Scotland's HistoryArticlesMalcolm III, King of Scots 1034 – 1093

Malcolm III, King of Scots 1034 – 1093

Alnwick Castle

Malcolm III, otherwise known as Malcolm Canmore (or big head as it translates from Gaelic), has been referred to as the founding father of modern Scotland.

In truth, this is far from the case. What Malcolm did achieve was a line of lineage that included the kings who would liberate Scotland from Norse influence. The House of Dunkeld, as it has become known, would rule Scotland for the next 250 years.

The death of his father, Duncan I, at the hands of Macbeth meant that young Malcolm had to seek safety elsewhere - probably at the court of the Siward of Northumberland to whom his mother was related. Malcolm had to bide his time for revenge on Macbeth.

That time arrived in 1057. At the Battle of Lumphanan, Aberdeenshire, Malcolm defeated and killed Macbeth. Lulach, Macbeth's step-son, succeeded to the throne briefly before he too died at Malcolm's hands in 1058. With the death of Lulach, Malcolm became King of Scots.

During his reign England had been successfully conquered by the Normans after the infamous Battle of Hastings. Malcolm granted sanctuary to the Anglo-Saxon exiles after their defeat at the hands of the Normans. There is evidence to suggest that at this point Anglo-Saxon attitudes and influences were adopted by Malcolm at his court.

During his life Malcolm married twice. His first wife, Ingibjörg, was the widow of Thorfinn Sigurdsson – the powerful Earl of Orkney. The marriage helped secure peace with the Norse rulers of the northern territories of Scotland. It also produced three children – Duncan (Donnchad), Donald (Domnall) and Malcolm (Máel Coluim).

After the death of Ingibjörg, Malcolm married Margaret, a direct descendent of the ousted Anglo-Saxon royalty. Interestingly, the names of the children from this marriage marked a change from the Norse or Gaelic names that had been the established tradition previously – even as recently as his first marriage. The children of this marriage were called Edward, Edmund, David and Alexander.

During the course of his reign Malcolm invaded the northern counties of England numerous times. These raids were to ultimately lead to his demise.

In 1072, William I of England rode north and forced Malcolm to sign the Treaty of Abernethy. In return for swearing allegiance to William, Malcolm was to be given estates in Cumbria.

The peace secured by the treaty was an uneasy one and in 1093 Malcolm once again invaded northern England. An arranged meeting with the new King of England, William Rufus, to settle a dispute over the Cumbrian territories failed to materialise. Malcolm left for Scotland angry and humiliated.

He returned to England shortly after with an army and laid waste to Northumberland. On his way back to Scotland he was attacked by the Earl of Northumbria. At the Battle of Alnwick, Malcolm was killed.

More articles

History Debate

Open University

The Open University has produced a free booklet of postcards about Scottish history. Follow the link to claim yours.

External Links

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.