Gesta Filii Cunerici - The Deeds of the Sons of Cyneric

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

HistoryDude

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So Earl Cyneric had a reason for being absent from the Heights of Brae. It seem as if he's not as treacherous as believed...
 
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castlera

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So Earl Cyneric had a reason for being absent from the Heights of Brae. It seem as if he's not as treacherous as believed...

So his supporters would argue - but he did march a very long way out of the way... I am not sure the King will buy his excuse...

There will always be those who suspect he had his own motives. He was too late to save the King, but in time to win more glory for himself.

Historians debate his actions to this day...
 

Nikolai

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So his supporters would argue - but he did march a very long way out of the way... I am not sure the King will buy his excuse...

There will always be those who suspect he had his own motives. He was too late to save the King, but in time to win more glory for himself.

Historians debate his actions to this day...
Sounds like there is plenty of material for a play or two too. :)
 
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Chapter II - Part 7 - The Battle of Dunkell - 10th December 944

castlera

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Chapter II

Part Seven: The Battle of Dun Chaillen (Dunkell) – 10th December 944

Earl Cyneric at Dunkell.png

Earl Cyneric at the Battle of Dunkell


It was the morning of the 13th June 944. The Glorious sun of the previous day had been overcome by great dark clouds. Earl Cyneric felt the wound in his shoulder as he rode ahead of his troops towards Inverness. He had been advised not to move, lest he open his wound, but he had ignored the physicians. One day of delay was enough. The King was waiting.

The Earl of Lothian could hear the roll of thunder in the distance and see the far-off flash of lightning. The rain burst forth from the heavens with an unrelenting roar. And as the rain started to fall, the sons of King Alasdair were riding to the Heights of Brae - to their father's aid.

As Earl Cyneric's men approached Inverness, a rider bearing the tattered standard of the King suddenly galloped forth from the gloom. The Earl raised his hand to halt his troops and called out to the rider:

“Rider! What news of the King?”

“My Lord of Lothian – I bear evil news. The Norsemen attacked our positions yesterday and drove us back to the palisade and the heights. We suffered grievously. The Earl of Lanark was killed and the Earl of Eoforwic was gravely injured – it is feared he has a mortal wound. This morning, Lord Cóelub was assailed on the heights and as the Norsemen threatened our road north, the King gave the order to abandon Thingvoll. Yet, the King himself rode into the hills to slow the enemy advance whilst the Earl of Westoraland led the retreat.”

“My God!” spoke Earl Cyneric, “and what of the Princes, my cousins”.

“I know not, my Lord”, replied the rider.

“Very well. It seems the King’s army is overthrown. To continue there now would be folly”.

“But, my Lord, you must ride to the King’s aid!”, the messenger was now raising his voice.

“Be Silent”, growled the Earl, “This army could not come there for two more days. By then, the King will either be dead or he will have retreated North. From what you say, it seems that what remains of the army has already fled North. I will not risk my army, and the Kingdom to chase the King and his pursuers into the hills. Rather we must withdraw and regroup. We must retreat to Dun Chaillen (Dunkel) to defend our people from the Norse incursions which are sure to follow the King’s defeat.”

“The King was right about you, my Lord,” the messenger stared at the Earl icily,. "He foresaw that you would so choose to abandon him and bade me say these words: 'I name you a coward, a traitor and a false subject, and damn you and your progeny to reap the vengeance of my House”, the rider’s firm words and defiant eyes turned to nought as he spoke and marked the increasing fury that stole across the Earl’s visage.

“Arrest this man”, hissed the Earl to his retainers around him, his tightened fists twitching by his side.

“But, my Lord, he bears the standard of the King”.

scotland arms.png

The standard of King Alasdair I

“If my uncle is dead, my friend, then I am the King. And if he is not, I will not suffer any man, churl, King or King’s messenger, to call me a coward. Arrest that man and bring me his tongue, lest he speak so intemperately again. Now....we march for Dun Chaillen!”

When Earl Cyneric arrived at Dun Chaillen on 18th June 944, he had the messenger’s tongue affixed to the gates of the settlement by an iron nail. The messenger himself had been set lose, without a horse, in the Highland hills. What became of him, wounded as he was, is not known.

The following evening, the 19th June, news came to Earl Cyneric that the King was alive, but had fled North. The Earl also learned that both of the King’s sons had been slain.

“And so, the House of Albany is spent…”, the Earl’s face was unreadable, but his thoughts had turned to the future of the House of Lothian.

947 family tree = with houses.png

The McCyneric dynasty in c.947 Showing the Houses of Albany and Lothian
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After the Battle of the Heights of Brae Jarl Eilif’s army stood victorious, but exhausted. The defiant last stand of the Scots King on the Heights had dangerously reduced the Jarl’s numbers. Therefore, he could not give chase, nor move immediately to invade the lands of the Scots Kingdom. He marched his army back to Inverness to recuperate. There he learned of the defaet of his forces at Calder and that the Earl of Lothian had withdrawn south towards Dun Chaillen. In Inverness, Jarl Eilif waited, bringing in more men and fresh supplies from Swiorice (Sweden) and the Norse holdings in Ireland. In late October, feeling strong enough, he began to march South on the Scots heartlands in Albany.

At this time, King Alasdair and his depleted forces were still at Dun Breatain on the western coast, in the royal duchy of Galloway. The King’s wounded leg meant that he could not easily travel and so he was gathering troops from the lowlands to him there. Messengers had passed between the King and Earl Cyneric, but no warm words. The King could not move against the Earl, because Earl Cyneric was now the only thing standing between the Kingdom of Scotland and Norse Conquest. And Earl Cyneric knew it.

Earl Cyneric and his forces remained in Dun Chaillen – right in the path of Jarl Eilif’s army. On learning that Eilif and his army was marching in force on Dun Chaillen, Cyneric began preparing the fortifications. He increased the depth of the ditches before the palisade walls to 10 feet and filled them with wooden stakes. Platforms were raised on the inside of the palisade walls so that the defenders could engage any attackers from atop the walls. But this was all for show...

