MacAlpine - Born to be King?
Kenneth was born around 800AD in the Gaelic Kingdom
of Dal Riata - it was a time when the Gaels were dominated
by the more powerful Pictish kingdom. His father,
Ailpín, was beheaded fighting for a Pictish
king and historical sources suggest that his mother
was a Pictish princess.
the confusion and terror caused by the ferocious ninth
century Viking raids, the Pictish kingship was almost
completely destroyed. Wrad, a Pictish warlord, eventually
became King of the Picts at the same time as Kenneth
became King of Dal Riata.
Wrad died in 842 his kingship was contested. Wrads sons believed
they were the rightful heirs, whilst Kenneth, through royal Pictish
descent on his mothers side, claimed the kingship for himself
- his claims were heard all the louder with the backing of his Gaelic
and Pictish followers. The matter was settled seven years later
when Kenneth invited Drest, last of the sons of Drest, to a truce
meeting at Scone, a meeting at which Kenneth treacherously slew
Hillfort was the royal centre for the Gaelic Kingdom of Dal
Riata, where Kenneth MacAlpine first ruled before moving to
and Gaels United
As Kenneth MacAlpine triumphed in Pictland, he faced a new challenge.
A Viking fleet of 140 ships intent on destruction attacked Dal Riata.
It spelled doom for the Gaelic kingdom; the Gaels collected the
relics of their saints and moved them to Kenneths new Pictish
kingdom. Dal Riata vanishes from the chronicles and we only hear
of Pictland from this point.
was able to reward his Gaelic followers with lands taken from the
men who supported the sons of Wrad, but he no doubt faced resentment
from the Picts over their new Gaelic overlords. Unity was needed:
something the Picts and Gaels had in common, to define them as a
single people, and, as is so often the case throughout history,
this came in the form of a common enemy. Kenneth raided the Angles
of Northumbria for booty.
Dupplin Cross, which would have been visible from the Pictish
royal palace of Forteviot, where King Kenneth MacAlpine ruled
The cross is thought to have been erected for an earlier Pictish
King, who would have ruled whilst Kenneth was a child in Gaelic
Kenneth died in 858 at the Palace of Forteviot. For the Gaels he was
the conqueror of the Picts and their bards lamented his passing:
That Kenneth with his host is no more brings weeping to every
No king of his worth under heaven is there, to the bounds of Rome.
What the Picts thought is unrecorded. They must have believed
the Gaels and Kenneths successors would adopt Pictish
ways, but - as is apparent from the story of King Constantine
II - it is the Picts who vanish from history.
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