King of the Picts (672-693)

Also known in the Latin as 'Bredei filius Bili' and in the Ghallig as 'Brude mac Bile' or as Bredei, Brudei and variants thereof.

It is believed that Oswiu, the king of Northumbria was, prior to his death in 670, the effective overlord of the Picts and had forced them to accept compliant rulers of his own choosing. The death of Oswiu and his repalcement by the somewhat less effective Ecgfrith gave the Picts an opportunity to free themselves from Northumbrian domination. Hence Bruide son of Bili came to be ruler of the Picts in 672 after the expulsion of his predecessor Drest around the time the Picts suffered a disastorous defeat at the hands of Oswiu's son and successor Ecgfrith.

Now generally speaking not a great deal is known about the genealogy of Pictish rulers, in particular although each king is listed in the Pictish Chronicle as x son of y, y never seems to be the name of any ruler of the previous generation, so the exact family relationship between the sucession of kings is unknown.

Bruide is one of the few exceptions, as an early poem, believed to have been the work of Admomnan, tells us that his father was Beli map Neithion former king of Strathclyde1. His brother Owain map Beli had also ruled Strathclyde, and had previously defeated and killed Domnall Brecc, king of Dal Riada at the battle of Strathcarron in 642. It was this victory that confirmed Strathclyde as the dominant power in northern Britain in the mid seventh century, and it is this dominance that explains how a Brythonic king such as Bruide was able to impose himself on the neighbouring kingdom of the Picts.

When he took power in 672 it seems as if his authority was limited to the southern tertritories of the Picts but by 681 he had conquered the northern Pictish kingdom of Circhenn and 682 he is recorded as having taken the Orkneys2. His greatest achievement was of course, his crushing defeat of Ecgfith at the battle of Nechtansmere in 685, a battle that effectively ended Northumbrian expansionism in the far north of Britain3.

From the few facts that are known to us it appears that Bruide son of Bili was successful military general, who united the kingdom of the Picts under his energetic and aggresive rule, and freed it from the domination of English Northumbria. The circumstances of his death do not appear to be known but given that his father died in 633, he was likely to have been in his 40s or 50s when he came to power in Pictavia; after a twenty one year reign he most likely died of old age after a remarkably successful reign.


NOTES

1 Adomnan calls him "the son of the king of Dumbarton"

2 The Annals of Ulster say that "The Orkneys were destroyed by Bruide."

3 The Historia Brittonum also states that he was a cousin of the very king Ecgfrith that he killed at the battle, although whether the connection was through the Strathclyde royal house or through some Pictish relation is not known.


SOURCES

A Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain by Ann Williams, Alfred P. Smyth and D. P. Kirby (Seaby 1991)

http://www.s-gabriel.org/names/tangwystyl/pictnames/pict2.html

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