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19 September 2014
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Constantine mac Aed, King of Alba 900-943

Alba MapConstantine mac Aed (Constantine II), the grandson of Kenneth MacAlpine, began his life as an exile. In 878 AD his father, Aed, had been slain by a Giric, son of Dungal, and Constantine, a young boy at the time, fled to Ireland where he was brought up by monks surrounded in Gaelic culture.

In 889 AD he returned with his cousin Domnall to wreak revenge on Giric. Domnall took the kingship of the Picts initially, but shortly afterwards was slain by the Vikings - Dark Age kingships were often painfully short! So it was that in his early twenties, Constantine mac Aed became King of Pictland.

The kingdom had been nearly destroyed by the Vikings, but its peoples, Picts and Gael, faced with the prospect of Viking conquest, had drawn together. In 902 AD, the Vikings, under Ivar the Younger of Dublin, returned to seize Dunkeld, where St Columba’s relics were kept, and the rich farmlands around the River Tay. Constantine caught up with Ivar at Strathcarron in 904 AD, and, in a bitter struggle, Ivar and his Viking army were massacred.

Constantine IIWith the defeat of the Vikings, regeneration of the kingdom was Constantine’s top priority. He remodelled the church along Gaelic lines and brought in a system of mormaers (earls) to defend the kingdom more efficiently. He also renamed the territory, Alba, which is actually means Britain in Gaelic. Pictland was remade in a Gaelic image and the Scottish nation was launched.

Constantine continued to extend Alba’s influence across Scotland. The east coast, south of the river Forth and modern-day Edinburgh, was Angle territory and often very hostile at that, until 918 AD, when Constantine led his army into Northumbria. At the Battle of Corbridge, he forced Ragnall, the Viking King of York, to withdraw from the Angle earldom of Northumbria that stretched from Lothian to the Tyne. In return the restored earl, Eadred, recognised Constantine as his overlord. For the first time much of the land in modern-day Scotland was either under the direct kingship of the King of Alba or was under his rule as overlord.

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