MacBeth, King of Scots, 1040-1057

Malcolm D. Broun

Abstract


Scotland in the eleventh century was very different from Scotland even in the twelfth or thirteenth century. It was almost entirely a tribal Celtic area, speaking almost entirely Celtic languages: the ancestor of Welsh in the south, and Gaelic in the central, north eastern and western Scotland. But the area nominally within the area of influence of the High King or Ard-Righ -a man of exalted dynasty who ruled over a number of petty kings -did not include the far north of Sutherland and Caithness, or the Orkneys and the Western Isles which were Norse areas under the sway of the king of Norway, at least at the time our story begins. In the early part of the eleventh century Scotland was divided into six tribal areas ruled by Mormaers, derived from a Gaelic word meaning High Steward. I There were also two petty kingdoms in the south. To use modern versions of the original Celtic descriptions the tribal areas were Moray, Athol!, Angus and Mearns, Marr and Buchan., Fife and Strathearn. The largest of these stewartries was Moray which ran from the east coast all the way across Scotland to the west coast.2 Atholl was the next largest. The name Atholl is derived from the original Gaelic name which means 'New Ireland'.3 The stewartry of Strathearn included the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth, which in later times became the political and economic heartland of Scotland.4 The area south of the Clyde and the Forth, worked differently. It was governed by a Petty King -a man who to all intents was a sovereign ruler of his territories but who often acknowledged a more powerful neighbour as his overlord B--who accepted the High King as his superior or suzerain. There was a kingdom of Strathclyde with its capital at what is now Dumbarton.

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