As soon as the Earl had finished preparing for the defence of the fort, he abandoned it in the dead of night, leaving only a handful of archers and infantrymen behind. The rest of his army dissolved into the surrounding hills with him, like mist at a bright dawn. He left his Standards at Dun Chaillen. He had ordered that wooden figures of men be carved and placed atop the walls. These were to be moved regularly, especially at night to give the impression that the fort was fully guarded with all the Earl’s men. Loud feasts and gatherings were to be held and as much noise as could be made was to fill the fort as often as possible.

All the villages surrounding Dun Chaillen were emptied and the people and livestock were brought into the palisades of Dun Chaillen. Everything was to make it appear that Cyneric was making a stand in the fort.

Thus, it was that when Jarl Eilif of Groningen and his victorious army arrived before the ditches of Dun Chaillen, the Jarl thought he had the Earl of Lothian trapped. He set up a siege around the settlement and ordered men to fell trees from neighbouring woodlands to lay over the ditches as bridges. He also sent a delegation to treat with the defenders, demanding to speak with Earl Cyneric. The Defenders agreed and a man, proudly armed and bearing the standard of the Earl of Lothian rode forth to parley. Shallow words were exchanged, Eilif offered terms and the ‘Earl’ informed him that they would be considered. The siege continued and the cold weather bit at the besiegers; the snow snatched at their faces, and the frost clawed at their toes.

Jarl Eilif was no fool – but his confidence had soared after his crushing of the Scots King and his noble army at the Heights of Brae. King Alasdair was reckoned a great commander amongst the Christians – but Eilif had humbled him.

Yet the Jarl’s hubris was not to serve him well in December 944. It led him to believe that the Earl of Lothian was cowering from him behind the palisade of Dunkell. It led him to believe that no help could come to the Earl, so thoroughly had he shamed the Scots at the Heights of brae. It led him to neglect his defences, so focused was he on his prey.

The fort of Dun Chaillen was located on the northern banks of River Tatha (or Tay), at the end of a spur of high ground. North of the River were great wooded hills on all sides. High foothills dominated the southern banks too. Jarl Eilif had surrounded the fort of Dun Chaillen and had occupied the parts of the settlement which were unprotected by the palisade. He had pitched his camp in the farmlands west of the fort and had placed detachments on the South of the River to guard the bridge.

But he had not bothered to fortify the rear of his army and in the surrounded hills Earl Cyneric and his men lay poised to strike.

And so, as the sun dazzled above the frosted white plains before Dun Chaillen, on the morning of 10th December 944, Earl Cyneric closed his trap. A flight of arrows soared forth upon the Norsemen from the palisades, and out of the hills behind them, the Earl of Lothian charged.

The Earl himself led his elite Huscarls from the west and into Jarl Eilif’s camp. Spearmen south of the river sprung out of the hills, slaughtered the Norsemen on the southern banks and seized the bridge of Tatha. From the East and North, spearmen and archers descended upon Jarl Eilif’s easternmost besiegers.

Jarl Eilif did not panic. It was not in his nature. But he was not used to being taken so much by surprise. His chest tightened as he realised what he had done. He had not sent out scouts to check for enemy relief forces, he had not dug ditches behind his camp, nor raised any form of defence facing away from Dun Chaillen.

“Coward!” he shouted to himself. The Earl of Lothian had no honour, he thought. To trick your enemy in battle was one thing, but to send an imposter to a parley was beyond low...

Eilif could see that his camp was already overrun, with all his gold and booty in Scots hands. He could now see his men, standing with spears in hand but bearing no shields, wearing no mail, and donning no helms. These were largely left in the camp. Eilif’s western flank had already collapsed in the face of the Earl and his centre was crumbing as infantrymen sortied forth from the palisade, supported by arrows from the bowmen within and spearman sallying from the northern hills. This battle was lost. The morale of his men was destroyed. And if he ordered his men to stand and fight without armour, his forces would be annihilated. Jarl Eilif knew when to cut his losses. He ordered his horn to be called and his central forces under his personal command disengaged, fleeing north towards Inverness. He knew that the Earl of Lothian did not have enough men to pursue him.

Earl Cyneric wiped his brow as he heard the horn of the Jarl of Groningen. He looked up and saw the Jarl’s centre fleeing north. This had been his plan. Knowing that he did not have enough men to attack the Norsemen from all sides, Cyneric had left the way north to Inverness open, hoping thereby to encourage the Norsemen to retreat to safety, rather than fight bitterly to the last men. Earl Cyneric could not afford such a desperate fight to the death against the Jarl’s numbers.

Yet even so, the Jarl’s western and eastern positions and been overrun and slaughtered to a man. The men in the South, seeing the bridge held against them by Scots warriors had hurled themselves into the river to escape, where many had drowned. Those who did not were finished by the Scotsmen waiting for them on the southern banks.

In this way, the Norse counterattack was stopped in its tracks by Earl Cyneric. As 944 came to an end, neither the Scots, nor the Norsemen had gained or lost any land in the war for the highlands. But the power and glory of King Alasdair had greatly waned, and the star of Earl Cyneric was rising still.


Battle of Dunkell final 3.png

The Battle of Dunkell

 
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stnylan

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Oh my, I imagine the Earl's reputation is going to be very mixed.

I think cutting out the messenger's tongue - I take that as proof of his guilt. Not as a coward, but certainly as disloyal.
 
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Caeserion

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Great update! Is there no one left of King Alasdair's line outside of David of Jerusalem? No grandchildren?

King was reckoned a great commander amongst the Christians – but Eilif had humbled him.
Small missing word here, just letting you know
 
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castlera

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Great update! Is there no one left of King Alasdair's line outside of David of Jerusalem? No grandchildren?


Small missing word here, just letting you know

Thank you. I have updated that.

