To be King

A Grimm Ending

A further three hundred or so years later on, and after Christianity was accepted, local Kings were created. They controlled various territorial areas and tracts of land. Kings became Kings because of their physical strength normally coupled to having a force of followers, or gangs, or by their own wills, or ego, or money. They had high levels of self interest and wanted only complete power! In those days, unlike today, it was a man’s thing!

Queens, other than Mary, Queen of Scots, were normally the wives of a King, and apparently of lesser importance. As we all know, however, sometimes the power behind the throne is not the back of a chair, but a more regal body…with her own agenda!

Today, Monzievaird is a beautiful place with well sculpted, almost manicured, countryside and it is hard to believe that anything ever happened here. However, it was quite the place at different times throughout its history. In March 1005, opposing forces led by rival claimants to the throne met at the battle of Monzievaird, and steel clashed. Well it was something like that! The preamble could only lead to this battle of titans. In those days tanistry was in vogue. This was a method of governance which dictated that two blood-related men of so called “noble ancestry” could be appointed. Individually or collectively they controlled the tribes, clans and families who in their turn swore fealty to them for protection against their own enemies. On the large tapestry we see outlines of alignments and silhouettes which would eventually lead to the Clan system.

However, before this happened, life for all was short and many times brutal! (Oddly enough this state of affairs was to last a further almost 800 years!). Political rivalries, (as now), were a part of the fabric of everyday life. Kenneth the Third (the Grim) who was the last King to use the laws of tanistry had fallen out with some of his relatives. This was no joke! He ruled from 997 to 1005 and then went for a wee visit to the lands of Monzievaird. He brought his son Giric along for the sojourn and there before them lay the mighty host of their relatives who were in no mood to be trifled with. It is said that before blood was spilt, Giric was poisoned. And in the ensuing battle between Kenneth and his cousin, (subsequently) Malcolm the Second, he was killed just west of the Church at Monzievaird. Kenneth’s corpse was carried to, and buried, at Iona.

A large cairn to commemorate the battle was erected on the top of a high hill lying a little to the east of Glenturret. Just to the north of the Church a very large barrow was discovered aptly named “Cairn Chainechen”–the Monumental Heap of Kenneth! It was opened about one hundred and forty years ago and two urns were found. Each contained a very hard, bluish stone about four inches long and, being triangular in shape, resembled the head of an axe. Any descendant of participants in this battle can claim either object by providing proof of ownership!

It was a time of complete chaos with rival claimants for the throne coming out from, no, not the closet, but from underneath every stone! Along with the claimants were their henchmen. One supposes it was rather like the formation of a gang - these gangs in time became clans! They were bound together by blood relationships, or closely allied amongst themselves, and all had a common bond - control and power. Does this remind anyone of how Rome was formed!?

Malcolm tried thereafter to kill off any rival claimants to the throne, including Kenneth’s grandson. However, he did not get them all and his grand-daughter, Gruach, bore a child called Lulach. During all this time Malcolm himself fathered countless children no doubt, and had three daughters who in turn married well. Their male offspring led interesting lives. One married the Norse Earl Sigurd. He had conquered Orkney and Shetland and through their son, the northern shires of Caithness and Sutherland. Another married Crinan, Abbott of Dunkeld. Their son, Duncan, became King after Malcom the Second died, and the third daughter bore a son called Macbeth. He later bumped off Duncan. It was all turbulent stuff! Malcolm sadly died from assassination at Glamis. Och no, not another one of those things! I told you it was high paying, but temporary work!

Macbeth oddly enough was, in general, a good King, but maybe not such a good general as the Battle of Lumphanan in 1057 proved. He died here as a result of a head wound – Malcolm had cut off his head, you see! Some say he was only wounded and died at Scone. He had ruled for 17 years and even in that time visited Rome so he must have felt pretty secure about leaving his Kingdom in good hands. He was regarded as a warrior, and sadly much maligned by no less a person than William Shakespeare. Shakespeare was the brilliant English poet and playwright. He was a master at the art of writing revisionist history, or plays of questionable fact; he was a 17th century spin doctor! He claims that Macbeth was killed at Dunsinane, and although probably there had been a skirmish there, it was not where he was killed. His title of King passed to Lulach. He was in turn assassinated in 1058 with his rival, Malcolm Canmore, succeeding to the throne.

For much of the period of the 11th, 12th and 13th century the Church also was growing steadily in attraction and influence, although little was recorded in Strathearn. In the community, however, one assumes that for the ordinary people, it was more of the same. Land grabs and awards were made, kings came and went, titles were spread around (maybe like today for a little siller!), people were oppressed, and often justice was awarded to the biggest liar around, or the one with the strongest sword arm. For those not in favour, or perceived of some mischief, or even real guilt, their fate was the rope at the “kindly gallows o’ Crieff, or maybe from a nearby tree. Any trees would do! For the exalted ones execution was by the sword or axe! Of course, others were just murdered, had their ears cropped and maybe a hand cut off, or branded, or just disappeared! Gradually factionalism came into vogue with people gravitating towards families such as the Drummonds who had originally come from Drymen – they were of Hungarian stock. Other groups joined their enemies, the Murrays. The Murrays had originally come from the north around Morayshire. They were the Mormaers which modernists suggest were akin to local leaders or territorial leaders. By the time of their arrival all lived cheek by jowl in the area around Crieff. As our story, however, is about Highland Strathearn lying to the west of Crieff this subject should be handled by another writer. However, the Murrays and the Drummonds played a predominant role throughout Highland Strathearn.

Over the horizon, and not so far into the future, were several stars beginning to shine brightly on the far horizon. They would be able to provide a catalyst for change in our area and for Scotland for that matter - they are known to history as heroes. They promoted the notions of unity, nationhood and peace. As will be seen they were successful in the first two ideals however, the third has proved elusive.

Ochtertyre House and Mauseleum