Malcolm III

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Malcolm III (d. 1093), king of ‘Scotland’ (1058–93). Malcolm ‘Canmore’ (‘big head’ or ‘great leader’) was the son of Duncan I and his mother was probably Northumbrian. He was a child when his father was killed by Macbeth in 1040. Malcolm found refuge in England, and was backed by Siward, the Anglo-Danish earl of Northumbria, who led an army into Scotland in 1054 defeating Macbeth at Dunsinnan (north of Perth). Despite this victory Malcolm won only the recovery of his lands. On 15 August 1057 Malcolm killed Macbeth at Lumphanan (west of Aberdeen), but Lulach, Macbeth's stepson and cousin, won the kingship. It is possible, however, that Malcolm and Lulach were allies against Macbeth, whose rise to power probably involved killing Lulach's father as well as Malcolm's. After only eighteen weeks on the throne Lulach was killed ‘by treachery’ by Malcolm at Essie (west of Aberdeen). Malcolm's grip on the kingship was only secure, however, after he defeated Lulach's son Mael Snechta, king of Moray, in 1078.

Malcolm's struggle against Mael Snechta made him an ally of Moray's traditional foe, the earl of Orkney, whose close relative Ingibiorg he married. Malcolm was already a widower, however, when the Anglo-Saxon royal family fled to Scotland in 1070, and he took Edgar Atheling's sister Margaret as his second wife. Malcolm supported her zeal for ecclesiastical reform. His attention now focused on Northumbria, which he raided repeatedly despite submitting to William the Conqueror in 1072 at Abernethy (south-east of Perth). In August 1093 he laid the foundation stone of Durham cathedral; two months later he was killed on a raid at Alnwick.

Dauvit Broun

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Malcolm III

Malcolm III (died 1093), the king of Scotland from 1058 to 1093, established the Canmore dynasty, which ruled Scotland for two centuries. His reign was marked by the introduction into Scotland of English influences.

Malcolm was a claimant to the Scottish kingship as the son and heir of Duncan I, who had been displaced by Macbeth in 1040. Although the principle of royal succession by right of primogeniture had not been usual in Scotland, Malcolm did have precedent in the career of Duncan, and he was influenced by his knowledge of the operation of the rule in England. For him to unseat Macbeth was either to assert a valid claim of direct inheritance or to win the throne by making war on the incumbent, the way to kingship long recognized and accepted in Scottish history. After Malcolm defeated Macbeth on the field of battle, the Celts of the north resisted him as a representative of Saxon and alien influences by installing Lulach, Macbeth's stepson, as king. Malcolm defeated Lulach four months later and secured the crown in 1058.

Malcolm married twice, and in each case there was some political advantage to be had. By marrying Ingibiorg, heiress of the Earl of Orkney, he conciliated the nativist opposition forces that had supported Lulach. Although his marriage to Margaret, a princess of the Saxon royal house and a fugitive from William the Conqueror, undid the work of the first marriage, it did offer Malcolm an excuse to launch campaigns into England.

From his first marriage Malcolm had one son, Duncan; from his second, six sons were produced. Four of the six were given English names: Alexander and David were named for heroes of the past. Not only in the names of her sons did Margaret introduce Saxon elements of life into Scotland. Devoted to religion, she was instrumental in bringing about reforms in religious observances and clerical discipline, so that the Christian life and Church in Scotland followed more closely practices in England and on the Continent. So widely beloved was Margaret that immediately upon her death she was declared a saint, and yet in one part of Scotland her anti-Celtic ecclesiastical reforms had produced a rallying point for a Celtic party that appeared when Malcolm died.

Malcolm's relations with England revolved around claims to lands that he held there in his own right or in the name of Margaret and his desire to expand his realm to the south, where the boundaries were undefined. Five times he campaigned; and five times he was defeated; in his last endeavor he lost his life. The epithet Canmore (big head) was originally descriptive of Malcolm's physical attributes; in later years it was used as a surname for his descendants.

Further Reading

A shrewd assessment of Malcolm's accomplishments is in William Croft Dickinson, A New History of Scotland, vol. 1: Scotland from the Earliest Times to 1603 (1961; rev. ed. 1965). A brief but sound summary is in the paperback work of J. D. Mackie, A History of Scotland (1964). A simple but colorful story is available in Elise Thornton Cook, Their Majesties of Scotland (1928). For an analysis of the work of Margaret see Sir Robert Rait and George S. Pryde, Scotland (1934; 2d ed. 1955). □

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Malcolm III (c.1031–93) King of Scotland (1058–93), son of Duncan I. He gained the throne after killing Macbeth. His second marriage was to an English princess, later Saint Margaret (d.1083). Malcolm launched five invasions of Norman England. In 1072, William I of England compelled him to swear allegiance. He died in battle at Alnwick, n England.