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The Macbeth Connection!

Image: Macbeth meets the three witches; scene from Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'. Wood engraving, 19th century. From the Wellcome Collection, reference 40973i

Scottish King Edmund of Scotland buried at Montacute after exile for involvement in the death of his brother, King Duncan II of Scotland!

His mother was a Saint. His father, three full brothers, his half-brother and his uncle were Kings of Scotland. One of his sisters married King Henry I of England, the other was mother-in-law to King Stephen of England. And his grandad had the throne taken from him when he was murdered by Macbeth! Edmund ruled Scotland from 1094 to 1097 alongside his uncle, Donald III. Deposed in 1097 by his younger brother Edgar with the backing of William II and Edgar Aethling, he was exiled to the Cluniac priory in Montacute and was later buried there

Edmund of Scotland was born around 1070 and was potential heir to the Scottish throne. He was the 2nd son of Margaret of Wessex (Saint Margaret of Scotland) and Malcolm III of Scotland (King of Scotland 1058-1093). On his father's side he was grandson of Duncan I of Scotland (King of Scotland 1034-1040) who was famously killed by the hand of Macbeth (King of Scotland 1040-1057) according to Shakespeare, although history says it was his men who killed him. On his mother's side he was the great-great-grandson of Æthelred II (the Unready), King of England 978-1013/1014-1016; great-grandson of Edmund II (Edmund Ironside), King of England in 1016; grandson of Edward the Exile, (exiled by Cnut, King of England 1016-1035), and nephew of Edgar Aethling. (Edgar Aethling was the last male of the House of Wessex; he was elected King of England in 1066 by the Witanagemot but was never crowned, Edgar was passed over in favour of Harold Godwinson). 

After the Battle of Alnwick Castle 1093, on the deaths of both Malcolm III of Scotland and his son and heir Edward (Edmund’s elder brother), Malcolm III's brother (Edmund's uncle) Donald III of Scotland took the Scottish throne and reigned from 1093 to 1097. Scottish tradition favoured this succession through brothers, however Malcolm III and his Normanised sons favoured the Norman tradition of succession, primogeniture. Edmund and his younger brothers fled to the court of William II (William Rufus, King of England 1087-1100), to join their older half-brother Duncan II who had been raised there and had been knighted by Robert Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror. In 1094 Edmund supported Duncan’s bid for the Scottish throne, but within 7 months Duncan II was deposed and killed, probably at the instigation of Donald III of Scotland, who regained his title. 

Donald III, now in his early 60's, had no male heirs so Edmund bargained “for half the kingdom”, and was probably named as Donald’s heir. He may have colluded with Donald III in the death of his half-brother (Duncan II). From November 1094 until 1097 Edmund ruled south of the Forth/Clyde boundary, while Donald III ruled the north, although there is no indication that Edmund was ever crowned.  William of Malmesbury tells us Donald was "done to death by the intrigue of the younger David with William's powerful aid." Edmund's maternal uncle Edgar Ætheling was probably also instrumental in driving out Donald III and Edmund  and, possibly because of Edmund’s betrayal, Edmund's younger brother Edgar of Scotland was installed as King (reigned 1097-1107). Donald III probably came to a sticky end; on Wikipedia it lists sources variously saying he was "slain by the craftiness of David and the strength of William Rufus", "he was expelled",  "he was blinded by his brother", and "he was blinded, and doomed to eternal imprisonment". Edmund, a potential danger to the rule of his younger brother Edgar, was probably exiled to Montacute Priory.

(It should be mentioned that there is a Montague Hill , between Scone and Dunsinane Hill, in Perthshire; although I can't find an early priory there, it should not be ruled out that early chroniclers could have mis-identified 'Montague'.)

How do we know Donald III was behind the death of Duncan II and what is the evidence for Edmund's involvement?

William of Malmesbury reported that Duncan II was "murdered by the wickedness of his uncle Donald". He wrote his history of the Kings of England within living memory of these events, and Mynors et al (1998) describe the evolution of the manuscripts still in existence. By 1126 William had probably written an original version (version T) which was copied and distributed, and then at least one copy incorporating corrections was also copied and distributed (version A) (between 1126 and 1135 there may have been multiple corrections to the original text, any number of which could have been copied and distributed). Around 1135 he wrote a full revision of the document which was also copied and distributed (version C). A corrected C version was further copied and distributed (version B). According to Mynors et al (1998) an entire passage at the end of section 400 which reports David I being made king of the Scots after the death of Alexander in 1124, and goes on to relate the role of Edmund in Donald's killing of Duncan II, is not present in William's original version but occurs in the revised versions. In these, the accusation against Edmund (also see Internet Archive screenshot further below) is as follows:

"Edmund was the only son of Margaret who sank from this high standard: his uncle Donald’s partner in crime, he cannot be held innocent of his brother’s death, for he bargained that he should receive half the kingdom. Being taken, however, and imprisoned for life, he frankly repented, and on his deathbed gave instructions that his fetters should be buried with him, admitting that he was rightly punished for the crime of his brother’s murder."

