Malcolm III of Scotland: The Raider King

Malcolm III of Scotland
c. 1131 – November 13, 1093

Early Life

His reign established a dynasty that ruled Scotland for centuries. Malcolm III was born in 1031. As the son of King Duncan I, Malcolm was the heir apparent. However, his status as heir would be threatened by a relative named Macbeth. Macbeth was Duncan’s cousin. In 1040, Macbeth killed the king and seized the crown.

After Macbeth’s ascension, Malcolm fled to England for protection. In 1057, he returned to Scotland to take back his birthright. The fugitive prince brought an army and was determined to regain his birthright. During a fierce battle, Malcolm personally killed Macbeth. With his enemies defeated, Malcolm became the king of Scotland.

William the Conqueror

William I of England
William I of England

In 1066, a nobleman from Normandy, France invaded England. This nobleman, William, led an army to overthrow the ruling Anglo-Saxons. The Norman noble had originally been promised the throne by King Edward the Confessor. However, after Edward’s death, another claimant, Harold Godwinson, swiftly seized the throne. In response, an angry William sought to claim England and establish a new ruling dynasty.

During the Battle of Hastings, Harold died. The Anglo-Saxon king received an arrow to his eye and died shortly after. William promptly assumed control of the English government and became king. Fearing for their safety, the deposed royal family fled to Scotland for protection.

Malcolm III welcomed Edgar, his mother, and his two sisters to his court. To strengthen the relationship between both parties, Malcolm married Edgar’s sister Margaret. By marrying Margaret, the king hoped to further his plans for expanding Scotland’s southern border. William I, the new king of England, became aware of Malcolm’s plans. Alarmed, the English king retaliated.

England Strikes

In 1072, William I invaded Scotland by land and sea. However, a battle never occurred. Malcolm III instead submitted to William’s authority. The Scottish king promised to perform homage and expel the Anglo-Saxons. To keep Malcolm in line, William took the king’s heir as a hostage. As a result, Malcolm remained loyal for the next several years.

Scottish Raids

In 1079, Malcolm III broke his promise. Believing that William I’s power had faltered, Malcolm launched a raid. The raid devastated England’s northern border of Northumbria. In 1080, William sent his son, Robert, to subdue the Scottish king. Instead, both kings met to discuss peace terms.

Despite the apparent setback, Malcolm III’s efforts had been successful. During the raid, his forces had hastily built castles along the English border. As a consequence, Scotland’s southern border extended further south. Malcolm’s forces would raid England four more times.

William II of England

William II of England
William II of England

In 1087, William I died in France. His third son, William, succeeded him as William II. Although a new king reigned in England, Malcolm III remained the same. He continued launching raids across the Scottish border. In 1091, William left England for Normandy. Being a warlord, Malcolm couldn’t resist an opportunity to invade while William was gone.

Malcolm III and his fellow Scots once more launched a raid. When William II learned of the Scottish king’s actions, he returned to stop Malcolm. To prevent further conflict, Malcolm quickly submitted. As part of the peace agreement, the Scot asked for the return of all former Scottish properties in England. Despite being untrustworthy, Malcolm’s request was granted by William.

Final Years

In 1092, William II began a program of building castles along the Scottish border. Due to these castles, William believed that he had the upper hand against Malcolm III. The English king began attempting to provoke Malcolm into conducting another raid. He started ignoring the conditions of the 1091 peace treaty, which angered the Scottish king.

By November 1093, the tension between both men came to a head. Fed up with William II, Malcolm III raised an army and launched a raid. In Northumbria, the Scottish army was slowed by mud caused by rainy weather. The English were able to easily outflank the struggling Scots. Because of this, Malcolm was ambushed on November 13. The king died during the battle, and his army hastily retreated back to Scotland.

Conclusion

Shortly after Malcolm III’s death, his heir, Edward, died. He had sustained injuries from fighting alongside his father. Malcolm’s wife would also die shortly after her husband. Despite these deaths, the Scottish royal family persevered. Malcolm left four sons, each of whom would succeed their father as king. The king’s descendants, the house of Dunkeld, would rule Scotland until 1286.

Sources

Oram, R. (2006). The Kings & Queens of Scotland. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019, November 9). Malcolm III Canmore. Retrieved December 30, 2019, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Malcolm-III-Canmore.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Andy Tree

I'm a European history enthusiast who seeks to share his passion with others. I hope to inform and inspire readers with my posts!

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