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KENNETH macALPIN. (Cináed mac Ailpín )(Ciniod Mac Alpin, Kenneth I, The Hardy). King of Alba. King of Scotland.
Born about 810 A.D. at Iona, Argyllshire, Scotland; son of Alpin II (Alpin Mac Eochaid). He was born Ciniod Mac Alpin, but later took the Christian name of Kenneth. Kenneth's mother is said to have been either a daughter of Achalas, King of Argyllshire or a princess of the royal lines of the Picts. In either case, he was born into a strong royal bloodline. His father was king of Scots in name only, as at that time Dalriada was ruled by the Picts. On his father's side he could lay claim as rightful heir to the throne of Dalriada and his mother's bloodline gave him the right to petition for the throne of Caledonia.

Kenneth grew up under the heel of a Pictish rule and apparently disliked it immensely. As a Scot of Irish descent, he naturally resented Caledonian control of Dalriada (Dal Riata) and their pre-emptive usurping of his fathers' throne. Meanwhile, his father Alpin took advantage of the Viking raids of the early 830's to lead a revolt against the Caledonians. Alpin died in battle against the Picts, which probably did little to change his son's attitude towards their rule.

Recalling the peculiarity of a matrilineal succession which governed Pictish crowns, it is evident that Kenneth Mac Alpin grounded his claims to the Pictish crown from his mother's bloodlines. In 839, the Picts suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Vikings. The Norsemen had conquered and settled Shetland, the Outer Hebrides and as far south as the mouth of the Clyde.Caithness, Sutherland and even Dalriada were being attacked and harassed by the long boats. The brutalizing defeat at the hands of the Vikings in 839 killed most of the Pictish nobility, including the King of Picts and Scots Uven Mac Angus II, his brother Bran, and "numberless others". This opened Mac Alpin's claim to the vacant Pictish throne (via his mother who was a Pictish princess). The Pictish kingdoms had been severely weakened by attacks from the Vikings and were in no condition to dispute his claim.

His claim to the crown of Dalriada came from his father, who was a member of clan Gabhran, which had produced most Scottish kings, such as his ancestors King Eachaidh, King Alpin Mac Eachaidh, King Aed, and King Fergus. His Pictish mother was descended from the royal house of Fortrenn, and his great-grand uncle, Alpin Mac Eachaidh had actually reigned as King of Picts until deposed by Oengus I. It is thus that Kenneth Mac Alpin was one of several nobles with a claim to the crown of Picts and Scots.

The Picts victory over Kenneth MacAlpin's father only earned them the right to face the Vikings in battle. In their weakened state, the Picts were soundly defeated and not only lost their King, Eogan, but his brother and successor as well. After this battle, the warrior and royal class of the Picts was so severely depleted that they never again offered any serious threat to Viking or Scot for control of their country. He succeeded his father to the throne of Dalriada in 841 A.D. as King of Alba, taking the reigns of a now independent Dalriada in approximately 841 AD.

Through Kenneth's ample ancestry he had the right to become a claimant to the Caledonian throne. Through a rumored marriage to the daughter of Constantine he increased his standing, but his petition was not accepted during the next four ascensions of the Caledonian Crown. When Drust reigned as the last Pictish King of Caledonia, it is said that Kenneth planned and executed an episode that is now known as 'MacAlpins treason'.

During the reign of Drust, Caledonian rule was still greatly weakened. Less than eight years had passed since the disastrous defeat by the Vikings in c. 839. The country was largely occupied by Viking forces and could not mount any serious challenge to their forced authority.

The sources for facts of how Kenneth Mac Alpin, the avenging son of the slain Alpin, became King of Picts and Scots are few and suspect. Two such sources, The Prophecy of St. Berchan, and De Instructione Principus note that in 841 Mac Alpin attacked the remnants of the Pictish army and defeated them (he is lauded as "the raven feeder"). Mac Alpin then invites the Pictish king, Drust IX, and the remaining Pictish nobles to Scone to perhaps settle the issue of Dalriada's freedom or MacAlpin's claim to the Dalriadic crown. Faced with a recently victorious MacAlpin in the south and a devastated army in the north, Drust, as well as all claimants to the Pictish throne from the seven royal houses attend this meeting at Scone.

Legend has it that the Scots came secretly armed to Scone, where Drust and the Pictish nobles were killed. This event has come to be known as MacAlpin's Treason. It was then, in c. 847 AD, that Kenneth invited the seven remaining Moramers (Earls) of Caledonia to his court to discuss his claim to the throne.

