Kenneth II

Kenneth II (A.K.A Cináed mac Maíl Coluim) was King of Alba. The son of Malcolm I (A.K.A Máel Coluim mac Domnaill), he succeeded Cuilean (A.K.A Cuilén mac Iduilb) on the latter’s death at the hands of Amdarch of Strathclyde in 971 and reigned for 24 years.

The reign of Kenneth II saw much conflict. His reign began fighting the Britons of Strathclyde, loosing a large part of his force on the river Cornag. He then turned his attention to Northumbria and ravaged the whole of this Kingdom and attacking Eadulf, earl of the northern half of Northumbria. He fortified the fords of the Forth as a defense against the Britons and again invaded Northumbria, carrying off the earl’s son. About this time he founded a great monastery at Brechin where now stands Brechin Cathedral.

Kenneth further secured Alba’s hold on the lands between the River Forth and the River Tweed against the ever present threat of King Edgar’s English forces .

In 977 he is said to have slain Amlaiph or Olaf, son of Indulph, king of Alban, perhaps a rival claimant to the throne.

According to the English chroniclers, in 973 Kenneth made submission to and in doing so acknowledging him as the overlord of Scotland. Other Kings also submitted to King Edgar of England; Welsh and Norse as well as the King of Strathclyde his own father Malcolm I. This all happened at Chester. Shortly afterward Kenneth received from Edgar all the land called Lothian (i.e., between the Tweed and the Forth rivers).

Kenneth strengthened his ties with the Irish nobility by marrying a Princess of Leinster. They had at least one son, who went on to become Malcolm II.

The mormaers, or chiefs, of Kenneth were engaged throughout the reign of Kenneth II in a contest with Sigurd the Norwegian, earl of Orkney, for the possession of Caithness and the northern district of Scotland as far south as the Spey. In this struggle the Scots attained no permanent success. There is the Njal’s Saga, the Orkneyinga saga and other sources recount wars between “the Scots” and the Northmen, but these are more probably wars between Sigurd Hlodvisson, Earl of Orkney, and the Mormaers, or Kings, of Moray.

Kenneth’s rule was blighted by an ongoing feud which had persisted since the death of Indulf (A.K.A Idulb mac Causantín) between his descendants and Kenneth’s family. Adam of Bremen tells that Sweyn Forkbeard found in exile in Scotland at this time, but whether this was with Kenneth, or one of the other kings in Scotland, is unknown.

Kenneth II was killed in 995, the Annals of Ulster say “by deceit” and the Annals of Tigernach say “by his subjects”. Some later sources, such as the Chronicle of Melrose, John of Fordun and Andrew of Wyntoun provide more details, accurately or not, it is quite a colourful account: Constantine the Bald, son of King Cullen and Gryme were “plotting unceasingly the death of the king and his son“. One day, Kenneth II and his companions went hunting into the woods, “at no great distance from his own abode“. The hunt took him to Fettercairn, where Finella resided. She approached him to proclaim her loyalty and invited him to visit her residence, whispering into his ear that she had information about a conspiracy plot. She managed to lure him to “an out-of-the-way little cottage“, where a booby trap was hidden. Inside the cottage was a statue, connected by strings to a number of crossbows. If anyone touched or moved the statue, he would trigger the crossbows and fall victim to their arrows. Kenneth II gently touched the statue and “was shot though by arrows sped from all sides, and fell without uttering another word.” Finella escaped through the woods and managed to join her abettors, Constantine III and Gryme. The hunting companions soon discovered the bloody king. They were unable to locate Finella, but burned Fettercairn to the ground’.

The simplest account is that he was killed by his own men in Fettercairn, through the treachery of Finnguala (or Fimberhele) daughter of Cuncar, Mormaer of Angus, in revenge for the killing of her only son.