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Duncan IIlocked

(b. before 1072, d. 1094)
  • A. A. M. Duncan

Duncan II (b. before 1072, d. 1094)


Chapter of Durham Cathedral

Duncan II (b. before 1072, d. 1094), king of Scots, was the son of Malcolm III (d. 1093) and his first wife, Ingibiorg, of the house of Orkney earls. He was described by William of Malmesbury as nothus, bastard, a slur intended to explain the succession in the kingship of the sons of Malcolm's second wife, Margaret (d. 1093): when William I of England took Duncan as hostage from Malcolm he is unlikely to have taken an illegitimate son. William Rufus released and knighted Duncan in 1087, along with Ulf, son of Harold II, but Duncan was intermittently at Rufus's court until the death of his father in 1093, when, in return for homage, he obtained the English king's consent to his seeking the Scottish throne. He seems to have scraped together a force of English and French, but was successful in driving out his uncle Donald III and became king before the end of 1093.

Probably on his way north, Duncan sought the help of St Cuthbert, to whom he restored the long-lost lands of Tyninghame, in what is the earliest Scottish charter, whether in original or copy. In it Duncan describes himself as 'heritably undoubted king of Scotia' (Lawrie, no. 12); he makes the gift for his father, brothers, wife, and infants, but adds as reassurance that he has caused his brothers to make the grant; his mother is not mentioned. The signatories include Edgar, presumably Duncan's half-brother, and a Malcolm who is usually taken to be a full brother—not an impossibility but lacking any confirmation. Duncan's seal is single-faced and shows him armed as mounted knight with lance and pennon; perhaps it was produced for the occasion by the monks of Durham. He granted land to Dunfermline Priory, the foundation of his stepmother, Margaret, thus confirming that he was on good terms with her sons.

Duncan's reign was brief and stormy; first some Scots attacked and drove out his foreign contingent, and he had to swear that he would never reintroduce them to Scotland. Then in a second rising, under Donald III and Edmund, son of Malcolm III, he was killed, apparently with some treachery, by the local mormaer at Mondynes in the Mearns on 12 November 1094, a date preserved by an obit at Durham, where he was highly regarded, though he was allegedly buried on Iona. Donald III resumed the throne; Duncan, despite his Gaelic name, Donnchad, was too Anglo-French for Scotland. He had married Etheldreda (or Octreda), daughter of Gospatric, the earl of Northumbria who fled to Scotland in 1072, but only one of their children is known, William fitz Duncan fitz (d. 1151x4).

William probably came to Scotland with his uncle David before 1124, and supported the latter loyally and effectively after he became king in 1124. He led the contingent which attacked Wark Castle in January 1138, ravaged in Yorkshire fiercely, won a victory at Clithero, and devastated Craven before joining the king at Cowton Moor in August, where he angrily opposed the attempts of Robert (I) de Brus (d. 1142) to persuade David to go home. He then fought at the battle of the Standard, but does not seem to have accompanied David south in 1141, and, apart from witnessing charters, is not heard of again until David I confirmed him by force in the honour of Skipton and Craven in 1151. William married Alice de Rumilly, who inherited lands in Copeland and Skipton, and himself inherited Allerdale, south of Derwent, through his mother. It is surely likely that he also had Scottish lands, and in an English inquest of the thirteenth century he is called 'earl of Moray', a province forfeited to the crown in 1130; but he is never so called in Scotland. According to charter evidence William fitz Duncan had died by 1154.

William had two sons, a Gospatric who is once mentioned and may have been a child of an earlier marriage, and William, 'the boy of Egremont', who succeeded to his father's English lands and died childless in or soon after 1163, so that the inheritance passed to his three sisters. William fitz Duncan made no known claim to the throne of Scotland, nor did his lawful heirs in 1291, although Orkneyinga Saga (about 1200–40) makes the striking comment that the son of Malcolm and Ingibiorg 'was Duncan, king of Scots, father of William who was a great man, and whose son, William the noble, every Scotsman wanted for his king' (Orkneyinga Saga, 72). This may, however, be a confusion with William's son, Donald MacWilliam [see under Macwilliam family] (probably illegitimate), who from 1179 led a rebellion against King William the Lion with support from Moray and Ross.


  • A. O. Anderson, ed. and trans., Early sources of Scottish history, ad 500 to 1286, 2 (1922), 89–94
  • A. O. Anderson, ed., Scottish annals from English chroniclers, ad 500 to 1286 (1908), 117–18
  • W. Farrer and others, eds., Early Yorkshire charters, 12 vols. (1914–65), vol. 7, pp. 9–16
  • A. A. M. Duncan, ‘Yes, the earliest Scottish charters’, SHR, 78 (1999), 1–38
  • A. C. Lawrie, ed., Early Scottish charters prior to ad 1153 (1905), no. 12 and pp. 271–3
  • A. H. Dunbar, Scottish kings, 2nd edn (1906)
  • H. Pálsson and P. Edwards, eds. and trans., The Orkneyinga saga: the history of the earls of Orkney (1978)


  • Durham Cath. CL, charter


  • seal, U. Durham L., Durham Cathedral muniments, Misc. ch. 554 [see illus.]
Scottish Historical Review