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Strathclyde, kingdom of

Strathclyde, kingdom of. The kingdom of Strathclyde, at its greatest extent, stretched from Loch Lomond in the north to Cumbria in the south. Its kings were Brittonic/Welsh, and were variously described by contemporaries as kings of the (northern) Britons or kings of the Cumbrians, though they are often referred to simply as kings of Dumbarton, the fort which tops the massive rock which projects from the north bank of the Firth of Clyde. The first king who can be identified is Coroticus (Ceredig) to whose warband St Patrick addressed a scathing letter sometime in the 5th cent. The last Brittonic king was probably Owain the Bald who died in 1018 fighting in the army of Malcolm II of Scotland at the battle of Carham (south-west of Berwick).

Strathclyde was remarkable for being the only Brittonic kingdom outside Wales to survive the Anglo-Saxon onslaught of the 6th and 7th cents. Gododdin (centred on Edinburgh), Rheged (somewhere in northern England and southern Scotland), and Elmet (around Leeds) vanished. It survived the aggression of Picts and Gaels as well as Angles, and scored some notable victories—such as the defeat and death of Domnall Brecc, king of Dalriada (Argyll) at Strathcarron (near Falkirk) in 642, or the defeat of the Picts—who had recently conquered Argyll—in 750 at Mugdock (north of Glasgow), or the defeat and death of Cuilén king of Scots and his brother Eochaid in Lothian in 971. For extended periods, however, they were clients of more powerful kings. They submitted to kings of Northumbria in the 7th cent. and again after an invasion by a combined force of Picts and Angles in 756, which led to Anglian colonization of Kyle (mid-Ayrshire). The kingdom fell increasingly under the power of kings of Scots after being weakened by the destruction of Dumbarton in 870 by Vikings and ravaged by Edmund, king of the English, in 945. It is often alleged that Duncan I was installed as king by his grandfather Malcolm II, following Owain the Bald's death, but the evidence for this is open to question. Kings of Scots no doubt held sway over Strathclyde for most of the 11th cent.; the last semi-independent ruler was David, brother of Alexander I of Scotland, before he became David I in 1124.

By the 11th cent. Gaelic began to eclipse Welsh, though Welsh was still spoken in some areas in the mid-12th cent. This, plus Anglian settlements in the west and Norse colonization in Cumbria, gives the place-names of the region a striking cultural mix. Cultural diversity is also apparent in the remarkable collection of 10th- and 11th-cent. sculpture at Govan (in the west end of modern Glasgow), which displays Scottish, Scandinavian, and Anglian influence. Govan was the kingdom's most important religious site at that time. Glasgow may originally have been the leading church of the kingdom with St Kentigern (or Mungo) (d. c.603) as its first bishop. It had its status as the chief church of the region vindicated by David in the early 12th cent. Although the kingdom disappeared as a political entity, it had an afterlife as the diocese of Glasgow, and briefly (1973–96) as the administrative region of Strathclyde.

Dauvit Broun

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