Scotland was known in Gaelic as Alba and Kenneth I MacAlpin was the first king of Alba.[1] He began as a Celtic King of Dálriada, but Kenneth also had a claim to the Picts' leadership via his mother a Pictish princess. (The Picts were a matrilineal society and Kenneth's mother's status was critical.) Kenneth made his move for Pict leadership after a brutal Viking raid in 839, which had killed 'most of the Pictish nobility'. With a vacant kingship his timing proved right.

The Dálriadans were an Irish tribe (called the Scotti), who had established an earlier kingdom of Dálriata in Ulster. When Niall 'of the Nine Hostages' gained Irish power for his tribe the Scotti migrated to Argyll and the west coast of Scotland. Dálriada expanded into Atholl and then through Kenneth MacAlpin merged with Pictland (or Pictavia), to create Scotland. The Scotties' migration to Dálriada probably began c375 and by c425 the new kingdom of Dálriada had been created. Unlike most European monarchies, the Scots viewed leadership as relating to people, not land; later historical records refer to 'kings of the Scots - not Scotland - beginning in c1035. Despite his claim, MacAlpin still had to fight and defeat a Pictish army in 841 and assassinate his rival claimants at a meeting at the Pictish capital of Scone.

Some strong leaders had been able to claim joint kingship of both Dálriada and the Picts, prior to MacAlpin. However, MacAlpin integrated the two separate kingdoms, gained a degree of unity from the Britons and Angles, and created a new concept of a (fragile but) united Alba. By circumstance the Viking raids reduced contact with Ireland (parent of the Scotti of Dálriada) and motivated the Scots to create a stronger unity in their isolated, new homeland to face the Vikings

Henry, Archdeacon of Huntingdon, (c.1080-1160), wrote the chronicle Historia Anglorum, which was published in five editions from 1130 to 1154. An entry in the Huntingdon Chronicle says, "...And so, he [MacAlpin] was the first of the Scots to obtain the monarchy of the whole of Albania, which is now called Scotia." Thus, the Highland way of life, in Scotland, owes much of its culture, language and name to the Irish Scotti who had founded the powerful Gaelic Kingdom of Dal Riada.

Genealogy gets a little confusing, since the Scots were close cousins of the Irish, who used the celtic title of 'king' loosely to define a series of social ranks for chiefs from count to de-facto king. Although Kenneth created himself king of Alba/Scotia, he was not alone at that time as king in Scotland - the kings of Moray and Strathclyde being but two examples. The later Scot's title of Mormaer eventually came into use for the surplus kings.


In c850, notwithstanding the new unity in Alba, the Vikings remained in much of the Picts' northern lands and stayed in the Orkneys. The Viking occupation had the effect of diminishing use of the Picts' language and culture, and enabled Saint Columba to supercede the former Pictish church. The need for unity eventually persuaded the Dalriadans to establish the capital of the new Scotia at Scone. (Inverness had also been a significant Pictish town.) In c1065, Malcolm III Cannmore moved the capital of Scotia to Dunfermline, and the later Stuarts to Edinbugh. (It is not easy to learn when the Scots adopted English spellings for their names, perhaps some Gaelic and Nordic spellings still exist. I have recorded Malcolm and others by their Scots' Gaelic names; in Malcolm's case by Máel Coluim in the database. I have used the English versions of the Scots' name in this text.)

Constantine I and his nephew Constantine II both fought off both the Danes and the Norwegians. The Viking attacks came from both the northern islands and from western Ireland where the Norse had already established Dublin as a powerful base. Constantine II defeated the Vikings at the 904 Battle of Scone. The latter battle forced the Vikings into a strategic withdrawal from Scotland. In 914 and 918, Constantine II further defeated the Vikings who had only withdrawn to his southern flank in Northumbria, England.

To try to ensure peace with Dublin Constantine II married his daughter to Olaf III Guthfrithson, who was by then king of both Dublin and York. However, the Danes continued their invasions in c958, although they were again defeated by King Indulf.


Domnall succeeded his brother Kenneth and created basic civil laws and rights including tanistry (election of a successor king during the life of a reining king), which continued until Kenneth III in 1034. Sources are confused as to whether it was Constantine I (spelled Causantín in Gaelic), or his son Donald II (Domnall) who added Strathclyde to the kingdom of Alba. Since news might take time to travel it is probable that it was Constantine who had assassinated Rhun, King of Strathclyde, in 872 and thus added Strathclyde (at least in name) to Alba.

Constantine II spent time building the new state. He introduced changes to the church to make it more Gaelic, while holding a church synod at Scone in 906. Constantine II also created a new aristocracy by introducing the concept of mormaers as a count, or earl-equivalent, or perhaps chief. Malcolm I was the next king and in 945 he gained Cumbria from the English King Edwin as an inducement to become allies against the Vikings. (Territorial exchanges did not always last.)

Indulf recaptured the region of Lothian from the English, including Dun Eden (or Edinburgh), the major Lothian city. Kenneth II built defences against Northumbria and fought with Sigurd the Norwegian, earl of Orkney, for control of Caithness. Lothian was lost and then regained by Malcolm II after he won the Battle of Carham in 1018, against the Anglo-Saxons.


William's Lion


Malcolm further extended the kingdom by pushing south to the River Tweed, and by marrying his daughter Donada to Sigurd the Stout, Norse Jarl of Orkney. Malcolm had also wooed Strathclyde, whose kings had been reluctant to stay in the new kingdom. When the king of Strathclyde died without an heir Malcolm seized Strathclyde. Sadly for Malcolm t his was not a good career move as it resulted in his murder.

