Ethelred of Scotland

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Ethelred (Edelred mac Maíl Coluim or Æþelræd Margotsson) was the son of King Máel Coluim III and his wife Margaret, the third oldest of the latter and the probable sixth oldest of the former. He took his name, almost certainly, from Margaret's great-grandfather King Æþelræd Unræd, or Ethelred the Unready. Ethelred had a multicultural upbringing in the pious household of his Gaelic father and Anglo-Hungarian mother. He had an ecclesiastical career and avoided a political career, perhaps because of some disability, being passed over for the succession. His career probably brought him the prestigious abbacy of Dunkeld, however he died as a cluniac monk in Somerset. He is often thought to have held the office Mormaer of Fife, but this is almost certainly a mistake. The source is a notitia of a grant to the Céli Dé monks of Loch Leven, contained within the Register of the Priory of St Andrews, which says:

Edelradus vir venerandae memoriae filius Malcolmi Regis Scotiae, Abbas de Dunkeldense et insuper Comes de Fyf.[1]

Translated, this is "Ethelred" or "Edelred, man of venerable memory, son of King Máel Coluim of Scotland, Abbot of Dunkeld and also Mormaer of Fife". However, the same notitia records a number of witnesses, among whom are the brothers of Ethelred, David and Alexander; after the last two comes Constantinus Comes de Fyf, i.e. Causantín, the actual Mormaer of Fife. The contradiction has been explained by Bannerman. He argues that the translator of Register of the Priory of St Andrews (a collection of Latin translations of earlier Gaelic documents) had been thrown off by the use of a singular Gaelic verb for a joint grant (i.e. where the verb had two subjects), common in Gaelic charters. As a result, the translator omitted the Mormaer. At any rate, it is clear that Ethelred was never a Mormaer of Fife, since Causantín is attested in other sources.


  1. ^ Lawrie, Charters, XIV, p. 11.


  • Bannerman, John, "MacDuff of Fife," in A. Grant & K.Stringer (eds.) Medieval Scotland: Crown, Lordship and Community, Essays Presented to G.W.S. Barrow, (Edinburgh, 1993), pp. 20–38
  • Lawrie, Sir Archibald C., Early Scottish Charters Prior to A.D. 1153, (Glasgow, 1905),
  • Oram, Richard, David I: The King who made Scotland, (Gloucestershire, 2004)