Skip the "Preface". I assure you that it is a complete waste of time. I only wished to admit that, on some occasions, I begin at the middle in a trend of thought before I extend it along assorted other paths. This is such an occasion.

Thus, Sir Jabberwock mounted his noble steed "Nimblenuts" and galloped off in all directions. Hopefully, he discovers some connections along the way and hits upon at least one of the "unities" which contribute to a logical composition. In order to prevent this essay from becoming a gaggle of words in search of a title, the original motivating thoughts have been placed in their approximate positions of central tendency. They are anchored by the mean, mode and median of a recycled sketch inspired by 1577 AD and 1585 AD copies of Raphael Holinshed's Historie of Britaine.

The Historie of Scotland was first written in Latin by Hector Boetius (Boece). It was translated into Scottish/Gaelic speech by John Bellenden (archdeacon of Murrey) and finally written in English by William Harrison for the chronicles.

I must comment upon the history by Hector Boece and his translators at this point. My cartoon/sketch does not capitalize the "B" in Macbeth's name, because this would tend to infer that he was the son of Beth (or even the son of Heth), and far too many individuals have gone down those rocky paths. It is also obvious that Hector had little knowledge of the manner of succession by tanistry as a remnant of the matrilineal Pictish society. Thus Duncan's parents are Beatrice (Bethoc) and Crinen (Crinan, abbot of Dunkeld and Thane of the Isles and Western Parts of Scotland), and "MacBeth's" parents incorrectly are listed as Doada and Synell (Thane of Glammis). Since Beatrice and Doada are named as daughters of Malcolm II, Hector was in also in error when he referred to Duncan as Malcolm II's nephew instead of his grandson. Most historians name Findlaech of Moray as Macbeth's father, and it is more likely that Malcolm II's daughter "Doada" married Sigurd (Earl of Orkney) as suggested by most historians, including William Croft Dickinson in A New History of Scotland, Vol.I.

I have only one final comment. Where Hector was lacking any real historical facts, the patriotic Scot in him invented events and created romantic myths to fill the void. However, his "history" influenced the literary talents of Shakespeare, who wrote his play about Macbeth's tortured conscience after he murders a fictitiously "elderly" Duncan. [Frequently, the inept works of a mediocre talent will inspire greatness in others. As I hinted earlier, that's what keeps me going. I hope that you are inspired.]

PICTLAND: Succession by Tanistry - Pictish-Celtic Institutions (Mainly the Church)

Although there were often two separate Pictish kingdoms of northern and southern Picts, intermarriage between seven royal houses provided some stability in the manner by which an Ard-righ (King), a Mormaer (Steward of the Sea or Righ) and a Toisech (similar in rank to a royal Anglian Thane or a Viking Jarl) could succeed to their titles. The venerable Bede of the monastery of Jarrow observed the existence of both southern and northern kingdoms of Picts in the mid-8th century, and that Pictish royal succession was through the females. Thus, in this matrilineal society, positions in the ruling class would be passed to a brother or a nephew or a cousin as traced by the female line to ensure legitimacy. In fact, any great-grandson of an earlier monarch was a viable candidate. Normally, however, kingships moved "sideways" from one line to another via near cousins, or "tanists". Status and power would never be given to an infant.

Rosalind Mitchison, in her book A History of Scotland, also points out the advantages and the potential perils in the Celtic-Pictish system.

"'Tanistry', or succession by cousinage, meant that there was always an adult king on the throne, and no problem of royal minorities. It also brought into the succession men whose power and lands lay in different regions, and helped to hold the country together. But it meant also that there was always an adult rival for the throne who was unlikely to wait for the succession until his kinsman of a similar age died naturally. The result was frequent war and murder ... a high wastage incidence of the royal kin."

In practice, kingships alternated between collateral branches, and succession by a senior branch was generally agreed upon as a matter of fundamental right. There is no evidence that the purpose of the fabled "seven Maistermen" was to hold a vote on the validity of a claim. The purpose of these regal leaders was to validate all coronations at Scone by their participation in the ceremony. [In the works of Rosalind Mitchison (op.cit.), Frank Adams FRGS FSA (Scot) (Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands) and other historians, I discovered a most rare exception to this statement. There was an insurrection in 1160 against a king's leadership and Feudalism, when young Malcolm IV returned with Henry II of England from a battle in Toulouse to find six Earls in arms against him. More revolts followed in the district of Moray thereafter.]

