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The Celtic Province of Moray
By James Barron


The history of the Celtic Province of Moray takes us back to a remote period, on which the light is dim and fitful. All that any one can do is to endeavour to ascertain the probable nature of movements, the details of which are obscure and to most modern readers possessing but feeble interest. The facts in the following paper are mainly derived from Mr. Skene’s “Celtic Scotland,” and Mr. Anderson’s “Orkneyinga Saga,” but they are of course applied to special purposes, and made the basis of inferences for which these authorities are not responsible. I may say that our retrospect includes the period from the seventh century to the twelfth, but before entering on the narrative a few preliminary observations are necessary.

In the first place, it is assumed that the so-called Picts of the early centuries of our era were Celts—the ancestors of the race that still inhabits the Scottish Highlands. Modern inquiry seems to establish this beyond reasonable doubt. Although we cannot enter into the controversy, it may be pointed out that a king of the Picts had undoubtedly a royal seat at Inverness in the middle of the sixth century; and, when a few centuries later the district becomes familiar to history, the inhabitants are found to be a purely Celtic people. There is nothing whatever to show that in the interval the Gael destroyed and supplanted an older race; while on the contrary there is a good deal to show that the natives continued to carry on a warfare, varying in fortune, but on the whole fairly successful, first with Irish immigrants, then with Angles or Saxons, and latterly with ferocious Norsemen. As the territory has been occupied by Celts throughout the entire period of authentic history, it would require very dear evidence to demonstrate that the Picts and Caledonians of the immediately preceding centuries were a different race. To clinch the argument, Mr. Skene famishes a list of about 150 Pictish words, a portion of which are purely Irish or Gaelic in their forms, while the rest show an admixture of other Celtic tongues.

The Romans finally quitted the island of Britain in 410, and for centuries thereafter, so far as there is any record at all, the history is a succession of struggles either between native tribes and principalites, or between Celts and Teutonic assailants. The purest and most conservative Celts seem to have been the inhabitants of the district now known as the counties of Inverness and Ross. Viewed on a large scale, the history of the Highlands is the history of Celtic resistance to foreign inroads and foreign usages. Many of the wars waged by the northern Gael against the early Scottish kings arose from the devotion of the people to their own customs and laws of succession, and their hatred of practices introduced by the monarchs under English and Norman influences. There are three marked periods in these struggles. The first is the reign of William the Lion, who succeeded after repeated and severe efforts in quelling the spirit of the north ; and the decisive battle was fought in 1187, while the headquarters of the king were established at Inverness. The discontent and turbulence of the middle ages received a decisive check by the memorable battle of Harlaw, in 1411. Once again the Celts had another chance—in the conflict between the Stuarts and their Parliaments, and the revolution which placed the house of Hanover on the British throne. We all know that this third rising ended in the disastrous field of Culloden, and the ravages and proscriptions of Cumberland.

In rapidly tracing the early history, it is necessary to remark that we regard Inverness as having been the centre of the native northern state. The town itself was probably nothing more than a cluster of huts, and perhaps it did not occupy exactly its present site; bat indications are not wanting that in this neighbourhood there existed what was in some sort a native capital. The central situation of the spot supports the supposition, and the abundant archaeological remains with which we are familiar, are not without significance in the same connection. But further we know, as I have said, that a king of the Picts in the sixth century had his residence at Inverness; and five centuries afterwards Macbeth had a stronghold here. The conqueror of Macbeth, Malcolm Canmore, is said to have erected a fortified place on the present Castle Hill; and soon after*his day the Castle of Inverness was the most important stronghold in the northern part of the kingdom. It is clear that the town, which became a royal burgh in the twelfth century, was not then a new creation. Its importance was only then recognised by William the Lion, and it had previously been mentioned by David I. as one of the local capitals of the realm. We do not say that in early days Inverness was a populous place; but there seems little reason to doubt that it was the residence of leading chiefs or princes, and in all probability the capital of Moray-land.

