Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Duncan II

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DUNCAN II (d. 1094), king of Scotland, was the eldest son of Malcolm III (Canmore), by his wife Ingibrorg, widow of Thorfinn, the Norwegian earl of Orkney (Skene, i. 434). His father had given him as a hostage to William I, probably at the treaty of Abernethy in 1072 (Freeman, Norman Conquest, iv. 517). When William I died he was apparently more or less of a state prisoner, and as such was set free and knighted by Robert when he entered Normandy in 1087. On the death of Malcolm he was probably regarded as his father's true heir in Cumbria and the Norwegian districts north of the Spey. In Scotia proper, or Albania, from the Forth to the Tay, the law of tanistry must have powerfully supported the pretensions of his uncle, Donald Bane, who is said to have at once seized upon Edinburgh Castle. On hearing of his father's death Duncan did fealty to William Rufus, under whose banners he was then serving, and collected a force of English and Normans for the maintenance of his claim to Scotland, where Donald Bane had been elected king, and, placing himself at the head of the national party, had driven all the English of his dead brother's court out of the country. Duncan succeeded in expatriating his uncle and establishing himself in his stead; but the young king found his followers unpopular with the very Scots who had made him king. These rose up in a body, cut off the strangers almost to a man, and only consented to retain Duncan as their king on condition of his taking an oath to introduce no more English or Normans into the country. It is curious after this to find that in the next year the Scotch, at the instigation of Donald Bane, slew their king treacherously, and once more expelled the English, and set Donald Bane upon the throne. Fordun makes Duncan slain at Monthechin, by Malpei or Malpedir, earl of Mearns, and buried in Iona (Simeon of Durham, ii. 222–4; Florence of Worcester, ii. 21, 31–5; A.-S. Chron. ii. 196–8; Skene, Celtic Scotland, i. 433, &c.)

The exact dates of these events are somewhat obscure. Malcolm is said to have died 13 Nov. 1093 (Fordun, p. 219), his eldest son Edward two days later, and Queen Margaret on 16 Nov. Simeon of Durham also gives Malcolm's death on St. Brice's day, and Margaret's three days later; whereas Duncan's death is admitted by all authorities to have taken place in 1094. This, even if we place Duncan's death at the very end of 1094, hardly leaves space for admitting with Fordun (p. 223) that Duncan reigned for eighteen months and did not obtain the throne till his uncle had ruled for six.

Duncan married Ethreda, or Etheldreda, the daughter of Gospatric, earl of Northumberland. Two of his charters are still extant, one to the church of Durham. His son, William FitzDuncan, was earl of Moray, and his grandson Donald Ban MacWilliam, figured very prominently as a claimant for the throne of Scotland against William the Lion (Cal. of Doc. relating to Scotland, ii. 16; Benedict of Peterborough, ii. 8). This Donald, if really a son of William FitzDuncan, must have been illegitimate, for the memorandum on this family genealogy (c. 1275 A.D.) only recognises one son as born to FitzDuncan, i.e. the ill-fated ‘Boy of Egremond’ (Cal. of Doc. ii. 16, &c.). Duncan himself is styled ‘Filius Malcolmi nothus’ by William of Malmesbury (ed. Hardy, ii. 627).

[Authorities quoted in text.]

T. A. A.