Last updated
King of the Picts
Predecessor Áed
Successor Donald II
Diedc. 890

Giric mac Dúngail (Modern Gaelic: Griogair mac Dhunghail, [1] known in English simply as Giric, and nicknamed Mac Rath, ("Son of Fortune"); [2] (fl. c. 878889) was a king of the Picts or the king of Alba. The Irish annals record nothing of Giric's reign, nor do Anglo-Saxon writings add anything, and the meagre information which survives is contradictory. Modern historians disagree as to whether Giric was sole king or ruled jointly with Eochaid, on his ancestry, and if he should be considered a Pictish king or the first king of Alba.

A number of Irish annals, of which the earliest was the Chronicle of Ireland, were compiled up to and shortly after the end of the 17th century.

Anglo-Saxons Germanic tribes who started to inhabit parts of Great Britain from the 5th century onwards

The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century, and the direct ancestors of the majority of the modern British people. They comprise people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, their descendants, and indigenous British groups who adopted many aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language; the cultural foundations laid by the Anglo-Saxons are the foundation of the modern English legal system and of many aspects of English society; the modern English language owes over half its words – including the most common words of everyday speech – to the language of the Anglo-Saxons. Historically, the Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period in Britain between about 450 and 1066, after their initial settlement and up until the Norman conquest. The early Anglo-Saxon period includes the creation of an English nation, with many of the aspects that survive today, including regional government of shires and hundreds. During this period, Christianity was established and there was a flowering of literature and language. Charters and law were also established. The term Anglo-Saxon is popularly used for the language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and eastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. In scholarly use, it is more commonly called Old English.


Although little is now known of Giric, he appears to have been regarded as an important figure in Scotland in the High Middle Ages and the Late Middle Ages. Scots chroniclers such as John of Fordun, Andrew of Wyntoun, Hector Boece and the humanist scholar George Buchanan wrote of Giric as "King Gregory the Great" and told how he had conquered half of England and Ireland too.

Scotland in the High Middle Ages

The High Middle Ages of Scotland encompass Scotland in the era between the death of Domnall II in 900 AD and the death of King Alexander III in 1286, which was an indirect cause of the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Scotland in the Late Middle Ages

Scotland in the Late Middle Ages, between the deaths of Alexander III in 1286 and James IV in 1513, established its independence from England under figures including William Wallace in the late 13th century and Robert Bruce in the 14th century. In the 15th century under the Stewart Dynasty, despite a turbulent political history, the Crown gained greater political control at the expense of independent lords and regained most of its lost territory to approximately the modern borders of the country. However, the Auld Alliance with France led to the heavy defeat of a Scottish army at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and the death of the king James IV, which would be followed by a long minority and a period of political instability.

John of Fordun was a Scottish chronicler. It is generally stated that he was born at Fordoun, Mearns. It is certain that he was a secular priest, and that he composed his history in the latter part of the 14th century; and it is probable that he was a chaplain in St Machar's Cathedral of Aberdeen.

The Chronicle of Melrose and some versions of the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba say that Giric died at Dundurn in Strathearn.

The Chronicle of Melrose is a medieval chronicle from the Cottonian Manuscript, Faustina B. ix within the British Museum. It was written by unknown authors, though evidence in the writing shows that it most likely was written by the monks at Melrose Abbey. The chronicle begins on the year 735 and ends in 1270, consisting of two separate segments.

The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, or Scottish Chronicle, is a short written chronicle of the Kings of Alba, covering the period from the time of Kenneth MacAlpin until the reign of Kenneth II. W.F. Skene called it the Chronicle of the Kings of Scots, and some have called it the Older Scottish Chronicle, but Chronicle of the Kings of Alba is emerging as the standard scholarly name.

Dundurn is the site of a Pictish hillfort in what is now Strathearn in Perth and Kinross, Scotland.

Giric's name

Giric's name is associated with that of St Cyricus, who, as a small child, was martyred along with his mother during the Diocletianic persecution in the early fourth century. According to the Chronicles of the Kings of Scotland, St Cyricus was Giric's patron saint, not only because his name is homophonous with the Latin form of the saint's name, Ciricum, but also because the first church dedicated to St Cyricus was established during Giric's reign at a place called Ecclesgrieg (now St. Cyrus) in Aberdeenshire. The saint's feast day is June 16, and on (or near) that day in 885, there was a solar eclipse, which has become associated with the kingship of Giric and Eochaid, inasmuch as not long after the occasion of the eclipse, the two "were expelled from the kingdom." [3]

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Aberdeenshire Council area of Scotland

Aberdeenshire is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland.