After the departure of the Romans, a century and a-half elapsed of which little is really known. It appears, however, that about the year 498 or 500, a colony of Scots came over from Ireland and settled in Kintyre. These Scots were Christians, and the northern Picts were heathens; but in 563 Columba arrived at Iona, and he and his successors converted the Picts to Christianity. The visit of Columba to King Brude, at his palace near the river Ness, does not enter into the scope of the present paper. What then is the state of matters which we find existing in Scotland in the seventh century We find four kingdoms—three of which are Celtic, and one Teutonic. The largest of these consisted of the Picts, who occupied the greater part of the territory north of the Firth of Forth; then we have the Scots, who occupied the greater part of what is now Argyllshire ; then the Britons, whose territory extended along the west from Clyde to Cumberland ; and, lastly, the Angles, who held the east coast from the Forth to the Humber. The Picts, though nominally united, consisted of two divisions— one lying to the north, and the other to the south of the Grampians; or, perhaps more exactly, one to the north, and the other to the east and south of the Spey. Considering the nature of the country and the tribal character of Celtic communities, it is not likely that the union between the two parts was ever very strong; but they seem at times to have recognised the same sovereign, and the feeling of race or nationality was decided enough to induce them to combine against a common enemy. The southern Picts were subjected to the more frequent attacks, and they were more liable than their northern confederates to have their customs gradually broken down by contact or collision with aggressive neighbours. To this fact is to be attributed the separation which ultimately took place between the two sections of the Pictish race, and the greater tenacity with which our northern forefathers clung to their native forms of law and government.

The order of royal succession among the Picts is acknowledged to have been peculiar. Brothers might succeed one another, but failing these, the relationship was reckoned through the female line. The list of monarchs, we are told, “does not present a single instance of a son directly succeeding his father.” When brothers failed, the throne passed to the sons of sisters, or to the nearest male relation on the female side. In the Scottish kingdom of Argyllshire the custom was different. There the law of Tanistry prevailed; that is, the most competent male member of the royal house was chosen, under the name of Tanist, to lead the armies and to succeed to the crown. Latterly, under the influence of the Teutonic element, the succession from father to son began to prevail south of the Grampians, and the resistance to this innovation led to frequent and sanguinary contests. Here again it may be desirable to point out that the northern Celts were, as we should expect, the last to acquiesce in the new order of things.

The struggles between the four kingdoms were fierce and protracted. The Argyllshire or Dalriadic Scots maintained a long friendship with the northern Picts, but to the east and south they, for a time, carried everything before them. Their conquering career however was brought to a close in 642, when their king, Donald Breac, was slain in a battle with the Britons of Strathclyde. Next the Angles obtained supremacy, extending their empire over Strathclyde, Dalriada, and the southern Picts. During this period the northern Picts, sheltered behind the Grampians, retained their independence. The tribes of the north selected as their king a scion of the royal house named Bredei, who is recorded to have laid siege, in 680, to Dunbeath, in Caithness. He is also said to have laid waste the Orkney Islands, and turning southwards he attempted, in concert with the Dalriadic Scots, to make head against Ecgfrid, the powerful Anglican King. In the plains of the Lowlands he had little chance of success, but Ecgfrid had the temerity to advance northwards, and in 685 he was cut off with his army in attempting to penetrate the mountain chain at Dunnichen, in Forfarshire. Bredei once more united the Piets, but the connection between south and north appears to have been looser than ever. Religious dissensions helped forward separation. The Columban Church had hitherto been independent of Rome, but the latter was gradually pushing its way northward from England. The date for the observance of Easter was a source of constant dispute, and in 710 King Nectan submitted to Rome and adopted Latin customs. Not content with this, he expelled the Columban clergy from the southern districts, where his authority was supreme, and the exiles sought refuge among the Scots, and probably also in the more remote districts of the northern Picts. It would be superfluous to dwell upon this ecclesiastical quarrel here; we merely note it as another of the forces which tended to break up the unity of the Pictish kingdom.

