Malcolm III of Scotland Biography

(King of the Scots from 1005 to 1093)

Birthday: October 5, 954 (Libra)

Born In: Scotland

Malcolm III of Scotland, from the ‘House of Dunkeld,’ was the king of Scotland (also referred to as the king of Alba, a name that existed between 900 and 1286) from 1058 to 1093. In Scottish Gaelic, he was called “Máel Coluim mac Donnchada.” He was also known by the nickname “Canmore,” meaning “great chief” in Scottish Gaelic. He had a traumatic childhood. His father, King Duncan I of Scotland, was killed. Following this, Macbeth captured the throne. To keep himself safe, Malcolm spent his early years in exile. However, he came back stronger and killed Macbeth and his successor, Lulach, successfully claiming the throne of Scotland. His reign continued for 35 years. He fought many wars against William I, king of England, and his successor, William II. He is credited as the founder of a dynasty that ruled Scotland for more than two centuries.
Quick Facts


Spouse/Ex-: Ingibiorg Finnsdottir (m. 1066), Saint Margaret of Scotland (m. 1070)

father: Duncan I of Scotland

mother: Suthen

Born Country: Scotland

Emperors & Kings Royal Family Members

Died on: November 13, 1093

place of death: Glamis, England

Childhood & Early Life
Malcolm was born to Sybilla, also called Suthen, queen of Scotland, and King Duncan I, on March 26, 1031, in Scotland.
His father was killed by an army led by Macbeth, “mormaor” (sub-king) of Moray, on August 15, 1040. Later, Macbeth took over as the king of Scots.
According to the 14th-century Scottish chronicler John of Fordun, Malcolm spent his early life in exile at the court of Edward the Confessor, in England. However, according to other sources, he was exiled at the court of Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Earl of Orkney.
In 1045, Malcolm’s grandfather, Crinan of Dunkeld, and his family, tried to overthrow Macbeth. However, he was killed in action.
Several chroniclers have recorded that Malcolm avenged his father’s death by killing Macbeth on August 15, 1057. However, he could not ascend to the throne, as Macbeth’s stepson, Lulach, succeeded him. However, the chronicles also state that in less than a year, on April 23, 1058, Malcolm deceitfully murdered Lulach. He was coronated as the king on April 25, 1058, at Scone, Perth and Kinross, Scotland.
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According to Orderic Vitalis’s chronicles, in 1059, after Malcolm ascended to the throne, one of his initial actions was to seek the hand of Margaret, a relative of Edward the Confessor, in marriage. However, the proposal did not materialize until 1070.
In 1061, his army attacked the kingdom of Northumbria and destroyed Lindisfarne.
By 1066, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy (Northwestern most region of France), also known as William of Normandy, William I, and William the Bastard, invaded England. William was crowned the king of England on December 25, 1066. He had displaced Edgar Atheling, the grand nephew of Edward the Confessor, who was elected to be the king in October 1066.
In 1068, Edgar, along with his mother, Agatha, and his sisters, Margaret and Cristina, fled England to seek refuge under Malcolm in Scotland. However, in 1069, they returned to England to join the ongoing rebellion against William I.
Later that year, Malcolm marched south, beyond Cumbria, and captured the lands up to Wearmouth, including the Pennine Hill, the Valley of Teesdale, and Cleveland.
William I retaliated by sending an army to invade Scotland through Cumbria. However, the Scottish forces took over the coast of Northumbria and destroyed the resources and ammunition of the attacking English military.
In late 1069, Edgar, along with his family, landed in Scotland, as he was probably shipwrecked while on his way to Europe to seek asylum. Malcolm granted him refuge.
During his meeting with William I at Abernethy, in 1072, Malcolm handed over his eldest son, Duncan II of Scotland, as a hostage and accepted William I’s overlordship.
However, Malcolm continued to raid Northumbria, which disrupted the uneasy peace between the two kings.
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In 1080, William I sent his son Robert Curthose to Scotland to keep an eye on Malcolm’s activities. However, Malcolm managed to strike a peace accord and maintained it for the next 10 years.
William I died in 1087, and a war of succession ensued between his sons, Robert and William Rufus. However, William Rufus was coronated as the king of England on September 26, 1087. He adopted the title “William II of England.” Nevertheless, the power struggle continued between the brothers.
After a period of peace that lasted a little over a decade, Malcolm decided to attack England and expand his territory, taking advantage of the warring brothers in England.
Realizing the threat from Scotland, William II stopped the skirmishes with his brother, turned his attention toward the north, and chased Malcolm’s army away. However, Robert and Edgar intervened between the kings and brokered peace.
Nevertheless, this period of tranquility did not last beyond 1092. Soon, disputes began over the control of the region of Cumbria.
Malcolm wished to negotiate the matter personally with William II and settle the differences. Although William II initially agreed, he later changed his mind and insisted that the English barons adjudge the dispute.
However, by the time Malcolm learned about William II’s decision, he had already reached Wilton Abbey in Wiltshire, England. An upset and provoked Malcolm refused to cooperate. On his way back to Scotland in late August 1093, he attacked Northumbria.
He attempted to raid Northumbria again in the middle of November 1093 but was ambushed by Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria. This eventually resulted in his death.
Family, Personal Life, & Death
According to ‘Orkneyinga Saga: The History of Earls of Orkney,’ Malcolm married Ingibiorg, the widow of Thorfinn Sigurdsson. They had three children: Duncan, Donald, and Malcolm. While Duncan later became a king, the other two children died young.
His marriage with Ingibiorg brought peace to the northern and western regions of his kingdom.
Toward the end of 1070, Malcolm married Margaret of Wessex. They had six sons and two daughters: Edward; Edmund of Scotland; Ethelred, Abbot of Scotland; King Edgar of Scotland; King Alexander I of Scotland; Edith of Scotland (also known as Matilda, wife of King Henry I of England, and the queen of England); Mary of Scotland (wife of Eustace III of Boulogne and the countess of Boulogne); and King David I of Scotland.
He was killed by Robert de Mowbray’s men in the Battle of Alnwick, on November 13, 1093, when he set out to raid Northumbria in England.
His body was initially buried at ‘Tynemouth Castle and Priory.’ Later, during the rule of his son, Alexander I of Scotland, his body was exhumed and reburied at ‘Dunfermline Abbey’ in Scotland.
The presumed spot at which Malcolm was killed is marked with a memorial cross.
William Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy ‘Macbeth’ is loosely based on the incidents in Malcolm’s life.
The novels ‘A Goodly Pearl’ by Mary H. Debenham (1905), ‘Malcolm Canmore’s Pearl’ by Agnes Grant Hay (1907), and ‘Sing, Morning Star’ by Jane Oliver (1949) were based on the married life of Margaret and Malcolm.
Malcolm’s wife, Margaret, was a pious woman. She was canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1250 and is revered as Saint Margaret of Scotland by Catholics and members of the Anglican Communion.

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