IN this second and final part of a brief look at the kingdom of Alba and how it mostly became Scotland, I will be dealing with the way that Alba expanded – and how it was ruled by some quite murderous kings from the 10th century onwards.

Last week I explained how King Constantine II forged the kingdom of Alba and gave it its name, and also showed how after the devastating loss of his son in the disastrous Battle of Brunanburh, Constantine ruled for only a few more years before abdicating in 943 and spending the rest of his life in a monastery. Had he continued to reign until his death in 952, Constantine would have been the second-longest reigning king of Scots behind only James VI – and James became king at the age of just 13 months.

To Constantine goes much of the credit for the creation and strengthening of the kingdom of Alba – very much an incarnation of the Scots and Picts, but it was still not anywhere near the Scotland we know today. Indeed, it was much more in line with the Caledonia of the Romans – basically the land north of the Forth. The Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, as well as Caithness and Sutherland, were under Norse control. Though he claimed overlordship, Constantine had acknowledged that Moray was a province on its own and he created the role of Mormaer – the equivalent of the Norse earl – for Moray and other provinces.

Though Strathclyde was a vassal or dower kingdom, it was still not part of Alba when Constantine abdicated, and neither were Galloway – part of the kingdom of the Britons – and the Lothians, which remained stubbornly Northumbrian.

READ MORE: King Constantine II: The formation of modern Scotland in the Alba period

Thanks to English and Irish chronicles and an ancient tome preserved in France’s Bibliotheque Nationale – now known as the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba and previously called the Chronicle of the Kings of Scots or the Older Scottish Chronicle – we know that Constantine was succeeded by his cousin Malcolm.

The historian William F Skene, in his book Chronicles of the Pits and Scots – published in Edinburgh in 1867 – gives us accounts of all the kings of Alba, and helpfully translates one of the earliest source documents, the Albanic Duan, written in a blend of Gaelic.

Here’s what Skene wrote about the period from Constantine II to Malcolm III, or Malcolm Canmore:

Cusantin, brave was his combat,

Reigned six and twice twenty.

Maolcoluim, four years,

Indolbh, eight of supreme sovereignty.

Seven years, Dubhoda the vehement,

And four, Cuilean,

And twenty seven, over every clann,

To Cionaoth son of Maolcoluim.

Seven years, Cusantin, listen !

And four, Macduibh,

Thirty years, verses mark,

Was king of Monaidh, Maolcoluim.

Six years, Donnchad the wise,

Seventeen years, the son of Fionnlaoch,

After Macbeathadh, the renowned,

Seven months in the lordship, Luglaigh.

Maolcoluim is now the king,

Son of Donnchad, the florid of lively visage,

His duration knoweth no man

But the wise one, the most wise.

O ye learned.

The trouble with the Albanic Duan is that it is not accurate when judged against other accounts of the period – but then there was very little recording in writing at that time, as most kings and other leaders in Scotland relied on the ancient tradition of bards or seannachies maintaining a family history by word of mouth. Indeed, the Duan is said to be the first time a royal seannachie’s work was written down, and that was in the 11th century reign of Malcolm III.

ANOTHER 19th century historian, Duncan Keith, in his History of Scotland, Civil and Ecclesiastical, relies on church records – or at least what remained after many of them were lost at the time of the Reformation.

He deals brusquely with the main problem threatening Alba in the 10th century – the Vikings who had conquered and occupied Orkney and Shetland.

Keith wrote: “From these islands, the Vikings made their incursions into the mainland and islands of Scotland; in the latter they found sea lochs resembling their own fiords, secure refuges, where plunder was safe and wassail undisturbed. So successful were they, that by the beginning of the 10th century the Jarls of Orkney held sway over Shetland, the Orkneys, the Hebrides, and the counties of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Moray. The Danes and Norwegians were a menace to Scotland till the battle of Largs AD 1263. The Celto-Norwegian prince, the Lord of the Isles, was an independent potentate until 1411. The Orkneys and Shetland were provinces of Norway until AD 1449.”

That brief description is why, when we consider Alba as forerunner of Scotland, we must never ignore the fact that it was not completely Scottish as we know the term. Constantine II had never attempted to completely conquer areas like Caithness and Moray – instead he made arrangement with their Jarls or Mormaers to give them great autonomy as long as they protected Alba’s northern flanks.

His successor continued these alliances, and though Malcolm enjoyed a fierce reputation as well as fiery red hair – his nickname translates as “dangerous red man” – he was actually a clever king who subdued the tribes north of current-day Moray and massively expanded Alba with the acquisition in 945 of the overlordship of Strathclyde, by then known as Cumbria, reportedly given to him by the Saxon king Edmund after the ruler of Cumbria Dyfnwal ab Owain was defeated by the all-conquering forces of the House of Wessex. Two of Dynfwal’s sons were blinded and castrated by Edmund’s soldiers, but Edmund himself only survived a year before he was assassinated in his own castle.

