Kenneth III of Scotland

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Kenneth III
King of Alba
Reign997 – c. 25 March 1005
Predecessor Constantine III
Successor Malcolm II
Bornc. 966
Diedc. (1005-03-25)25 March 1005
Issue Boite mac Cináeda ?
Gille Coemgáin ?
Giric ?
Suibne ?
House Alpin
Father Dub, King of Alba

Cináed mac Duib (Modern Gaelic: Coinneach mac Dhuibh) [1] anglicised as Kenneth III, and nicknamed An Donn, "the Chief" or "the Brown", [2] (c. 966 – c. 25 March 1005) was King of Scots from 997 to 1005. He was the son of Dub (Dub mac Maíl Coluim). Many of the Scots sources refer to him as Giric son of Kenneth son of Dub, which is taken to be an error. [3] An alternate explanation is that Kenneth had a son, Giric, who ruled jointly with his father [4] [5] [6]

Dub mac Maíl Coluim, sometimes anglicised as Duff MacMalcolm, called Dén, "the Vehement" and Niger, "the Black" was king of Alba. He was son of Malcolm I and succeeded to the throne when Indulf was killed in 962.


Reign and descendants

The primary sources concerning the life and "reign" of Giric include chronicle entries dating to the years 1251 and 1317. They can be found in The Chronicles of the Picts and Scots of William Forbes Skene. The chronicle of John of Fordun (14th century) mentions Giric as "Grim" or "Gryme", reporting him killed by Malcolm II of Scotland. Charles Cawley, a modern genealogist, cautions about the late date of these sources. Giric is not mentioned by earlier sources, which would make his existence questionable. [6] John Bannerman theorised that mac Duib, the Gaelic patronymic of Kenneth III, evolved to the surnames Duff and MacDuff, and that Kenneth III could be a direct ancestor to Clan MacDuff, which produced all Mormaers and Earls of Fife from the 11th to the mid-14th century, noting that Giric could be the actual founder of the house, following a pattern of several Scottish clans seemingly founded by grandsons of their eponym. [7]

William Forbes Skene Scottish historian

William Forbes Skene WS FRSE FSA(Scot) DCL LLD, was a Scottish lawyer, historian and antiquary.

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.

Malcolm II was King of the Scots from 1005 until his death. He was a son of King Kenneth II; the Prophecy of Berchán says that his mother was a woman of Leinster and refers to him as Forranach, "the Destroyer".

The only event reported in Kenneth's reign is the killing of Dúngal mac Cináeda by Gille Coemgáin mac Cináeda, by the Annals of the Four Masters s.a. 999. It is not certain that this refers to events in Scotland, and whether one or both were sons of this Kenneth, or of Kenneth II of Scotland, or some other person or persons, is not known. [8] [9] A "Gilla Caemgein son of Cinaed" also appears in the Annals of Ulster. An entry from the year 1035 reports that his unnamed granddaughter and her husband Cathal, son of Amalgaid, were both killed by Cellach, son of Dúnchad. This Cathal was reportedly king to the Western Laigin, possibly connected to the Kings of Leinster. The context is unclear but it is likely that this is the same Gille Coemgáin, connected to Kenneth III. [6] [10]

<i>Annals of the Four Masters</i> chronicles of medieval Irish history

The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland or the Annals of the Four Masters are chronicles of medieval Irish history. The entries span from the Deluge, dated as 2,242 years after creation to AD 1616.

Cináed mac Maíl Coluim was King of Scots (Alba). The son of Malcolm I, he succeeded King Cuilén on the latter's death at the hands of Rhydderch ap Dyfnwal in 971.

<i>Annals of Ulster</i> chronicle of Irish history

The Annals of Ulster are annals of medieval Ireland. The entries span the years from A.D. 431 to A.D. 1540. The entries up to A.D. 1489 were compiled in the late 15th century by the scribe Ruaidhrí Ó Luinín, under his patron Cathal Óg Mac Maghnusa on the island of Belle Isle on Lough Erne in the kingdom of Fermanagh. Later entries were added by others.