Angus, a powerful king of the Picts, who reigned from 731 to 761, conquered the Scots and turned Dalriada into a Pictish province. Sometime afterwards, about 780, there occurred, according to Mr. Skene, the first distinct breach in the Pictish law of sue* cession. Through contact and occasional alliance with the Saxony the southern Piets were now becoming familiar with alien practices, and they accordingly chose Talorgan, the son of Angus, to be their sovereign, while the northern provinces adhered to a king named Drest, who, we may presume, was according to their law the legitimate monarch. The breach appears to have been healed, but soon the attacks of a new foe distracted the weakly-compacted kingdom. In 793 the Norsemen descended upon the island of Lindisfarne, and for a long period they continued periodically to alarm and devastate the country. Orkney became an important seat of their power; Caithness became the patrimony of a .N orse earl Norse vessels carried terror tilong the west coast and throughout the western islands, where for a time the invaders were supreme. The shores of the Moiay Firth became the scene of frequent visitations, and indeed all parts of the coast* east and west, suffered from these piratical inroads. During the period of confusion and anarchy which occurred, a new dynasty established itself south of the Grampians. Kenneth Macalpin, a Dalriadic Scot, but connected in some way with the Pictish royal family, made good his claims with the sword. In 844 he became firmly seated on the throne, and founded a line of sovereigns who succeeded one another according to the law of Tanistry. But Mr. Skene shows that their power was confined at first to the provinces of the southern Picts, and their enemies were for a long time too numerous to permit any extension of their sovereignty over the northern provinces.

We have now in some measure disentangled the history of our northern district, and may continue to follow more closely its individual fortunes. Our position is that from the first the union between the northern and southern Picts was but a slight confederacy —that from the nature of the country and the known customs of Celtic tribes, it could not well have been otherwise; that in course of time the connection was weakened by transformations among the southern Picts; and that during the anarchy in the middle of the ninth century, the northern district, or so much of it as the Norse did not actually conquer, became virtually independent The great northern province was Moravia, or Moray, which seems to have extended, in its widest sense, from the river Spey on the east, to the watershed of the present county of Boss on the west; and from Loch Lochy on the south, to the Kyle of Sutherland on the north. From the few indications that exist it is natural to infer—we should say it is almost certain—that Inverness was the capital of this region. The native rulers, styled Maormora—sometimes, indeed, called Kings— had by no means an easy position. The Norse power, which had established its footing in Caithness and Sutherland, pressed them on the one side, the Scottish Kings on the other; and the recollection of this simple fact will help to clear up much that would otherwise be unintelligible in our early local history. We may believe that the princes of Moray and their people cherished an almost equal dislike to their northern and southern foes. The one was a race of pirates, the other of degenerate Celts; and the primary duty of the Moraymen was to preserve their own independence and the purity of their native laws. Unfortunately, the Maorrnor of Moray was unable to cope single-handed either with the Earl of Caithness and Orkney, or with the King of Scotia. In times of ’ extremity he was obliged to ally himself with the one or the other, to help the Norsemen against the Scots, or the Scots against the Norsemen. The sea-kings with their swift vessels were at first his most dreaded antagonists. The kings of Scotia were more remote and had other affairs on hand; but when they found opportunity,1 they were not slow in advancing sovereign claims and pushing their arms beyond the mountains. It was only after long resistance that these claims were made good by the superiority of the southerns in resources and armament. We shall see that Macbeth, the most famous Maormor of Moray, had no scruple in allying himself with the Norsemen, in order to get rid of King Duncan, and effect a partition of the kingdom.

