The Scottish High Kingship

In Dalriada, the first nation of Scots established in present-day Scotland, the two ruling houses were the House of Gabhran and the House of Loarn. Kenneth mac Alpin (843 AD) was of the House of Gabhran, and when he united Pictland and Dalriada into the single kingdom of Alba, he shut out the House of Loarn from succession, alternating the kingship instead with his brother Aed’s house. This went on until for nearly 200 years, until Malcolm II decided to keep the kingship for his own heir, Duncan. How did Malcolm manage this? Apparently, by killing all the eligible claimants from the alternate house–including an unnamed son or grandson of Boite, who was either brother or nephew to Macbeth’s wife, Gruoch.

And what became of the House of Loarn after mac Alpin? They moved into northern Scotland, specifically the Mortuath of Moray where, ensconced in their highland fastness, they ruled as kings in their own right. The Book of Kells, source of much history from this time period, refers to the ruler of Moray and the high king of Alba with the same term: King of Scots. Moray was a constant thorn in the side of the Alban high kings, and many battles are recorded between the high king’s forces and the men of Moray. In 1040, the righ and foremost warlord of the House of Loarn was Macbeth.

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