Kenneth II of Scotland

Kenneth II of Scotland
Kenneth II
King of Alba
Reign 971–995
Predecessor Cuilén
Successor Constantine III
Malcolm II, King of Alba
Boite mac Cináeda?
House Alpin
Father Malcolm I, King of Alba
Born before 954
Died 995

Cináed mac Maíl Coluim (Modern Gaelic: Coinneach mac Mhaoil Chaluim[1] anglicised as Kenneth II, and nicknamed An Fionnghalach, "The Fratricide";[2] before 954–995) was King of Scots (Alba). The son of Malcolm I (Máel Coluim mac Domnaill), he succeeded King Cuilén (Cuilén mac Iduilb) on the latter's death at the hands of Amdarch of Strathclyde in 971.

The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba was compiled in Kenneth's reign, but many of the place names mentioned are entirely corrupt, if not fictitious.[3] Whatever the reality, the Chronicle states that "[h]e immediately plundered [Strathclyde] in part. Kenneth's infantry were slain with very great slaughter in Moin Uacoruar." The Chronicle further states that Kenneth plundered Northumbria three times, first as far as Stainmore, then to Cluiam and lastly to the River Dee by Chester. These raids may belong to around 980, when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records attacks on Cheshire.[4]

In 973, the Chronicle of Melrose reports that Kenneth, with Máel Coluim I (Máel Coluim mac Domnaill), the King of Strathclyde, "Maccus, king of very many islands" (i.e. Magnus Haraldsson (Maccus mac Arailt), King of Mann and the Isles) and other kings, Welsh and Norse, came to Chester to acknowledge the overlordship of the English king Edgar the Peaceable.[5] It may be that Edgar here regulated the frontier between the southern lands of the kingdom of Alba and the northern lands of his English kingdom. Cumbria was English, the western frontier lay on the Solway. In the east, the frontier lay somewhere in later Lothian, south of Edinburgh.[6]

The Annals of Tigernach, in an aside, name three of the Mormaers of Alba in Kenneth's reign in entry in 976: Cellach mac Fíndgaine, Cellach mac Baireda and Donnchad mac Morgaínd. The third of these, if not an error for Domnall mac Morgaínd, is very likely a brother of Domnall, and thus the Mormaer of Moray. The Mormaerdoms or kingdoms ruled by the two Cellachs cannot be identified.

The feud which had persisted since the death of King Indulf (Idulb mac Causantín) between his descendants and Kenneth's family persisted. In 977 the Annals of Ulster report that "Amlaíb mac Iduilb [Amlaíb, son of Indulf], King of Scotland, was killed by Cináed mac Domnaill." The Annals of Tigernach give the correct name of Amlaíb's killer: Cináed mac Maíl Coluim, or Kenneth II. Thus, even if only for a short time, Kenneth had been overthrown by the brother of the previous king.[7]

Adam of Bremen tells that Sweyn Forkbeard found exile in Scotland at this time, but whether this was with Kenneth, or one of the other kings in Scotland, is unknown. Also at this time, Njal's Saga, the Orkneyinga Saga and other sources recount wars between "the Scots" and the Northmen, but these are more probably wars between Sigurd Hlodvisson, Earl of Orkney, and the Mormaers, or Kings, of Moray.[8]

The Chronicle says that Kenneth founded a great monastery at Brechin.

Kenneth was killed in 995, the Annals of Ulster say "by deceit" and the Annals of Tigernach say "by his subjects". Some later sources, such as the Chronicle of Melrose, John of Fordun and Andrew of Wyntoun provide more details, accurately or not. The simplest account is that he was killed by his own men in Fettercairn, through the treachery of Finnguala (also called Fimberhele or Fenella), daughter of Cuncar, Mormaer of Angus, in revenge for the killing of her only son.[9]

The Prophecy of Berchán adds little to our knowledge, except that it names Kenneth "the kinslayer", and states he died in Strathmore.[10]

Kenneth's son Malcolm II (Máel Coluim mac Cináeda) was later king of Alba. Kenneth may have had a second son, named either Dúngal or Gille Coemgáin.[11] Sources differ as to whether Boite mac Cináeda should be counted a son of Kenneth II or of Kenneth III (Cináed mac Duib).[12]


  1. ^ Cináed mac Maíl Coluim is the Mediaeval Gaelic form.
  2. ^ Skene, Chronicles, p. 96.
  3. ^ Duncan, p. 21.
  4. ^ ESSH, p. 512; Duncan, p.25.
  5. ^ ESSH, pp. 478–479; SAEC, pp. 75–78.
  6. ^ Duncan, pp.24–25.
  7. ^ Duncan, pp. 21–22; ESSH, p. 484.
  8. ^ See ESSH, pp. 483–484 & 495–502.
  9. ^ The name of Cuncar's daughter is given as Fenella, Finele or Sibill in later sources. John of Fordun credits Constantine III (Causantín mac Cuilén) and Kenneth III (Cináed mac Duib) with the planning, claiming that Kenneth II planned to change the laws of succession. See ESSH, pp. 512–515.
  10. ^ ESSH, p. 516.
  11. ^ Annals of the Four Masters, s.a. 998: "Dúngal Cináed's son, was killed by Gille Coemgáin, Cináed's son." It is not clear if the Cináeds (Kenneths) referred to are Cináed mac Maíl Coluim (Kenneth II) or his nephew and namesake Cináed mac Duib (Kenneth III). Smyth, pp. 221–222, makes Dúngal following ESSH p. 580.
  12. ^ Compare Duncan, p.345 and Lynch (ed), Genealogies, at about p. 680. See also ESSH, p. 580.


For primary sources see also External links below.

  • Anderson, Alan Orr, Early Sources of Scottish History A.D 500–1286, volume 1. Reprinted with corrections. Paul Watkins, Stamford, 1990. ISBN 1-871615-03-8
  • Anderson, Alan Orr, Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers. D. Nutt, London, 1908.
  • Anon., Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney, tr. Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. Penguin, London, 1978. ISBN 0-14-044383-5
  • Duncan, A.A.M., The Kingship of the Scots 842–1292: Succession and Independence. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2002. ISBN 0-7486-1626-8
  • Lynch, Michael (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Scottish History. Oxford UP, Oxford, 2002. ISBN 0-19-211696-7
  • Smyth, Alfred P. Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80-1000. Reprinted, Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1998. ISBN 0-7486-0100-7

External links

Kenneth II of Scotland
Born: bef. 954 Died: 995
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Alba
Succeeded by
Constantine III

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