The first Norse leader .who over-ran Moray was Thorstein the Red (875), a son of the Norse king of ’Dublin. His power, however, only lasted for a single year; and the next successful invader was Sigurd, the first Earl of Orkney, who flourished towards the close of the same century. He over-ran Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, and Moray, and built a tower at a spot which is conjectured to have been Burghead. His chief antagonist was Mselbrigda the Toothed, Maormor of Moray. Both came to an untimely end. They had agreed to meet in conference, each with a guard of forty men, but Sigurd, professing to be afraid of treachery, mounted eighty men on forty horses. Mselbrigda advancing to meet him detected the deception, and at once resolved to fight, exclaiming “let us be brave and kill each his man before we die.” At Sigurd’s command half his men dismounted to attack the enemy in rear; and the Celtic chief and all his party being overpowered by numbere were slain. Sigurd and his followers fastened the heads of their victims to their saddle straps and rode away in triumph. But the feature which had given Mselbrigda his designation was the means of retribution. In kicking at his horse, Sigurd scratched his leg with the protruding tooth, and the wound proved fatal. The body of the Earl was buried in a mound at a place called Ekkialsbakki, the site of which is uncertain. Bakki meaning bank, Mr. Anderson indentifies the name with the river Oykell (“ Bank of the Oykell ”) which divides the counties of Boss and Sutherland, and falls into the Dornoch Firth. The exact spot he considers to be Cyderhall, a name which is a corruption of Siddera, that in its turn being a contraction for Siwardhoch, the designation given to the place in a deed of the thirteenth century. Mr. Skene takes a different view. From an examination of the narrative he arrives at the conclusion that the meeting between Sigurd and Meelbrigda must have taken place near the southern boundary of Moray. He is also of opinion that the light occurred in the neighbourhood of Forres, and that the remarkable sculptured stone near that town is a record of it. The stone appears to tell the tale which has just been narrated. Among the representations upon it is a leader with a head hanging at his girdle, followed by three trumpeters sounding for victory, and surrounded by decapitated bodies and human heads. Mr. Skene believes Ekkialsbakki to mean the banks of the Find-horn. When digging into a mound close to the Forres pillar, in 1813, eight human skeletons were found, and in 1827 there was dug out of a steep bank above the river a coffin of large dimensions, composed of flagstones, containing the remains of a human skeleton.

Whatever supremacy Sigurd may have established, it does not seem to have survived his death. The native chiefs of Moray resumed their independence, although they still, no doubt, had conflicts to sustain with the great and aggressive northern power. The southern monarchy was also ambitious of extending its sway. It is recorded that Malcolm [942-954] made the first attempt to push the power of the kings of Scotia beyond the Spey. He invaded the province of Moray and slew its ruler, Cellach, but does not appear to have made a conquest. A little later the Scottish kings extended claims to Caithness, but their dominion there was at first even more shadowy than in Moray. Such pretensions are natural to lan aspiring central monarchy, and in the end generally come to be realised. Caithness and Orkney were not always under the same earl. After a temporary separation they were re-united by the marriage of Thorfinn, the skull-cleaver, with the daughter of Duncan, jarl of Caithness. A series of quarrels occurred among their sons, which are only notable in so far as that one of the claimants received the support of Magbiodr, Maormor of Moray, and the King of Scotia. Their assistance, however, was unavailing. The brother in possession triumphed; and soon afterwards his nephew, a second Sigurd, who entered on the earldom about the year 980, re-established the supremacy of the Norsemen over the north of Scotland and the western islands. The conquest, of course, was not accomplished without a severe struggle. Finlay, another Maormor of Moray, brother to Magbiodr, collected a large force and entered Caithness. At first Sigurd was unable to cope with him. There were seven Scotsmen for one Norwegian—odds which even the bold Scandinavian rovers were unable to face. To gain assistance, Sigurd propitiated the Orkney freeholders by restoring lands which they had resigned to his great grandfather; and with augmented forces, he attacked the Scots and completely defeated them. The mainland was now open for an advance; and in a few years the authority of Sigurd was acknowledged from the Pentland to the Spey. The King of Scotland continued the struggle with great spirit, but in the end the rivals came to terms and formed an alliance. The friendship was cemented by the marriage of the Norse chief with a daughter of Malcolm II. Sigurd, born a heathen, was converted to Christianity by a peculiar process. Olaf Tryggveson, the first Christian King of Norway, returning from an expedition in 997, seized the Earl as he lay under the island of Hoy with a single ship. Being offered the choice of baptism or death, Sigurd chose to declare himself a convert, and became nominally a subject of King Olaf. Yet seventeen years afterwards, at the battle of Clontarff, in Ireland, we find him fighting in the ranks of the heathen, and piling the field with Christian dead. In the heat of the contest Sigurd was cut down by the Irish champion, Murcadh, and his fell was the signal for the flight of the Norwegians.

