- Kenneth mac Alpin (? - 858)
The House of Alpin was founded around 500AD by Fergus, the chief of the Scots of Dalriada who became established in Argyll. Their capital was at Dunadd>, near Crinan. The illustration here is of Dunadd, with a footprint carved in the rock in the foreground where the kings were proclaimed. While king lists have survived, little is known about them as individuals until the 36th king, Kenneth, son of Alpin, burst upon the pages of history. His name is variously written as Kenneth mac Alpin or Kenneth MacAlpin or King Kenneth I.
His father died in 834 and Kenneth came to the throne. His mother may have been a princess of the Picts> but he had over-run the lands of these original inhabitants by 843, thus uniting the whole of Scotland north of the river Forth under one monarch for the first time as the kingdom of Alba. What is even more surprising about this development is that the Picts had conquered the Scots in the century before. The Picts then over-stretched themselves by attacking the kingdom of Strathclyde. It is thought that the Picts were further weakened when they lost their king in a battle with the Norse invaders in 839AD.
It is said that Kenneth held a banquet at Scone after his succession and murdered seven earls of Dalriada who might have disputed his position.
Under increasing pressure from the Vikings on the western shores, Kenneth moved the religious centre of his kingdom to Dunkeld and his secular capital to Forteviot.
During his reign, Kenneth pushed the boundaries of his kingdom south of the river Forth until it stretched as far as the river Tweed. However, the kingdom of Strathclyde, based at Dumbarton, remained untouched.
On his death in 858 in Forteviot, Kenneth was buried on Iona. Kenneth's brother became King Donald I. Described at the time as "the wanton son of the foreign woman" Donald extended Dalriadic law into Pictland and died of natural causes near Scone, Perthshire in 862.
Of Kenneth's five children, two later became kings - Constantine I who took over on the death of King Donald I, ruled from 862 to 878 and was killed in a battle fighting the Danes. Another son, Aedh (who reigned from 878 to 879) was killed by his cousin Giric, a son of Donald I. Kenneth's three daughters married well - to the King Run of Strathclyde (laying the foundation of a further extension of Alba), the Norwegian King of Dublin and the High King of Ireland, Aedh Finnlaith.
Return to the Index of Famous Scots>
Where else would you like to go in Scotland?
News & Views>
All Features Index>
Search This Site>
Scottish Pictorial Calendar>
Places to Visit>