Saint one who has been recognized for having an exceptional degree of holiness, sanctity, and virtue

A saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God. However, the use of the term "saint" depends on the context and denomination. In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox, and Lutheran doctrine, all of their faithful deceased in Heaven are considered to be saints, but some are considered worthy of greater honor or emulation; official ecclesiastical recognition, and consequently veneration, is given to some saints through the process of canonization in the Catholic Church or glorification in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Relationship between Giric and Eochaid

Various theories have been put forward regarding the relationship between Eochaid and Giric, who by all accounts was the elder of the two. The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba , which was written in Latin, used the phrase alumnus ordinatorque to describe Giric’s relationship to Eochaid. Translator T.H. Weeks chose to translate that phrase into English as “teacher and prime minister," yet in the same section offered “foster-son” for alumnus, translating “Eochodius, cum alum(p)no suo, expulsus est nunc de regno” as “Eochaid with his ‘foster-son,’ was then thrown out of the kingdom.” ” [4]

Fosterage, the practice of a family bringing up a child not their own, differs from adoption in that the child's parents, not the foster-parents, remain the acknowledged parents. In many modern western societies foster care can be organised by the state to care for children with troubled family backgrounds, usually on a temporary basis. In many pre-modern societies fosterage was a form of patronage, whereby influential families cemented political relationships by bringing up each other's children, similar to arranged marriages, also based on dynastic or alliance calculations.

There is a tendency in popular history books and web sites to refer to the two as “cousins” or “first cousins once removed." [5]

However, this cousin kinship is only speculation since the ancestry of Giric is obscure. Runh, the father of Eochaid, is known to have been “a king of the Britons,” [6] but little is known of Dungal, the father of Giric, which may be the reason for the speculation that he (Dungal) did not have royal lineage. Perhaps a writer for the popular web site Undiscovered Scotland found the best solution, referring to Giric as Eochaid’s “rather shadowy kinsman.” [7]

Two scholars have defined the two in political rather than kinship terms. A. Weeks, commentator, speculated, “Possibly Giric was not of royal blood, so he used Eochaid as a puppet.” [8] In 1904, Sir John Rhys, professor at Oxford, reached a similar conclusion, positing that “the real relation in which Girg probably stood to Eochaid was that of a non Celtic king of Pictish descent wielding the power of the Pictish nation with Eochaid ruling among the Brythons of Fortrenn more or less subject to him.” [9] What is known of the two is that in 878 Giric killed Aed (uncle of Eochaid) “in battle” in the town of Nrurim, which was probably north of Stirling. Then Giric and Eochaid, whatever their relationship, ruled jointly for eleven years. [10]

Son of Fortune

... the Son of Fortune shall come; he shall rule over Alba as one Lord. [11]
The Britons will be low in his time; high will be Alba of melodious boats.
Pleasant to my heart and my body is what my spirit tells me:
The rule of the Son of Fortune in his land in the east will cast misery from Scotland.
Seventeen years (in fortresses of valour) in the sovereignty of Scotland.
He will have in bondage in his house Saxons, Foreigners, and Britons. [12]
The Prophecy of Berchán . [13]

The Prophecy of Berchán , an 11th-century verse history of Scots and Irish kings presented as a prophecy, is a notably difficult source. As the Prophecy refers to kings by epithets, but never by name, linking it to other materials is not straightforward. The Prophecy is believed to refer to Giric by the epithet Mac Rath, "the Son of Fortune". [14]

The entry on Giric in the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba is perhaps corrupt. It states:

And Eochaid, son of Run, the king of the Britons [of Strathclyde, and] grandson of Kenneth by his daughter reigned for eleven years; although other say that Giric, the son of another, reigned at this time, because he became Eochaid's foster-father and guardian.
And in [Eochaid's] second year, Áed, Niall's son, died; and his ninth year, on the very day of [St] Cyricus, an eclipse of the sun occurred. Eochaid with his foster-father was now expelled from the kingdom. [15]

Kenneth is Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín); Áed, Niall's son is Áed Findliath, who died on 20 November 879; and St Cyrus's day was 16 June, on which day a solar eclipse occurred in 885. [16]

Gregory the Great

By the 12th century, Giric had acquired legendary status as liberator of the Scottish church from Pictish oppression and, fantastically, as conqueror of Ireland and most of England. As a result, Giric was known as Gregory the Great. This tale appears in the variant of the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba which is interpolated in Andrew of Wyntoun's Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland. Here Giric, or Grig, is named "Makdougall", son of Dúngal. Giric, and Eochaid, are omitted from the Duan Albanach, but they are not unique in this.