We now approach a period of peculiar interest in the history of Moray. On the death of Qigurd, the province resumed its old position, and its Maormor, Finlay, is described in the Ulster annals under a kingly title, indicating that he claimed to be independent of both his neighbours. In 1020 he was slain by his nephews ; but he was succeeded in his semi-sovereignty by his son Macbeth, whose name has obtained such singular prominence in history and dramatic literature. In 1034, King Malcolm of Scotland died, leaving two grandsons who were destined to be fierce opponents. Duncan, the heir to the throne, was the son of a princess married to Crinan, abbot of Dunkeld; while Thorfinn, Earl of Caithness and Orkney, was the offspring of another daughter, married, as we have seen, to Earl Sigurd. Macbeth was in a difficult position, placed as he was between the two ambitious cousins. His own wife was connected with the Scottish royal house, being either the sister or the near kinswoman of a prince whom King Duncan’s grandfather had slain. The presumption is that this unfortunate prince was, according to the custom of the times, a dangerous rival to the succession of Duncan. Thus Macbeth, through his wife, had a feud with the dynasty which circumstances might at any moment quicken into activity.

Thorfinn, Earl of Caithness, was a man of energy and capacity, well-fitted to hold his own in those wild times. He was only five years old when his father died, and at fourteen he was a leader of maritime expeditions, ready, as his bard said, “to defend his own land, or to ravage in another’s.” He is described as a man of very large stature, uncomely, sharp-featured, dark haired, sallow, and swarthy. Avaricious, harsh, cruel, and clever; greedy of wealth and renown; bold and successful in war, and a great strategist— such are the epithets iu which his character and powers are summed up. Thorfinn had three half-brothers older than himself, among whom the Orkneys were divided, while he received the Earldom of Caithness. The death of two of his brothers, and an alliance with the third, put him in possession of the islands, and thus he became a great chief like his father Sigurd. His cousin Duncan, suspicious of his growing power, wished to dispossess him of Caithness, or at least to lay it under tribute. Earl Thorfinn refused to part with any of his rights, and so war broke out. Duncan nominated a nephew of his own, named Moddan, to be Earl of Caithness, and sent him down to collect forces in Sutherland. This seems to have been the beginning of the conflict in which King Duncan was to lose kingdom and life.

In such a struggle it was important to secure the assistance of the great Maormor of Moray. "We may believe that Macbeth aided Duncan from the outset. The Norsemen were the nearest and most bitter foes of the Moravian Celts. In former times they had once and again overrun the province, and Macbeth, like King Duncan, must have viewed the increasing power of Thorfinn with great distrust. If Duncan claimed his service as a tributary chief, Macbeth probably waived such questions for the present, in order to deal with his dangerous enemy in Caithness. But whatever the actual circumstances were, we see no reason to doubt that the Maormor of Moray was an ally of the king, and thus by his subsequent conduct laid himself open to the charge of treachery, which has ever been associated with his name. Without having a base of operations on the south side of the Moray Firth, King Duncan could scarcely have carried on the war in the far north. The precise relation of Sutherland to the northern rivals seems uncertain. Very probably the people of that district detested Norse rule, so that it was easy for Moddan to obtain support among them,

Thorfinn possessed a valuable coadjutor in Thorkel Fostri, who is described as the most accomplished man in all the Orkneys. He was bold and capable; be had spoken up for the freeholders against the tyranny of a former Earl, and tifeing compelled to flee, he took up his residence in Caithness, and became foster-father to Thorfinn, who was then young. It was mainly through this man's influence that Thorfinn gradually extended his authority over the Orkneys. When the dispute occurred between the Earl and his royal cousin, Thorkel raised a strong force in the Orkney islands, and crossed to the mainland, and Duncan’s vassal, Moddan, found himself obliged to retire. The Norse army carried its victorious arms through Sutherland and Ross, and returned with great plunder to Duncans-bay. The Scottish King determined on a more formidable attack. Moddan was again despatched with troops to Caithness, while the King with a fleet of eleven vessels sailed northwards along the coast. Thorfinn had only five warships, but he gave battle in the Pentland Fiith, and inflicted a severe defeat upon his opponent. Thorfinn is depicted, of course by friendly chroniclers, as taking an active personal part in the fight, cheering on his men, and urging, them to board the enemy’s ships. He grappled with the royal vessel itself, and, shouting for his banner, rushed on board. King Duncan escaped by jumping into another boat, and hurrying off as fast as oars could carry him. The spirited description of the fight by Thorfinn’s bard may be quoted :—