This is that same passage in the manuscript Harley MS 261 (, classified as version Aa in Mynors et al 1998), viewed in the digitized British Library:

Florence (and John) of Worcester also wrote Chronicon ex chronicis  at a similar time (1095-1138?) but only says "Meanwhile, the Scots perfidiously murdered their king, Duncan, and some others, at the instigation of Donald, who was again raised to the throne". This passage appears to have the year as MCXVI in the Chronicon, I don't know why the years don't correspond between the manuscript and the translation. I've underlined the passage in the screenshot below from Digital Bodleian p359 of Corpus Christi College MS 157 (Terms of use: CC-BY-NC 4.0);

Possibly inaccurate because of distance from the events, the Annals of Ulster for 1094 say "Donnchadh (=Duncan II), son of Mael Coluim, king of Scotland (=Malcolm III), was killed by his own brothers (namely, by Domnall (=Donald III) and by Edmond) in treachery." The copy of the Annals of Ulster from Digital Bodleian MS Rawl. B. 489 fol. 45r (screenshot below; terms of use: CC-BY-NC 4.0) has a lot of writing in the margin that may have been added in at a later date, I don't know how this relates to the information about Donald. Below my screenshot of the Bodleian manuscript is a screenshot of a transcription and translation of the same passage but possibly from a different manuscript that was published in 1887 by the Royal Irish Acadamy.

And further afield, the Shropshire-born monk Orderic Vitalis wrote his Historia Ecclesiastica in the same period (1100-1142) but from an Abbey in Normandy; he records a different succession which seems confused - in his Book VIII Ch XXII he doesn't mention Duncan II, but wrote that Donald took the throne and killed Malcolm's eldest son, Edgar, and was then killed by Alexander who took the throne.

In 1867 Skene wrote the history of Scotland in his Chronicle of the Picts and Scots using manuscripts written or compiled prior to the 15th century and ordered by compilation date; many of these references cover this period. In 'The prophecy of St. Berchan' (p104 of Skene, 1867), which was written shortly after the reign of Donald III but attributed to the 7th century Saint, it says "A year and two years will come, I will declare to you, the time is dark, Brimful was Alban, east and west. Woe is me, his brother will slay him. (ie Edmund kills his half-brother Duncan II?) After him will possess Domnall Ban, (ie Donald III takes the throne?) Alas! alas! my heart is pain to me, It is in his time will come over, The men of Alban to Erin

The Annals of Inisfallen (MS Bodl. Rawlinson 503) were initially compiled in Ireland around 1092 and updated thereafter. Entry 1094.4 says "Donnchad mc̄ mael coluim ɼi alban ociɼʒ (annotated on p170 of Skene 1867 as abbrev. for 'occisus') ʡ (annotated as 'est') odomnall mc̄ donnchadam domnall ɼin dā do gabail ɼige alban ??? (annotated as iarsein)". In 'CELT' this is transcribed by as "Donnchad mc. Mail Coluim, rí Alban, ocisus est o Domnall mc. Donnchada. In Domnall sin dano do gabáil rige Alban iar sein" and  translated as "Donnchadh son of Malcolm, king of Alba, (ie Duncan II) was slain by Domnall (Donald III), son of Donnchadh (Duncan I). That same Domnall (Donald III), moreover, afterwards took the kingship of Alba". 

This passage is underlined in the screenshot below from Digital Bodleian p30r of MS. Rawl. B. 503 (Terms of use: CC-BY-NC 4.0); I have increased the brightness of the image to improve readability:

 On p175 of Skene 1867 the c.1251 MS Brit. Mus. Harl. 4628 lists: 20. Donald mac Donchatprius regnavit sex mensibus et postea expulsus et Donechet mac Malcolm regnavit 6 mensibus. Hoc interfecto a Malpeder Mackcolm comite de Merns in Monacheden, rursus Donald mac Donehat regnavit 3 annis. Hie captus est ab Edgar mac Malcolm, coecatus est et mortuus Rosolpin. Sepultus in Dunkelden. Hinc translata ossa in lona. This translates as "Donald, son of the earlier Duncan reigned for six moths and was afterwards expelled and Duncan son of Malcolm reigned for 6 months. After this he was slain by Malpeder Mackcolm, Earl of Merns, in Monacheden, and again Donald son of Duncan reigned for 3 years. Here he was captured by Edgar son of Malcolm, he was blinded and died at Rosolpin. Buried in Dunkeld. Hence the bones were transferred to Iona".