Intermarriage between the collateral royal Pictish branches, as has been noted, provided a measure of stability and a token guarantee of "peace". There was no major confrontation between the Picts and the Scots until the settlement at Dalriada became significantly large and infringed upon their neighbours' lands. Even then, we must read halfway down the list of kings in The Pictish Chronicle before any noteworthy meetings took place. The biographer to Saint Columba of Iona, Adamnan, reported that Pictish King Bridei (554-584), the 36th monarch in the chronicle, was an exceptionally powerful ruler, whose court was near Loch Ness. Adamnan also wrote that this king defeated the Scots under their King Gabran and drove them back to the western shores of Argyll. Perhaps the Scottish royal house was not considered to be of major significance, because no historian suggests that any intermarriage occurred at that time between the royal houses of the Picts and the Scots. Nor was there any hint of "marriage treaties" when King Bridei III, the 45th monarch in the chronicle, laid waste to the Scottish capital of Dunnadd in 683 and defeated Anglo-Saxon invaders at the Battle of Nechtansmere on May 20, 685. [It should be noted that most of the battles for four centuries following 717 AD were instigated by the Church of Rome.]

The influence of St. Columba's Culdees of Iona became widespread amongst Scots, Picts and Britons from the late 6th century until well beyond the advent of the Norse Vikings, who were also converted after the end of the first millennium. In spite of the differences between these peoples, the common gravesite of their greatest leaders on the Isle of Iona attests to their sacred regard for this religion. The Columban Christian missionaries refused to have their heads shorna in a coronal tonsure as a mark of submission to Rome. To do so was against their beliefs and a code of honour. For the most part, the early independence of the Celtic church was recognized as being within the Church of Rome "by special grace", even though there were reminders that they celebrated Easter on the wrong dayb and their churches were not constructedc in the Roman manner for the proper administration of the rites.

In Pictland, the Celtic Christian Church followed the traditional tribal and hereditary roots of most of their institutions. Adams (op.cit.) states, "It was monastic rather than episcopal, more analogous to the hereditary priesthood of early civilizations (cf. The Levites of the Old Testament), and the tendency was evidently for each provincial kingship or tribe to have its own saints and hereditary, but uncelibate, monastic organization."

CONNECTIONS: Insofar as the decline of the tribal clan system of the Highlands is concerned, the following identifying factors were endangered:
1. succession by tanistry through matrilineal lines.
2. institutions from Mormaers, Righs and Ard-righs to priests and law-givers/Brehons in the Clan society.
3. adherence to the Holy Bible rather than the Scissorsa, the Calendarb and the Architectsc.

ALBA: Kings of Picts and Scots

The 51st King of Picts, Oengus I, ruled from 729 to 761 (a total of 32 years). There is no disputing the fact that he was noted as a warrior. He killed his Pictish opposition as well as Britons and Scots in great battles. Finally he defeated the Scots of Dalriada and beheaded their King to become the first King of both Picts and Scots for the final twenty years of his reign. It is possibly a lesser known fact that St. Andrew (rather than St. Peter) was "enthroned" as patron of the Picts by King Oengus I. He was probably influenced in the choice of saint by the Columban Christians from the sacred Isle of Iona.

Oengus was followed by his brother Brude/Bridei IV, who ruled for two years. There is, for the first time, reason to believe that the successor, Cinoid, to the Pictish kingship might have had some Scottish blood as well as Pictish, since Dalraida was allowed to become re-established. For a lengthy period there was some confusion and darkness in the list of kings.

Several Pictish kings, including Alpin II, Drust VII, Talorc II, Talorc III MacOengus and Conall, may have reigned briefly before Castantin became the 2nd King of Picts and Scots with a term of 35 years. He was succeeded by his brother Oengus II, who reputedly brought the relics of St. Andrew back to Alba. Oengus II was killed by the Scots, after being forced to divide his army during a battle with the Vikings to the north, when Alpin of the Scots attacked from the south in 834. Some copies of the chronicle name further Kings, such as Drust VIII, Talorc, Uven (killed by Vikings in 839), Uurad, Brude/Bridei V, Kenneth, Brude/Bridei VI and Drust IX (where the lists end).

