt Clut or grandson of Nechtan II At war with the Scots in 683. Defeated Ecgfrith of Northumbria at the Battle of Dun Nechtain in 685.
693–697 Taran Taran son of Ainftech Possibly a uterine half-brother of Bridei and Nechtan mac Der-Ilei
697–706 Bridei Bridei son of Der-Ilei Brother of Nechtan Son of Der-Ilei, a Pictish princess, and Dargart mac Finnguine, a member of the Cenél Comgaill of Dál Riata listed as a guarantor of the Cáin Adomnáin
706–724 Nechtan Nechtan son of Der-Ilei Brother of Bridei Adopted the Roman dating of Easter c. 712, a noted founder of churches and monasteries
724–726 Drest Perhaps son of a half-brother of Nechtan and Bridei Succeeded Nechtan, imprisoned him in 726, may have been deposed that year by Alpín
726–728 Alpín Probably a co-ruler or subking under Drest
728–729 Nechtan
restored
Nechtan son of Der-Ilei, second reign
729–761 Onuist Óengus son of Fergus Claimed as a kinsman by the Eóganachta
736–750 Talorcan Talorcan son of Fergus Brother of Óengus Perhaps king of Atholl killed in battle against the Britons of Alt Clut
761–763 Bridei Bridei son of Fergus Brother of Onuist King of Fortriu
763–775 Ciniod Ciniod son of Uuredach, Cinadhon Sometimes thought to be a grandson of Selbach mac Ferchair Granted asylum to the deposed King Alhred of Northumbria
775–778 Alpín Alpin son of Uuroid Death reported as Eilpín, king of the Saxons but this is taken to be an error
778–782 Talorc Talorc son of Drest Death reported in the Ulster Annals
782–783 Drest Drest son of Talorgan Son of the preceding Talorgan or of Talorgan, brother of Óengus
783–785 Talorc Talorgan son of Onuist, also Dub Tholarg Son of Óengus
785–789 Conall Conall son of Tarla (or of Tadg) Perhaps rather a king in Dál Riata
789–820 Caustantín Caustantín son of Fergus Ζ] A grandson or grandnephew of Onuist or perhaps a son of Fergus mac Echdach Η] His son Domnall may have been king of Dál Riata
820–834 Óengus Óengus son of Fergus Brother of Caustantín
834–837 Drest Drest son of Caustantín Son of Caustantín
834–837 Talorc Talorcan son of Wthoil
837–839 Eógan Eógan son of Óengus Son of Óengus Killed in 839 with his brother Bran in battle against the Vikings this led to a decade of conflict

Kings of the Picts 839� (not successively)

The deaths of Eógan and Bran appears to have led to a large number of competitors for the throne of Pictland.

Reign Ruler Other names Family Remarks
839–842 Uurad Uurad son of Bargoit Unknown Said to have reigned for three years, probably named on the Drosten Stone
842–843 Bridei VI Bridei son of Uurad Possibly the son of the previous king Said to have reigned one year
843 Ciniod II Kenneth son of Ferath Possibly the brother of the previous king Said to have reigned one year in some lists
843–845 Bridei VII Brudei son of Uuthoi Unknown Said to have reigned two years in some lists
845–848 Drest X Drest son of Uurad As previous sons of Uurad Said to have reigned three years in some lists the myth of MacAlpin's treason calls the Pictish king Drest
848–
13 February 858
Cináed Cináed mac Ailpín
Kenneth MacAlpine
Unknown, but his descendants made him a member of the Cenél nGabráin of Dál Riata

Kings of the Picts traditionally counted as King of Scots

Cináed mac Ailpín defeated the rival kings, winning out by around 845�. He is traditionally considered first "King of Scots", or of "Picts and Scots", allegedly having conquered the Picts as a Gael, which is turning history back to front, as most modern scholars point out, he was actually 'King of Picts', and the terms 'King of Alba' and the even later 'King Scots' were not used until several generations after him.

Reign Ruler Other names Family Remarks
Died 13 February 858 Cináed Cináed mac Ailpín
Ciniod m. Ailpin
Coinneach mac Ailpein
Kenneth MacAlpin
Kenneth I
Unknown, but his descendants made him a member of the Cenél nGabráin of Dál Riata
Died 862 Domnall Domnall mac Ailpín
Dòmhnall mac Ailpein
Donald MacAlpin
Donald I
Brother of Cináed
Died 875 Andwærde Andwærde mac Cináeda
Còiseam mac Choinnich
Constantín mac Cináeda
Andwærde I
Son of Cináed
Died 878 Áed Áed mac Cináeda
Aodh mac Choinnich
Aedth
Edus
Son of Cináed
Deposed 889 ? Giric Giric mac Dúngail
Griogair mac Dhunghail
"Mac Rath" ("Son of Fortune")
Cináed's daughter's son ? Associated, probably incorrectly, with Eochaid
Died 900 Domnall Domnall mac Causantín
Dòmhnall mac Chòiseim
Donald II
"Dásachtach" ("The Madman")
Son of Causantín mac Cináeda Last to be called "king of the Picts"

King of Alba

Reign Ruler Other names Family Remarks
Abdicated 943, died 952 Causantín Causantín mac Áeda
Còiseam mac Aoidh
Constantine II
Son of Áed mac Cináeda First king of Alba, the kingdom that later became known as "Scotland".


Comments:

  1. Wendale

    In my opinion, there was a mistake.

  2. Ata'halne'

    Of course you're right. There's something about that, and I think that's a great idea.

  3. Hwitcomb

    Willingly I accept. An interesting theme, I will take part.

  4. Gherardo

    I apologize, but not fit enough. What else could that suggest?



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