Kenneth II of Scotland, King of Alba

Kenneth II of Scotland, King of Alba

Male 932 - 995  (63 years)

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  • Name Kenneth II of Scotland 
    Suffix King of Alba 
    Born 932  Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Male 
    Died 995  Fettercairn, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 4
    Buried Isle of Iona, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Person ID I51107  The Hennessee Family
    Last Modified 26 Sep 2019 

    Father Malcolm I of Scotland, King of Alba,   b. 897, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 954, Auldearn, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 57 years) 
    Mother unnamed spouse 
    Married Y  [1, 5
    Family ID F19040  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family a Princess of Leinster,   b. (Leinster, Ireland) Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. (Scotland) Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married Y  [1
     1. Malcolm II of Scotland, High King of Scotland,   b. ~0954, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Nov 1034, Glamis, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 80 years)
    Last Modified 13 Apr 2021 
    Family ID F19039  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 932 - Scotland Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 995 - Fettercairn, Scotland Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Isle of Iona, Scotland Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    Kenneth II
    Kenneth II

  • Notes 
    • Kenneth II (a.k.a. Cin‚aed mac Ma‚il Choluim) lived from 932 to 995 and was King of Alba from 971 to 995. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline. Kenneth was the son of Malcolm I and brother to King Duff, who had ruled until 966. He became King of Alba on the killing of his predecessor, King Culen, by the Britons of Strathclyde, though it was no until he killed Culen's brother Amlaib in 977 that he was able to rule unchallenged.

      Kenneth II spent much of his reign in conflict. He first fought the Britons of Strathclyde, before turning his attention to Northumbria, where he further secured Alba's hold on the lands between the River Forth and the River Tweed against the ever present threat of King Edgar's English forces.

      In the north, Scottish claims were being constantly challenged by Sigurd, Earl of Orkney, and much of Caithness, Easter Ross and Inverness-Shire were under Viking control. Kenneth strengthened his ties with the Irish nobility by marrying a Princess of Leinster. They had at least one son, who went on to become Malcolm II.

      After a reign of 24 years Kenneth was killed in Fettercairn. According to the chronciles of John of Fordun, this was as a result of a plot mounted by Lady Finella, the daughter of the Earl of Angus. After the murder Finella fled to St Cyrus before being caught and executed. Kenneth II was buried in the graveyard at Saint Oran's Chapel on the Isle of Iona. Kenneth II was succeeded by his third cousin Constantine III, son of King Culen.

      end of biography [4]
    • Cin‚aed mac Ma‚il Coluim (Modern Gaelic: Coinneach mac Mhaoil Chaluim[1] anglicised as Kenneth II, and nicknamed An Fionnghalach, "The Fratricide";[2] died 995) was King of Scots (Alba). The son of Malcolm I (M‚ael Coluim mac Domnaill), he succeeded King Cuil‚en (Cuil‚en mac Iduilb) on the latter's death at the hands of Rhydderch ap Dyfnwal in 971.

      Primary sources

      The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba was compiled in Kenneth's reign, but many of the place names mentioned are entirely corrupt, if not fictitious.[3] Whatever the reality, the Chronicle states that "[h]e immediately plundered [Strathclyde] in part. Kenneth's infantry were slain with very great slaughter in Moin Uacoruar." The Chronicle further states that Kenneth plundered Northumbria three times, first as far as Stainmore, then to Cluiam and lastly to the River Dee by Chester. These raids may belong to around 980, when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records attacks on Cheshire.[4]

      In 973, the Chronicle of Melrose reports that Kenneth, with M‚ael Coluim I (M‚ael Coluim mac Domnaill), the King of Strathclyde, "Maccus, king of very many islands" (i.e. Magnus Haraldsson (Maccus mac Arailt), King of Mann and the Isles) and other kings, Welsh and Norse, came to Chester to acknowledge the overlordship of the English king Edgar the Peaceable[5] at a council in Chester. It may be that Edgar here regulated the frontier between the southern lands of the kingdom of Alba and the northern lands of his English kingdom. Cumbria was English, the western frontier lay on the Solway. In the east, the frontier lay somewhere in later Lothian, south of Edinburgh.[6]

      The Annals of Tigernach, in an aside, name three of the Mormaers of Alba in Kenneth's reign in entry in 976: Cellach mac F‚indgaine, Cellach mac Baireda and Donnchad mac Morga‚ind. The third of these, if not an error for Domnall mac Morga‚ind, is very likely a brother of Domnall, and thus the Mormaer of Moray. The Mormaerdoms or kingdoms ruled by the two Cellachs cannot be identified.

      The feud which had persisted since the death of King Indulf (Idulb mac Causant‚in) between his descendants and Kenneth's family persisted. In 977 the Annals of Ulster report that "Amla‚ib mac Iduilb [Amla‚ib, son of Indulf], King of Scotland, was killed by Cin‚aed mac Domnaill." The Annals of Tigernach give the correct name of Amla‚ib's killer: Cin‚aed mac Ma‚il Coluim, or Kenneth II. Thus, even if only for a short time, Kenneth had been overthrown by the brother of the previous king.[7]

      Adam of Bremen tells that Sweyn Forkbeard found exile in Scotland at this time, but whether this was with Kenneth, or one of the other kings in Scotland, is unknown. Also at this time, Njal's Saga, the Orkneyinga Saga and other sources recount wars between "the Scots" and the Northmen, but these are more probably wars between Sigurd Hlodvisson, Earl of Orkney, and the Mormaers, or Kings, of Moray.[8]

      The Chronicle says that Kenneth founded a great monastery at Brechin.

