History of the Highlands Consolidation of
Power through to 952
The consolidation of the Scottish and Pictish power under
one supreme chief, enabled these nations not only to repel foreign aggression, but
afterwards to enlarge their territories beyond the Forth, which had hitherto formed, for
many ages, the Pictish boundary on the south.
Although the power of the tribes to the north of the Forth was greatly augmented by the
union which had taken place, yet all the genius and warlike energy of Kenneth were
necessary to protect him and his people from insult. Ragnor Lodbrog (i.e. Ragnor of the
Shaggy Bones), with his fierce Danes infested the country round the Tay on the one side,
and the Strathclyde Britons on the other, wasted the adjoining territories, and burnt
Dunblane. Yet Kenneth overcame these embarrassments, and made frequent incursions into the
Saxon territories in Lothian, and caused his foes to tremble. After a brilliant and
successful reign, Kenneth died at Forteviot, the Pictish capital, 7 miles S.W. of Perth,
on the 6th of February, 859, after a reign of twenty three years. Kenneth, it is said,
removed the famous stone which now sustains the coronation chair at Westminster Abbey (now
returned to Scotland), from the ancient seat of the Scottish monarchy in Argyle, to Scone.
Kenneth (but according to some Constantine, the Pictish king, in 820), built a church at
Dunkeld, to which, in 850, he removed the relics of St. Columba from Iona, which at this
time was frequently subjected to the ravages of the Norsemen. He is celebrated also as a
legislator, but no authentic traces of his laws now appear, the Macalpine laws attributed
to the son of Alpin being clearly apocryphal.
The sceptre was assumed by Donald III, son of Alpin. He died in the year 863, after a
short reign of four years. It is said he restored the laws of Aodh-fin, the son of Eocha
III. They were probably similar to the ancient Brehon laws of Ireland.
Constantine, the son of Kenneth, succeeded his uncle Donald, and soon found himself
involved in a dreadful conflict with the Danish pirates. Having, after a contest which
lasted half a century, established themselves in Ireland, and obtained secure possession
of Dublin, the Vikingr directed their views towards the western coasts of Scotland, which
they laid waste. These ravages were afterwards extended to the whole of the eastern coast,
and particularly to the shores of the Frith of Forth; but although the invaders were often
repulsed, they never ceased to renew their attacks. In the 881, Constantine, in repelling
an attack of the pirates, was slain at a place called Merdo-fatha, or Werdo, probably the
present Perth, according to Maclauchlan.
Aodh or Hugh, the fair-haired, succeeded his brother Constantine. His reign was
unfortunate, short and troublesome. Grig, who was Maormor, or chief, of the country
between the Dee and the Spey, having become a competitor for the crown, Aodh endeavoured
to put him down, but did not succeed; and having been wounded in a battle fought at
Strathallan, (or possibly Strathdon), he was carried to Inverurie, where he died, after
lingering two months, having held the sceptre only one year.
Grig now assumed the crown, and, either to secure his possession, or from some other
motive, he associated with him in the government Eocha, son of Ku, the British king of
Strathclyde, and the grandson, by a daughter, of Kenneth Macalpine. After a reign of
eleven years, both Eocha and Grig were forced to abdicate and gace way to Donald IV, who
succeeded them in 893.
During his reign the kingdom was infested by the piratical incursions of the Danes.
Although they were defeated by Donald in a bloody action at Collin, said to be on the Tay,
near Scone, they returned under Ivar O'Ivar, from Ireland, in the year 904, but were
gallantly repulsed, and their leader killed in a threatended attack on Forteviot, by
Donald, who unfortunately also perished, after a reign of eleven years. In his reign the
kings of Scotland are no longer called reges Pictorum by the Irish Annalists, but Ri
Alban, or kings of Alban; and in the Pictish Chronicle Pictavia gives place to Albania.
Constantine III, the son of Aodh, a prince of a warlike and enterprising character, next
followed. He had to sustain, during an unusually long reign, the repeated attacks of the
Danes. In one invansion they plundered Dunkeld, and in 908, they attempted to obtain the
grand object of their designs, the possession of Forteviot in Strathearn, the Pictish
capital; but in this design they were again defeated, and forced to abandon the countrty.
The Danes remained quiet for a few years, but in 918 their fleet entered the Clyde, from
Ireland, under the command of Reginald, where they were attacked by the Scots in
conjunction with the Northern Saxons, whom the ties of common safety had now united for
mutual defence. Reginald is said to have drawn up his Danes in four divisions; the first
headed by Godfrey O'Ivar; the secondf by Earis; the third by Chieftains; and the fourth by
Reginald himself, as a reserve. The Scots, with Constantine at their head, made a furious
attack on the first three divisions, which they forced to retire. Reginald's reserve not
being available to turn the scale of victory against the Scots, the Danes retreated during
the night, and embarked on board their fleet.
After this defeat of the Danes, Constantine enjoyed many years' repose. A long grudge had
existed between him and AEthelstane, son of Edward, the elder, which at last came to an
open rupture. Having formed an alliance with several princes, and particularly with Anlaf,
king of Dublin as well as of Northumberland, and son-in-law of Constantine, the latter
collected a large fleet in the year 937, with which he entered the Humber. The hope of
plunder had attracted many of the Vikingr to Constantine's standard, and the sceptre of
AEthelstane seemed now to tremble in his hand. But that monarch was fully prepared for the
dangers with which he was threatened, and resolved to meet his enemies in battle. After a
long, bloody, and obstinate contest at Brunanburg, near the southern shore of the Humber,
victory declared for AEthelstane. Prodigies of valour were displayed on both sides,
especially by Turketel, the Chancellor of England; by Anlaf, and by the son of
Constantine, who lost his life. The confederates, after sustaining a heavy loss, sought
for safety in their ships. This, and after misfortunes, possibly disgusted Constantine
with the vanities of this world, for, in the fortieth year of his reign, he put into
practice a resolution which he had formed of resigning his crown and embracing a monastic
life. He became Abbot of the Monastry of St. Andrews in 943, and thus ended a long and
chequered, but vigorous, and, on the whole, successful reign in a cloister, like Charles
V. Towards the end of this reign the term Scotland was applied to this kingdom by the
Saxons, a term which before had been given by them to Ireland. Constantine died in 952.
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