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Moray, Ulster, and the MacWilliams

Moray, Ulster, and the MacWilliams

By Alasdair D. Ross

The World of the Galloglass: Kings, warlords and warriors in Ireland and Scotland, 1200-1600, edited by Sean Duffy (Four Courts Press, 2007)

Introduction: Over the last 300 years historians have been united in agreement that the MacWilliam kindred were of royal descent from William fitz Duncan, son of King Donnchad mac Máel Coluim (Duncan II, 1094). Although various members of this kindred pressed their claim for inauguration as kings of Scotia over a number of decades between c.1180 and 1230, in historiography they have largely become relegated to the position of an annoyance in the inevitable ‘progress’ of the kingdom of Scotia, probably because they were not descended from St Margaret, but from King Máel Coluim mac Donnchada’s (Malcolm III, 1058-93) first wife, Queen Ingebjorg of Orkney.

Historians have also been united in linking the MacWilliams to Moray. The only recorded marriage of William fitz Duncan was to Alice de Rumilly, a Cumbrian heiress, with whom he had one son (also called William) and three daughters. Yet, it has been clear for some time that the MacWilliam kindred were not descended from Alice. In 1876 W.F. Skene suggested that William fitz Duncan had made a previous marriage to a Scottish woman. G.W.S. Barrow then took this suggestion one stage further and argued that William fitz Duncan’s first wife was a cousin or sister of Oengus of Moray (d.1130) and that their son, Donald bán MacWilliam, thus inherited a better claim to the kingship through his mother as a descendant of King Lulach mac Gilla Comgáin (Lulach, 1058) than that which he received from his father.

Click here to read this article from the University of Stirling

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