Malcolm III of Scotland, King of Scots

Malcolm III of Scotland, King of Scots

Male 1031 - 1093  (~ 62 years)

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  • Name Malcolm III of Scotland 
    Suffix King of Scots 
    Nickname Canmore, in Gaelic it means, "Great Chief" 
    Born 0Mar 1031  Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Male 
    Also Known As King of Alba (Scots)  [1
    Died 13 Nov 1093  Alnwick, Northumberland, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Person ID I46963  The Hennessee Family
    Last Modified 25 Mar 2018 

    Father Duncan I of Scotland, King of Alba,   b. ~1001, (Dunkeld, Scotland) Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Aug 1040, Elgin, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 39 years) 
    Mother Suthen, Queen of Scotland,   b. ~1020, Northumbria, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1050, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 29 years) 
    Married ~1030  (Northumbria, England) Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Family ID F19035  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Ingibiorg Finnsdottir,   b. Norway Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married Y  [3
     1. Duncan II of Scotland, King of Scotland,   b. 1060, Glenorchy, Perthshire, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 12 Nov 1094  (Age 34 years)
    Last Modified 23 Oct 2022 
    Family ID F19037  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Margaret of Wessex, Queen of Scotland,   b. ~1045, Wessex, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 16 Nov 1093, Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 48 years) 
    Married ~1069  Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 4, 5, 6
    • She is part of the English royal family fleeing the Normans after 1066.
     1. Matilda of Scotland, Queen of England,   b. 1080, Dumfermline, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 May 1118, Westminster Palace, Westminster, London, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 38 years)
     2. Mary of Scotland,   b. 1082, Dumfermline, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1116  (Age 34 years)
     3. David I of Scotland, King of the Scots,   b. ~1085, Dumfermline, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 May 1154, Carlisle, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 68 years)
    Last Modified 23 Oct 2022 
    Family ID F17245  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 0Mar 1031 - Scotland Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - ~1069 - Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 13 Nov 1093 - Alnwick, Northumberland, England Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    Malcolm III
    Malcolm III

  • Notes 
    • Malcolm III (Gaelic: Mâael Coluim mac Donnchada; c. 26 March 1031 – 13 November 1093) was King of Scots from 1058 to 1093. He was later nicknamed "Canmore" ("ceann máor", Gaelic for "Great Chief": "ceann" denotes "leader", "head" (of state) and "máor" denotes "pre-eminent", "great", and "big").[1][2] Malcolm's long reign of 35 years preceded the beginning of the Scoto-Norman age.

      Malcolm's kingdom did not extend over the full territory of modern Scotland: the north and west of Scotland remained under Scandinavian, Norse-Gael, and Gaelic rule, and the territories under the rule of the Kings of Scots did not extend much beyond the limits established by Malcolm II until the 12th century. Malcolm III fought a series of wars against the Kingdom of England, which may have had as its objective the conquest of the English earldom of Northumbria. These wars did not result in any significant advances southward. Malcolm's primary achievement was to continue a lineage that ruled Scotland for many years,[3] although his role as founder of a dynasty has more to do with the propaganda of his youngest son David I and his descendants than with history.[4]

      Malcolm's second wife, St. Margaret of Scotland, is Scotland's only royal saint. Malcolm himself had no reputation for piety; with the notable exception of Dunfermline Abbey in Fife he is not definitely associated with major religious establishments or ecclesiastical reforms.

      King of Alba (Scots)
      Reign 1058–1093
      Coronation 25 April 1058?, Scone, Perth and Kinross
      Predecessor Lulach
      Successor Donald III
      Born c. 26 March 1031
      Died 13 November 1093
      Alnwick, Northumberland, England
      Burial Tynemouth Castle and Priory, then in Dunfermline Abbey
      Spouse Ingibiorg Finnsdottir
      St. Margaret of Scotland
      Issue Duncan II, King of Scots
      Edward, Prince of Scotland
      Edgar, King of Scots
      Alexander I, King of Scots
      David I, King of Scots
      Matilda, Queen of England
      Mary, Countess of Boulogne
      House Dunkeld
      Father Duncan I, King of Scots
      Mother Suthen

      Main article: Scotland in the High Middle Ages
      Malcolm's father Duncan I became king in late 1034, on the death of Malcolm II, Duncan's maternal grandfather and Malcolm's great-grandfather. According to John of Fordun, whose account is the original source of part at least of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Malcolm's mother was a niece of Siward, Earl of Northumbria,[5][6] but an earlier king-list gives her the Gaelic name Suthen.[7] Other sources claim that either a daughter or niece would have been too young to fit the timeline, thus the likely relative would have been Siward's own sister Sybil, which may have translated into Gaelic as Suthen.

