Constantine II (DNB00)

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CONSTANTINE II (d. 952), son of Ædh, king of Scotland or Alba, one of the most important monarchs of the race of Kenneth Macalpine, as is indicated by the length of his reiffn. He succeeded his cousin Donald VI, son ofUonstantine I, who was a brother of Ædh, in 900. In the third year of his reign the northmen plundered Dunkeld, but were defeated in the following year in Stratheam, when their leader, Ivar of the Hy Ivar (i.e. tribe of Ivar), or perhaps grandson of its founder, the first Ivar, was slain by the men of Fortrenn, the central district of Scotland, fighting under the protection of the Cathbuaidh, the crozier of Columba. In his sixth year an assembly at the Moot Hill of Scone, presided over by Constantine and Kellach, the bishop of Kilrymouth (St. Andrews), agreed that 'the laws and discipline of the faith and the rights of the churches and gospels should be preserved equally with the Scots.' By this obscure reference we are probably to understand that the Pictish and Scottish churches, both long before then christian, were united on a footing of equality under the Bishop of St. Andrews, and that the Dunkeld supremacy which had succeeded that of Iona came to an end. In 908 the death of Donald, the last British king of Strathclyde, a district now almost confined to Galloway, Ayr, and Dumfries, gave Constantine the opportunity of procuring what is usually called the election of his brother Donald to the throne of that kingdom, which remained in a condition of subjection, ruled over by a prince of the Macalpine family until its complete union to Scotland in the reign of Malcolm II. This peaceful addition to his kingdom was followed by a period during which Constantine had to maintain a fierce contest with the Danish pirates led by Regnwald (Reginald), a descendant of Ivar, son of Ragnar Lodbrog. In 912, along with Ottir the jarl and Oswyl Oracaban, Reginald ravaged Dunblane (Lappenberg, Anglo-Saxon Kings, ii. 114, but other writers understand by the passage in Symeon of Durham, 'Historia Regum,' Dublin and not Dunblane, Arnold, Introduction to Symeon, ii. xxv). He then seems to have transferred the scene of his operations to the Isle of Man and the south coast of Ireland, making a descent on Waterford, but in 918 he again invaded Scotland from the south, but having in view specially the conquest of Northumberland. Eldred, lord of Bamborough, called in the aid of Constantine to repulse the Danish invader, and at the memorable though apparently indecisive battle of Corbridge-on-the-Tyne three of the four divisions of the Danish army were defeated by Constantine, and Earls Ottir and Gracaban slain. Reginald with the fourth division then attacked the Scots in rear, but night put an end to the battle, in which many Scots, but none of their chiefs, were slain. The victory was claimed by both sides, but Reginald succeeded in making his way east and taking for a time possession of Bernacia, the northern part of Northumbria. This view, which is that of Mr. Skene, appears on the whole a more probable and consistent account of these transactions than the view of Mr. Hinde, followed with modifications by Mr. Arnold, in his edition of Symeon of Durham, that there were two battles, one in 913–914, in which Reginald was victor, and drove Ealdred to take refuge with the Scotch king, and another in 918, fought in (Alba) Scotland, which was indecisive; but we must admit with Mr. Arnold, 'The truest form of the occurrence is unrecoverable.'

After the battle of Corbridge the northmen desisted for upwards of a century making any descent on Scotland. The kingdoms of Britain were becoming consolidated and too powerful for the attacks of mere piratical leaders. When the contest was renewed it was between the kings of united Scotland and united Norway. The remainder of Constantine's reign was occupied with a more formidable foe, the Saxon king of Wessex, who had been advancing slowly but steadily northward since Alfred had, in the last century, driven off the Danes in the south, amalgamating all England under their sceptre as they progressed, Æthelstan, the son of Eadward the Elder, who succeeded in 925, was the first king who really attempted the annexation of Northumbria, for the statement of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' that in 924 Eadward the Elder 'was chosen for father and lord by the king of the Scots and the Scots, by King Regnall (i.e. Reginald) and the Northumbrians, and also by the king of the Strathclyde Welsh and all the Strath Clyde Welsh,' if interpreted to mean anything more than a nominal subjection, is inconsistent with the fact that he is said in the same year to have erected a fort at Bakewell in the Peakland of Derbyshire, showing the limits of his real advance. Reginald, the Danish earl, one of those said to have submitted, died three years before 924. But with Æthelstan, the attack on Northumbria, which was not to be finally subdued till after the Norman Conquest, truly began.

He is said by the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' to have subjugated in 926 'all the kings who were in this island,' but some discredit attaches to this statement, which is probably an exaggeration of real victories by the addition in the same authority that Houre, king of the west Welsh, and Constantine, king of the Scots, two of those who submitted to him, 'renounced every kind of idolatry,' for they were already undoubtedly christian kings. In 933–4 it is recorded that Æthelstan went into Scotland with a land force and a ship force and ravaged a great part of it, reaching Dunottar by land and Caithness with his fleet (Symeon, Historia Regum, ii. 124). Four years later a powerful league was formed to resist his further advance. Constantine and his son-in-law, Olaf Cuaran, the son of Sihtric, led their forces by land and sea on the east coast, while the Strathclyde Britons crossed the hills which divided them from the Angles, and another Olaf, the son of Godfrey, came with a fleet from Dublin, Æthelstan on his side had a powerful ally in Egil, the son of Skalagrim, the hero of the Norse Saga. The decisive battle was fought at Brunanburh, perhaps near Borough-on-the-Humber, or, according to Mr. Skene's conjecture, Aldburgh, near Boroughbridge, sixteen miles from York ('Wendune alio nomine et brunnanwerk vel Brunnanbyrig,' Symeon of Durham, i. 76), and resulted in favour of the Wessex king. Olaf and Constantine were driven back to their ships. Five kings and seven earls and countless shipmen and Scots are said to have been slain in the famed Anglo-Saxon war-song which celebrated the victory. No greater slaughter had been known

Since hither from the East
Angles and Saxons came to land, —
or the broad seas
Britain sought:
Proud war smiths
The Welsh overcame.

Æthelstan died three years after the battle, but before his death he had established the Norse jarl, Eric Bloody-axe, a son of Harold Haarfagr (Fairhaired), as ruler of Northumbria. In 943 Constantine resigned the crown to Malcolm, the son of his predecessor, Donald, and became a monk in the Culdee monasteiy of St. Andrews, where he died in 952. He retained his political interest notwithstanding his retirement, and in 949 incited Malcolm to join his son-in-law Olaf in an expedition against Northumbria, which Olaf wrested from Eric Bloody Axe and held for three years. Eric was then restored for ten years, when it finally submitted to the West-Saxon king, Eadred, and became an earldom under him and his successors. While Constantine was thus unsuccessful in his contest with the Wessex kings and Northumbria remained under Anglo-Saxon rulers, he was in all other respects a fortunate king, laying the foundation for the annexation of Strathclyde to Scotland and putting a stop to the incursions of the northmen. In 954 his son Indulph succeeded, after the short reign of Donald, to the throne. His reign was marked by the evacuation of Edinburgh by the Angles, the first step towards the acquisition of Lothian by Scotland.

[Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; Symeon of Durham; Chronicles of the Picts and Scots; Robertson's and Skene's Histories, ut supra.]

Æ. M.