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Dubh [Duff] [Dub mac Mael Coluim]locked

(d. 966)
  • Dauvit Broun

Dubh [Duff] [Dub mac Mael Coluim] (d. 966), king in Scotland, was the son of Malcolm I (d. 954). His brother (probably younger) was Kenneth II (d. 995). Dubh succeeded Indulf as king on the latter's death in 962 and it is arguable that, until his reign, the two branches of the royal dynasty had maintained a degree of solidarity ever since the reign of Dubh's grandfather, Donald II (r. 889–900) [see under Constantine II]. In 965, however, Dubh (of the branch descended from Constantine I) was challenged by Culen, of the branch descended from King Aed (d. 878). Culen was defeated by Dubh at the battle of Duncrub in Strathearn (modern Perthshire), but in the following year Dubh was killed by the men of Moray at Forres, an event which apparently coincided with an eclipse of the sun on 20 July 966, and was succeeded by Culen. It has been argued cogently that the vivid depiction of a battle and its aftermath on the huge stone monument at Forres (known as ‘Sueno's stone’) represents Dubh's defeat and death. This defeat no doubt undid the probable success of Dubh's father, Malcolm I, in subduing Moray. According to a late (and debatable) source, Dubh's body was taken to Iona for burial. He had one son, King Kenneth III (d. 1005).

Dubh is the eponymous ancestor of the Clann Duib (Macduffs), the earls of Fife from the mid-eleventh to the mid-fourteenth century. Their status as descendants of a line of kings, albeit ones who failed to maintain themselves as plausible claimants to the throne, is surely reflected in the privileged position which the earls later enjoyed, and above all in the prominent position which they came to play in the ceremonies which marked the inauguration of Scottish kings at Scone. A further sign of their pre-eminence among the Scottish nobility may be the role which late medieval chroniclers allot to a certain Macduff [Macduib] (fl. 1057–1058), ‘thane’ of Fife, who is represented as a key supporter of Malcolm III in his campaign for the throne against Macbeth. The earls of Fife were certainly close supporters of the kings of Scots in the twelfth century [see Macduff family, earls of Fife]. If Macduff and his description as earl or thane of Fife are not literary inventions, then he may have been a descendant, perhaps the great-grandson, of King Dubh, through the latter's son, Kenneth III. The first to bear the style Macduib, who established his family as earls of Fife (thereby displacing the Clann Conaill Cirr), he could have been the father or grandfather of Constantine, earl of Fife between 1095 and c.1130, and/or of Gille Micheil, earl of Fife from c.1130 to 1133.


  • A. O. Anderson, ed. and trans., Early sources of Scottish history, ad 500 to 1286, 1 (1922), 471–4
  • M. O. Anderson, Kings and kingship in early Scotland, rev. edn (1980), 249–53, 265–89
  • A. A. M. Duncan, ‘The kingdom of the Scots’, The making of Britain: the dark ages, ed. L. M. Smith (1984)
  • J. Bannerman, ‘Macduff of Fife’, Medieval Scotland: crown, lordship and community: essays presented to G. W. S. Barrow, ed. A. Grant and K. J. Stringer (1993), 20–38