Neither Prince Alasdair, nor Prince Raibeart had any sons, only daughters - and in the traditions of succession in Scotland at this time - there is no way they will gain the throne.

David I, King of Jerusalem has one son, Prince David - but this line was barred from the throne when David I became King of Jerusalem and in any case are too far away in Outremer and David's son has never been in Scotland, and is heir to the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Earl Cyneric has one surviving infant son, Cyneric of Lothian (b. 940) - his eldest, Eadgar of Lothian having died at the siege of Eilean in 942.

I have added a family tree of the male members of the McCyneric Dynasty c.947 into the above update.
 
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Caeserion

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HistoryDude

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Cyneric seems to be on the path to glory and victory. I imagine his revenge against the Norse will be sweet when he takes the throne...
 
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Chapter II - Part 8 - the Battle of Scuin and the End of the Great Highlands War

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Chapter II

Part Eight: The Battle of Scuin (April 946) and the End of the Great Highlands War
Moray Arms.png

The Arms of Lord Cóelub of Dunnottar, granted after the Battle of Scuin

Great Highland War FINAL reduced size.png

After the heavy fighting and terrible losses which both sides suffered in 944, there was little serious fighting in 945. King Alasdair spent the year rebuilding his forces, whilst Earl Cyneric had withdrawn to his lands in Lothian. There were regular raids from Norsemen out of the Highlands, which were met by raids from the Scots into the Norse occupied Highlands .

Lord Cóelub of Dunnottar led a large raid out of Dunottar, through Eilean and up to Calder during which he seized much booty and many captives. Several skirmishes occurred and Lord Cóelub returned victorious.

The King held Christmas court at Scuin in 945, with his friend Lord Cóelub, and his brother, Earl Fearghas of Westoraland, in attendance. Much of the Community of the Realm, the greatest Magnates of Scotland, were also there. Earl Cyneric and his supporters were not present. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the King asked for oaths from his magnates that they would swear fealty to his brother, Earl Fearghas as their next King.

Earl Fearghas was respected to a degree, but his prestige could not compare to Earl Cyneric’s. Although the Gaelic lords were supportive of Alasdair and were not great friends of the Earl of Lothian, Earl Fearghas’ mother was a Frank and not a Gael. Fearghas was not descended from the ancient House of Alpin, as Alasdair and Earl Cyneric were. Both Alasdair and Earl Cyneric were descended from Kenneth McAlpin himself, King of Dal Riata / Alba. As such, the Gaels would not support Fearghas for Kingship. However, Eochaid, Earl of Northumbria, a fierce opponent of Earl Cyneric, swore the oath in favour of Fearghas, and since the Earls of Eoforwic and Lanark were children (their fathers having died at the Heights of Brae), the King himself could choose their vote for now. In this way, Alasdair hoped to block Earl Cyneric from the succession.

At his New Year feast in Lothian, Earl Cyneric learned of these oaths and was incensed. But he was not surprised. The King had, though Earl Cyneric, decided to threaten civil war on his death – simply to keep his rightful heir, Earl Cyneric, from power. It was pathetic, but the Earl was not scared of fighting and was confident that he would crush Earl Fearghas should a succession war break out.

“I am no’ afeart o’ tha’ drunkard’, shouted Earl Cyneric to his guests as they revelled in the firelit hall at Eadinburgh.

************​

That Spring, the King received word that Jarl Eilif of Groningen, with Jarl Geirr Niklason, was moving South with a great host of Norse warriors. On the 6th March 946, they took Dunnottar and sacked it, killing Lord Cóelub’s wife and daughter. Lord Cóelub himself was with the King at Scuin when they received this news.

“My friend…”, spoke the King, “Oh, my dear friend…”

“My liege”, replied Lord Cóelub. “I know your heart and I know that you feel my pain. I ask only that when we meet Jarl Eilif in battle, I may lead the vanguard”.

“You shall have it, my dear Cóelub, “and God’s vengeance shall go with you!”

The Jarl of Groningen had with him a force of 13,000 men, whilst the King of Scots had only 4,000 men with him at Scuin. Earl Cyneric was at Eadinburgh, only three or four days away at a swift march. The King ordered his captains to call for Earl Cyneric to rally his banners and march north to Scuin at once. But the King was prepared to withdraw if the Earl showed signs of delay. The King did not trust the Earl of Lothian.

On 26th March, Earl Cyneric arrived at Scuin with 4,000 men. He may have loathed the King, but he could not allow the Norsemen to overrun his rightful inheritance.

This was the first time the King and Earl Cyneric had met since the appointment of Earl Eochaid as regent more than six years ago. Both men looked at each other with contempt and hatred.

“My dear nephew, welcome to Scuin.”

“Uncle…”

“When this is over you will answer for what you did to my herald!” King Alasdair could not restrain himself.

“Any man who calls me a coward must look to himself and ensure that he is armed well. Even if he bears the standard of a King.” Earl Cyneric spoke coolly and without dropping his gaze from the King’s eyes.

“An attack on my herald is an attack on the King!” The King was now raising his voice.

“It was the King’s words he spoke…”, said Earl Cyneric in a slow and deliberate manner. Cyneric did not blink as he looked into the King’s eyes. The King gripped the arms of his chair in fury as his hands turned white. But he calmed himself, relaxed his grip and spoke quietly:

“There will be time for this later. For now, my lord of Lothian, we must drive the heathens from my lands.”

************​

Thus, it was, that on the 16th April 946, the King’s army, with the forces of Earl Fearghas, Earl Cyneric, Earl Eochaid III, and Lord Cóelub, faced the forces of Jarl Eilif at Scuin. The Scots had with them a force of some 8,000 men, whilst the Norsemen had arrived with their full force of more than 13,000.

Scuin was the ancient coronation site of the Alban Kings, and the site where both Cyneric I and Alasdair I had been formally anointed King. This sacred place must be defended at all costs.

