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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
IV. The Kingdom of the Picts: Christianity, Paganism and the Making of Gaelic Scotland


Royal House, itself of the Kindred of St. Columba from Duncan I to the death of Alexander III without male heirs in 1286. Nevertheless, the Columban primacy had by then fled back to Iona and Ireland.

Whatever their origins, the centralizing tendencies of the Scottish court during the twelfth century became essentially an Anglo-Norman phenomena. An aggressive Anglo-Norman presence meant that Celtic custom was assailed at the official level, both royal and ecclesiastical. This meant that the privileges of the original Celtic earls were also threatened. The most important of these Celtic earls were the earls of Strathearn, who were descended from the original dynasts of Strathearn ("earl" translated the earlier Picto-Gaelic title of "mormaer," or "great steward," the rank held by dynasts or sub-kings under the Pictish and later Picto-Gaelic high-kingship). As earl of what had been the Pictish province of Fortriu (genitive "Fortrenn"), the Earl of Strathhearn had the most clearly Pictish credentials of any of the royalty in Scotland. Together with the earls of Fife, who originally alternated the kingship of Albany with their cousins of royal house, these earls of Strathearn had a long tradition of being, with the earls of Fife, peers of the kings of Albany and later of the kings of Scots, in the original sense of the word, that of equal. In fact, they were paramount among the seven original Pictish earldoms or sub-kingdoms (Atholl, Angus, Mar, Moray, Caithness, Strathearn and Fife) from Pictish times, whose dynasts were known as "The Seven Earls of Scotland," and who, as late as 1290, still asserted the right to the power of "king-making," as peers, or equals, of the King, as per Celtic custom, thus we have the significance of their direct Pictish links. As earls of Strathearn, they held sway over a territory in the center of the kingdom which included Scone, the inauguration site of the medieval Scottish kings and of their Pictish predecessors.

The Celtic line continued as earls until the destruction of the their local sovereignty in 1344. However, by that time Malise, eighth earl of Strathearn, was also the Viking Earl of Caithness and Orkney by inheritance, and he continued in his northern holdings unopposed until his death. He was all the more a target for royal jealousy because Orkney was still held under the Norwegian king. Close family links had been established between Malise and the Celtic Earl of Ross, and this probably contributed to the forfeiture of the Scottish holdings of both earls in the latter half of the fourteenth century. However, the Celtic earls of Strathearn had fostered a clan in the highland part of their territory: They were descended from Laurence, Abbot of Achtow in Balquhidder, himself a younger son of the House of Strathearn. This kindred held allodial rights to their lands, as kinsfolk of the earl, and came to be known as the Clan Laren, or MacLarens.

The sees of Dunkeld and especially Duriblane were considered to have a direct connection to the earldom of Strathearn, whose Celtic earls enjoyed in them the rights of a king (in the thirteenth-century foundation charter of Inchaffray Abbey in Strathearn the then Earl refers to the bishops of Dunkeld


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