Máel Coluim mac Donnchada
: Maol Chaluim mac
, called in most Anglicised
regnal lists Malcolm
, and in later centuries nicknamed
, "Big Head" or Long-neck
; died 13 November 1093), was King of
. It has also been argued recently that the real "Malcolm
Canmore" was this Malcolm's great-grandson Malcolm IV
, who is given this name in
the contemporary notice of his death. He was the eldest son of King
Crínáin). Malcolm's long reign, lasting 35 years, preceded the
beginning of the Scoto-Norman
Kingdom did not extend over the full territory of modern Scotland: the north
and west of Scotland remained in Scandinavian, Norse-Gael and Gaelic
control, and the areas under the control of the Kings of Scots
would not advance much beyond the limits set by Malcolm II (Máel Coluim mac Cináeda)
until the 12th century. Malcolm III fought a succession of wars
against the Kingdom of England,
which may have had as their goal the conquest of the English
earldom of Northumbria.
However, these wars did not result in any
significant advances southwards. Malcolm's main achievement is to have
continued a line which would rule Scotland for many
years, although his role as "founder of a dynasty" has more to do
with the propaganda of his youngest son David, and his descendants,
than with any historical reality.
Malcolm's second wife, Saint
Margaret of Scotland
, was later beatified
and is Scotland's only royal saint.
However, Malcolm himself gained no reputation for piety.
notable exception of Dunfermline Abbey he is not definitely associated with major
religious establishments or ecclesiastical reforms.
Malcolm's father Duncan I
(Donnchad mac Crínáin) became king in late 1034, on the death of
(Máel Coluim mac
Cináeda), Duncan's maternal grandfather. According to John of Fordun
, whose account is the original
source of part at least of William
Malcolm's mother was a niece of Siward, Earl of Northumbria
an earlier king-list gives her the Gaelic name Suthen.
Duncan's reign was not successful and he was killed by Macbeth
(Mac Bethad mac Findlaích) on 15
August 1040. Although Shakespeare's Macbeth
presents Malcolm as a grown man and his
father as an old one, it appears that Duncan was still young in
1040, and Malcolm and his brother Donalbane
(Domnall Bán) were
children. Malcolm's family did attempt to overthrow Macbeth in
1045, but Malcolm's grandfather Crínán of Dunkeld
was killed in
Soon after the death of Duncan his two young sons were sent away
for greater safety - exactly where is the subject of debate.
According to one version, Malcolm (then aged about 9) was sent to
England, and his younger brother Donalbane was sent to the Isles.
Based on Fordun's account, it was assumed that Malcolm passed most
of Macbeth's seventeen year reign in the Kingdom of England
at the court of
Edward the Confessor
According to an alternative version, Malcolm's mother took both
sons into exile at the court of Thorfinn Sigurdsson
, Earl of Orkney
, an enemy of Macbeth's family,
and perhaps Duncan's kinsman by marriage.
An English invasion in 1054, with Earl Siward in command, had as
its goal the installation of Máel Coluim
, "son of the
King of the Cumbrians (i.e. of Strathclyde
)". This Máel Coluim,
perhaps a son of Owen the Bald
disappears from history after this brief mention. He has been
confused with King Malcolm III. In 1057 various chroniclers report the death
of Macbeth at Malcolm's hand, on 15 August 1057 at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire. Macbeth was succeeded by his stepson Lulach, who was crowned at Scone, probably on
8 September 1057. Lulach was killed by Malcolm, "by treachery",
near Huntly on 23 April
After this, Malcolm became king, perhaps being
inaugurated on 25 April 1058, although only John of Fordun reports
Malcolm and Ingibiorg
Orderic Vitalis is to be relied
upon, one of Malcolm's earliest actions as King may have been to
travel south to the court of Edward the Confessor in 1059 to
arrange a marriage with Edward's kinswoman Margaret, who had arrived in
England two years before from Hungary.
he did visit the English court, he was the first reigning King of
Scots to do so in more than eighty years. If a marriage
agreement was made in 1059, however, it was not kept, and this may
explain the Scots invasion of Northumbria in 1061 when Lindisfarne was plundered.
Equally, Malcolm's raids in
Northumbria may have been related to the disputed "Kingdom of the
Cumbrians", reestablished by Earl Siward in 1054, which was under
Malcolm's control by 1070.
