The church and the highlands



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1 "The English historians, who had mainly to record his frequent invasions of Northumberland, regarded him (Malcolm) u a man of barbarous disposition, and a cruel and pitiless temper, who delighted to ravage and devastate the northern districts of England."—Skene, Celtic Scotland, vol. i., p. 432.

J " Scotland was filled with slaves and handmaids of the Eng­lish race; so that even to this day, I do not say no little village, but even no cottage can be found without one of them."—Simeon of Durham, de Jest. Beg., ad an. 1070. Perhaps the " invasion " here alluded to is the one erroneously ascribed to Malcolm's love of his wife's erstwhile countrymen.

at least entitled to argue that a throne which needed so much bloodshed before it could be " consolidated " must have seemed eminently pre­carious to the person who was called on to occupy it.

Malcolm, during his comparatively long reign, was beset by enemies, even if we except those who hailed from across the Border. His own kingdom of Scotland proper was an insignificant affair com­pared with the Scotland of to-day. From the Spey northwards his authority was more often questioned than recognised. The Western Isles were in the hands of the North men. Galloway was still practically independent. Caithness and Orkney formed part of the Norwegian earldom of Orkney. Argyle was not yet united to the Scottish crown; and even in Alba proper, subjec­tion to the royal authority seems to have been purchased by the device of striking a balance between the foreign population of the Lothians and the native inhabitants of the land. The reign of Malcolm, indeed, would appear to have been a concatenation of favourable circumstances, so far at least as Caennmòr was concerned; and though his address was considerable and his bravery and energy were unquestioned, it seems probable, on the whole, that he kept his throne more by reason of the weakness of his enemies and the peculiar position in which they were placed as regarded himself, than by means of the strength of his own situation, and the loyalty, affection and fidelity of those by whom he was surrounded. Malcolm though a great yet does not appear to have been a lovable man, or one in whom any sentimental weakness of the kind commonly attri­buted to him was likely to be found. His character seems to me to bear a striking resemblance to that of the first Edward of England, whose familiar soubriquet of " Hammer of the Scots " would seem to discover in the case of the sovereign under con­sideration, its appropriate historical counterpart in that of the " Hammer of the English ". According to the testimony of St. Berchan (quoted by Skene) Malcolm Caennmòr was

A king the best who possessed Alba;

He was a king of kings fortunate.

He was a vigilant crusher of enemies.

No woman bore or will bring forth in the East

A king whose rule will be greater over Alba !

And there shall not be born for ever

One who had more fortune and greatness.

Let us now see in what condition Malcolm left his country. It cannot be too strongly emphasised, nor, apparently, too frequently insisted on, that Caennmòr was essentially a Gaelic king—as Gaelic as the peat, as the common saying goes—and that the kingdom over which he reigned fully shared with him that character. Mr. Burton, whose pro­nounced bias in favour of every one and every­thing Teutonic in Scotland is to be traced in almost every page of his history, maintained the contrary; but Mr. Skene's observations on that historian are so just and apposite that I feel sure I shall be excused for here reproducing them. " Mr. Burton,"1 he says, "introduces under this reign some remarks on the effect of the Norman influences and the feudal system upon Scotland. Excellent as these observations are, they are here out of place, and belong more properly to a later period. It was an old notion that feudalism came into Scot­land in the reign of Malcolm (III.); but it will not bear a close examination, and these influences were

1 Celtic Scotland, vol. i., p. 431.

in fact very slight in the kingdom of Scotland proper, which still continued essentially in all its characteristics a Celtic kingdom till the reign of David the First, who was the first feudal monarch of Scotland, and when these influences became permanent." Kobertson1 and Chalmers2 were of the same opinion with Skene, and, indeed, nowa­days that historian who should cling to the obsolete notions of Burton and others could not be regarded as respectable. Mr. Hume Brown, however, who has done so much to place the history of his country upon a scientific basis, would appear to grudge to the Celtic inhabitants of Scotland even the limited satisfaction I have mentioned above; for in an historical piece which he has recently published entitled The Making of Scotland, he seems to go out of his way to approve the intro­duction of the feudal system and Norman influences* whose rise he mistakenly dates from the reign of King Malcolm.

There can be no reasonable doubt, however, for all history proves it, that Malcolm and his court were Gaelic to the core;3 and that foreign in­fluences were happily conspicuous by their absence throughout his long and troubled reign. So far as his country was concerned, Caennmòr was a worthy successor to the second Malcolm. He gave to Scotland the southern frontier which she now possesses;4 and had it not been for the curse of

1 Scotland under her Early Kings. 3 Caledonia.

3 Malcolm (says Mr. Eobertson) was a Gaelic king to the

last.

