Kenneth MacAlpin

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Cináed mac Ailpín (Modern Gaelic: Coinneach mac Ailpein),[1] commonly Anglicised as Kenneth MacAlpin and known in most modern regnal lists as Kenneth I (died 13 February 858) was king of the Picts and, according to national myth, first king of Scots, earning him the posthumous nickname of An Ferbasach, "The Conqueror".[2] Kenneth's undisputed legacy was to produce a dynasty of rulers who claimed descent from him and was the founder of the dynasty which ruled Scotland for much of the medieval period.

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King of Scots?

The Kenneth of myth, conqueror of the Picts and founder of the Kingdom of Alba, was born in the centuries after the real Kenneth died. In the reign of Kenneth II (Cináed mac Maíl Coluim), when the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba was compiled, the annalist wrote:

In the 15th century Andrew of Wyntoun's Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland, a history in verse, added little to the account in the Chronicle:

When humanist scholar George Buchanan wrote his history Rerum Scoticarum Historia in the 1570s, a great deal of lurid detail had been added to the story. Buchanan included an account of how Kenneth's father had been murdered by the Picts, and a detailed, and entirely unsupported, account of how Kenneth avenged him and conquered the Picts. Buchanan was not as credulous as many, and he did not include the tale of MacAlpin's treason, a story from Giraldus Cambrensis, who reused a tale of Saxon treachery at a feast in Geoffrey of Monmouth's inventive Historia Regum Britanniae.

Later 19th century historians such as William Forbes Skene brought new standards of accuracy to early Scottish history, while Celticists such as Whitley Stokes and Kuno Meyer cast a critical eye over Welsh and Irish sources. As a result, much of the misleading and vivid detail was removed from the scholarly series of events, even if it remained in the popular accounts. Rather than a conquest of the Picts, instead the idea of Pictish matrilineal succession, mentioned by Bede and apparently the only way to make sense of the list of Kings of the Picts found in the Pictish Chronicle, advanced the idea that Kenneth was a Gael, and a king of Dál Riata, who had inherited the throne of Pictland through a Pictish mother. Other Gaels, such as Caustantín and Óengus, the sons of Fergus, were identified among the Pictish king lists, as were Angles such as Talorcen son of Eanfrith, and Britons such as Bridei son of Beli.[3]

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