Taking toll for merchandise, from a Saxon psalter
Taking toll for merchandise, from a Saxon psalter

These years are of special interest in Scotland, because it was about this time that Malcolm Canmore, the son of King Duncan, recovered the Scottish throne by overthrowing Macbeth. All the kings of Scotland since Malcolm himself and all the kings of England since the accession of Henry II descend from Malcolm and his English wife Margaret, the grandchild of Edmund Ironside. The historical facts do not bear much resemblance to the story which Shakespeare extracted from Holinshed.

King Malcolm II, the victor of Carham, was a vigorous ruler, who was resolved that his grandson Duncan, who had already succeeded to the kingdom of Strathclyde, should succeed him also on the Scottish throne in accordance with the custom of most civilised nations; whereas, according to the Pictish custom, Duncan was outside the Scottish succession, and the heir of the Scottish throne was the infant son not of Macbeth himself, but of his wife Gruach, who was a widow when he married her.

The Real MacBeth
In the interests of the infant, Macbeth challenged Duncan's succession, killed him, very possibly in fair fight, and then held the throne nominally on behalf of his step-child. Duncan himself was but a young man; his infant children, Malcolm and Donalbain, were carried out of the kingdom and placed in charge of Earl Siward of Northumbria, whose daughter had been Duncan's queen.

Malcolm abode with his grandfather for fourteen years; and then in 1054 Siward and his sons marched into Scotland with the youth to overthrow Macbeth, who was defeated but not overthrown at the battle of Dunsinane. It was not till three years later that Malcolm succeeded in killing him at the battle of Lumphanan.

If we reckon old Siward the Dane as an Englishman we may say that Malcolm was half Celt and half English; in fact he was half Celt and half Dane, for Siward was pure Dane. But Malcolm, owing to his training, was more a Northumbrian than a Scot; he married a princess of the house of Wessex; and, consequently, hereafter we find Scottish Northumbria or Lothian becoming the real seat of power of the house of Malcolm, while the Anglo-Danish element in the northern kingdom is politically predominant. But Malcolm himself left to posterity a nickname which was not Saxon but Gaelic, Ceanmohr, corrupted into Canmore, "Big-head."

Earl Harold
Siward's death a year after the battle of Dunsinane wrought trouble in England, for King Edward made Harold's brother Tostig Earl of Northumbria insteado f Waltheof, the son of Siward's old age. It is fairly obvious that Harold himself was always anxious to effect a reconciliation between his own house and that of Leofric of Mercia, but there was no love lost between the two families; and AElfgar, Earl of East Anglia, Leofric's son, opposed the bestowal of Northumbria on Tostig.

For no adequate reason assigned, he was outlawed immediately afterwards, though no attack was made on Leofric himself, whose wife was the famous Lady Godiva. AEIfgar went off to Ireland, whence he started to play the Viking, and then joined forces with King Griffith of North Wales; and together they proceeded to harry the marches.

Harold had to hurry to the West, where he offered peace and pardon to AElfgar; the offer was accepted, so there was once more peace between the houses of Leofric and Godwin. After that Harold and Leofric between them brought King Griffith to submission, and made him take an oath of loyalty as Edward's vassal, which had the usual value.

Harold and AElfgar
Next year Leofric died, and Aelfgar succeeded to the Mercian earldom, while East Anglia with a portion of Wessex, surrendered by Harold himself, provided earldoms for two of Harold's brothers. Then came a new quarrel in 1058 between AElfgar and Harold; AElfgar was again outlawed, returned to his alliance with Griffith of Wales, and gave him his daughter Ealdgyth in marriage.

Again Harold offered him pardon and peace, and he was restored to his earldom; and again Harold turned to chastise Griffith, who in 1063 was killed by his own people.

Two years later Harold endeavoured to cement his own alliance with the house of Leofric, then represented by Edwin and Morkere [Morcar], the sons of Leofric, by marrying their sister Ealdgyth, the widow of the Welsh king, AElfgar himself had died in the interval and was succeeded in Mercia by his elder son Edwin.

This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's views may be controversial by modern standards, particularly his attitudes towards other cultures and races, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.

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