Edgar the Peaceable

Edgar of Scotland or Étgar mac Maíl Choluim was the son of Máel Coluim mac Donnchada and Queen Margaret (later Saint Margaret).

Edgar claimed the kingship in early 1095, following the murder of his half-brother Donnchad mac Maíl Choluim in late 1094 by Máel Petair of Mearns. His older brother Edmund sided with Domnall Bán, presumably in return for an appanage and acknowledgement as the heir of the ageing and son-less Domnall.

Edgar received limited support. However, the English king was occupied with a revolt led by Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria. A charter issued at Durham at this time names him “… son of Máel Coluim King of Scots … possessing the whole land of Lothian and the kingship of the Scots by the gift of my lord William, king of the English, and by paternal heritage.” It was not until 1097 that Edgar received the further support which led to the defeat of Domnall and Edmund in a hard-fought campaign led by Edgar Ætheling.

Although Geoffrey Gaimar claimed that Edgar was due feudal service to William Rufus, it is clear from Rufus’s agreement to pay Edgar 40 or 60 shillings a day maintenance when in attendance at the English court that this was less than accurate. On 29 May 1099, for example, Edgar served as sword-bearer at the great feast to inaugurate Westminster Hall. However, with William Rufus’s death, Edgar ceased to appear at the English court, and was not present at the coronation of Henry I.

With Domnall and Edmund removed, Edgar was uncontested king of Scots, and his reign appears to have been without major crisis. It should be noted that Edgar was certainly not heir by primogeniture, as later kings would be, since Donnchad had a legitimate son and heir in the person of William fitz Duncan. Compared with his rise to power, Edgar’s reign is obscure. One notable act was his gift of a camel (or perhaps an elephant) to his fellow Gael Muircheartach Ua Briain, High King of Ireland.

In 1098, Edgar signed a treaty with Magnus Barefoot, King of Norway, setting the boundary between Scots and Norwegian claims in the west. Ceding claims to the Hebrides and Kintyre to Magnus was an acknowledgment of the existing situation. Edgar’s religious foundations included a priory at Coldingham in 1098, associated with the Convent of Durham. At Dunfermline Abbey he sought support from Anselm of Canterbury with his mother’s foundation from which the monks of Canterbury may have been expelled by Domnall Bán.

Edgar died in Edinburgh on 8 January, 1107 and was buried at Dunfermline Abbey. He was unmarried and childless and his brother Alexander was his acknowledged successor. Edgar’s will also granted David an appanage in “Cumbria” (the lands of the former kingdom of Strathclyde), and perhaps also in southern parts of Lothian.