Kenneth III was killed in battle at Monzievaird in Strathearn by Malcolm II (Máel Coluim mac Cináeda), which took place about 25 March 1005. [11] [12] Whether Boite mac Cináeda was a son of this Kenneth, or of Kenneth II, is uncertain, although most propose this Kenneth. A son, or grandson of Boite, was reported to be killed by Malcolm II in 1032 in the Annals of Ulster. [13] The relevant entry has been translated as: "The grandson of Baete son of Cinaed was killed by Mael Coluim son of Cinaed." [14]

Monzievaird village in United Kingdom

Monzievaird is a place in Scotland, situated two miles west of Crieff in Highland District of Perth and Kinross. The village of Monzie; is a couple of miles to the east-northeast.


Strathearn or Strath Earn is the strath of the River Earn, in Scotland. It extends from Loch Earn to the River Tay, and was bounded on the north by Atholl, north west by Breadalbane, south west by Menteith, south east by Fife, and on the east by Perthia. The region formed a traditional province of Scotland, and hence had a mormaer and then an Earl.

Boite mac Cináeda was a Scottish prince, son of King Kenneth III of Scotland.

Kenneth's granddaughter, Gruoch daughter of Boite (Gruoch ingen Boite meic Cináeda) — William Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth — was wife firstly of Gille Coemgáin, Mormaer of Moray, and secondly of King Macbeth; her son by Gille Coemgáin, Lulach (Lulach mac Gille Coemgáin), would briefly succeed Macbeth as King of Scotland. The meic Uilleim, descendants of William fitz Duncan by his first marriage, were probably descended from Kenneth; and the Clann Mac Aoidh or Clan Mackay claim descent from Kenneth III through Lulach's daughter. [15]

Gruoch ingen Boite was a Scottish queen, the daughter of Boite mac Cináeda, son of Cináed III. She is most famous for being the wife and queen of MacBethad mac Findlaích (Macbeth). The dates of her life are not certainly known.

William Shakespeare English playwright and poet

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Gille Coemgáin or Gillecomgan was the King or Mormaer of Moray, a semi-autonomous kingdom centred on Inverness that stretched across the north of Scotland. Unlike his two predecessors, he is not called King of Scotland in his death notice, but merely Mormaer. This has led to some speculation that he was never actually the ruler of Moray, but merely a subordinate of Mac Bethad mac Findláich..

The theory that Clan MacDuff were descendants of Kenneth III was based on their close connection to royalty. Andrew of Wyntoun reported that Malcolm III of Scotland (reigned 1058–1093) had granted to a "MacDuff, thane of Fife" the privilege of enthroning the kings of Scots at their inauguration. While John of Fordun has Malcolm III promise this same unnamed MacDuff that he will be the first man of the kingdom, second only to the king. This unnamed MacDuff appears frequently in stories connected to the rise of Malcolm III to the throne, and was later immortalised in the Shakespearean character Macduff. The status of the successive heads of this clan as the "senior inaugural official" seems confirmed by records of the inauguration ceremonies of Alexander II (reigned 1214–1249) and Alexander III (reigned 1249–1286). While earlier heads of this house "witnessed royal documents far more more frequently" than other members of the nobility. Their names often listed first among the lay witnesses, ahead of both the native Scottish nobility and the Anglo-Norman nobles. A number of 12th-century heads of house served as Justiciars of Scotia. Their leaders were named Donnchadh (Duncan), Mael-Coluim (Malcolm), and Causantin (Constantine), names shared by the royal family. Making a close relation to the reigning royal house likely. Bannerman suggests that the MacDuffs had their own, legitimate claim to the Scottish throne. A claim which they declined to pursue, compensated with privileges by Malcolm III and his descendants. [7]

Andrew Wyntoun, known as Andrew of Wyntoun, was a Scottish poet, a canon and prior of Loch Leven on St Serf's Inch and, later, a canon of St. Andrews.

Malcolm III was King of Scots from 1058 to 1093. He was later nicknamed "Canmore". Malcolm's long reign of 35 years preceded the beginning of the Scoto-Norman age. Henry I of England and Eustace III of Boulogne were his sons-in-law, making him the maternal grandfather of Empress Matilda, William Adelin and Matilda of Boulogne. All three of them were prominent in English politics during the 12th century.