The famous coronation site was atop a low hill overlooking the River Tatha (or Tay). To the North East of this site was a steeper, wooded hill. Here stood Lord Cóelub with his vanguard, fiercely arrayed in a shield wall, bright shields proud on the hill’s crest. To his left was Eochaid III, Earl of Northumbria. To his immediate right was Earl Cyneric with his men of Lothian. Next in the line was Earl Fearghas of Westoraland. He was positioned at the lowest point of the scots line, where a small burn flowed towards the Tatha. On the high ground to his right was the King, at the far-right flank of the Scots army, anchored on the River Tatha on his right flank. The entire Scots army had its back to the river. There was no retreat.

************​

Jar Eilif observed the Scots positions from the high hills to the north of Scuin. “Mark how the King is positioned at the right flank against the river, split off from the rest of the army by the shallow ravine where that burn flows. That is the weak point.” He motioned to Jarl Geir Niklason, “My intention is to launch a general attack on the Scots centre and left flank, on that wooded hill yonder. We will pin the forces there in a shield wall skirmish, holding them in place whilst the real work is done.”

“The real work?” asked Jarl Geir.

“The real work I have left for you. You will strike hard and fast with the main weight of our forces at the weak point, along the burn. Meanwhile, Jarl Bertil will attack the Scots right flank, pinning the King there in another shield wall action. You will then crush the enemy forces stationed along the burn and then attack the King from the rear, closing him off from the rest of his army, which will not be able to come to his aid whilst I pin them down on the left and centre. Once we have crushed the King, the Scots forces will break, and we will drive them into the river”.

And so, at noon, Jarl Geir led 5,000 men down the ravine of the burn, defended by Earl Fearghas with less than 2,500 men. Earl Fearghas formed a shield wall, but it was disturbed and weakened by the uneven ground and the flowing water of the burn. And they could not hold back the flood of Norsemen that now hurled towards them in the narrow valley. Bravely Earl Fearghas led his men, shouting encouragement and brandishing his sword before him. But he could see his shield wall would never hold. Yet Earl Cyneric’s positions were in reserve above and to his left. Fearghas could see that Cyneric’s positions were not yet under attack. The wall was breaking, but Fearghas called to his men and held them steady, giving ground only gradually as they heaved under the pressure before them. He now reached for the horn around his neck. If Cyneric could charge down into the valley now, the position may still be held.

************
King Alasdair, once again, stood at the centre of his shield wall. His men were the extreme right flank of the Scots army. He leaned on his axe. Since the Heights of Brae he never walked without his axe, both weapon and walking stick. Lord Cóelub had begged him to place himself at the rear of his men, but King Alasdair, the brave crusader, would do no such thing. He may be a crippled old man. But he was the King of Scots. And the King of Scots does not cower behind other men. And so, as the Norsemen of Jarl Bertil assailed him, the King was amongst the thickest fighting and many Norsemen fell to the great blows of his axe. An old man maybe, but even now few could match King Alasdair in strength. The Huscarls of King Alasdair gave no ground and the two shield walls struck and parried in an exhausting, equal balance.

Earl Cyneric watched as the forces of Earl Fearghas were overwhelmed in the dell of the burn. He watched as Fearghas raised his banner high and blew his great horn. He watched as Fearghas caught his gaze and his eyes begged for aid. Yet Earl Cyneric only watched. His Huscarls remained stalwart on the hill, ready to leap forward at the slightest order. But Earl Cyneric watched. Earl Cyneric watched as Fearghas’ men gradually fell backwards, giving ground step by step and forcing the Norsemen to pay for every yard by its price in blood. He watched as more and more of Earl Fearghas’ spearman were left broken and bloodied on the field, trampled by the advancing hordes. He watched as Earl Fearghas parried blow after blow - as the Earl’s shield shattered. He watched as Fearghas fell to his knees, surrounded by Norse warriors. He watched as the banner of Westoraland was ripped and torn. And he watched as many spears lunged into Earl Fearghas. He watched as the stricken Earl was hacked by Daneaxes and crumpled into the mud. And then he raised his arm, called to his Huscarls and sallied from the hill and into the melee. But Earl Fearghas was dead. Earl Fearghas would not be King.

Earl Fearghas.png

Fearghas I, Earl of Westoraland, brother of the King
Even as Jarl Geir assailed Fearghas along the burn, Norsemen surged towards the wooded hill in the Scots’ centre. At their head stood Jarl Eilif of Groningen, the architect of the disaster at the Heights of Brae. The great Viking stood tall at 6 feet, towering above his men, in his great spectacled helm. Tied to his belt were strips of the standards of Earl Eadwin of Lanark and Earl Malcolm of Eoforwic, and around his neck, Earl Eadwin’s teeth, taken from his severed head at the Abhlainn nam Braithrean, adorned a crude necklace. As the Jarl’s men marched up the hill towards Lord Cóelub’s shield wall, the Lord of Dunnottar saw him and fixed him in his sights. That man had humiliated his King, and that man had sacked Cóelub’s home and killed his family. Rage rose in Lord Cóelub, and in his fury of his heart, with his left hand, he reached for his spear. As the enemy drove closer up the hill, the Jarl roaring encouragement to his troops, Lord Cóelub drew back his arm. Eilif’s men were only 10 yards away, starting to run now towards the shield wall. Eilif turned to spur his men forward, waved his great axe high above his head and, for a second, Eilif lowered his shield. Like a thunderbolt, Cóelub’s spear hit home. Eilif was thrown back, the great spear embedded in his chest and the light extinguished from his eyes. As he fell, the men around him were stricken with doubt and fear, and, at that very moment Lord Cóelub and his men dashed like furies down the hill, crying the highland yell and driving the terrified Norsemen before them.