The Annals of Tigernach (the Continuation, 1088-1178, Folio 19A2) were probably written in Ireland at the time of the events. There is only one manuscript in existence, the 14th-century MS Rawlinson B 488, that contains information relating to the time of Donald III.  An entry (T1099.1) is annotated "Domnall mac Donnchada, ri Alban, do dallad da brathair"  [«Domnall, son of Donnchad, king of Scotland, was blinded by his brother»]. The Annals of Tigernach manuscripts are in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and can be viewed on Digital Bodleian. I tried to identify the source passage for the blinding of Donald III and I think it is on p19v of MS. Rawl. B. 488 but what I see here is Donall mc doncada . ri . alban, do dall . dab} (underlined in screenshot below). The end of the line is supposed to say 'do dallad da brathair'. On this manuscript 'do' is joined to the beginning of the following word, annotated as the abbreviation dall, however to my eyes it looks like datt with a dot after it.  Following this it looks like 'dab}' where I'm using the curly bracket to indicate the squiggle on the manuscript. Maybe 'b}' is an abbreviation meaning brother? But it is not separated from the previous letters 'da'. I need to look into this more. 

This screenshot is from Digital Bodleian p19v of MS. Rawl. B. 488 (Terms of use: CC-BY-NC 4.0):

(A previous entry in the same manuscript, T1093.4, says "Mael Colaim mac Donnchadha, ri Alban, occisus est o Frangcaib, 7 Edabard a mac, 7 Mar[gar]ita, ben Mail Colaim  do eg  da  chumaidh" [«Mael Coluimb, son of Donnchad, king of Scotland, was slain by Frenchmen, and Edward his son; and Margaret, the wife of Mael-Coluimb,  died of grief for him»]).

John of Fordun  in his late 14th century Chronicle of the Scottish Nation summarised that Duncan II was "slain at Monthechin by the Earl of Mernys...through the wiles of his uncle Donald". 

Evidence for Edmund of Scotland being one of the early residents of Montacute's Cluniac priory:

In the c.1185 Chronicle of the Scots (p132 of Skene, 1867) (MS Colbertine, Bib. Imp. Paris 4126), we have the earliest reference I have found so far of Edmund residing in Montacute:  "Edmundus vero frater earum vir strenuissimus et in Dei servicio, dum vitam ageret praesentem valde devotus apud Montem Acutum in quadam videlicet cella Cluniaccensi que ibi sita est requiescit humatus".  

The 14th century Scottish chronicler John of Fordun says Edmund was devout in God's service and was buried at Montacute, but he also mentions William of Malmesbury's (contradictory) understanding that he was imprisoned. 

Book V of Andrew of Wintoun's early 15th century Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland  (Internet Archive screenshot below) reports Edmund as dying at the Cluny priory in Montacute (Mowntagu) and says he was a man of great virtue; 

"Bot Edmwnd, [now] as we rede; That wes a man off gret wertu; :He levyd and deyd in Mowntagu; Thare off Cluny wes a cel; Quhare this lord oysyd for to duelle; , In to that relygyus plas; He deyd, and enteryd was."

 Other sources say he was tonsured (ref?). If he was sent to be a monk at Montacute that would put him amongst the very first members of Montacute's Cluniac priory. 

The exact date of the death of Edmund of Scotland is unknown, but it is intriguing to think he may be buried in Montacute. Historic England gives 2 contradictory dates for the founding of Montacute priory; it says the priory was founded 1078 with its first charter granted in 1090, but elsewhere in the same online page it says it was founded in 1102. The present-day St Catherine's Church was added next to the monk's cemetery in about 1170, although the church has been extensively remodelled since then.

What was the relationship between the families of Malcolm III of Scotland/Margaret of Wessex and William the Conqueror?

•When Duncan I was killed by Macbeth, his young sons (including the future Malcolm III) fled to their maternal relative Siward, earl of Northumbria. While Macbeth ruled Scotland, Malcolm spent many years in the court of Edward the Confessor (King of England 1042-1066) and they became allies. King Edward supported the attack by Malcolm and Siward in 1054 to recapture the Scottish throne. Macbeth was killed in 1057 and in 1058 Malcolm Ill became King of Scotland.

•When William the Conqueror arrived in England, his enemies found shelter in Scotland with Malcolm III. After defeating Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings and after quelling an attempt to put the young Edgar Aetheling on the English throne, William returned to Normandy taking Edgar Aetheling and other men of high rank in “honourable captivity“. When they returned to England, Edgar, his mother, and his sisters fled to the court of Malcolm III. Malcolm, now a widower “began to desire Margaret for his wife, but Edgar and his men all opposed it for a long time; and she also refused, saying that she would have neither him nor any other if the heavenly mercy would graciously grant it to her to please in virginity with human heart the mighty Lord in pure continence through this short life. The king pressed her brother until he said 'yes', and indeed he dared not do anything else, because they had come into his control” (The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (D)).