Thegn Term describing an aristocratic class in Anglo-Saxon England and medieval Scandinavia or a member of that class

The term thegn, from Old English þegn, ðegn, "servant, attendant, retainer", "one who serves", is commonly used to describe either an aristocratic retainer of a king or nobleman in Anglo-Saxon England, or, as a class term, the majority of the aristocracy below the ranks of ealdormen and high-reeves. It is also the term for an early medieval Scandinavian class of retainers.


During the 10th century, there were dynastic conflicts in Scotland between two rival lines of royalty; one descended from Causantín mac Cináeda (Constantine I, reigned 862–877), the other from his brother Áed mac Cináeda (reigned 877–878). John of Fordun claims that Kenneth II of Scotland (reigned 971–995) attempted to establish new succession rules, which would limit the right to the throne to his own descendants, excluding all other claimants. While Constantine III of Scotland (reigned 995–997) did manage to rise to the throne, he was the last known descendant of Áed. With his death, the rivalry between descendants of Causantin and Áed gave way to a rivalry between two new royal lines, both descended from Causantin. [16]

One line descended from Kenneth II and was represented by his son Malcolm II. The other line descended from his brother Dub, King of Scotland (reigned 962–967) and was represented by Kenneth III. Neither Constantine III, nor Kenneth III were able to extend their control to Cumbria, which likely served as a stronghold and powerbase for Malcolm II. He was the legitimate heir according to the succession rules of Kenneth II. When Malcolm II managed to kill Kenneth III, it signified the triumph of his line. He continued to rule to 1034, enjoying a long reign and managed to leave the throne to his own descendants. [16]

But the rivalry between the two lines survived Kenneth III. In 1033, Malcolm II killed a descendant of Kenneth III. Gruoch, another descendant of Kenneth III was the consort of Macbeth, King of Scotland (reigned 1040–1057), whose rival Duncan I (reigned 1034–1040) was the grandson and heir of Malcolm II. They were continuing the bitter feud which had started in the previous century. [16]

The contemporary kings of Strathclyde were also involved in the feud, though it is uncertain whether they had dynastic connections with the various Scottish rival lines. A theory that they represented another line of descendants of Donald II of Scotland (reigned 889–900) [16] was based on the idea that Owen I of Strathclyde (d. 937) was son to this king. [17]


  1. Cináed mac Duib is the Mediaeval Gaelic form.
  2. The former is probable because later English-speaking sources called him "Grim"; Old Irish donn has similar meaning to Old English greimm, which means "power" or "authority"; see Skene, Chronicles, p. 98; Hudson, Celtic Kings, p. 105.
  3. Duncan, p. 22;
  4. Smyth, pp. 220–221 and 225; also ESSH, p.522, note 4.
  5. Bannerman, MacDuff of Fife, p. 25-26
  6. 1 2 3 Cawley 2011 , Kenneth III.Listing includes his probable children.
  7. 1 2 Bannerman, MacDuff of Fife, p. 22-26, 38
  8. ESSH, p.520, note 5; Smyth, pp. 221–222, makes Gille Coemgáin the son of this Kenneth following ESSH, p. 580.
  9. Annals of the Four Masters, online translation. Entry 998.14
  10. Annals of Ulster, online translation. Entry U1035.2
  11. Annals of Ulster and Chronicon Scotorum, s.a. 1005; the various versions of the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba and the Prophecy of Berchán agree on the site of the battle; ESSH, pp 522–524. Duncan, p. 22, suggests that the killer's name should be read as Giric mac Cináeda, "Giric son of Kenneth", a brother of Malcolm. If not, this Giric was presumably also killed at about this time.
  12. The exact date of death is unknown but by tradition it has been assigned to 25 March. (Dunbar, Sir Archibald Hamilton (1906). Scottish Kings: A Revised Chronology of Scottish History, 1005-1625, with Notices of the Principal Events, Tables of Regnal Years, Pedigrees, Tables, Calendars, Etc. D. Douglas. p. 293.)
  13. This Cináed and Boite's son, Smyth, pp. 220–221; Duncan, p. 32. See also ESSH, p. 571, note 7.
  14. Annals of Ulster, online translation. Entry U1033.7
  15. Duncan, pp. 102–103.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Smyth, Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80–1000, p. 224-227
  17. Smyth, Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80–1000, p. 220

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Kenneth III of Scotland
Born: before 967  Died: 25 March 1005
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Constantine III
King of Scots
Succeeded by
Malcolm II