Death of Jarl Eilif.jpg

The Death of Jarl Eilif of Groningen
As the Norse centre collapsed before Cóelub, the Lord of Dunnottar saw the forces of Jarl Geir penetrating deep into the Scottish lines and moving to flank the King. He blew his horn to halt his men, ran in front of them and shouted at the top of his voice, “Follow me! To the King!”
Thereupon, he launched to the right, followed by his men, speeding to the relief of the embattled right flank. Earl Eochaid’s men continued to pursue the Norse centre which had now utterly dispersed.

Jarl Geir hacked his way through the Scots warriors that now hurtled down the hill under the banner of Lothian. His men were now moving towards the rear of the King’s position, and even despite the arrival of the Earl of Lothian, the King was now Earl Geir’s. But then he heard the horn call of Lord Cóelub, followed by the great highland yell and the Scots centre smashed into his own flank - and Jarl Bertil’s. Bertil’s men broke almost at once and scattered back down the hill. With his front now disengaged, King Alasdair’s men wheeled around and descended upon Jarl Geir, who was no hemmed in on all sides by Lord Cóelub, Earl Cyneric and the King of Scots. Jarl Geir’s men were now being hacked to pieces as the space tightened around them. The Jarl gave a mighty yell and swung his great axe, smashing the shields of the Scots in front of him, but as mighty a man as he was, he was overwhelmed from all sides and perished beneath the mud as blows rained down on him from all sides.

The Norsemen broke and fled at all points, scrambling madly for safety, floundering in the mud and drowning in the waters of the burn. Few escaped from the field of Scuin.

In the moment of victory, King Alasdair’s heart soared, and his crippled leg was forgotten as he sprang forward with the vigour of his youth. He raised his axe high and shouted in the Gaelic tongue “Glòrmhor Bhuaidh – Glorious Victory”.

Scuin final Battle.jpg

The Battle of Scuin - 16th April 946
Once the Norsemen had been slain or fully driven away, the King called for his captains. He received them at the ancient coronation stone above the River Tatha. “Where is my brother?” He asked them when the Earl of Westoraland failed to arrive, “Where is Earl Fearghas?”

“My Lord, I know not”, spoke Earl Cyneric, “His men were heavily pressed along the burn and the banner of Westoraland fell. My troops then rushed to his aid, but I saw not the Earl of Westoraland”.

The King stared at Earl Cyneric, distrust written on his face. “Where is my brother?”

Survivors of Earl Fearghas forces were called for news of the King’s brother, until one was found who had been with him. “My liege, my Lord of Westoraland bravely held the valley, but I saw him fall to his knees under many blows, and then I saw him no more as the Norsemen surged over him”.

The King’s leg suddenly heaved under him, and all its crippled weakness was remembered in that instant. His bright eyes dimmed and he sat down on his wooden stool.

“Find my brother’s body”, he ordered, his voice weak and old and pierced with the hollow ring of sadness. “We must find his body and bury him in this sacred place.” He paused thoughtfully and looked up at the clouds, “My father, the King, had five sons. Only I now remain. My four brothers all perished fighting these monstrous heathens. Eochaid and Eadgar fell in Hibernia when I was only a boy. Eadwin and Malcolm were slain at Thingvoll and Fearghas at sacred Scuin. Alas for my brothers – ‘tis an evil fate indeed.”

The King dismissed his captains, except for Lord Cóelub. The King buried his head in his shaking hands and gently rocked on his stool. The Lord of Dunnottar approach the King, and firmly embraced his friend. Both men united in their grief.

It took many days for Fearghas’ body to be identified, broken and butchered as it was and buried amongst the Norsemen who fell around him in the mud. He was buried at Scuin, and in thanks for the great victory and in honour of his fallen brother, King Alasdair founded the famous Royal Abbey at Scuin, at which Earl Fearghas was the first to be interred.


And so, the Norse army was crushed at Scuin – the ancient coronation site of Scots and Alban Kings. As has been said, in thanks, King Alasdair founded Scuin Abbey on the field of battle, giving directions that his brother, Fearghas was to be buried there with great honour. From Scuin, the defeated Norse remnants retreated north, leaderless, pursued by the King, Earl Cyneric and Lord Cóelub. Eilean and Calder were taken by the Summer of 946. In the winter, Inverness fell to the Scots forces and the army wintered there.

On the 25th January 947 the final Norse army commanded by Jarl Hjalmar of Norrland, was faced in Ross where it was defeated utterly by the forces of Lord Cóelub of Dunnottar. Shortly thereafter, the Norsemen abandoned the highlands which were annexed to the Scots Kingdom. The Great Highlands War was over.

After five years of war, King Alasdair had won his new lands. But his brothers, and his sons, to whom he had hoped to grant the conquered territories, were dead. There was no doubt in his mind as to who should be raised to the new Mormaerdom (Earldom) of Moray in their stead….
 
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stnylan

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I do rather think that the King has escaped the Norse Charybdid and will face Cyneric's Scylla.
 
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HistoryDude

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Alasdair and Cyneric really hate each other...

The Highlands will go to an a claimant against Cyneric.
 

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Alasdair and Cyneric really hate each other...

The Highlands will go to an a claimant against Cyneric.

I'll share a Family Tree as of 956 next time - not very many good claimants to compete with Earl Cyneric...

As a result, the King will elevate his great friend and hero of the Heights of Brae, Scuin and Ross, Coelub of Dunottar to be Mormaer of Moray. He is a friend of the King and a Gael (the land is Gaelic) - he is also a rival of Earl Cyneric 's.
 
Chapter II - Part 9 - the Death of Alasdair I (956)

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Chapter II

Part Nine: The Death of Alasdair I, King of Scots

Alasdair I 'the Crusader'.png

On the same day that King Alasdair gave the order for the founding of Scuin Abbey and laid Earl Fearghas to rest, he called his magnates before him at the ancient coronation site at Scuin.

In front of the gathered magnates, he gestured for Lord Cóelub of Dunnottar to come forward.

“My dear friend, Lord Cóelub, I ask you to kneel”, spoke the King.