      Duncan's reign was not successful and he was killed in battle with the men of Moray, led by Macbeth, on 15 August 1040. Duncan was young at the time of his death,[8] and Malcolm and his brother Donalbane were children.[9] Malcolm's family attempted to overthrow Macbeth in 1045, but Malcolm's grandfather Crâinâan of Dunkeld was killed in the attempt.[10]

      Soon after the death of Duncan his two young sons were sent away for greater safety—exactly where is the subject of debate. According to one version, Malcolm (then aged about nine) was sent to England,[11] and his younger brother Donalbane was sent to the Isles.[12][13] Based on Fordun's account, it was assumed that Malcolm passed most of Macbeth's seventeen-year reign in the Kingdom of England at the court of Edward the Confessor.[14][15] Today's British Royal family can trace their family history back to Malcolm III via his daughter Matilda.

      According to an alternative version, Malcolm's mother took both sons into exile at the court of Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Earl of Orkney, an enemy of Macbeth's family, and perhaps Duncan's kinsman by marriage.[16]

      An English invasion in 1054, with Siward, Earl of Northumbria in command, had as its goal the installation of one "Mâael Coluim, son of the king of the Cumbrians". This Mâael Coluim has traditionally been identified with the later Malcolm III.[17] This interpretation derives from the Chronicle attributed to the 14th-century chronicler of Scotland, John of Fordun, as well as from earlier sources such as William of Malmesbury.[18] The latter reported that Macbeth was killed in the battle by Siward, but it is known that Macbeth outlived Siward by two years.[19] A. A. M. Duncan argued in 2002 that, using the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry as their source, later writers innocently misidentified "Mâael Coluim" with the later Scottish king of the same name.[20] Duncan's argument has been supported by several subsequent historians specialising in the era, such as Richard Oram, Dauvit Broun and Alex Woolf.[21] It has also been suggested that Mâael Coluim may have been a son of Owain Foel, British king of Strathclyde[22] perhaps by a daughter of Malcolm II, King of Scotland.[23]

      In 1057 various chroniclers report the death of Macbeth at Malcolm's hand, on 15 August 1057 at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire.[24][25] Macbeth was succeeded by his stepson Lulach, who was crowned at Scone, probably on 8 September 1057. Lulach was killed by Malcolm, "by treachery",[26] near Huntly on 23 April 1058. After this, Malcolm became king, perhaps being inaugurated on 25 April 1058, although only John of Fordun reports this.[27]

      Malcolm and Ingibiorg

      Late medieval depiction of Malcolm with MacDuff, from an MS (Corpus Christi MS 171) of Walter Bower's Scotichronicon
      If Orderic Vitalis is to be relied upon, one of Malcolm's earliest actions as king was to travel to the court of Edward the Confessor in 1059 to arrange a marriage with Edward's kinswoman Margaret, who had arrived in England two years before from Hungary.[28] If a marriage agreement was made in 1059, it was not kept, and this may explain the Scots invasion of Northumbria in 1061 when Lindisfarne was plundered.[29] Equally, Malcolm's raids in Northumbria may have been related to the disputed "Kingdom of the Cumbrians", reestablished by Earl Siward in 1054, which was under Malcolm's control by 1070.[30]

      The Orkneyinga saga reports that Malcolm married the widow of Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Ingibiorg, a daughter of Finn Arnesson.[31] Although Ingibiorg is generally assumed to have died shortly before 1070, it is possible that she died much earlier, around 1058.[32] The Orkneyinga Saga records that Malcolm and Ingibiorg had a son, Duncan II (Donnchad mac Maâil Coluim), who was later king.[33] Some Medieval commentators, following William of Malmesbury, claimed that Duncan was illegitimate, but this claim is propaganda reflecting the need of Malcolm's descendants by Margaret to undermine the claims of Duncan's descendants, the Meic Uilleim.[34] Malcolm's son Domnall, whose death is reported in 1085, is not mentioned by the author of the Orkneyinga Saga. He is assumed to have been born to Ingibiorg.[35]

      Malcolm's marriage to Ingibiorg secured him peace in the north and west. The Heimskringla tells that her father Finn had been an adviser to Harald Hardraade and, after falling out with Harald, was then made an Earl by Sweyn Estridsson, King of Denmark, which may have been another recommendation for the match.[36] Malcolm enjoyed a peaceful relationship with the Earldom of Orkney, ruled jointly by his stepsons, Paul and Erlend Thorfinnsson. The Orkneyinga Saga reports strife with Norway but this is probably misplaced as it associates this with Magnus Barefoot, who became king of Norway only in 1093, the year of Malcolm's death.[37]