“Then the ships were lashed together—
Know ye how the men were failing?
All their swords and boards were swimming
In the life-blood of the Scotsmen;
Hearts were sinking—bowstrings screaming,
Darts were flying—spear shafts bending;
Swords were biting, blood flowed freely,
And the Prince’s heart was merry.”

King Duncan escaped to the coast of Moray, and hastened south to collect a fresh army. In the interval, the Norse enjoyed rare opportunities for plundering, and the ambitious Moddan—the rival Earl of Caithness—came to an untimely end. While the Norsemen were ravaging in Moray, they heard that Moddan had established himself with a large army at Thurso, and was awaiting more troops from Ireland. The ever-ready Thorkel Fostri was equal to the occasion. He marched north secretly, we are told, and was befriended by the inhabitants of Caithness, who were true and faithful to him; “and no news went of his journey,” says the story, “till he came to Thurso by night, and surprised Earl Moddan in a house, which they set on fire. Moddan was asleep in an upper storey, and jumped out; but as he jumped down from the stair, Thorkel hewed at him with a sword, and it hit him on the neck, and took off his head. After this his men surrendered, but some escaped by flight. Many were slain, but some received quarter.” After this feat, Thorkel Tejoined his chief with all the men he could collect in Sutherland, Caithness, and Boss.

Meantime King Duncan hurried north with a powerful army, collected from all parts of Scotland, and including the forces which Earl Moddan had expected from Ireland. Mr. Skene conjectures that Macbeth now filled the place which Moddan had formerly occupied as leader of the King’s army. The battle took place at a spot called Torfnes, which Mr. Anderson supposes to be Tarbetness, but which Mr. Skene believes to be Burghead. “The Scots,” to quote the Saga once more, “were by far the most numerous. Earl Thorfinn was among the foremost of his men; he had a gold-plated helmet on his head, a sword at his belt, and a spear in his hand, and he cut and thrust with both hands. It is even said that he was foremost of all his men. He first attacked the Irish division, and so fierce were he and his men, that the Irish were immediately routed, and never regained their position. Then King Kali had his standard brought forward against Earl Thorfinn, and there was the fiercest struggle for a while; but it ended in the flight of the king, and some say he was slain.” It is added that Thorfinn conquered as far as Fife; and he became so enraged at a threatened insurrection, that he harried the country, leaving scarcely a hut standing. In the words of the Norse bard, “the flames devoured the homesteads,” and the Scottish kingdom—meaning, we suppose, the eastern Lowlands—“was reduced to smoking ashes.” “After this,” adds our authority, “Thorfinn went through Scotland to the north until he reached his ships, and subdued the country where-ever he went, and did not stop till he came to Caithness, where he spent the winter; but every season after that he went out on expeditions, and plundered in the summer time with all his men.”

Two observations may be made at this point; one that Macbeth is not mentioned in the Saga, and the other that King Duncan is not designated by his historical name, but is spoken of as King Kali Hundason, the son of the hound. Mr. Anderson, therefore, does not absolutely identify Kali with Duncan, although he acknowledges the probability that they were one and the same. Mr. Skene, however, expresses little doubt on the point; and unless the annalists are entirely wrong in their dates, there seems in reality no doubt possible. At the time when, according to the Saga, this war occurred, Duncan was unquestionably king of Scotland. All the other known circumstances lead to the same conclusion. The fact that Macbeth is not mentioned in the Saga is of no importance, for the Norse chroniclers were not likely to pay any attention to him or his doings.