The battle with the Vikings in 839 claimed not only King Uven and his brother Bran but also the cream of the Pictish warrior class. Thus the stage was set for a claim by a Scot to the Kingship of Picts and Scots under the Pictish rules of succession. There was no "honourable field of battle" in this episode, widely recorded as "Kenneth MacAlpin's Treason", which is reported by F. Lennox Campello as follows. "It is Giraldus Cambresis in De Instructione Principus who recounts how a great banquet was held at Scone, and the Pictish King and his nobles were plied with drinks and became quite drunk. Once the Picts were drunk, the Scots allegedly pulled bolts from the benches, trapping the Picts in concealed earthen hollows under the benches; additionally, the traps were set with sharp blades, such that the falling Picts impaled themselves (the Prophecy of St. Berchan tells that '[MacAlpin] plunged them in the pitted earth, sown with deadly blades'). Trapped and unable to defend themselves, the surviving Picts were then murdered from above and their bodies, clothes and ornaments plundered." In Lion in the North, John Prebble states that seven earls of Dalriada, his kinsmen, were included in the massacre because they might have disputed his claim to Ard-Righ Albainn. [I would question the claim that all of these earls were from Dalriada.]

The power of Kenneth MacAlpin lay in Dalriada to the east and in Fortrenn to the south, but the seeds of northern separatism were sown when a rival kindred, Cenel Loairn, took over in the old Pictish district of Fidach (Moray and Ross). Kings of Scots would soon discover ways to set clan chiefs against one another in order to cement the foundation of their power, but the old Celtic manner of succession to the throne continued to have strong support, as the inhabitants of Pictland were absorbed into the Scottish culture.

Fourteen kings and almost two hundred years later, King Malcolm II was influenced by the Saxon method of succession in the male line of inheritance, but had no male issue. It is suspected that he conspired against the successors of his father, Kenneth II, who reigned from 971 - 995, to gain the throne. In addition to killing King Kenneth III, he removed a few tanists (including the grandson of Boite), who were rivals to his own young grandson, Duncan I, son of Bethoc.

Many abbreviated histories have glossed over the importance of Norse Viking involvement during the transition from Alba to Scotland. Eric Linklater (The Ultimate Viking, Macmillan, 1955, pp.38-40), gives the following account of one Norse saga. "It happened one summer that Sigurd was challenged to a pitched battle by Findlaec, Earl of Moray, ..." and father of Macbeth. "Findlaec, in or about the year 995, was a dangerous enemy, and Sigurd told his mother that if he accepted the challenge the odds against him would be seven to one. To which she replied, 'I would have brought you up in my wool-basket if I had known you expected to live forever! It is fate that governs a man's life, not his own comings and goings; and it is better to die with honour than live in shame.' Then she gave him a raven-banner, finely embroidered, and Sigurd, in a black temper, gathered an army and went to battle at Skitten Mire in Caithness. Three men who carried his banner were killed, but Sigurd was victorious." According to the Ulster Annals and those of Tighernac (translated by O'Cosisser - v.ii. p.267), Malcolm II gave his daughter in marriage to Sigurd "the Stout", Earl/Jarl of Caithness, after the victory over Findlaec.

Duncan I was not the old king in Shakespeare's play, but neither was he a skilled warrior. Furthermore, the Scottish crown is said to have lost nine earldoms (which extended into the heart of Scotland via an alliance and kinship with the Mormaers of Moray) to the Norseman, Thorfinn, Earl of the Orkneys, during Duncan's reign of six years.

After his father Gillacomgain's death, Lulach, probably had had a greater claim to the throne (than Duncan I) through his mother, Gruoch, but he was both youthful and intellectually weak. Gruoch was the daughter of Boedhe (son of Keneth III). Macbeth, son of Findlaech, became Thane of Glamis (Ross and Cromarty) and later Thane of Cawdor (Moray), and he succeeded to the title of Mormaer of Moray and Ross through his own right as tanist in the royal line. When Macbeth married Gruoch, the widow of former Mormaer Gillacomgain (the cousin of his father Findlaech), his claim was further strengthened under the older alternating order of succession. If tales of the three witches are true, they may have represented the aspirations and influence of Gruoch.


Duncan's throne was taken from him when he met Macbeth and Thorfinn, the Earl of Orkney, during a battle in 1040 near Elgin where he was killed "in the smith's bothy".