A great banquet was held, and the guests were plied with food and wine. Late in the evening, after the guests - including Drust the King - were sufficiently inebriated, they were attacked and slaughtered by Kenneth's men. Thus Kenneth cleared the way for his claim to the throne of Caledonia and became King of Scots and Picts. He ruled from c. 841-859 as King of Alba, the New Kingdom created by the combination of the two previous nations. He moved the capital from Dunndald to Scone, and in the process transferred the Stone of Destiny to its new home. After many years, this stone became known as the Stone of Scone, in reference to its new location in Scone.

Although their king and royal houses had been murdered and their armies wiped out in the north by the Vikings and decimated in the south by the Scots, the Picts nonetheless resist Scottish domination and as late as the 12th year of MacAlpin's reign The Chronicle of Huntington tells us that Mac Alpin "fought successfully against the Picts seven times in one day" (perhaps wiping out the last remnants of an independent Pictish armed force).

He soon obtained the Pictish throne in 843 and became the first king to rule the Picts of Pictavia and the Scots of Dalriada. It is possible that intermarriage with the Picts helped secure Kenneth's throne. The joint kingdom was known as Alba from the Latin for white.

By the year 843, he had created a semblance of unity among the warring societies of the Picts, Scots, Britons, and Angles after he had defeated the Picts in battle. MacAlpin created his capital at Forteviot, also called Scone, in Pictish territory. He then moved his religious center to Dunkeld on the River Tay in present-day Perthshire, to where he transferred the remains of St. Columba from the Isle of Iona.

At roughly the same time that the people of Wales were separated from the invading Saxons by the artificial boundary of Offa's Dyke, MacAlpin was creating a kingdom of Scotland. MacAlpin's successes in part were due to the threat coming from the raids of the Vikings, many of whom became settlers. The seizure of control over all Norway in 872 by Harald Fairhair caused many of the previously independent Jarls to look for new lands to establish themselves.

One result of the coming of the Norsemen and Danes, with their command of the sea, was that the kingdom of Scotland became surrounded and isolated. The old link with Ireland was broken, the country was now cut off from southern England and the Continent, thus, the kingdom of Alba established by MacAlpin was thrown in upon itself and united against a common foe. According to the Huntingdon Chronicle, he "was the first of the Scots to obtain the monarchy of the whole of Albania, which is now called Scotia."

Throughout this whole period, the dominion of the Scottish kings was essentially limited to Fortrenn, the Mearns and Dalriada, as the rest of the Pictish lands were under the yoke of the Vikings. Nonetheless, within a few generations, the Pictish language is forgotten, the Pictish Church taken over by the Scottish Columban Church and most vestiges of Pictish culture erased.

Furthermore, the seat of Kings is eventually moved to Scone, sacred heart of the Pictish land, and the sons of Mac Alpin accept the crown over the land of Picts and Scots seated on a slab of stone which Scottish myth tells us was carried by the Celtic tribes since their origins in Spain, brought to Tara in Ireland, built into the wall of Dunstaffnage Castle and then brought to Scone.

The Scots move north, allying themselves with the Vikings; in the south they lose and then defeat the Angles and with their borders relatively safe, forever suffocate Pictish culture.

He died at Forteviot in (858-S1,S11)(about 859-S4)(860-S3) and was buried on the Isle of Iona, Scotland. His brother, Donald I, succeeded him, as was the custom. Kenneth is thought to have died of a tumor.

Upon Kenneth's death in c. 859, his brother Donald became King and ruled as a member of the House of Alpin. As for Kenneth himself, he was rumored to be a man of astuteness, while his method of uniting the two kingdoms belies this fact and brings the term ruthless to mind. Either way, he successfully united the rule of the two Kingdoms permanently. As for the country of Caledonia itself, its territory was divided between the Vikings and the Scots and later became known as a part of Scotland itself.

In the seventh year of his rule, he transferred the remains of Saint Columba to the church which he built (at Dunkeld), and he attacked Saxonia six times; and he burnt down Dunbar and captured Melrose. However the Britons (of Strathclyde) burnt down Dunblane, and the Danes laid waste to Pictavia, as far as Clunie and Dunkeld. He finally died of a tumour, before the Ides of February on the third day of the week in the palace of Forteviot.(S17).

He died on 6 February 858 AD at Fortevior, Perthshire, Scotland; he was buried at Iona.


  1. Constantine I. (Constantine I-S15)(Constantine II-S3,S15). (Causantín mac Cináeda.). King of Scotland
  2. Aedh. (S3,S15). Whitefoot.
  3. daughter. (S3,S15).
  4. Maelmare MacALPIN. (S15).
  5. Muire. (S15).