Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Malcolm II

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MALCOLM II (Mackenneth) (d. 1034), king of Scotland, son of Kenneth II [q. v.], succeeded in 1005 to the throne by defeating and killing Kenneth III [q. v.], son of Duff, at Monzievaird, Perthshire. He commenced his reign by a raid on Northumbria and the siege of Durham, before whose gates he was repulsed with great slaughter by Uchtred, son of the Ealdorman Waltheof, in 1006. Uchtred was rewarded for this victory by receiving a grant of the two Northumberland earldoms, Bernicia and Deira, from Ethelred, king of Wessex, who gave him as his third wife his daughter Ælgifu (Freeman, Norman Conquest, i. 358). The whole south-eastern border of Scotland being thus united under this powerful earl, Malcolm turned his attention to the north of Scotland. He allied himself to Sigurd, jarl of Orkney, in 1008, by giving him his daughter in marriage, and the son of this marriage, Thorfinn, a boy of five, on the death of his father at Clontarf, 1014, was made Earl of Caithness and Sutherland, while his elder brother succeeded to the Orkney, Shetland, and other islands held by the Norse jarls. In 1018 Eadulf Cudel, the brother of Uchtred (slain by Canute), who retained the district north of the Tees, in spite of Canute's grant of the Northumbrian earldom to Eric, another Dane, was defeated at Carham on the Tweed, two miles above Coldstream, by the united forces of Malcolm and Eugenius, or Owen the Bald, king of the Strathclyde Britons. The great victory, which had been presaged by a comet, led to the cession of Lothian to the Scottish kingdom (Simeon of Durham, ‘Tract on the Northumbrian Earls,’ Decem Scriptores, x. 81), although John of Wallingford (p. 544) and Roger of Wendover (i. 416) assert there was an earlier grant by Eadgar, king of Wessex, to Kenneth circa 968, a view which Freeman, in his ‘Norman Conquest,’ adopts in a modified form, while admitting the effect of the victory of Carham, and acknowledging that Simeon of Durham is the best English authority on the point. His argument on ‘The Cession of Lothian’ (Norman Conquest, i. 610), against Mr. E. W. Robertson (Scotland under her Early Kings, ii. 386), is partial, and although he stated that the subject was suited ‘for a monograph, and if I do not find any opportunity for a single combat with Mr. Robertson,’ he never found the opportunity; and ‘his hope that some other champion of the rights of Edward and Athelstane may be forthcoming’ has not been realised, for more recent English writers have not supported his views (see Green's History, i. 102; art. Edgar).

The cession of Lothian, whatever its date, was made on the condition that the men of Lothian should retain their customs and laws, with the important result that the Scottish south-eastern lowlands became the centre from which Anglo-Saxon and Norman civilisation gradually permeated Scotland. About the same time, on the death of Owen, the king of Strathclyde, that district which consisted of Cumbria north of the Solway became an appanage of the Scottish kingdom under Duncan [q. v.], grandson of Malcolm, by the marriage of one of his daughters with Crinan, the lay abbot of Dunkeld, while modern Cumberland, south of the Solway, fell into the hands of the English kings. The southern boundary of future Scotland was for the first time indicated by these two acquisitions, and, in spite of attempts to restrict or extend it, the Tweed and the Solway were marked out as the limits between the kingdoms.

The reign of Malcolm is a blank for the next twelve years, but in 1031 Canute, who had conquered England, after a visit to Rome made a raid on Scotland, and, according to the ‘Saxon Chronicle,’ Malcolm ‘bowed to his power, and became his man, retaining his allegiance for a very short time.’ One of the poems of Sighvat, the Norse contemporary poet, perhaps refers to the same victory in the lines:

The foremost princes, north of Fife, have bowed
Their heads to Cnut, to buy peace from him.
     Corpus Poet. Boreale, i. 133.

Macbeth and Jehmarc, two sub-kings who submitted to Canute at the same time, are conjectured by Skene to have been Macbeth, son of Finlay, mormær of Moray, afterwards king of Scotland, and another mormær of uncertain name and district, perhaps of Argyll. On 25 Nov. 1034 Malcolm died, for the statement of Fordoun and Wyntoun that he was killed at Glamis is not supported by the earlier authorities. He is called by Marianus Scotus, the monk of Cologne, who was born during his reign, ‘Rex Scotiæ,’ the first instance of the territorial title of king of Scotland, and by Tighernac, the Irish annalist, ‘king of Alban, and head of the nobility of the west of Europe.’ A later chronicle (1165) mentions his benefactions to the church; but the foundation of the see of Mortlach, afterwards transferred to Aberdeen, ascribed to him by Fordoun, can scarcely be historical, and probably belongs to the reign of Malcolm III. The laws attributed to him, by which all Scotland was transformed into a feudal monarchy at a council held at Scone, are apocryphal, for feudalism proper did not penetrate Scotland till the time of Malcolm Canmore and his sons. The year before his own death he had slain a possible competitor for the crown, who is described by the ‘Ulster Annals’ as ‘the son of Boete, the son of Kenneth, possibly his cousin or nephew’ (Skene, p. 399), and he was succeeded by his grandson, Duncan I [q. v.], son of his daughter Bethoc by Crinan, lay abbot of Dunkeld, and father of Malcolm III [q. v.] With Malcolm ended the male line of Kenneth Macalpine.

[Chron. of Picts and Scots, Anglo-Saxon Chron., Annals of Tighernac, Heimskringla, vii., chap. ii., Simeon of Durham, John of Wallingford's Chronicles, and Marianus Scotus are the authorities on which Skene, Celtic Scotland, and Robertson, Scotland under her Early Kings, have constructed the history of this reign. Freeman's Norman Conquest, vol. i.; Robertson's Scotland under her Early Kings; Skene's Celtic Scotland, vol. i.]

Æ. M.