Constantine II of Scotland

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: British History 1500 and before (including Roman Britain)

Causantín mac Áeda
King of Alba
Reign 900–943
Born Before 879
Died 952
St Andrews
Buried Iona
Predecessor Domnall mac Causantín
Successor Máel Coluim mac Domnaill
Issue Idulb mac Causantín, one or more other sons, one or more daughters
Father Áed mac Cinaeda

Causantín mac Áeda ( anglicised Constantine II) (before 879– 952) was king of Alba from 900 to 943. He was the son of Áed mac Cináeda and first cousin of the previous ruler, Domnall mac Causantín. Causantín mac Áeda's reign is the second longest before the Union of the Crowns in 1603, exceeded only by William the Lion.

Early Period: the Viking threat

Prior to his reign, Scotland had been dominated by, and perhaps tributary to, the Viking kings of the Irish Sea province in the later 9th century. During his reign, Causantín faced Viking raids from the north and west, and expanding Anglo-Saxon kings of Wessex, while establishing the kingdom of Alba in its definitive Gaelicised form.

The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba records an attack by the Vikings, and the plundering of Dunkeld, in the third year of Causantín's reign. The following year, the invaders were defeated in Strathearn.

The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba records that Causantín and bishop Cellach

met at the Hill of Belief near the royal city of Scone [and] pledged themselves that the laws and disciplines of the faith, and the laws of churches and gospels, should be kept in conformity with the Scotti.

It is supposed that if any single event may be taken to mark the birth of the kingdom of Alba, then it should be this.

In 914, the Annals of Ulster report the defeat of Barid son of Oitir by Ragnall grandson of Ivar in the Irish Sea. It in is the period of dominance of northern Britain by Ragnall and his cousin Sihtric that Causantín is found as an ally of Ealdred of Bernicia and, perhaps, of "Queen" Ethelfleda of Mercia. Armies led by Ragnall and his brother Sihtric raided throughout northern Britain and Ireland. They attacked Chester, Dumbarton and Northumbria. The Uí Ímair - the grandsons of Ivar - were the greatest threat to Alba, hence the alliance with the Anglo-Saxons of Bernicia and Mercia.

While two battles of Corbridge are claimed, in 915 and 918, only the second is mentioned by the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba and, at some length, by the Annals of Ulster and the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland. The first battle rests on Symeon of Durham's Historia de Sancto Cuthberto. The location in Gaelic sources is vague, Corbridge again coming from Symeon.

Later period: the English threat

After Carham, Ragnall seized control of York. However, in 920, after taking direct control of Mercia soon after Ethelfleda's death, Edward the Elder forced Ragnall to acknowledge his rule. While neither of the kings may have been happy with the compromise of 920, neither did they live long enough to break the treaty. Ragnall died in 921, succeeded by his cousin Sihtric. Edward died in 924, followed by Ælfweard, who reigned for a very short time, succeeded by his half-brother Athelstan. Sihtric may have rebelled in 924, but by 926 he had evidently acknowledged Athelstan as over-king, adopting Christianity and marrying a sister of Athelstan at Tamworth. Within the year Sihtric abandoned his new faith and repudiated his unwanted wife. Before Athelstan and he could fight, Sihtric died suddenly in 927.

Athelstan moved quickly, seizing much of Northumbria, and securing the submission of Sihtric's brother Gofraid (or Guthfrith), of Ealdred of Bernicia, of Causantín, and of Owain of Strathclyde. Sihtric's young son Amlaíb Cuaran (Olaf Sihtricsson) fled to Ireland. In less than a decade, the kingdom of Wessex had become by far the greatest power in Britain and Ireland, and whatever threat the Vikings, or the early Uí Ímair, had posed, clearly the main threat to Alba was now to the south. As if to prove the point, Athelstan imposed his authority on the kings of Wales, Hywel Dda and Idwal Foel among them.

Brunanburh and after

By the 930s, Causantín, his son-in-law Amlaíb mac Gofraidh (Olaf Guthfrithsson), the Uí Ímair king of Dublin, perhaps together with Owain of Strathclyde, are found in alliance,certainly directed against Athelstan. In 933 or 934, Athelstan led "a great army and fleet" into Scotland and laid waste to the country. If this was intended to bring about Causantín's submission, it appears to have failed.

In 937, the battle of Brunanburh was a notable victory for Athelstan and his brother Edmund over Causantín, Amlaíb and Owain. It is commemorated in an Old English poem. Owain of Strathclyde is supposed to have died in the battle, as did a son of Causantín. The report of the deaths of Dubucan son of Indrechtaig, Mormaer of Angus, Eochaid son of Alpín and of Athelstan follow that for Brunanburh, and may be related to the period 937–939.

For all that Brunanburh was a great victory, it does not appear to have been sufficient to make rule by the West Saxon kings popular in the Danelaw and Northumbria. On 27 October, 939, at Malmesbury, as the Annals of Ulster report: "Athelstan, king of the Saxons, pillar of the dignity of the western world, died an untroubled death." Before the end of 939, Amlaíb mac Gofraid had seized York without resistance. In 940, he gained control of the Danelaw with little fighting, a treaty being signed with the new West Saxon king, Athelstan's brother Edmund, at the prompting of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, near Leicester. The following year, Amlaíb turned north, on Bernicia, campaigning as far as Tyninghame in East Lothian, but he died that year, being succeeded by his cousin Amlaíb Cuaran.

Abdication and posterity

The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba states:

And in his old age, being decrepit, [Causantín] took the staff [i.e. entered a monastery], and served the Lord; and he gave up the kingdom to Máel [Coluim] son of Domnall.

The monastery is assumed to have been that of the Celí Dé at St Andrews, probably founded in its Céli Dé form during the reign of Causantín. The Chronicle is not done with Causantín however. It states that in the seventh year of Maél Coluim's reign:

[H]e plundered the English as far as the river Tees, and he seized a multitude of people and many herds of cattle: and the Scots called this the raid of Albidosorum, that is, Nainndisi. But others say that Causantín made this raid, asking of the king, Máel Coluim, that the kingship should be given to him for a week's time, so that he could visit the English. In fact, it was Máel Coluim who made the raid, but Causantín incited him, as I have said.

Causantín's death is recorded by the Chronicle in 952:

And Causantín died in [Maél Coluim's] 10th year [952], under the crown of penitence in good old age.

As has been said, one of Causantín's sons died at Brunanburh and a daughter married Amlaíb mac Gofraidh. Causantín himself may have had a Norse or Hiberno-Norse wife as his son Ildulb had a gaelicised Norse name. The line of kings descended from Causantín appears to have ended with the deaths of his great-grandson Causantín mac Culéin in 997. None the less, the kingdom which he had created existed in much the same form until the Scotto-Norman reforming kings David I, and his grandsons Máel Coluim IV and William the Lion, brought about a new form of Scottish kingship in the 12th century.

Retrieved from ""