* The foolish bombast of newspaper writers, who noisily proclaim that Scotland has " annexed England," will deceive no man of good sense. It is humiliating to read a foreigner's opinion as to our present situation. "The death of Malcolm the Norwegian invasions and for the unhappy overthrow of England by the Normans in 1066, it is possible that Malcolm had aggrandised his king­dom to an extent little imagined by those who treat of historical affairs from a Scots point of view.

When Malcolm died on the banks of the Alner he left his kingdom a prey to dissension and faction \ but its essentially Gaelic character survived for some years the numerous troubles which a dis­puted succession to the throne entailed on it. " Edgar," says Eobertson,1 " left his kingdom much as he found it"; and even during the reign of the first Alexander (1107-1124) we find the Gaelic Mòrmhaors playing a part which shows us that if the so-called " transition period " was beginning to make itself felt, Gaelic was still the language of the court in Scotland proper, and that the Celtic system of government had not yet been displaced by that polity which was destined to supplant it.

Even after the reign of David I., during whose reign Scotland may be said to have begun to pass beneath the feudal yoke, we find the Gaelic language and the Gaelic nobility asserting themselves in a fashion which proves that " Scotland proper " was by no means yet a negligible factor in the political situation2 Thus at the coronation of Alexander III. (1249-1285) we read, that after some feudal
(says Bellesheim, History of the Catholic Church of Scotland, toL i., p. 260) left Scotland in possession of the southern frontier which it continued to retain until its final absorption into the English kingdom."

1 Scotland under her Early Kings, vol. i., p. 185.

' Scotland under her Early Kings, vol. ii., p. 54. Even during the reign of the feudalising David the Gaelic nobles witnessed charters before those of foreign extraction.

ceremonies had been observed, "an aged and venerable bard made his appearance, robed in scarlet, knelt before the occupant of the throne, and with head lowly bowed, recited the royal genealogy in the ancient language of the country, in token that the child of Alexander, son of William, the descendant and representative of the line of Alban's kings, ruled over the realm of Scotland by the right of long descent".

Norman-French 1 succeeded Gaelic as the lan­guage of the Scottish court; but during the greatest part of this period, the language of the Gael was, so far as Scotland proper was concerned, univer­sally understood. "Not a few of the nobles," says Robertson, "were probably trilingues, using Norman-French in their familiar intercourse, but capable of conversing in 'quaint Inglis' and in Gaelic. French appears to have died out in both countries (Scotland and England) about the same time, the dialect of the Lothians replacing it at the Scottish court, and from its similarity to the dialects spoken amongst the whole body of the civic population, the latter gradually assumed the place"2 of the predominant language.

Thus we see that Gaelic, so far as the Scottish court was concerned, died, as became it, gamely and hard. By the end of the reign of Alexander III. (1285) it had ceased to be the official language at court, though, no doubt, it was still extensively used by the upper classes, and probably exclusively so by those of the nobility and gentry of Scotland who lived at a distance from the seat of govern-

1 The vulgar belief that English succeeded Gaelic as the language of the court is largely owing to the support accorded to that erroneous notion by Sir Walter Soott.

8 Scotland under her Early Kings, vol. ii., p. 143.

ment, and who took no share, having neither place nor part, in the more immediate proceedings of the court. The death of the " Maid of Norway," however, and the subsequent troubles to which that melancholy catastrophe gave rise, completed the ruin of Gaelic as a court language. It was hardly to be expected that the hungry Norman adventurers who clamoured for the crown of Scotland when the Celtic line of succession came to an end, and the throne was put up to the highest bidder in the regard and interest of the King of England, should have much concern for the ancient language of the people, or should choose to identify the success of their cause with the ascendency of persons and

rinciples with which they could have had but

ttle, if anything, in common.

Let us now pass to the consideration of Saint Margaret's relations with the Church, and endeavour briefly to estimate the sum of her achievements. According to Robertson, "the principal point which Margaret succeeded in carrying out was connected with Lent, which the Gaelic Church kept from Quadragesima Sunday, instead of from Ash Wednesday. . . . The other practices which Margaret endeavoured to reform were (1) a reluct­ance to communicate on Easter Sunday ; (2) labour on Sundays; (3) marriage with the widow of a father or brother; and (4) the celebration of the service with barbarous rites."1 It will be observed by the impartial reader that not one of these re­forms refers to a question of faith, but is concerned, in every case, with discipline only; and inasmuch as in every case the gravest necessity for their in­stitution undoubtedly existed, one is apt to wonder




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