Dickinson (op.cit,) writes, "Macbeth appears to have ruled well. A reign of seventeen years is also indicative of a strong king; and he and his queen (Gruoch) were generous to the church." The Chronicle of St. Andrews notes that the lands of Kyrkness (Kirkness) and Balgyne were given by them directly to Almighty God ("Deo Omnipotenti") and the Culdees of Lochleven ... with no other parties (i.e. Pope, Apostle or Bishop) having any rights to this bequest. [The wording is not unusual. A grant of the township of Ballecristin was made with similar wording years later by King Malcolm III and Queen Margaret of Scotland.] In the charters by which King Macbeth conveys these gifts, according to John MacBeth (The Scottish Historical Review, Vol. 17 & 18, 1920/21, pages 154-155), the Columban Culdees are referred to as the "Keledei of Lochleven" and the combined Gaelic (BH) letters occur in juxtaposition twice as "Machbet" and also as "Makbeth" for the king's name.

Unlike the extensive killings undertaken by his predecessors, King Macbeth had merely exiled Malcolm and Donald Ban, the sons of Duncan I. It is ironical, but not surprising, that one of Duncan's sons, whose life had been spared, would gain the sympathy of the English King, Edward the Confessor, and the armed support of Siward Earl of Northumbria ... to invade Scotland in 1054, and eventually kill Macbeth in Aberdeenshire or Mar on August 15, 1057.

CONNECTIONS:Insofar as the decline of the tribal clans is concerned, the following connections have been identified:
1. The system of succession by tanistry through matrilineal lines had become vulnerable (although it was surviving in the North-East),
2. All "hereditary" institutions in the Clan society depended upon such succession, including the Church,
3. Intermarriage between royal families was possible once Kings of both Picts and Scots were established,
4. A Scottish ruler could use the Pictish system of tanistry as an opportunity to become King of Picts and Scots.
5. The precedent of murdering one's rivals, rather than meeting them on the field of battle, had already been set.
6. When battles did occur in more recent times, they were highlighted by the involvement of Norse Vikings (etc.), who had become relatives of the Scottish nobility through intermarriage.

SCOTLAND: and "The Second Roman Invasion"

Marianus Scotus and Tighernac, both contemporary authorities, give August 15, 1057, as the date of Macbeth's defeat and death at the hands of Malcolm Ceann-Mor ("Big Head") with the assistance of his relative, Siward, Earl of Caithness and Northumberland. The Ulster Annals add that he was slain "in battle". Later chroniclers append "at Lumphanan" and "in Mar".

Earl Thorfinn had lost his son Dolgfinn in a battle fought a few years earlier in Lothian or Fife. Aided by England in 1058, Malcolm also crushed Macbeth's successor, Lulach of Moray, and pursued Earl Thorfinn, whose possessions in the south of Scotland were forfeited to the Crown after his death. [Hector Boece and Shakespeare would have all of us believe that Macbeth invented the older custom of killing off one's rivals. Wrong! Actually, it was Malcolm III's great-grandfather and other royal ancestors who set that example. Murder had become the Scottish custom ... "in more Scottico".]

Malcolm III Ceann-mor (Canmore) was "determined to continue his great-grandfather's work" and to keep the throne in a single male line instead of the transfer by tanistry in the tradition of old Alba. This marks a distinct diversion and a new trend in the history. Malcolm was clearly the King of Scots.

Perhaps Malcolm's first wife, Ingibjorg, the widow of a Norse Jarl or Earl, Thorfinn, should be placed upon the same pedestal as his second wife. This marriage was possibly contracted in order to recover some of the earldoms, which the Scottish crown had lost to the Norse. The tables showing the early Scottish kingship, in Dickinson (op.cit.), indicate that her first marriage to Thorfinn, Earl of Orkney and grandson of Malcolm II, was quite legal and acceptable. Sigurd, Earl of Orkney (later an ally of the Mormaers of Moray), had been married to one of Malcolm II's daughters as a "royal measure" to ensure peace in the North. John Prebble (op.cit.) writes that when Sigurd, the Christian Earl of Orkney "died on the Irish field of Clontarf, wrapped in the raven banner that should have protected him, his lands in Scotland were divided between the Mormaer of Moray and his son by Malcolm's daughter". One does not need to possess 20/20 vision to perceive how King Malcolm III benefitted.

Malcolm III may be credited indirectly with the further development of the Highland Clan system by encouraging the appointment of the clan saints and the concept of the duthus. [Some may wish to speculate about the influence, which the Shrine of St. Duthus in the County of Ross had upon this king and others.]