This account, found in the Poppleton Manuscript, is not matched by other regnal lists. The lists known as "D", "F", "I", "K", and "N", [17] contain a different version, copied by the Chronicle of Melrose . [18] List "D", which may be taken as typical, contains this account of Giric:

Giric, Dungal's son, reigned for twelve years; and he died in Dundurn, and was buried in Iona. He subdued to himself all Ireland, and nearly [all] England; and he was the first to give liberty to the Scottish church, which was in servitude up to that time, after the custom and fashion of the Picts. [19]

Giric's conquests appear as Bernicia, rather than Ireland (Hibernia), in some versions. William Forbes Skene saw a connection between this and the account in the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto which claims that soon after the death of King Halfdan, the Northumbrians and the Northmen united under King Guthfrith to defeat a Scots invasion. [20]

Ut regem nostrum Girich

In a recent discussion of the "Dunkeld Litany", which was largely fabricated in Schottenklöster in Germany in late Medieval and Early Modern times, Thomas Owen Clancy offers the provisional conclusion that, within the emendations and additions, there lies an authentic 9th century Litany. The significance of this Litany for the question of Giric's authenticity and kingship is contained in a prayer for the king and the army, where the king named is Giric:

Ut regem nostrum Girich cum exercito suo ab omnibus inimicorum insiidis tuearis et defendas, te rogamus audi nos. [21]

He shall rule over Alba as one Lord

A.A.M. Duncan argues that the association of Giric and Eochaid in the kingship is spurious, that Giric alone was king of the Picts, which he claimed as the son of daughter of Kenneth MacAlpin, and that the report that he was Eochaid's guardian (alumpnus) is a misreading of uncle (auunculus). A.P. Smyth proposed that Giric was a nephew of Kenneth MacAlpin, the son of his brother Donald MacAlpin (Domnall mac Ailpín), which appears to rest on what is probably a scribal error. The entry also states that an otherwise unknown Causantín, son of Domnaill (or of Dúngail) was king. Finally, Benjamin Hudson has suggested that Giric, rather than being a member of Cenél nGabráin dynasty of Kenneth MacAlpin and his kin, was a member of the northern Cenél Loairn-descended dynasty of Moray, and accepts the existence of Giric's brother Causantín.


  1. Giric mac Dúngail is the mediaeval form.
  2. Skene, Chronicles, p. 87.
  3. Anderson, Alan Orr (1922). Early Sources of Scottish History. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd. pp. 363–64. Retrieved 8 Aug 2016.
  4. Skene, William F.; Weeks, T. H., trans.; Weeks, A. (1867). Chronicles of the Kings of Alba. Edinburgh: H. M. General Register House. Retrieved 9 Aug 2016.
  5. "Eochaid and Giric". Undiscovered Scotland. Retrieved 9 Aug 2016.
  6. Skene. Kings of Alba. p. n.p.
  7. "Eochaid and Giric". Undiscovered Scotland.Missing or empty |url= (help)
  8. Weeks, A. "Kings of Alba".Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  9. Rhys, John (1904). Celtic Britain. London: Society for the Preservation of Christian Knowledge. p. 185. Retrieved 9 Aug 2016.
  10. Weeks, A. "Kings of Alba".Missing or empty |url= (help)
  11. Alternatively, "he shall knead Alba into one kingdom"; A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, pp. 366367.
  12. Hostages signifying his rule over these peoples. Foreigners, (Old Irish : gall), means Scandinavians or Norse Gaels.
  13. After A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, pp. 366367.
  14. A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, pp. 366367. Hudson, The Prophecy of Berchán, is the fullest study of this source.
  15. Skene's Chronicles of the Picts..., p. 9, quoted in A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, pp. 363364.
  16. St Cyrus day and the eclipse: A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, p. 364, note 3. Confirming the eclipse, see the NASA Catalog of Solar Eclipses: 0801 to 0900.
  17. The surviving lists and their origins and relationships are discussed extensively by Marjorie Ogilvie Anderson.
  18. The Chronicle of Melrose account, from Skene, op. cit, pp. 22 & 224, is quoted in A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, p. 368.
  19. Skene, op. cit., p. 151, quoted in A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, pp. 364365. The untranslated texts are given by M.O. Anderson, pp. 264ff.
  20. A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, p. 365, note 2; A.O. Anderson, Scottish Annals, pp. 6264. Guthfrith appears to have reigned in Jórvík from 883 to 24 August 895.
  21. Hudson, p. 206.

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Regnal titles
Preceded by
Áed mac Cináeda
King of the Picts
with Eochaid
Succeeded by
Domnall mac Custantín
as King of Alba