Malcolm II

Máel Coluim mac Cináeda (Malcolm II) was King of Scots from 1005 until his death. He was a son of Cináed mac Maíl Coluim; the Prophecy of Berchán says that his mother was a woman of Leinster and refers to him as forranach (the Destroyer or Avenger). Malcolm succeeded to the throne after he killed the previous king, his cousin Kenneth II.

Malcolm had two aims with his rule, firstly he wanted to secure his family’s right of succession to throne and secondly to expand the territory of his kingdom.

The rivalry between the two branches of the family trying to clamber their way to the throne was now out-right conflict. After Malcolm seized the throne he set about eliminating possible claimants to the throne to give his own offspring a better chance of succession after his death. One casualty who lost his life was the grandson of Kenneth III.

Malcolm was supposed to have had three daughters which meant that with no male heir his children would not have been first choice when the family voted on who was going to be next in line.

Malcolm fought several battles against the Norse settlers in the north of Scotland with mixed results but his true success came further south. The Lothian area had been contested bitterly between the Kings of the Scots and the Kings of Northumberland for many years. After a failed attack on Durham in the early years of his reign, Malcolm had better success in 1016.

Joining forces with the King of Strathclyde, Owain the Bald, Malcolm was successful in expanding his territory with one of the most key moments in Scottish history. In the battle of Carham (around 1018) where Malcolm II led an army into Northumbria and defeated the English Earl Huctred. The battle which secured Scottish rule of the land south of the Forth and made sure of what we now think of as the core territory of Scotland; Glasgow, Edinburgh and the central belt became Scottish. Without Carham there would be no Scotland.

The Battle of Carham

In Symeon’s ‘Historia Ecclesiae Dunelmensis’ (History of the Church of Durham) appears the passage: “In the year of our Lord’s incarnation ten hundred and eighteen, while Cnut ruled the kingdom of the Angles, a comet appeared for thirty nights to the people of Northumbria, a terrible presage of the calamity by which that province was about to be desolated. For, shortly afterwards, (that is, after thirty days,) nearly the whole population, from the river Tees to the Tweed, and their borders, were cut off in a conflict in which they were engaged with a countless multitude of Scots at Carrun [Carham].”

Carham on Tweed

Malcolm died at Glamis in 1034, his grandson succeeded to the throne to become Duncan I of Scotland.

Malcolm’s bloody plan to eliminate rival claimants to the throne appeared to be successful as the succession of Duncan was unchallenged. But history tells us a different story as Duncan was killed (inspiring a certain Shakespearean story, MacBeth).

The Pictish stone at Glamis is thought to be the gravestone of Malcolm II