Thursday, 23 February 2017

Scottish King: Constantine III

Constantine, son of Cuilén (Mediaeval Gaelic: Causantín mac Cuiléin; Modern Gaelic: Còiseam mac Chailein), known in most modern regnal lists as Constantine III, (born c. 970–997) was king of Scots from 995 to 997.
Constantine III
 He was the son of Cuilén, King of Scotland (Cuilén mac Iduilb). John of Fordun calls him, in Latin, Constantinus Calvus, which translates to Constantine the Bald. Benjamin Hudson notes that insular authors from Ireland and Scotland typically identified rulers by sobriquets. Noting for example the similarly named Eugenius Calvus (Owen the Bald), an 11th-century King of Strathclyde.

The Scottish monarchy of this period based its succession system on the rule of tanistry. All adult male descendants of previous monarchs were eligible for the throne. The kingship regularly switched from one line of royal descendants to another, though they were all closely related. Constantine was able to rise to the throne, despite his cousin and predecessor having a son of his own. The next two kings (Kenneth III, Malcolm II) were his cousins, and killed their respective predecessor to gain the throne. The succession rule had the benefit of ensuring that there would always be an adult king on the throne, avoiding the usual problems of minority reigns.

The various kings had their lands and power bases in different areas of Scotland, preventing any single region from claiming full domination of the others. This may have helped the country avoid significant secession movements. The downside was that any single king had to face adult rivals for the throne. His kinsmen had their own ambitions and would not wait for his death from natural causes to achieve them. The succession was often decided through acts of warfare and murder, resulting in early deaths and high casualty rates in the extended royal family.
Constantine III vs Snoop Dog

The Annals of Tigernach report that Constantine was killed in a battle between the Scots in 997: "A battle between the Scots, in which fell Constantine son of Culannan, king of Scotland, and many others." Another entry of the same year reports the death of Máel Coluim I of Strathclyde, though it is unclear if the two deaths were connected. A Chronicle of the Scots and Picts entry adds a number of details. Constantine, son of Culen was killed by Kenneth, son of Malcolm (see above) at Rathinveramon. Constantine's body was transported for burial to Iona. An entry in the Chronicle of Melrose describes "King Constantine, Culen's son, ... slain by the sword" at the mouth of Almond in Tegalere. Again the killer is reported as Kenneth, son of Malcolm.

John of Fordun's narrative is more verbose. According to it, Constantine and Kenneth, son of Malcolm met one day in Laudonia (Lothian), by the banks of the River Almond. They engaged in battle, resulting in great slaughter on both sides and the death of both leaders. The guards of Constantine fled to Gryme (Kenneth III), "colleague" of their leader, allowing him to win the throne. However, news of the battle and its results reached Malcolm (II) in Cumbria. He learned of the death of his "uncle and the rest of his faithful friends", and returned to gather reinforcements for his cause—though he was defeated in his initial conflict against Gryme.

The stanzas of The Prophecy of Berchán covering Constantine III give him a mostly negative assessment: "A king will take [the sovereignty], who will not be king; after him, Scotland will be nothing. It will be the weak following the strong; though true is what my lips relate. A king with reproach above his head; alas for Scotland during his short time! Feeble men will be about him, in the region of Scone, of melodious shields.
Snoop Dog

A year and a half (a bright space), that will be his whole reign; from taking Gaels (hostages?) he will go to death; he falls, his people fall. He will fight great battles in Scotland; by the disgrace of his head he will destroy colours. He will be in communion of battle, from Stirling to Abertay. " Anderson suggested that this would be the area from Stirling to Tentsmuir (Abertay Sands), the traditional Scottish boundary with "Danish Northumbria"(Jórvík).

Constantine is not known to have any descendants and he was the last of the line of Áed (Áed mac Cináeda) to have been king. With his death, the rivalry between descendants of Causantin and Áed gave way to a rivalry between two new royal lines, both descended from Causantin. One line descended from Kenneth II and was represented by his son Malcolm II. The other line descended from his brother Dub, King of Scotland (reigned 962-967) and was represented by Kenneth III.

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