Malcolm had had no sons, but his daughters were well married and a grandson brought both northern Caithness, and Sutherland into Alba. Another grandson succeeded as Duncan I. Duncan and tried, but failed, to add Moray to the kingdom. William I established a lion symbol as the monarch's royal standard and initiated alliances with both France and Norway.

Most of Scotland's kings died violent deaths, perhaps due to their obscure succession arrangements.

The following were monarchs of the Scots, or at least much of what later comprised Scotland. There are no doubt potential omissions, but those identified have an arguable claim. Those names shown as Pict, or Dalriada, were kings of those realms and are cited as de-facto kings of the Scots for the reasons indicated. Although Scotland (Alba) had yet to be created, those men controlled more than their nominal titles indicated.


c480-495 LORN MACEIRC, King of Alba and Dalriada
c556-584 BRIDEI I, controlled much Pict territory and introduced Saint Columba
c600-621 NECHTAN, a Nechtan was king of all the Pictish provinces
732-761 ÓENGUS I, chief king of Picts, of Fortriu, of Dalriada, and sometimes of Strathclyde
834-837 DRUST IX, king of the Picts


574-608 AEDÁN MACGABRÁIN, `the Treacherous', (also styled King of Argyll), Duke of Britons, pacified Picts
608-629 EOCHAID BUIDE, (also styled King of Argyll) also Rex Pictorum
789-820 CONSTANTINE, also king of the Picts
820-834 OENGUS, also king of the Picts, defeated Angles in 832
839-841 ALPIN II MACEOCHAID of Kintyre, also king of Dalriada

Alpin (titled king of Alba, Duncan I titled king of Scots)

843-858 KENNETH I MACALPIN, the hardy, also king of Dalriada, and Pictavia, created Alba/Scotia
863-877 CONSTANTINE I, of Alba, also added Strathclyde to Alba
877-878 AEDH, Swift-Foot
878-889 EOCHAID, ruled jointly with Giric, and briefly with Donald
878-889 GIRIC, ruled jointly with Eochaid
889-890 DONALD II, collaborated with Eochaid to remove Giric but then ousted
943-954 MALCOLM I
954-962 INDULF
962-967 DUBH, the Black
967-971 COLIN, the whelp
971-995 KENNETH II
997-1005 KENNETH III
1005-1034 MALCOLM II
1034-1040 DUNCAN I, the Gracious, also king of Strathclyde
1040-1057 MACBETH, also Mormaer of Moray
1057-1058 LULACH, the Fool


1093-1097 DONALD III BANE, ruled jointly with Edmund I, also Mormaer of Gowrie
1093-1097 EDMUND I, ruled jointly with Donald II BaneI
1094 DUNCAN II, acceded temporarily by coup
1097-1107 EDGAR
1107-1124 ALEXANDER I, the Fierce
1124-1153 DAVID I, the Saint
1153-1165 MALCOLM IV, the Maiden
1165-1114 WILLIAM I, the Lion, Earl of Northumbria
1214-1249 ALEXANDER II
1249-1286 ALEXANDER III, the Glorious
1286-1290 MARGARET ERIKSDOTTIR, the Maid of Norway

Guardians of Scotland

1290-1292 William Fraser, Bishop of St Andrew's
1286-1288 Duncan Macduff, VIII Earl of Fife
1286-1289 Alexander Comyn, II Earl of Buchan
1286-1292 Robert Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow
1286-1292 James Stewart, 5th High Steward of Scotland
1286-1292 John Comyn, Baron of Badenoch (served corporately)


1291-1296 JOHN, Toom Tabard

Guardians of Scotland

1291 Bryan FitzAlan, Baron of Bedale
1297 Andrew de Moray (de facto)
1297-1298 Sir William Wallace
1298-1300 Robert the Bruce, IV Earl of Carrick
1298-1301 John Comyn, Baron of Badenoch
1299-1301 William Lamberton, Bishop of St Andrew's
1300-1301 Sir Ingram de Umfraville
1301-1304 John de Soules
1302-1304 John Comyn, Baron of Badenoch


1306-1329 ROBERT I, the Bruce
1329-1371 DAVID II

Stewart (Stuart)

1371-1390 ROBERT II
1390-1406 ROBERT III
1406-1437 JAMES I
1437-1460 JAMES II
1460-1488 JAMES III
1488-1513 JAMES IV
1513-1542 JAMES V
1542-1567 MARY, Queen of Scots and France (executed)
1567-25 JAMES VI, James I of England, and Ireland 1603-25
1625-49 CHARLES I of Scotland, England, and Ireland (executed)

Commonwealth 1642-1660 Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, Richard Cromwell

1660-85 CHARLES II of Scotland, England, and Ireland
1685-89 JAMES VII, also James II of England, and Ireland (fled to France)
1689-02 WILLIAM II also William III of England, and MARY II (Mary d. 1694, William alone) of Scotland, England, and Ireland
1702-14 ANNE, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland

The 1707 Act of Union officially created Great Britain and united the kingdoms of England and Scotland, thus ending Scotland's independence


1           I used a multiple number of sources, but Wikipedia as a prime reference. See for example For the Picts see also The Pictish Chronicle, translated by TH Weeks and analysed by A Weeks at See also David Williamson, Brewer's British Royalty.

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