The question now arises, What part did Macbeth really act at the crisis of the war? That he joined Thorfinn is obvious, for he afterwards reigned peacefully over a large portion of Scotland, owing, as is believed, to his alliance with the Norse power. But when or how did he desert Duncan? Of course we are here in the region of conjecture ; but the story we have been following is not inconsistent with other narratives, and we must just interpret the circumstances to the best of our ability. A contemporary chronicler states that Duncan was slain in 1040 by his general, Macbeth. It is probable that, seeing the cause of the King ruined, the Maormor of Moray determined to forsake his standard and ally himself with his successful rival. He knew the strength and the ruthlessness of the Norsemen from the experience of his predecessors; and though he could doubtless have found safety amidst the mountain fastnesses of the interior, he would naturally have been reluctant to become a defeated and broken-down fugitive. He was also an ambitious man; and revolving all the chances, and difficulties of the situation, he may well have resolved to sacrifice the Scottish sovereign to his own desires or necessities. If he wanted to make his peace with Thorfinn, what more acceptable gift could he bring than the head of King Duncan? Besides, as we have seen, the southern kingdom had been pressing its own claims over Morayland. Macbeth had no wish to be subordinate to the King of Scotia. He held that he was himself an independent prince; and here was a good opportunity once for all to destroy Scottish pretensions, or perhaps, if Thorfinn was favourable, to seize upon the Scottish throne. His wife, desirous to avenge her kinsman, doubtless encouraged such projects. Thus influenced, it is reasonable to suppose that Macbeth slew Duncan after the battle, and threw in his lot with Thorfinn. Their combined forces ravaged the country east and south, and a partition of the kingdom appears to have followed. The rule of Thorfinn was acknowledged throughout the district north of the Grampians, while Macbeth ruled over the central territory. Mr. Skene thinks that Cumbria and Lothian remained faithful to the children of Duncan.

It is useless to discuss the question where King Duncan was slain. It is certain that he was not assassinated in the present Cawdor Castle, for that building was not in existence until 400 years after his death. He may have been killed in MacbetVs rath or stronghold at Inverness, but this is mere conjecture. The older authorities state that he was murdered near Elgin at Bothgofuane or Bothgowan, which is said to be Gaelic for a blacksmith’s hut. If the decisive battle took place at Burghead, there is nothing improbable in believing that he was killed in a wayside hut, while fleeing from the victorious Norsemen.

The reign of Macbeth extended to seventeen years, and was comparatively peaceful and prosperous. The power of Thorfinn helped to render his throne secure; but something must also have been due to the Conservative elements still existing in the Scottish kingdom. The innovations which had been previously introduced could not have failed to create a certain measure of discontent. The old Pictish law of succession through the female line had been abandoned; the law of Tanistry had next been undermined by Teutonic influences; and to the southern Celts it may have been satisfactory to obtain a Gaelic king like Macbeth, especially as he was connected by his wife with their own royal family. Macbeth was in reality the last truly Celtic king of Scotland. By the oldest writers he is represented as a liberal and popular sovereign. Qe and his queen twice gave grants of land to the Culdees of Loch-Leven, and Macbeth and Thorfinn appear to have visited Rome in 1050, where the Scottish king freely distributed silver to the poor. Several attempts were made to dethrone him, but until 1057 without success. In that year Malcolm Canmore, advancing from Northumberland, attacked him with a powerful force. Macbeth was driven across the Mounth, and slain at Lumphanan in Marr, where there is still a large cairn known as Cairnbeth. The causes of Malcolm’s success are uncertain. The only conjecture Mr. Skene can offer is that the warlike Thorfinn was dead and the Norse power in decay.

The events that followed Macbeth's death were shortly narrated by the essayist. By his victory in 1187, William the lion strengthened the central authority; and the castles which he built at Redcastle and Dunscath (on the north side of the Cromarty Firth) overawed the spirit of the north-eastern Celts. Disturbances occurred often enough in subsequent times; but, on the whole, after his day the power of the Scottish throne was generally acknowledged in Morayland.


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