Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Malcolm III

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MALCOLM III, called Canmore (d. 1093), king of Scotland, succeeded to the kingdom of Duncan I, his father, by the defeat of Macbeth [q. v.] on 27 July 1054, by Earl Siward of Northumbria. This victory gave him possession of Cumbria, and his own victories at Lumphanan in Mar, where Macbeth was slain, and at Essy in Strathbogy, Aberdeenshire, on 3 April 1057, over Lulach, son of Gilcomgan, and nephew of Macbeth, secured his succession to the Scottish kingdom. On 25 April of the same year he was crowned at Scone.

Malcolm is the first king of Scotland who is more than a name. In 1061, taking advantage of the absence of Tostig, earl of Northumbria, at Rome, he broke the peace between him and that earl, his ‘sworn brother,’ and ravaged the territory of St. Cuthbert. After the death of Thorfin, Norwegian jarl of Orkney, which cannot be certainly dated, but is conjecturally placed in 1057 (Skene, Celtic Scotland, i. 413), Malcolm married his widow, Ingibrorg. He took no part in the expedition of Harold Hardrada and Tostig against England, which ended by their deaths at Stamford Bridge in 1066. Soon afterwards, Edgar Atheling, son of Edward, the son of Eadmund Ironside [q. v.], came to Scotland along with his mother Agatha and his sisters Margaret and Christina. It appears most probable they arrived at Dunfermline in the autumn of 1067, and that in the following spring, his first wife being dead, he married Margaret as his second [see Margaret, d. 1093]. After his marriage Malcolm was almost incessantly engaged in wars, in the main successfully. He thus guaranteed the independence of his kingdom, and enabled those internal reforms to be carried out which his queen directed. In curious contrast to the culture of his wife. Malcolm could not read, although he is said to have spoken three languages, Latin, English, and Gaelic. In spring 1070 Malcolm came to the aid of Edgar, his brother-in-law, who was fighting William the Conqueror in Northumbria, and, advancing with a large force through Cumberland, ravaged Teesdale and Cleveland, and thence overran the district between the Tees and Tyne till he reached Wearmouth, where he burnt St. Peter's Church. Meantime Edgar had been deserted by his allies, the Danes under Sweyn, king of Denmark, and Gospatric [q. v.], the exiled Saxon earl of Northumbria. The former went home; the latter was induced by a grant of the Northumbrian earldom to side with William. Malcolm, in revenge for this defection, laid waste Northumbria, carrying away many captives, so that, according to an English chronicler, ‘no village in southern Scotland was without English slaves.’ Availing himself of Malcolm's absence, Gospatric made a counter-raid on Cumbria, but after taking much spoil retreated to Bamborough.

In 1072 William the Conqueror invaded Scotland for the first time with his whole forces by land and sea. Malcolm came to Abernethy on the Tay and ‘made peace with him, and gave hostages, and became his man, and the king went home.’ This brief entry in the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ describes a real conquest of Scotland, but its temporary character is shown by the flight of Gospatric, after his deprivation by William of the Northumbrian earldom, to Malcolm, who shortly after made him Earl of Dunbar. Next year Edgar Atheling returned to Malcolm's court, but though well received, his presence was felt to be hazardous under the new relations between the English and the Scottish king, and he was despatched to Flanders. Shipwrecked on his way he again sought shelter with his brother-in-law, but was again dismissed, and, repairing to the court of William in Normandy, submitted to him, as, according to the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,’ Malcolm had advised. Malcolm now turned his arms against a domestic enemy, and in 1077 defeated the forces of Maelsnectan, son of Lulach, in Moray, and took captive his mother and his best men, treasures, and cattle, though the Celtic chief himself escaped. During 1077–9 Malcolm made a raid against the north of England, which he laid waste as far as the Tyne, but in 1080 William sent his eldest son Robert to invade Scotland. He came as far as Egglesbrech (Falkirk), but did nothing more except to build or restore on his return, as a frontier fort, New-Castle on the Tyne.