      Malcolm and Margaret

      Malcolm and Margaret as depicted in a 16th-century armorial. Anachronistically, Malcolm's surcoat is embroidered with the royal arms of Scotland, which probably did not come into use until the time of William the Lion. Margaret's kirtle displays the supposed arms of her great-uncle Edward the Confessor, which were in fact invented in the 13th century, though they were based on a design which appeared on coins from his reign
      Although he had given sanctuary to Tostig Godwinson when the Northumbrians drove him out, Malcolm was not directly involved in the ill-fated invasion of England by Harald Hardraade and Tostig in 1066, which ended in defeat and death at the battle of Stamford Bridge.[38] In 1068, he granted asylum to a group of English exiles fleeing from William of Normandy, among them Agatha, widow of Edward the Confessor's nephew Edward the Exile, and her children: Edgar Ątheling and his sisters Margaret and Cristina. They were accompanied by Gospatric, Earl of Northumbria. The exiles were disappointed, however, if they had expected immediate assistance from the Scots.[39]

      In 1069 the exiles returned to England, to join a spreading revolt in the north. Even though Gospatric and Siward's son Waltheof submitted by the end of the year, the arrival of a Danish army under Sweyn Estridsson seemed to ensure that William's position remained weak. Malcolm decided on war, and took his army south into Cumbria and across the Pennines, wasting Teesdale and Cleveland then marching north, loaded with loot, to Wearmouth. There Malcolm met Edgar and his family, who were invited to return with him, but did not. As Sweyn had by now been bought off with a large Danegeld, Malcolm took his army home. In reprisal, William sent Gospatric to raid Scotland through Cumbria. In return, the Scots fleet raided the Northumbrian coast where Gospatric's possessions were concentrated.[40] Late in the year, perhaps shipwrecked on their way to a European exile, Edgar and his family again arrived in Scotland, this time to remain. By the end of 1070, Malcolm had married Edgar's sister Margaret of Wessex, the future Saint Margaret of Scotland.[41]

      The naming of their children represented a break with the traditional Scots regal names such as Malcolm, Cinâaed and Áed. The point of naming Margaret's sons—Edward after her father Edward the Exile, Edmund for her grandfather Edmund Ironside, Ethelred for her great-grandfather Ethelred the Unready and Edgar for her great-great-grandfather Edgar and her brother, briefly the elected king, Edgar Ątheling—was unlikely to be missed in England, where William of Normandy's grasp on power was far from secure.[42] Whether the adoption of the classical Alexander for the future Alexander I of Scotland (either for Pope Alexander II or for Alexander the Great) and the biblical David for the future David I of Scotland represented a recognition that William of Normandy would not be easily removed, or was due to the repetition of Anglo-Saxon royal name—another Edmund had preceded Edgar—is not known.[43] Margaret also gave Malcolm two daughters, Edith, who married Henry I of England, and Mary, who married Eustace III of Boulogne.

      In 1072, with the Harrying of the North completed and his position again secure, William of Normandy came north with an army and a fleet. Malcolm met William at Abernethy and, in the words of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle "became his man" and handed over his eldest son Duncan as a hostage and arranged peace between William and Edgar.[44] Accepting the overlordship of the king of the English was no novelty, as previous kings had done so without result. The same was true of Malcolm; his agreement with the English king was followed by further raids into Northumbria, which led to further trouble in the earldom and the killing of Bishop William Walcher at Gateshead. In 1080, William sent his son Robert Curthose north with an army while his brother Odo punished the Northumbrians. Malcolm again made peace, and this time kept it for over a decade.[45]

      Malcolm faced little recorded internal opposition, with the exception of Lulach's son Mâael Snechtai. In an unusual entry, for the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle contains little on Scotland, it says that in 1078:

      Malcholom [Mâael Coluim] seized the mother of Mµlslµhtan [Mâael Snechtai] ... and all his treasures, and his cattle; and he himself escaped with difficulty.[46]

      Whatever provoked this strife, Mâael Snechtai survived until 1085.[47]