      Kenneth was killed in 995, the Annals of Ulster say "by deceit" and the Annals of Tigernach say "by his subjects". Some later sources, such as the Chronicle of Melrose, John of Fordun and Andrew of Wyntoun provide more details, accurately or not. The simplest account is that he was killed by his own men in Fettercairn, through the treachery of Finnguala (also called Fimberhele or Fenella), daughter of Cuncar, Mormaer of Angus, in revenge for the killing of her only son.[9]

      The Prophecy of Berch‚an adds little to our knowledge, except that it names Kenneth "the kinslayer", and states he died in Strathmore.[10]


      Kenneth's son Malcolm II (M‚ael Coluim mac Cin‚aeda) was later king of Alba. Kenneth may have had a second son, named either D‚ungal or Gille Coemg‚ain.[11] Sources differ as to whether Boite mac Cin‚aeda should be counted a son of Kenneth II or of Kenneth III (Cin‚aed mac Duib).[12] Another son of Kenneth may have been Suibne mac Cin‚aeda, a king of the Gall Gaidheil who died in 1034.

      Kenneth's rival Amla‚ib, King of Scotland is omitted by the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba and later Scottish king-lists. The Irish Annals of Tigernach appear to better reflect contemporary events. Amla‚ib could be a direct predecessor of Kenneth who suffered damnatio memoriae, or the rival king recognized in parts of Scotland. A period of divided kingship appears likely.[13]

      Amla‚ib was the heir of his brother Cuil‚en, who was killed in a hall-burning. He might have served as a regent north of the River Forth, during the absence of his brother. Kenneth was brother to the deceased Dub, King of Scotland and was most likely an exile. He could claim the throne due to the support of friends and maternal kin. He was likely older and more experienced than his rival king.[13] Amla‚ib is the Gaelic form of ”l‚afr, suggesting maternal descent from Norsemen. He could possibly claim descent from the U‚i Õmair dynasty. Alex Woolf suggests he was a grandson of Amla‚ib Cuar‚an, King of Dublin or his cousin Olaf Guthfrithson, which suggests his own group of supporters.[13]


      According to John of Fordun (14th century), Kenneth II of Scotland (reigned 971-995) attempted to change the succession rules, allowing "the nearest survivor in blood to the deceased king to succeed", thus securing the throne for his own descendants. He reportedly did so to specifically exclude Constantine (III) and Kenneth (III), called Gryme in this source. The two men then jointly conspired against him, convincing Lady Finella, daughter of Cuncar, Mormaer of Angus, to kill the king. She reportedly did so to achieve personal revenge, as Kenneth II had killed her own son. Entries in the Chronicles of the Picts and Scots, collected by William Forbes Skene, provide the account of Finnela killing Kenneth II in revenge, but not her affiliation to Constantine or his cousins. These entries date to the 12th and 13th centuries.[14][15] The Annals of Ulster simply record "Cinaed son of Mael Coluim [Kenneth, son of Malcolm], king of Scotland, was deceitfully killed", with no indication of who killed him.[16][17]

      In the account of John of Fordun, Constantine the Bald, son of King Cullen and Gryme were "plotting unceasingly the death of the king and his son". One day, Kenneth II and his companions went hunting into the woods, "at no great distance from his own abode". The hunt took him to Fettercairn, where Finella resided. She approached him to proclaim her loyalty and invited him to visit her residence, whispering into his ear that she had information about a conspiracy plot. She managed to lure him to "an out-of-the-way little cottage", where a booby trap was hidden. Inside the cottage was a statue, connected by strings to a number of crossbows. If anyone touched or moved the statue, he would trigger the crossbows and fall victim to their arrows. Kenneth II gently touched the statue and "was shot though by arrows sped from all sides, and fell without uttering another word." Finella escaped through the woods and managed to join her abettors, Constantine III and Gryme. The hunting companions soon discovered the bloody king. They were unable to locate Finella, but burned Fettercairn to the ground.[18] Smyth dismisses the elaborate plotting and the mechanical contraption as mere fables, but accepts the basic details of the story, that the succession plans of Kenneth II caused his assassination.[19] Alan Orr Anderson raised his own doubts concerning the story of Finella, which he considered "semi-mythical". He noted that the feminine name Finnguala or Findguala means "white shoulders", but suggested it derived from "find-ela" (white swan). The name figures in toponyms such as Finella Hill (near Fordoun) and Finella Den (near St Cyrus), while local tradition in The Mearns (Kincardineshire) has Finella walking atop the treetops from one location to the other. Anderson thus theorized that Finella could be a mythical figure, suggesting she was a local stream-goddess.[20] A later passage of John of Fordun mentions Finele as mother of Macbeth, King of Scotland (reigned 1040Ė1057), but this is probably an error based on the similarity of names. Macbeth was son of Findl‚aech of Moray, not of a woman called Finella.[20][21]

      end of biography [3]

  • Sources 
    1. [S12558] "Duncan I of Scotland", Biography & Pedigree,, by David A. Hennessee,.

    2. [S12563] "Malcolm II of Scotland", Biography,, by David A. Hennessee, info@c.

    3. [S12564] "Kenneth II of Scotland", Biography,, by David A. Hennessee, info@c.

    4. [S12579] "King Kenneth II", Biography,, by David A. He.

    5. [S12568] "Malcolm I of Scotland", Biography,, by David A. Hennessee, info@cla.