Kings and Queens of Scotland

Maddie MacKenna

Royal Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland. Image source: Wikipedia 


Hello, my wonderful readers,

There is often the mistaken notion that there weren’t any Kings or Queens in Scotland before the founding of the United Kingdom. However, it is rather important to mention that the first King of Scots (Scottish Gaelic: Rìgh na h-Alba) dates back to 843, where Kenneth I MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín) first founded the state.

Quite long ago, doesn’t it seem, my bonnie?

Up until 1707, the year the Union of Scotland and England was set into motion, quite a few monarchs had passed from the throne. 

Let’s take a look at some of them, shall we? 😉

Royal Banner of the Royal Arms of Scotland. Image source: Wikipedia


Foundation of Scotland – House of Alpin

The House of Alpin reigned from 848 until 1034. Two Kings would be considered most important during this reign: Kenneth MacAlpin and Malcolm II, for the exact opposite reasons. 

The first was the first King of the Scots. He was first King of the Picts, a nation of Gaelic-speaking people who lived in today’s eastern and northern Scotland, during the Early Medieval period. Kenneth I was posthumously known as An Ferbasach, or “The Conqueror”. He became the apex emperor of a dynasty, called Clann Chináeda, which reigned for almost two centuries. 

There was a myth pertaining his reign, who painted him as Conqueror of the Picts, but the myth originated long after the real Kenneth died. 

Kenneth MacAlpin. Image source: Wikipedia.

On the other hand, we have Malcolm II, who reigned from 1005 until his death in 1034. He was the last sovereign of the House of Alpin. Having only daughters, he managed to successfully crush all opposition against him, and hold the crown until his death. He reigned for 29 years! A feat, considering how many wanted to take the throne! He was described as one of the “most glorious” or “most victorious” kings.

He passed the crown to one of his daughters’ son, Duncan I, who inaugurated the House of Dunkeld.


House of Dunkeld – A famous tale

I am sure that many of you have read, or at least know of, Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. And here I am to tell you that no, this is not a simple tale of the most notorious playwright of the 17th century. 

Macbeth and Banquo with the Witches. Image source: Wikipedia.

Both Duncan I and Macbeth are the historical basis of the protagonists in Shakespeare’s homonym play. You might be pleased to know that Duncan I was nicknamed An t-Ilgarach, “the Diseased” or “the Sick”, and Macbeth Rí Deircc, “the Red King”. 

A successor of Malcolm II, Duncan’s reign was mostly uneventful. At the time, Macbeth was considered his “dux”, today rendered as “duke” and meaning nothing more than the rank between prince and marquess, but then still having the Roman meaning of “war leader”.

After Duncan led an unsuccessful expedition in 1039 to besiege Durham, he later led a punitive expedition against Moray, Macbeth’s domain. It is not known if he was killed by Macbeth himself, but he was killed in action during the battle against Macbeth’s army. 

Macbeth of Scotland. Image source: Wikipedia

Macbeth’s 17-year reign was peaceful. His downfall began in 1052, when he was caught in a strife between Godwin, Earl of Wessex and Edward the Confessor. Receiving a number of Norman exiles in his court, (perhaps becoming the first King of Scots to introduce feudalism), led to a bloody battle, with over 3,500 Scots and 1,500 English dead! 

How awful, don’t you think? 

Macbeth himself did not survive the English invasion for long, for he was defeated and possibly killed by the son of Duncan I! 

Karma, am I right?

Contrary to what Shakespeare might have led you to believe, Macbeth was not considered a tyrant during his reign. 


Margaret, Maid of Norway

Even though her status as a reigning Queen is debated, I don’t think it would be proper to leave her out of this article. She was the queen-designate of Scotland from 1286 until her death. But why is her status debated?

Lerwick Town Hall stained glass window depicting “Margaret, queen of Scotland and daughter of Norway”. Image source: Wikipedia.

You see, she was never inaugurated. Being the only child of King Eric of Norway and Margaret, daughter of Alexander III, she became queen at the age of two, and was promptly betrothed to Edward, son of Edward I. She saw neither kingdom nor husband as she died aged 7 at Kirkwall on Orkney in September 1290. Her death caused the most serious crisis in Anglo-Scottish relations.

I think I have rumbled long enough, my lads and lassies!

However, we are far from being done discussing the Kings and Queens of Scotland. In the next article, we might see some of the most notorious Sovereigns of Scotland, such as Robert the Bruce and Mary, Queen of Scots!

I hope you liked this brief history lesson, my dear. 🙂

Let me know if you would like to hear more about the rest of the successors of this wonderful nation!

Until next time…

Written by Maddie MacKenna

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