The Orkneyinga saga
Malcolm married the widow of Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Ingibiorg
, a daughter of Finn Arnesson
. Although Ingibiorg is generally
assumed to have died shortly before 1070, it is possible that she
died much earlier, around 1058. The Orkneyinga Saga
records that Malcolm and Ingibiorg had a son, Duncan II
(Donnchad mac Maíl Coluim), who was
later king. Some Medieval commentators, following William of Malmesbury
, claimed that
Duncan was illegitimate, but this claim is propaganda reflecting
the need of Malcolm's descendants by Margaret to undermine the
claims of Duncan's descendants, the Meic
. Malcolm's son Domnall, whose death is reported in
1085, is not mentioned by the author of the Orkneyinga
. He is assumed to have been born to Ingibiorg.
Malcolm's marriage to Ingibiorg secured him peace in the north and
west. The Heimskringla
that her father Finn had been an adviser to Harald Hardraade
and, after falling out
with Harald, was then made an Earl by Sweyn Estridsson
, King of Denmark
, which may have been another
recommendation for the match. Malcolm enjoyed a peaceful
relationship with the Earldom of
, ruled jointly by his stepsons, Paul and Erlend Thorfinnsson
The Orkneyinga Saga
reports strife with Norway but this is
probably misplaced as it associates this with Magnus Barefoot
, who became king of Norway
only in 1093, the year of Malcolm's death.
Malcolm and Margaret
he had given sanctuary to Tostig
Godwinson when the Northumbrians drove him out, Malcolm was not
directly involved in the ill-fated invasion of England by Harald
Hardraade and Tostig in 1066, which ended in defeat and death at
the battle of
In 1068, he granted asylum to a group of
English exiles fleeing from William
, among them Agatha
, widow of Edward the
Confessor's nephew Edward the
, and her children: Edgar
and his sisters Margaret and Cristina
. They were
accompanied by Gospatric,
Earl of Northumbria
. The exiles were disappointed, however, if
they had expected immediate assistance from the Scots.
In 1069 the exiles returned to England, to join a spreading revolt
in the north. Even though Gospatric and Siward's son Waltheof
submitted by the
end of the year, the arrival of a Danish army under Sweyn
Estridsson seemed to ensure that William's position remained weak.
decided on war, and took his army south into Cumbria and across the Pennines,
wasting Teesdale and Cleveland then marching north, loaded with loot, to Wearmouth.
There Malcolm met Edgar and his family, who
were invited to return with him, but did not. As Sweyn had by now
been bought off with a large Danegeld
Malcolm took his army home. In reprisal, William sent Gospatric to
raid Scotland through Cumbria. In return, the Scots fleet raided
the Northumbrian coast where Gospatric's possessions were
concentrated. Late in the year, perhaps shipwrecked on their way to
a European exile, Edgar and his family again arrived in Scotland,
this time to remain. By the end of 1070, Malcolm had married
Edgar's sister Margaret, the future Saint Margaret of Scotland
The naming of their children represented a break with the
traditional Scots Regal names such as Malcolm, Cináed and Áed. The
point of naming Margaret's sons, Edward after her father Edward the Exile
for her grandfather Edmund Ironside
for her great-grandfather
Ethelred the Unready
unlikely to be missed in England, where William of Normandy's grasp
on power was far from secure. Whether the adoption of the classical
Alexander for the future Alexander I of Scotland
Pope Alexander II
or for Alexander the Great
) and the biblical
for the future David I of Scotland
recognition that William of Normandy would not be easily removed,
or was due to the repetition of Anglo-Saxon Royal name—another
Edmund had preceded Edgar—is not known. Margaret also gave Malcolm
two daughters, Edith
, who married
Henry I of England
, and Mary, who
married Eustace III of
In 1072, with the Harrying of the
completed and his position again secure, William of
Normandy came north with an army and a fleet. Malcolm met William
at Abernethy and, in the words of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle "became his man"
and handed over his eldest son Duncan as a hostage and arranged
peace between William and Edgar.
Accepting the overlordship
of the king of the English was no novelty, previous kings had done
so without result. The same was true of Malcolm; his agreement
with the English king was followed by further raids into
Northumbria, which led to further trouble in the earldom and the
killing of Bishop William Walcher at
In 1080, William sent his son Robert Curthose
north with an army while his
Northumbrians. Malcolm again made peace, and this time kept it for
over a decade.
Malcolm faced little recorded internal opposition, with the
exception of Lulach's son Máel Snechtai
. In an unusual
entry, for the Anglo-Saxon
contains little on Scotland, it says that in
Whatever provoked this strife, Máel Snechtai survived until
Malcolm and William Rufus
William Rufus, "the Red", King of the
When William Rufus
became king of
England after his father's death, Malcolm did not intervene in the
rebellions by supporters of Robert Curthose which followed. In
1091, however, William Rufus confiscated Edgar Ætheling's lands in
England, and Edgar fled north to Scotland. In May, Malcolm
marched south, not to raid and take slaves and plunder, but to
besiege Newcastle, built by Robert Curthose in 1080.
appears to have been an attempt to advance the frontier south from
the River Tweed to the River Tees.
