Domnall II was the first man referred to as “ri (King of) Alban”, the ancient name for Scotland, and was crowned about 890 Current Era. Of course people also referred to him as not being in his right mind. He was followed by Constantin mac-Aeda, who ruled until 943 A.D. when his nephew, Mael Coluim mac Domnaill, shipped the old man off to a monastery at sword point. When Constantin died in 954, he was succeeded by his two sons, first by the colorfully named Dub, who was murdered on July 20, 966, probably by his brother, Cinaed, who was king until 995 when he was murdered by his own soldiers.
In the spring 1039, the 18 year old Duncan led a raid on the Saxon-English city of Durham, south of the old Roman wall. But Duncan got it backwards; first his cavalry charged the city walls. The Saxon archers easily cut them down. Then Duncan ordered his infantry forward, whereupon the Saxon cavalry burst forth from the city and slaughtered his foot soldiers. The Saxon villagers gathered 3,000 Scottish heads off the battlefield, washed and braided their hair and then mounted the skulls on spikes around the market square, presumably because they lacked bunting.
For some reason Duncan decided to blame this disaster on his most trusted advisor, Mac Bethaad mac Findlach. And come the next spring Duncan marched his army north, to attack Mac Bethaad’s hill fort outside of Elgin. There, on 14 August, 1040, young Duncan was caught in an ambush and killed. Duncan’s sons were too young to be kings, and besides Duncan had been such a failure the nobility decided it wouldn’t be worth the effort to wait for the boys to grow up. They were shipped off to exile in the Saxon court of Edward the Confessor, and the tartan-wearers elected themselves a new king.
To strengthen his claim to the far northern throne, Mac Bethaad married the widow of Duncan’s predecessor, Coluim, and adopted his son, Lulach. And for almost ten years, while the Saxons and Vikings concentrated on fighting each other, Scotland had a chance to recover. Each year of peace allowed the next generation of warriors to grow a little taller. But Mac Bethaad, “The red, tall, golden-haired one”, and called the “re-knowned and generous King”, knew that eventually one of his enemies, foreign or domestic, was going to notice that poor Scotland was still vulnerable. He began to look for allies.
And then is heard no more. It is a tale, Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
Macbeth, Act V, scene v
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