      Malcolm and William Rufus

      William Rufus, "the Red", king of the English (1087–1100)
      When William Rufus became king of England after his father's death, Malcolm did not intervene in the rebellions by supporters of Robert Curthose which followed. In 1091, William Rufus confiscated Edgar Ątheling's lands in England, and Edgar fled north to Scotland. In May, Malcolm marched south, not to raid and take slaves and plunder, but to besiege Newcastle, built by Robert Curthose in 1080. This appears to have been an attempt to advance the frontier south from the River Tweed to the River Tees. The threat was enough to bring the English king back from Normandy, where he had been fighting Robert Curthose. In September, learning of William Rufus's approaching army, Malcolm withdrew north and the English followed. Unlike in 1072, Malcolm was prepared to fight, but a peace was arranged by Edgar Ątheling and Robert Curthose whereby Malcolm again acknowledged the overlordship of the English king.[48]

      In 1092, the peace began to break down. Based on the idea that the Scots controlled much of modern Cumbria, it had been supposed that William Rufus's new castle at Carlisle and his settlement of English peasants in the surrounds was the cause. It is unlikely that Malcolm controlled Cumbria, and the dispute instead concerned the estates granted to Malcolm by William Rufus's father in 1072 for his maintenance when visiting England. Malcolm sent messengers to discuss the question and William Rufus agreed to a meeting. Malcolm travelled south to Gloucester, stopping at Wilton Abbey to visit his daughter Edith and sister-in-law Cristina. Malcolm arrived there on 24 August 1093 to find that William Rufus refused to negotiate, insisting that the dispute be judged by the English barons. This Malcolm refused to accept, and returned immediately to Scotland.[49]

      It does not appear that William Rufus intended to provoke a war,[50] but, as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reports, war came:

      For this reason therefore they parted with great dissatisfaction, and the King Malcolm returned to Scotland. And soon after he came home, he gathered his army, and came harrowing into England with more hostility than behoved him ....[51]

      Malcolm was accompanied by Edward, his eldest son by Margaret and probable heir-designate (or tâanaiste), and by Edgar.[52] Even by the standards of the time, the ravaging of Northumbria by the Scots was seen as harsh.[53]


      Memorial cross said to mark the spot where King Malcolm III of Scotland was killed while besieging Alnwick Castle in 1093.
      While marching north again, Malcolm was ambushed by Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria, whose lands he had devastated, near Alnwick on 13 November 1093. There he was killed by Arkil Morel, steward of Bamburgh Castle. The conflict became known as the Battle of Alnwick.[54] Edward was mortally wounded in the same fight. Margaret, it is said, died soon after receiving the news of their deaths from Edgar.[55] The Annals of Ulster say:

      Mael Coluim son of Donnchad, over-king of Scotland, and Edward his son, were killed by the French [i.e. Normans] in Inber Alda in England. His queen, Margaret, moreover, died of sorrow for him within nine days.[56]

      Malcolm's body was taken to Tynemouth Priory for burial. The king's body was sent north for reburial, in the reign of his son Alexander, at Dunfermline Abbey, or possibly Iona.[57]

      On 19 June 1250, following the canonisation of Malcolm's wife Margaret by Pope Innocent IV, Margaret's remains were disinterred and placed in a reliquary. Tradition has it that as the reliquary was carried to the high altar of Dunfermline Abbey, past Malcolm's grave, it became too heavy to move. As a result, Malcolm's remains were also disinterred, and buried next to Margaret beside the altar.[58]


      Malcolm and Ingibiorg had three sons:

      Duncan II of Scotland, succeeded his father as King of Scotland
      Donald, died ca.1094
      Malcolm, died ca.1085
      Malcolm and Margaret had eight children, six sons and two daughters:

      Edward, killed 1093
      Edmund of Scotland
      Ethelred, abbot of Dunkeld
      King Edgar of Scotland
      King Alexander I of Scotland
      King David I of Scotland
      Edith of Scotland, also called Matilda, married King Henry I of England
      Mary of Scotland, married Eustace III of Boulogne

      end of biography [1]

  • Sources 
    1. [S10147] "Malcolm III of Scotland" biography, abstracted, downloaded & published Saturday, December 24th, 2016 by David A. Hennes.

    2. [S14616] "Hextilda Fitz Uchtred (Tynedale) de Comyn (1122 - 1182)", Biography, Ancestors, Descendants, select tab, "Ancestors", t.

    3. [S12557] "Duncan I of Scotland", Biography,, by David A. Hennessee, info@class.

    4. [S10148] "Saint Margaret of Scotland" biography, abstracted, downloaded & published Saturday, December 24th, 2016 by David A. Hen.

    5. [S12125] "Edward the Exile", Biography,, retrieved or revisited, recorded & upload.

    6. [S14613] "Margaret (Wessex) Ceannmore (1045 - 1093)", Biography, Ancestors & Descendants,