“My liege,” answered the Gael as he knelt before King Alasdair.

“Arise Cóelub, Mormaer of Moray and High Marshal of Scotland”, exclaimed Alasdair in his loud and sonorous voice. Cóelub rose, and the King embraced him, “My dear friend, I offer to you also the hand of my widowed daughter, Forflissa, Princess of Scotland, that we might unite our houses.”

And so, Mormaer Cóelub of Moray, of relatively low Gaelic noble stock was now one of the most powerful men in the realm and son-in-law to the King.

King Alasdair loved his friend well, but this was not his only reason. As a Gael, Cóelub was an obvious choice to rule over the Gaelic regions of the Highlands and to integrate them into the Scots Kingdom, but he was also an enemy of Earl Cyneric of Lothian and a loyal supporter of the House of Albany. In this way, the King hoped to maintain a balance of power in the realm, a counterweight to Earl Cyneric’s burgeoning strength…

At the same time, Mormaer Cóelub was granted the addition of three red spear heads on his standard, in honour of his felling of Jarl Eilif of Groningen at the Battle of Scuin.

Moray Arms.png

The Arms of Mormaer Coelub
Alasdair I was a tired man, aged by the griefs he had suffered and the great trials of strength that he had faced. And the thought of Earl Cyneric on his throne was more than he could bear – but it must be so. There was now no alternative. And Earl Cyneric knew this. All he had to do was wait for the old King to die and the Kingdom would be his. Earl Cyneric had won after all.

But then, in 949, the King’s wife, Queen Muirgel died after a short illness. Soon afterwards, at the urging of Mormaer Cóelub, King Alasdair married again. His bride was Gunhilde de Ponthieu, a West Frankish noblewoman. She brought no great alliance, but she was known to be quick witted and beautiful.

And so it was, that on 17th November 951, the newfound balance in Scotland was destroyed. On that day was born Griogair, Prince of Scotland. Once again, the King had a son to inherit the Earldom of Albany. The child was named Griogair after King Alasdair’s friend and patron, Pope Gregory IV who launched the first and second crusades.

When Earl Cyneric learned that the Queen was delivered of a son, he hurled his tankard of mead to the floor in rage. But it was no matter…. The King was an old man and a child could not become King of Scots according to the ancient customs of Tanistry. And when the King was dead, the new Prince could be dealt with…

The final years of King Alasdair’s reign were spent in bouts of ill health. His old wound from the Heights of Brae prevented him from walking and caused him extreme pain, particularly in the cold. Mormaer Cóelub administered much of the King’s matters for him in Albany and built up a strong base for himself in Moray.

The following years were spent in pacifying the Highlands and overseeing the building of the Royal Abbey at Scuin. As the years passed, Earl Cyneric grew more impatient, and the King relied increasingly on the skills of Mormaer Cóelub.

The Mormaer of Moray was himself gifted with daughters and a son from his marriage to Princess Forflissa, and these children were raised alongside Prince Griogair at Scuin.

As the cold winter arrived in earnest in November 956, the King fell ill once more at Scuin. But this fever was stronger than those that had come before, and day by day the King weakened. By 20th November he was unable to eat anything but potage and gruel, and by the 25th he had stopped eating completely. Mormaer Cóelub was with him every day, talking about their past glories together on the Second Crusade and over their long friendship, but when the Mormaer arrived at the King’s bedside on the morning on 27 November 956, the King was paler than usual and had no interest in the tales of the past. His glazed eyes fixed on Cóelub’s as he entered the chamber, and the King motioned weakly with a finger for the Mormaer to come close.

“My Dear friend,” he whispered with great difficulty, wheezing, “My dear, dear friend…. you must take my son. You must protect my son. I name you Regent of Albany and the Guardian of my son. Swear to me….”, his voice faltered, the pain of speaking was now unbearable, “…swear to me that you will protect my son from my nephew…. from Earl Cyneric… . My God, if Cyneric gets his hands on my boy….”

“My liege and my dearest friend,” spoke Earl Cóelub, his eyes filling with tears, and his voice breaking with grief, “I swear to you that by my life and death I will protect your son. And more, dear Alasdair, and more I swear to you that by my life….by my life Griogair will be King”.

The King smiled weakly as Cóelub grasped his cold hands. He did not speak again, and that evening, as Cóelub sat vigil over him, Alasdair I, King of Scots and bane of the heathens, breathed his last.


Coelub's Oath.jpg

The Oath of Coelub, Mormaer of Moray
From Left to Right:
Prince Griogair, Earl Cóelub, King Alasdair I and a monk of Scuin
His life and reign had seen great glory and the deepest depths of tragedy. As a young man he had helped his father, Cyneric the Fox carve out the Scots kingdom. He had fought with great bravery and skill in the First Crusade, winning for his son, David the holy crown of Jerusalem. He had cowed and crushed the forces of Caliph Hashmaddin in the Second Crusade, winning Syria for Christendom. at Jerusalem he founded the Knights Templar, of immortal fame. In Britain, he had driven the Norsemen from the Highlands, had secured the borders of Scotland, and united the Scots and the Gaels in common purpose. But he had been dogged by treachery and deceit, tragedy and defeat - and by his nephew, the Earl Cyneric who must now succeed him.

Map of Alasdair's reign 956.png

Four days after the King's death, as Alasdair I was interred alongside his brother at the uncompleted Abbey at Scuin, the Earl of Lothian was crowned King in Dun Cyneric in Galloway, ignoring the ancient tradition of receiving the crown at sacred Scuin. The Earl had marched on Dun Cyneric as soon as he had heard that the King was thought to be dying. Even as the King breathed his last, Cyneric had seized the Royal Treasury at Dun Cyneric. When the news of the King's death reached him there, he was acclaimed King by the Community of the Realm.

That same evening, Mormaer Cóelub, sitting in the corner of the room, watched over the sleeping Prince Griogair, Earl of Albany. He was just five years old.