Four years after the accession of William Rufus in 1091, Edgar Atheling, having been expelled from the lands William had given him in Normandy, came back to Scotland, and induced Malcolm, in the absence of Rufus, to make a raid which extended as far as Chester-le-Street. Rufus on his return to England in autumn invaded Scotland. His fleet was lost by shipwreck a few days before Michaelmas, but his land force met that of Malcolm in Lothian (more probably than at Leeds), where a reconciliation was effected by Robert and Edgar Atheling, Malcolm for a second time submitting to the English king and doing homage, though for what lands does not certainly appear.

In 1092 Rufus reduced Cumbria south of the Solway, and deposed Dolphin, perhaps a son of Gospatric, who had held it under Malcolm. Malcolm remonstrated against this and other breaches of peace, and Rufus summoned him to Gloucester, sending hostages to Scotland for his safe-conduct. On his way south Malcolm attended the foundation of the new cathedral at Durham on 11 Aug. 1093, when he laid one of the foundation-stones of the new building, an act in which Freeman curiously detects a proof of his subjection to the English king. He reached Gloucester on the 24th, but was refused audience by Rufus unless as a vassal doing homage in the court of England (curia regis) for the realm of Scotland. He declined, declaring that ‘the kings of Scotland were wont to do right to the kings of England upon the borders of the two kingdoms, and according to the united judgment of the peers of both realms.’ They parted in anger, and Malcolm in November 1093, almost as soon as he returned home, invaded Northumberland, where he was surprised by its earl in an ambuscade near the river Alne and the castle of Alnwick, and was slain (13 Nov.) at a place still named Malcolm's Cross by Morel of Bamborough, who is described as ‘the earl's steward and Malcolm's gossip.’ This spiritual relationship heightened the treachery of the act. Malcolm's army was dispersed by the sword and the winter floods. The corpse of the king was left to be buried by two Englishmen at Tynemouth. His son Alexander I transferred it twenty years later to Dunfermline, where it was placed at first in a separate tomb, but in the reign of Alexander III by the side of Queen Margaret.

Malcolm had by his first wife, Ingibrorg, two sons, Duncan II [q. v.] and Donald, who predeceased him. His eldest son by Margaret, Edward, was mortally wounded and died on the retreat from Northumberland, in which Malcolm was killed, at a spot in the forest of Jedburgh called after him Edward's Isle. Malcolm's other sons by Margaret were Ethelred, lay abbot of Dunkeld and earl of Fife; Edmund, who became a monk; and three who were successively kings of Scotland—Edgar (1072–1107) [q. v.], Alexander I (1078?–1124) [q. v.], and David (1084–1153) [q. v.] His two daughters by Margaret were Matilda (1080–1118) [q. v.], afterwards wife of Henry I, and Mary, wife of Eustace, count of Boulogne, and mother of Matilda, who married Stephen of Blois, king of England.

Several anecdotes of Malcolm show that in him, as in Bruce, a gentle heart lay in the warrior's breast. His devotion to Queen Margaret, and introduction through her influence of the Roman ritual and more civilised manners, are proved, though perhaps exaggerated, by her biographer. His forgiveness of the treacherous noble who sought his life is repeated by both English and Scottish annalists. His frequent hospitality to his wayward brother-in-law, Edgar Atheling, is attested by the ‘Saxon Chronicle.’ But the introduction of the feudal tenure and the promulgations of the laws ascribed sometimes to him, sometimes to Malcolm II, are disproved by historical criticism, which has shown that feudalism proper did not reach Scotland till the reigns of his sons, though some of the Saxon usages transferred by the Norman Conquest into the feudal system may date from his own.

[The Life of Margaret, attributed to her confessor Turgot, and the Scottish Chronicles of Wyntoun and Fordun, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, and the English Annalists, especially Simeon of Durham, are the best early authorities. Lord Hailes's Annals, E. M. Robertson's Scotland under her Early Kings, and Skene's Celtic Scotland, vol. i., are the best Scottish, and Freeman's Norman Conquest and Reign of William Rufus the best English modern histories.]

Æ. M.