The focus of his reign soon drifted from the Gaelic Highlands towards his Lowland subjects. Edgar Atheling son of the exiled English Prince Edward of the house of Essex, came to England from Hungary with his mother and sisters, when it seemed likely that the crown of England might go to him. His sister, Margaret, was born around 1045 in Hungary, and she was raised in the court of St. Stephen, the King. She was only twelve when she arrived in England during the reign of Edward the Confessor. After the Norman Conquest of England In 1066, Saxon nobles were forced to take refuge in Southern Scotland, where they were welcomed by King Malcolm Canmore.

Few will dispute that eventually Margaret became a powerful person in Scotland after her marriage in 1070 to Malcolm III (Malcolm Cean-mor or Malcolm Canmore or, translated from the Gaelic, Malcolm "Big Head"). Where historians would disagree, is on the so-called "benefits" of any influence from Margaret's religious advisors ..... although most would agree about her own nagging influence upon Malcolm and her sons (even unto the naming of those sons) ..... in addition to the long-term deterioration of the Scottish Highland traditions ..... which ultimately led to the English Feudal subjugation of Scotland.

According to Professor Rait, in The Making of Scotland, Queen Margaret was "a narrow-minded and ill-tempered virago, completely under the influence of her confessor, Turgot, who inspired her with an intense dislike of the Celtic Church". She was instrumental in the suppression of Gaelic and the substitution of Saxon as the court language. One should not be surprised to learn that Margaret was encouraged to bear sons (six in all), since daughters, after all, had little value if the matrilineal system of tanistry was to be extinguished. She developed an unswerving determination to see her sons succeed to the throne of Scotland. What Malcolm's reign and second marriage had done was to turn the newly-formed patriarchal monarchy of Scotland away from Norse associates to English overseers. With a Norman king on the throne of England, Margaret's sons became his vassals ..... and the son of Malcolm and Ingibjorg (named Duncan) was sent to the English court as a hostage to ensure that Malcolm III knew who his Feudal superior was.

Margaret's dependence upon her religious advisors from Hungary [They accompanied her after establishing themselves in England.] led to the process of absorbing the Celtic Culdees by filling vacancies with priests who were qualified according to later Roman tenets. Statements (in some histories), that she prevented a schism between the Roman Church and the Celtic Church, are an exaggeration of the facts. Adams (op.cit.) notes, "In 1188, Pope Clement III, in a Bull addressed to King William the Lion, recognized the independence of the Scottish Church." Nevertheless, the name of the monastic Culdees disappeared from the annals of Scotland 150 years later.

Margaret died in Edinburgh Castle in 1093, following her husband's death in battle earlier in the same year. Her biographers stress her works of charity, but most historians agree that she had led a highly successful "Second Roman Invasion" for which she was elevated to sainthood by the Roman Church.

This story of the transition from Pictland to Alba to Scotland is overly simplified, but it might help a person understand why the clan system eventually died in the Highlands. The Celtic institutions and the traditions of inheritance were weakened in spite of several uprisings during the next century. The chief of the clan held the land in trust on behalf of his clansmen once upon a time, but Normanization changed all of that by introducing land ownership. The clan, the tartan, the traditions, etc. had to be reinvented by persons such as Sir Walter Scott about 700 years later.


I enjoy looking into the derivation and evolution of words.

Shasannach in Gaelic = "Saxon"

The origin of the Gaelic word "Shasannach" for Saxon is most likely traced to the reign of Maelcon Cean-mor (Malcolm III, cean = head mor = big). When the Normans invaded England in 1066, most Saxon nobles fled to Scotland where they were welcomed by Malcolm III. (Malcolm Canmore and his brother Donald Bane, instead of being killed by Macbeth, had been simply sent into exile. Malcolm lived in the Saxon court under the protection of Edward, the Confessor.)

After Malcolm killed Macbeth, he eventually introduced the Patriarchal system into the method of succession to the throne of Scotland (and used the Saxon language in his royal court). That extinguished the "nation" of Alba, much to the annoyance of the Highland supporters of Macbeth.

Thus, the term for the "Saxon" evolved from the Gaelic Shasannach into a term for "foreigner" and "southerner" (in relation to the Highlanders). The Scots term, sassenach, still retains the definition of "foreigner", but is usually reserved for offensively referring to the Englishmen further south.

Amazing how these terms travel!