•William responded to this alliance of Scotland with the House of Wessex with an attack on Scotland in 1072, and forced Malcolm to pledge loyalty to William. This was ensured by William taking Malcolm’s young son and successor Duncan as hostage. Despite this, Malcolm continued to raid England. William did not respond by harming Duncan but groomed him as a legitimate successor to the Scottish throne; on William’s death in 1087 Duncan chose to remain in the court of the Norman Kings of England.

•After a raid in Northumbria in 1093 Malcolm and Edward (his eldest son by Margaret) were killed in an ambush while returning to Scotland. The Scots elected Donald as King and expelled all the Englishmen who had made up Malcolm and Margaret's court. Malcolm’s sons took shelter In the court of William II with their half-brother Duncan. With the help of William II Duncan took the Scottish throne from his uncle in 1094. To pacify his courtiers who wanted less Norman influence in Scotland, he dismissed the help of his Norman knights, and was killed after being King for only 6 months.

•Now with the help of Edmund, maybe to keep favour with the lowlands of Scotland, Donald Ill regained the throne until he was deposed by the fourth son of Malcolm III and Margaret, Edgar. He had the support of Edgar Aetheling and William II. Edgar captured and blinded his uncle.

Edmund's family tree

Edmund had an illustrious family with his Scottish father and Saxon mother, and he and his brothers spent a lot of time in the Norman court of King William II (Rufus) of England.

Blood-feuds in Edmund's Scottish ancestry

The diagram below is a 'who killed who' for Edmund's family tree...

William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum: The History of the English Kings, vol. 1, ed. and trans. R.A.B. Mynors, R.M. Thomson, and M. Winterbottom, Oxford Medieval Texts, Clarendon Press, 1998, image combined from Internet Archive screenshots:

The 1872 translation by Skene of John of Fordun's (15th century) Chronicle of the Scottish Nation (Internet Archive screenshot) quoting Wiliam of Malmesbury's early 12th century 'de Gestis  Regum  Anglise': 


Andrew of Wyntoun's reference to Edmund's burial at Montacute in his Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland (Internet Archive screenshot):

Chronicon ex Chronicis, the Chronicle of Florence (John) of Worcester, tells the story like this:

1093...............................Malcolm, king of the Scots, and his eldest son, Edward, with many others, were slain by the troops of Robert, earl of Northumbria, on the feast-day of St. Brice [13th November]. Margaret, queen of the Scots, was so deeply affected by the news of their death, that she fell dangerously ill. Culling the priests to attend her without delay, she went into the church, and confessing her sins to them, caused herself to be anointed with oil and strengthened with the heavenly viaticum; beseeching God with earnest and diligent prayers that he would not suffer her to live longer in this troublesome world. Nor was it very long before her prayers were heard, for three days after the king’s death she was released from the bonds of the flesh, and translated, as we doubt not, to the joys of eternal salvation. For while she lived, she devoted herself to the exercise of piety, justice, peace, and charity; she was frequent in prayer, and chastened her body by watchings and fastings; she endowed churches and monasteries; loved and reverenced the servants and handmaids of God; broke bread to the hungry, clothed the naked, gave shelter, food, and raiment to all the pilgrims who came to her door; and loved God with all her heart. After her death the Scots elected for their king, Donald, brother of king Malcolm, and expelled from Scotland all the English who belonged to the king’s court. Duncan, king Malcolm’s son, hearing of these events, besought king- William, in whose army he then served, to grant him his father’s kingdom, and obtaining his request swore fealty to him. He then hastened to Scotland, with a host of English and Normans, and expelling his uncle Donald reigned in his stead. Thereupon some of the Scots banded together and slew nearly all his men, a few only escaping with him. But afterwards they restored him to the throne, on condition that he should no longer harbour either Englishmen or Normans in Scotland, and permit them to serve in his army. 

1094............................In addition to this, first the people of North Wales, and then those of West and South Wales, threw off the yoke of subjection under which they had long suffered, and rallying their courage struggled to obtain their independence. Assembling in great numbers, they razed the castles which had been erected in West Wales, and making frequent irruptions into the counties of Chester, Shrewsbury, and Hereford, set fire to and plundered the vills, and killed many of the English and Normans. They also demolished the castle in the Isle of Man, and reduced the island under their power. Meanwhile, the Scots perfidiously murdered their king, Duncan, and some others, at the instigation of Donald, who was again raised to the throne. After this, king William returned to England, on the fourth of the calends of January [29th December], and, leading an army into Wales to subdue the Welsh, lost there many men and horses. 

Next you might like to read my notes about Montacute's St Catherine's Church. Or maybe the Source Manuscripts used in my research might interest you? I thought I had discovered a Knight from Montacute called Conan, who participated in the Crusades, but sadly the Knight turned out to be from Montaigu les Bois in France. Check out Montacute snippets for my notes on different topics