Story Of London

England’s Queen Mother: Part 3: Her Celtic Ancestry

England’s Queen Mother: Part 3: Her Celtic Ancestry
by Elisabeth Emmick

The Queen Mother’s family seat is Glamis, whose roots go back to the very foundation of Celtic Scotland itself. Her recorded genealogy begins with Malcolm III, slayer of Macbeth, and his youngest son David I who reformed both the laws and church of Scotland and made the state structure very much what it is today. This, the third article in our major series, examines the lives of these two royal forebears of that most gracious Lady.

England’s Queen Mother: Part 3: Her Celtic Ancestry

Farewell Ma’am

The Ancestral Seat: Glamis

The roots of Glamis go back to the very foundation of Scotland itself. In the early part of the first millennium it is believed that the country was inhabited by a people we now know as the Picts. The very sparse records of them that survive (mostly in the Irish Annals) indicate that hereditary descent was through their female line. Much of the country was inhabited at this time and the Irish used it as a kind of penal colony with malefactors and others who fell foul of the various Irish Kings being sent into exile there. One of the most beautiful of the tragic tales in the Irish Celtic Literature – Deirdre and the sons of Uisneach – is built upon this tradition. Political upheavals in Ireland in the 8th century saw practically the whole of an Irish extended family system (Clan), the Airgialla, move across the narrow straits an colonise what is now Argyll. They were led by their King who is now known as Kenneth McAlpine, the first king of Scotland.

There does not appear to have been an outright war between the Irish colonists and the Picts and the Irish Annals suggest that intermarriage between the two peoples was facilitated by the Picitsh rule of descent. The Irish practised a more communal system by which dead leaders were replaced by elected successors from amongst the eligible males of the extended family. (Female members, although accorded every right to property ownership, divorce etc. were only eligible in the complete absence of eligible male contenders.) A peaceful merging of the two traditions through intermarriage was there fore feasible and best explains the quiet disappearance of the Picts as a separate people. In time, the land we know as Scotland was taken over by the Irish colonists. The Irish celts were known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as the Scotti, descendants of Scota about whom the Irish Annals contain a number of legends, and it is from this name that our modern name of Scotland derives.

The centuries after the fall of the Roman empire until the emergence of the medieval period, around the beginning of the last Millennium, are known universally as the Dark Ages. This is largely because there are very, very few written records from this period and it is generally seen as a period of a decline in “Learning”. Ireland remained untouched by the political life of the empire but had absorbed, through the Church, its learning. During the Dark Ages, the light of scholarship was kept alight across the whole of Europe by a large number of missionaries from Ireland who founded small cells and large monasteries which became famous for their learning. The descendants of some of these still exist today. One of the smaller foundations was Glamis.

In 710, an Irish missionary named Fergus settled in the area and lived, as was common for a religious hermit at that time, in a cave near or on the site of the present church. Again, as usual, there was a well close to the cave and he used its waters to baptize his converts. Fergus lived here until his death after which he was canonized and a church, St. Fergus Kirk, was erected in his honour. The well still exists today and its water is still used today to baptize church members and may have been used in the Queen Mother’s christening in 1904. The present church was built in 1459 and rebuilt in 1790. The Strathmore Aisle is largely the original 13th century construction. A village grew up around the church and the modern village has a few building which date back to the late 15th century. The nearby Glamis Castle, seat of the Queen Mother’s ancestors, was originally a Scottish Royal hunting Lodge. The lands around the lodge were in the gift of the early Scottish kings and were granted in thanage to their nobles, often a Clan chief. A Scottish Thane’s rank was equivalent to that of an Earl’s son. It came into the Queen Mother’s family in 1372.
Glamis Castle

Her Scottish Royal Ancestors

Malcolm III (Canmore) c.1031-1093
King of Scotland 1057-1093

Son of Duncan I, he was a child when his father was slain by Macbeth in 1040. He spent his youth in Northumbria under the protection of his uncle, the Earl Siward who established him as Overlord in Cumbria and Lothian. When Macbeth was killed in 1047, Malcolm became king of all Scotland. He was called Canmore from the Gaelic ceann mor which means “large head” which may refer to a high forehead which is typical of the Celts. Around 1060 he married his first wife, Ingibjorg, who was the widow of Thorfill, the Earl of Orkney. After her death in 1069, he married Margaret, the sister of Edgar the Aethling whose legitimate claim to the English throne at the death of Edward the Confessor in 1066, was passed over in favour of Harold Godwinsson. Margaret was canonised in 1251 and remains the only Scottish Royal saint. Malcolm invaded England five times in support of Edgar’s claim to the throne. He was defeated by William the Conqueror in 1072 and again by William Rufus in 1091. He was killed at Alnwick in Northumberland during his last incursion in 1093. He left five sons of whom four succeeded him to the Scottish throne.David I c.1080-1153
King of Scotland 1124-1153

David was the youngest son of Malcolm Canmore and St Margaret. In 1093 he and his sister Matilda were sent to the English court where he became completely Normanised. Matilda married Henry I of England in 1100. On the accession of is brother Alexander to the Scottish throne, David became Prince of Cumbria with lands that included part of Cumberland and all of southern Scotland except Lothian. In 1113 he married Matilda the widow of the Earl of Northampton and daughter of the Saxon Earl of Northumbria. Through this marriage he acquired the Earldom of Huntingdon. On the death of Alexander I in 1124 David succeeded to the Scottish throne and in 1127 he swore fealty to the daughter of Henry I, his niece Matilda (the empress Maud) and for his English lands. This brought political problems on the death of Henry I and the disputed succession of Stephen in 1135. Civil war raged in England and David invaded the north of the country in support of Matilda. The subsequent Treaty of Durham in 1136 allowed David to retain Cumbria without doing homage to Stephen but his son Earl Henry did homage in respect of his estates at Huntingdon. The peace was an uneasy one and war broke out again in 1138 to be settled by a second Treaty of Durham in 1139. Under this treaty, David’s son Henry became earl of Northumberland.

At home, David’s reign was a remarkable one in which he consolidated the feudal settlement of Scotland, granting lands and offices to Anglo-Norman families such as the Bruces, Balliols and the Stewarts. Old custom and law were redefined and harmonised with feudal practice and produced a Common Law of Scotland with Sheriffdoms and Justiciars being erected across the country. A chain of castles along the southern border acted as centres of royal and baronial authority, burghs were established by charter and trade was encouraged. He also reformed and revitalised the Scottish church encouraging its reorganisation on diocesan and parochial lines and personally founding many of the greatest Scottish abbeys. He resisted English claims of jurisdiction over the Scottish church.

On his death in 1153, David I was succeeded by is eldest surviving son Malcolm IV (Malcolm the Maiden). The Queen Mother’s family line continued through the issue of David’s eldest son Henry, Earl of Huntingdon who had died in 1152. This branch of the family united with the Bruce family in the late 12th century. The next article in the ancestor series will introduce some of her colourful medieval forebears.

You can either jump to specific articles in the series or scroll through them sequentially using the following sets of links:

The funeral arrangementsHer Ancestral TreeHer Bruce AncestryThe Grand Ceremonial ProcessionThe Lying in State
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