956 Family Tree bordered.png

The McCyneric Dynasty at the Death of Alasdair I (November 956)

View attachment 956 map with flags.png

The Earldoms of the Scots Kingdom on the death of Alasdair I (956)
 
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stnylan

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Cyneric is leaving nothing to chance ... not even the possibility of having a good name :D
 
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Cyneric will be overthrown!

DOWN WITH CYNERIC! DOWN WITH THE LOTHIANS!

A war of north and south is coming...
 
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That same evening, Mormaer Cóelub, sitting in the corner of the room, watched over the sleeping Prince Griogair, Earl of Albany. He was just five years old.
Not getting the best vibes here...;)
 
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Chapter III - Part 1 - 956-967

castlera

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Chapter Two.png

Cyneric II name.png

Part 1 - 956-967

lothian.png

The Arms of the House of Lothian

Cynric the Late.png

At 62 years of age, Cyneric was finally King. Alasdair was finally dead and the House of Lothian was finally in the ascendant. On the same day that Cyneric II was declared King at Dun Cyneric in Galloway, he raised his 16-year-old son and heir, also named Cyneric, to the Earldom of Lothian. The young Cyneric was a powerfully built young man, widely admired for his strong physique. However, his skills were limited to financial management and warfare. His arrogance and haughty demeanour won him few friends. He was the King’s second son, his elder brother having perished at the siege of Eilean in 942.

Prince Cyneric, Earl of Lothian.png

Prince Cyneric, Earl of Lothian
There was great anger in the Gaelic lands of the North that the new King had spurned the sacred stone of Scuin and been crowned in Galloway. However, Cyneric had been wary of Scuin, for it lay in the heart of Albany, controlled by his enemy Mormaer Cóelub of Moray, as regent of Albany. And in any case, Cyneric II’s Scots Kingdom was based in the lowlands and the ancient kingdom of Northumbria. The Gaels would have to accept that their risible superstitions had no place in the Kingdom’s future, just as their crude language had no place in his halls.

Cyneric II now felt that his position was secure. When King Alasdair had finally left this world, there were no serious alternative claimants. Cyneric II held the lowlands in an iron grip, through his power in the great Earldom of Lothian and his control of Galloway. The Gaels in the North and the Isles would never support the claims of the Earls of Westoraland or Eoforwic, for they lacked the blood of Alpin. The Earl of Northumbria was descended from Cyneric I and the MacAlpins, it was true, but his power was weak and his line was now very distant from any previous King. To further neutralise this threat the King had arranged for his son to marry Earl Eochaid III of Northumbria's daughter. Yes - the only threat was Albany. But all that remained of the House of Albany was a small child – who could be dealt with in time.

But King Cyneric II had not reckoned on the oath of Mormaer Cóelub...

In yearly 957, King Cyneric summoned Price Griogair, Earl of Albany to Dun Cyneric, ostensibly to become his ward. Yet the summons was refused by Mormaer Cóelub, who argued that he had sworn a sacred oath to the King that he would be the Guardian of the Prince and that the Prince would be under his personal protection.

Cyneric was enraged at this disobedience, but neither Mormaer Cóelub, nor Prince Griogair came to Dun Cyneric.

But there would be other ways to rid his Kingdom of the young Earl of Albany...

* ************************************************************************************************ *

After King Alasdair's death, Mormaer Cóelub had moved his household to Scuin in Albany, where he raised his own children together with Prince Griogair. Every night, he himself slept in the children's room, trusting the Prince's safety to no other. The Prince's bed was at the far end of the room, near no windows. To get to him, any assassin would have to get through Cóelub first.

In 957, shortly after his refusal to bring the boy to Dun Cyneric, a dark figure crept into the chamber armed with a poisoned dagger. But Cóelub was upon him at once. He held him, disarmed the man, cast back his hood and, holding him tighter and tighter by the throat, demanded the name of his employer. The man never told. But he was never heard from again.

Cóelub was ever a father to the boy, and taught him to ride a horse, to wield a sword, to hunt in Highland glens and to speak the Gaelic tongue. Ever he reminded the boy of the greatness of his father, King Alasdair and the deceit and treachery of Cyneric the Usurper. He enraptured the boy with the stories of his father’s heroism on the First and Second Crusades, of his father’s valiant stand at the Heights of Brae, and the great deeds of his fallen brothers. He reminded the boy that he was named for that great friend and comrade of his father's Pope Gregory.

“You are the rightful King of Scots, my boy. And I shall not rest until the Usurper has been cast down in his arrogance”, promised Mormaer Cóelub.

Griogair was becoming the image of his father. His bright blue eyes amazed all who looked upon him and his bright red hair shone like flames and as he grew it was clear he would even outmatch the strength and height of his great father. He was a charismatic boy, loved by all he met, and in Albany his fearlessness was well known.

Prince Griogair MacAlasdair, Earl of Albany.png

Prince Griogair MacAlasdair, Earl of Albany (c. 964 aged 13)
In the Spring 964, Prince Griogair, aged only 13 was out hunting near Dun Chaillean. He had become separated from the main party with a handful of his young friends. Sudenly, out of the trees and undergrowth sprang Brigands. At least a score of them, well armoured and armed. One of the Princes’ friends, of a similar age, turned to flee only to tumble from his horse, a black arrow hi his back. Griogair did not turn to flee, but rode closer, his sword drawn.

Immediately, two Brigands rode towards him. There was no attempt to rob the boy. Their eyes told him they were there for his life. At the last second, Griogair turned his horse to the side, deftly commanding the animal. As the first man rode past him, Griogair brought down his sword with all his strength upon the man’s skull. The second man struck the Prince on his exposed left arm and he went past, before Griogair turned his horse again, wincing from the pain, and gave chase. The assailant wheeled his horse to face the boy, smiled contemptuously at the child, raised his axe to strike him, and then his smile died on his lips as the boy skilfully avoided the axe blow and thrust his own sword into the assailant’s neck.