The threat was enough to bring the English
king back from Normandy
, where he had been
fighting Robert Curthose. In September, learning of William Rufus's
approaching army, Malcolm withdrew north and the English followed.
Unlike in 1072, Malcolm was prepared to fight, but a peace was
arranged by Edgar Ætheling and Robert Curthose whereby Malcolm
again acknowledged the overlordship of the English king.
In 1092, the peace began to break down. Based on the idea
that the Scots controlled much of modern Cumbria, it had been supposed that William Rufus's new
castle at Carlisle and his settlement of English peasants in the
surrounds was the cause.
However, it is unlikely that
Malcolm did control Cumbria, and the dispute instead concerned the
estates granted to Malcolm by William Rufus's father in 1072 for
his maintenance when visiting England. Malcolm sent messengers to
discuss the question and William Rufus agreed to a meeting.
travelled south to Gloucester, stopping at Wilton Abbey to visit his daughter Edith and sister-in-law
Malcolm arrived there on 24 August 1093 to find
that William Rufus refused to negotiate, insisting that the dispute
be judged by the English barons. This Malcolm refused to accept,
and returned immediately to Scotland.
It does not appear that William Rufus intended to provoke a war,
but, as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports, war came:
Malcolm was accompanied by Edward, his eldest son by Margaret and probable heir-designate (or tánaiste), and by Edgar. Even by the standards of the time, the ravaging of Northumbria by the Scots was seen as harsh.
marching north again, Malcolm was ambushed by Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria,
whose lands he had devastated, near Alnwick on 13 November 1093. There he was killed
by Arkil Morel, steward of Bamburgh Castle. The conflict became known as the Battle of
Edward was mortally wounded in the same
fight. Margaret, it is said, died soon after receiving the news of
their deaths from Edgar. The Annals of Ulster say:
body was taken to Tynemouth Priory for burial, where it remains to this day.
A body of
a local farmer was sent north for burial in Dunfermline
Abbey in the reign of his son Alexander or perhaps on
On 19 June 1250, following the canonisation
of Malcolm's wife Margaret by
Pope Innocent IV
remains were disinterred and placed in a reliquary. Tradition has it that
as the reliquary was carried to the high altar of Dunfermline
Abbey, past Malcolm's grave, it became too heavy to
As a result, Malcolm's remains were also disinterred,
and buried next to Margaret beside the altar.
Malcolm and Ingebjorg had 3 sons:
- Duncan II of Scotland,
suceeded his father as King of
- Donald, died 1085
Malcolm and Margaret had eight children, six sons and two
- Edward, killed 1093.
- Edmund of Scotland
- Ethelred, abbot of Dunkeld
- King Edgar of Scotland
- King Alexander I of
- King David I of
- Edith of Scotland, also called
Matilda, married King Henry I of
- Mary of
Scotland, married Eustace
III of Boulogne
Depictions in fiction
Malcolm's accession to the throne, as modified by tradition, is the
climax (and finale) of Macbeth
An imaginary version of Malcom's reign is portrayed in the modern
sequel The Tragedy of
Macbeth Part II
, by Noah
Ancestors of Malcolm III of
- Máel Coluim mac Donnchada is the Mediaeval Gaelic
- Ritchie, p. 3
- Burton, vol. 1, p. 350, states: "Malcolm the son of Duncan is
known as Malcolm III., but still better perhaps by his
characteristic name of Canmore, said to come from the Celtic
'Caenmohr', meaning 'great head'"
- Orkneyinga Saga, c. 33.
- Duncan, pp. 51–52, 74–75; Oram, p. 17, note 1.
- The question of what to call this family is an open one.
Dunkeld" is all but unknown; "Canmore kings" and "Canmore
dynasty" are not universally accepted, nor are Richard Oram's recent
coinage "meic Maíl Coluim" or Michael Lynch's "MacMalcolm". For
discussions and examples: Duncan, pp. 53–54; McDonald,
Outlaws, p. 3; Barrow, Kingship and Unity,
Appendix C; Reid. Broun discusses the question of identity at
- Hammond, p. 21. The first genealogy known which traces descent
from Malcolm, rather than from Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín)
Mór, is dated to the reign of Alexander II, see Broun, pp.
- Fordun, IV, xliv.
- Young also gives her as a niece of Siward. Young, p. 30.
- Duncan, p. 37; M.O. Anderson, p. 284.
- The notice of Duncan's death in the Annals of
Tigernach, s.a. 1040, says he was "slain ... at an
immature age"; Duncan, p.33.
