Also known as Malcolm the Maiden
King of Scotland (1153-1165)
House of Canmore
Born 1142 Died 1165

Malcolm the Maiden...received the government of the kingdom; by the grace of God he continued in the state of virginity until his death.

So says the Chronicle of Melrose of the succession of Malcolm to the throne of the kingdom of Scotland.

By the time that his predecessor David I had died in 1153, both David's sons, including Prince Henry the Earl of Huntingdon (Malcolm's father) had predeceased him and so the succession fell on his eleven year old grandson Malcolm. He became known to later medieval writers as 'the Maiden' or sometimes the 'Maiden of Scotland' because of a long-standing belief that he had taken a vow of celibacy.1

Grandfather David had been quite successful in expanding his influence in the north of England, recovering southern Strathclyde2 (that is the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland) and obtaining for his son Henry the coveted earldom of Northumberland. David's success was very much as a result of England's weakness, exploiting the divisions that arose during the Anarchy when the crown was disputed by the rival parties of Stephen and Matilda.

Within a short time of Malcolm's accession the tables had turned; by 1154 England was ruled by Henry II and Scotland was governed by a twelve year old boy. In the year 1157, the two kings met at Chester to discuss the vexed question of the border and by the resulting Treaty of Chester Malcolm agreed to return Cumberland and Westmorland to Henry II in exchange for the earldom of Huntingdon.3

As the Melrose Chronicle explains;

Malcolm , king of the Scots, arrived at Chester and became the man of King Henry of England, in the same way that his grandfather had been the man on the old King Henry, retaining all his dignities.

This has been interpreted as an act of craven surrender but then consequence of refusal might well have been war and Henry II, with all the resources of Normandy, Aquitaine and England at his disposal would have been a formidable opponent, and as one can see from the comment in the Chronicle of Melrose his 'submission' was viewed as nothing out of the ordinary for the times.

As a consequence in 1159 Malcolm went to France with Henry and was present at the siege of Toulouse but his appearance abroad serving in the army of the English king seems to have annoyed some of the natives as when Malcolm returned home to Perth he was besieged by Fearteacht and five other earls at the town intent on kidnapping the king. It required the intervention of the Scottish clergy to reconcile the two sides.

This was not however the end of opposition to Malcolm and he faced a series of revolts throughout most of his reign. Galloway seems to have been a particular source of trouble where one Fergus led a more or less independent existence. It took three separate expeditions and large amounts of Norman military assistance to bring Fergus to heel.4

Moray as always, was another source of trouble, but the most serious opposition came from the Gaelic heartlands of the west where one Somerled, the 'Lord of Argyll' had been busy recreating something akin to the old kingdom of Dal Riada in the Western Isles and Argyll.

In the early years of Malcolm's reign, Somerled supported the alternative and ultimately unsuccessful, claims of another Malcolm, his brother-in-law Malcolm MacHeth to the throne. By 1164 with both Galloway and Moray both subdued Somerled feared that he would be next and attempted a pre-emptive strike at Renfrew "with a large army which he had gathered in Ireland and various other places". Fortunately for Malcolm, Somerled appears to have been betrayed and both he and his son were stabbed to death. The rest of his army then went home without giving battle.

When not involved with surpressing revolts Malcolm concererned himself with religious matters and was noted for founding the Abbey of Coupar Angus with monks from Melrose Abbey as well as endowing Dunfermline Abbey.

Perhaps Malcolm's most far reaching decision was that to appoint a gentleman by the name of Walter Fitz Allen to the post of Steward of the Royal House and to make that office hereditary. Naturally enough as the descendants of Walter Fitz Allen served in turn, they took the name of the office and became known by the surname Stewart or Stuart, eventually establishing a dynasty that would provide a series of kings that would rule Scotland for three centuries.5

Malcolm died at Jedburgh on the 9th December 1165 at the age of 23, from unspecified but undoubtedly natural causes and was buried at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Dunfermline alongside his grandfather David I. He was succeeded by his brother William.

Well-acclaimed in Scotland, Malcolm reigned as king
For twelve years and three months.
Not yet enough peace flourished in the kingdom then.
He is said to have died faultless in Jedburgh.


1 Malcolm indeed never married but whether he was strictly celibate throughout his entire life is unknown.

2 Previously annexed by William II in 1092.

3 Apparently there was a counter claim against Malcolm for the earldom of Huntingdon and Malcolm therefore agreed to relinquish any claims against Northumberland as well as Cumbria in return for a confirmation of his title as earl of Huntingdon.

4 Fergus eventually became a canon at Holyrood Abbey

5 From Robert II in 1371 to James VII aka James II of England in 1688


The Chronicle of Melrose

Articles on William the Lion at the following locations;

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