One chronicle states: “This year, AD 945, king Eadmund ravaged all Cumberland, and granted it all to Malcolm, king of the Scots, on the condition that he should be his fellow worker as well by sea as by land.”

Malcolm kept the alliance but probably did not rule over Cumbria as much as he pretended to, while he continued to have trouble with northern would-be potentates. He died in battle against one of them in 954, and was succeeded by Constantine II’s son Indulph.

Keith writes of him: “According to the principle of alternate succession, Indulph the son of Constantine succeeded, whose reign extended to eight years. Little is known of his times, but one important event stands out, the surrender and evacuation of Dunedin or Edinburgh. This gave the Scots their first footing on the south side of the Forth, and the possession of a stronghold, which, so long the menace of the Southron, was to become their bulwark in retreat, their rallying point in attack, the heart of Scotland.”

The National: Sweeping views over the Edinburgh skyline. Picture: Getty

So Edinburgh and later the Lothians joined Strathclyde in becoming part of Alba, and modern Scotland was really starting to take shape. Indulph led the army of Alba in repulsing Viking raids and he may have been killed in a battle with them in 962. Other tradition holds that he died as a monk in the same monastery as his father.

We can be pretty certain that some sort of civil war followed the reign of Indulph. His successor Dub or Duff was a son of Malcolm I and he was not popular – his rival Cuilean, or Colin in English, took up arms against him, and after losing the first battle, Cuilean won the second, in which Dub was slain.

Cuilean also met a violent end in 971 after a reign of four years, according to the chronicle written by John of Fordun: “Among his other deeds of shame he violated the person of the lovely daughter of a chief named Radhard (Rhydderch, sonf of Strathclyde’s king Dyfnwal). On account of which he was shortly afterwards slain by the father, to the great joy of many and the grief of very few.”

Amlaib then ruled briefly before he was murdered – according to Irish sources – by his relative Kenneth II who had a comparatively long and peaceful reign before he too was assassinated by traitors from his own ranks in 995. The next king of note was Malcolm II, who reigned from 1005 to 1034. His greatest achievement was to win the Battle of Carham in 1018, which set the border between Alba and England at the River Tweed. It has remained more or less the border ever since.

John of Fordun says of him: “In all knightly deeds, both mimic and in earnest, he was second in renown to hardly anyone in the kingdom. Moreover, the common people who knew him to be endowed with many good qualities, and distinguished for his stalwart and shapely figure, began with one accord to extol his name and fame with praises, and declared even openly that he was more worthy of the kingship than the rest of men, seeing that he was the strongest.”

Even allowing for hagiography, Malcolm seems to have consolidated Alba, yet he died without an obvious heir and Duncan took the throne to found the House of Dunkeld. The main problem for the kingdom was that Duncan was determined to expand his power base. He was soundly beaten on a raid into Northumbria and suffered an even worse fate when he took an army north to subdue the forces of the Mormaer of Moray, a certain Macbeth.

I won’t insult our readers by telling them to ignore William Shakespeare’s fantasy about Macbeth. Suffice to say he was king of Alba for 17 years and even went on a pilgrimage to Rome, before being killed in battle by Malcolm III who had the assistance of troops from England in his cause.

The National: William the Conqueror. ..English Heritage; (c) English Heritage, Battle Abbey; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation.

I have written before about Canmore and his wife St Margaret, and of how Canmore submitted to William the Conqueror (above) – he could do little else as the Norman Conquest would have added Scotland to their list if Malcolm had not sought peace.

The succession after Canmore’s death was messy, with Malcolm’s brother Donald Bane seizing power, but eventually three sons of Malcolm and Margaret ruled in succession to each other. The greatest of these – and probably Scotland’s best king – was David I, who made Alba an attractive place for Normans and other knights from the continent to settle. He reformed the coinage, brought in new justice systems, organised townships into burghs and generally transformed Alba for the better. The House of Dunkeld continued to rule with David’s grandson William I, the Lion, ruling for 48 years and being succeed by his son Alexander II, who reigned from 1214 until his death in 1249.

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It was Alexander who married the English princess Joan and thus brought peace between the two nations. For the first time he was referred to as “king of Scotland” and he also brought Galloway and Argyll under his kingdomship.

Almost the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle that was Alba was completed by King Alexander III. Having won the Battle of Largs against the Norwegians, Alexander concluded the Treaty of Perth with King Magnus VI of Norway in 1266 and hostilities between the two nations ceased with Scotland gaining the Western Isles and the Isle of Man.

From then on, Alba as the name of the kingdom faded out of history after nearly three centuries in use, and was replaced by a Scotland ruled by kings and queens of Scots.

The name lives on, however, as the Gaelic name for modern-day Scotland – and Alba will never be forgotten for its role in making Scotland what it is.