But by now the other Brigands were nearing the boy. An arrow flew past him, whilst another struck his horse and it reared. Griogair was thrown off the horse, hitting the ground painfully as the horse galloped into the undergrowth. He pulled himself to his feet, waved his sword before him and advanced on the Brigands.

They looked surprised as this child came towards them, fury rather than fear in his young blue eyes. “I am the son of Alasdair, King of Scots”, he roared, “and I command you who so basely disturb the peace of my lands of Albany to submit yourselves to my mercy and justice, or else face my sword!”

A murmur of laughter came from the Brigands as they gathered around Prince Griogair. They were closing in now. Surprised and intrigued by his demeanour they had delayed in striking, they could have pierced him with many arrows by now, but for some reason they had not. But as they were finally about to strike, the bright horn of Cóelub, Mormaer of Moray rang through the trees and he and his horsemen galloped towards the Brigands.

At that moment, one of the Brigands loosed an arrow. It struck the Prince in his shoulder and he was thrown backwards. The Brigands were now fleeing in all directions, but none escaped. Cóelub scrambled from his horse, his face ashen, running towards the boy. When Cóelub came to him, Griogair smiled up at him, wounded as he was.

“My Prince”, gasped Cóelub, “Oh thank ye, God you live still. You have shown such bravery today, my dear boy.. My dear boy your father, the King, would weep for joy to see the man you are becoming".

As Griogair’s wounds were attended, Cóelub searched the dead Brigands. He could see they were armed very well, and their fabrics were of high quality. “Truly I tell you”, he said, “these men were no Brigands. I see the hand of Lothian in this…”

The tale of how the young Price had fought off 20 Brigands spread quickly throughout the scots Kingdom and beyond. His noble bearing and bravery impressed all who heard of it, all except the king. There were those who said it brought to mind his great Father as he stood unyielding with his sons before the Norse hordes at the Heights of Brae. In this way, Griogair was swiftly becoming a very serious threat to King Cyneric II. As the son of King Alasdair, he was respected. But as a brave and noble Gaelic speaker who was born and raised in Albany, he was loved. And he was now nearly a man. When the King received word of the Prince's 'great deeds', in a fit of rage he thrust his sword into the messenger's chest, and kicked the poor man's body to the ground. "Damn the child and his tame Gael!"

During this time, Cyneric II was growing more and more paranoid as he received more and more word about the Prince. He refused to move his army to seize new lands in the South, nor to undertake an expedition to force the Norsemen from Ireland. He was terrified that the Mormaer Cóelub and his Gaelic dogs would attack as soon as his back was turned. His fear of Mormaer Cóelub and the Prince had paralysed his reign.

He was now becoming aware of his increasing unpopularity. Tales of the Heights of Brae, emanating from the halls of Mormaer Cóelub, had spread into Galloway and throughout the Scots Kingdom, and nobles and commoners alike were now calling him "Cyneric the Late" and "Cyneric the Slow". As he rode past, he would hear sniggers and jibes from all manner of folk.

There was tell of some calling him "Cyneric the Deceiver", and there were even whispers that some named him 'the Usurper'.

Therefore he withdrew to his halls, took to wearing mail at all times lest he be assaulted by an assasin and became more reclusive, especially as his age caused him to hunch over, and lose the sharpness of mind that had once made him a matchless strategist. Everywhere he saw schemes to murder him, and his dungeons filled with innocents who were swiftly executed - many for singing Songs of the Heights of Brae. But his power was still great. All of Lothian and Galloway was loyal to him, and his and his sons armies far outweighed the power of the Gaels. Northumbria too stood with Cyneric due to the marriage alliance with Earl Eochaid.

In 965, Norsemen from Gotaland invaded Moray. The Mormaer of Moray called upon Cyneric II for aid, but the King, believing this all to be some scheme of Mormaer Coelub’s, refused to leave his own halls in Galloway. This was exactly what Cóelub had hoped for when calling for his aid.

To all who would listen, Mormaer Cóelub declared that “It is well that Cyneric shall not come to our aid, for it is known well that the aid of Cyneric the Late is worth less than his absence”.

Mormaer Cóelub crushed the Norsemen in battle, winning yet more glory to his name. At the same time the King was ridiculed for his cowardice.

Most provocatively, when he declared his victory, the Mormaer declared it in the name of Prince Griogair and not in the name of Cyneric II.

Coelub and forflissa.png

Cóelub, Mormaer of Moray and Regent of Albany with his wife Princess Forflissa MacAlasdair of Scotland


In November 967, as Prince Griogair reached his sixteenth birthday, Mormaer Cóelub handed over him the regency of Albany. Full of pride, the Mormaer gave the Prince his father’s sword, saying:

“Now, my boy. Take this your father’s sword and with it we shall humble the House of Lothian.”
 

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The long-hoped for aim of kingship has proven to be bitter ashes for Cyneric. Or so it is portrayed. A shade or two of Macbeth.

And regardless of what happens now that epithet will haunt him in eternity.
 
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castlera

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The long-hoped for aim of kingship has proven to be bitter ashes for Cyneric. Or so it is portrayed. A shade or two of Macbeth.

And regardless of what happens now that epithet will haunt him in eternity.

His problem is that he is now an old man and his diplomacy skill is much lower that Coelub’s. Coming King in your sixties at that time is not great. Cyneric has lost some of The dynamism of his youth and Has made too many enemies with his lack of diplomatic skill (Especially the Gaels, who hold King Alasdair’s son as a very useful pawn). And everyone knows that Coelub saved the King’s life at the Heights of Brae and was the man who killed Jarl Eilif and therefore revenged that disaster - so if he says Cyneric was late and a traitor people will listen. And it is Coelub who is telling everyone that Cyneric is trying to kill Griogair. Is that necessarily true?

One thing is certain - Cyneric was no coward.