- Duncan, p. 33; Oram, David I, p. 18. There may have
been a third brother if Máel Muire of Atholl was a son of
Duncan. Oram, David I, p. 97, note 26, rejects this
- Duncan, p. 41; Annals of Ulster, s.a. 1045 ; Annals of
Tigernach, s.a. 1045.
- Ritchie, p.3
- Young, p.30
- Barrell, p. 13; Barrow, Kingship and Unity, p.
- Ritchie, p.3, states that it was fourteen years of exile,
partly spent at Edward's Court.
- Duncan, p. 42; Oram, David I, pp. 18–20. Malcolm had
ties to Orkney in later life. Earl Thorfinn may have been a
grandson of Malcolm II and thus Malcolm's cousin.
- On Máel Coluim, "son of the King of the Cumbrians", see Duncan,
pp. 37–41; Oram, David I, pp.18–20.
- But see Ritchie, p. 5, who states that Duncan placed his son,
the future Malcolm III of Scotland, in possession of Cumbria as its
Prince, and states that Siward invaded Scotland in 1054 to restore
him to the Scottish throne. Hector Boece also says this (vol.XII p.249), as
does Young, p. 30
- Ritchie, p. 7
- Anderson, ESSH, pp. 600–602; the Prophecy of
Berchán has Macbeth wounded in battle and places his death at
- According to the Annals of Tigernach; the Annals of Ulster say
Lulach was killed in battle against Malcolm; see Anderson,
ESSH, pp. 603–604.
- Duncan, pp. 50–51 discusses the dating of these events.
- Duncan, p. 43; Ritchie, pp. 7-8.
- Duncan, p. 43; Oram, David I, p. 21.
- Oram, David I, p. 21.
- Orkneyinga Saga, c. 33, Duncan, pp. 42–43.
- See Duncan, pp. 42–43, dating Ingibiorg's death to 1058. Oram,
David I, pp. 22–23, dates the marriage of Malcolm and
Ingibiorg to c. 1065.
- Duncan, pp. 54–55; Broun, p. 196; Anderson, SAEC, pp.
- Duncan, p. 55; Oram, David I, p. 23. Domnall's death
is reported in the Annals of Ulster, s.a. 1085: "... Domnall son of
Máel Coluim, king of Alba, ... ended [his] life unhappily."
However, it is not certain that Domnall's father was this Máel
Coluim. M.O. Anderson, ESSH, corrigenda p. xxi, presumes
Domnall to have been a son of Máel Coluim mac Maíl Brigti,
King or Mormaer of Moray, who is called "king of Scotland" in his
obituary in 1029.
- Saga of Harald Sigurðson, cc. 45ff.; Saga of
Magnus Erlingsson, c. 30. See also Oram, David I, pp.
- Orkneyinga Saga, cc. 39–41; McDonald, Kingdom of
the Isles, pp. 34–37.
- Adam of
Bremen says that he fought at Stamford Bridge, but he is alone
in claiming this: Anderson, SAEC, p. 87, n. 3.
- Oram, David I, p. 23; Anderson, SAEC, pp.
87–90. Orderic Vitalis states that the English asked for Malcolm's
- Duncan, pp. 44–45; Oram, David I, pp. 23–24.
- Oram, David I, p. 24; Clancy, "St. Margaret", dates
the marriage to 1072.
- Malcolm's sons by Ingebiorg were probably expected to succeed
to the kingdom of the Scots, Oram, David I, p. 26.
- Oram, p. 26.
- Oram, pp. 30–31; Anderson, SAEC, p. 95.
- Oram, David I, p. 33.
- His death is reported by the Annals of Ulster amongst clerics
and described as "happy", usually a sign that the deceased had
- Oram, David I, pp. 34–35; Anderson, SAEC, pp.
- Duncan, pp. 47–48; Oram, David I, pp. 35–36; Anderson,
SAEC, pp. 109–110.
- Oram, David I, pp.36–37.
- Duncan, p. 54; Oram, David I, p. 42.
- Anderson, SAEC, pp. 97–113, contains a number of
English chronicles condemning Malcolm's several invasions of
- The Annals of Innisfallen say he "was
slain with his son in an unguarded moment in battle".
- Oram, pp. 37–38; Anderson, SAEC, pp. 114–115.
- Anderson, SAEC, pp. 111–113. M.O. Anderson reprints
three regnal lists, lists F, I and K, which give a place of burial
for Malcolm. These say Iona, Dunfermline, and Tynemouth,
- Dunlop, p. 93.
- Anderson, Alan Orr, Early
Sources of Scottish History A.D 500–1286, volume 1. Reprinted
with corrections. Paul Watkins, Stamford, 1990. ISBN
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