Malcolm IV, King of Scots, died on the 9th of December, 1165.
Malcolm IV became known as Malcolm ‘the Maiden’ in the way that historians like to add labels. He didn’t have a surname other than the Gaelic patronymic of ‘Máel Coluim mac Eanric’, which translates as Malcolm mac Henry, since he was the eldest son of Henry of Scotland and grandson of David I, Henry’s dad. So he couldn’t have gone down in the annals of history in the same way as one of his successors and distant relation, Robert, ‘the Bruce’. Essentially, the chroniclers nicknamed him ‘the Maiden’ because of his youth and unmarried status. For much of his reign, he was in poor health, albeit noted for his religious zeal, Anglo-Norman tastes, and an interest in being knighted. It appears he was also the original Malcolm Canmore, a name now commonly associated with his great-grandfather, Malcolm III, as he was denoted Mael Coluim Cennmor, mac Eanric, ardri Alban – Malcolm the Great Chief, son of Henry, High King of Scotland.
Malcolm was born on the 20th of March, 1142, and he came to the Throne at the age of twelve when he was crowned at Scone Abbey on the 27th of May, 1153. His father had predeceased him by a year or so, which is why he succeeded his grandfather, who had died in Carlisle on the 24th of May. The coronation took place before the David I was buried, which might appear a wee bit hasty and disrespectful, but it should be recalled that the young Monarch wasn’t without rivals for the kingship. His granddad had intended that Donnchad, Mormaer of Fife, would act as a ‘rector’ or Regent for wee Malky until he came of age, but Donnchad only lasted a year or so before he died in 1154. So the boy King was a wee bit exposed and the opportunity arose for old enmities to resurface. Malcolm had to contend with a variety of problems; home and away.
On the home front, Malcolm had a bit of trouble from the men of Moray, who were family rivals. Those were the sons of Máel Coluim mac Alaxandair, an illegitimate son of Alexander I. Máel Coluim had been imprisoned by David I at Roxburgh in 1134 and in 1153, his sons were free to contest the succession, which they did. One of those sons was captured at Whithorn in 1156 and imprisoned with his father. One problem historians have had, which Malcolm IV didn’t, is distinguishing between Máel Coluim mac Alaxandair and Máel Coluim MacHeth. It is generally accepted that they were not the same man, which gives us a bit of a problem with Domnall MacHeth as his very existence depends on the opposite being true. It is probably a case of mistaken identity as the son of Máel Coluim mac Alaxandair who was imprisoned in 1156 may well have been called Domnall. Máel Coluim MacHeth enters the Annals in 1157, when he was reconciled with Malcolm IV and restored to the Mormaerdom of Ross, which he held until his death in around 1168. Another Domnall, Domnall mac Uilleim, appears in the records in the late 1170s, but it may be that he too should be linked to the disorders in Moray in the 1160s. The ‘Gesta Annalia’ records a revolt in Moray around 1163, which led to Malcolm IV creating a Scottish Diaspora. He expelled the men of Moray “and scattered them …so that not even one native of that land abode there”.
Also on the home front, Malcolm had to cope with rebellion in Galloway, particularly Fergus, Lord of Galloway. After he was besieged in Perth Castle in a rebellion of six of his Earls in 1160 and managed a peaceful reconciliation, Malcolm led an expedition into Galloway where he defeated Fergus. He took Fergus’ son, Uchtred, as a hostage and banished Fergus as a Monk to Holyrood, where he died in 1161. Malcolm installed one of Fergus’ sons in his place. On the western home front, Malcolm had to deal with Somerled, Lord of the Isles. Matters came to a head in 1164, when Somerled landed a large army of Islesmen, Norsemen and Irishmen, and advanced on Glasgow and Renfrew, where the Steward, Walter Fitzalan, had his new castle. Somerled’s power base in the Isles meant that he was able to land an army of 15,000 men from 164 galleys at Greenock, but somewhere near Inchinnan, on the 20th of October, he and his son Gillebrigte were killed in what is commonly referred to as the Battle of Renfrew. The Steward’s army included the levies of the area, led by Herbert of Selkirk, the Bishop of Glasgow, but the chronicles of the day attributed the victory to the intercession of Saint Kentigern (St Mungo). Much confusion surrounds the manner of the battle, and indeed whether a full scale battle occurred at all, but what is certain is that Somerled was killed and his army departed. Kentigern was long since dead.
Of course, Malcolm had far more trouble with Henry I of England, who took advantage early on when the King was still a wee boy. Malcolm’s granddad had extended the kingdom of Scotland to embrace the modern English counties of Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland, and in addition, Malcolm was the Earl of Cumberland and the Earl of Huntingdon, a fief of the English crown, whilst he had granted his brother William the earldom of Northumberland. However, by the Treaty of Chester, signed in 1157, Henry forced Malcolm to surrender Carlisle and those northern counties in return for ‘reconfirming’ Malcolm’s rights to the Huntingdon. Henry reneged on a promise to David I, reclaimed northern England and settled the border on a line between the Solway and the Tweed. Malcolm also gave up his brother’s earldom on his behalf. All in all, a heavy price to pay for peace, but with all the resources of Normandy, Aquitaine and England at his disposal, Henry was probably not the best man against whom to go to war.
Malcolm was awfy keen on being knighted and had to look to Henry for that honour, but after a meeting in Carlisle, in 1158, the two Kings split up “without having become good friends” and without the Scottish King being “yet knighted”. The following year, Malcolm toddled off to France after Henry and was finally knighted at the Siege of Toulouse. All of that didn’t go down well with the folks back home, who saw Malcolm as their King and not like Henry, more relevant to his having gone to France, as the Earl of Huntingdon. Malcolm returned from Toulouse in 1160 and it was then he was besieged in St Johnstoun of Perth.
The pious and frail Malcolm IV died at Jedburgh Castle on the 9th of December, 1165, and he was buried at Dunfermline Abbey. According to A.A.M. Duncan in ‘The Kingship of the Scots 842–1292: Succession and Independence’ Malcolm’s premature death may have been hastened by Paget’s disease. Malcolm was perhaps the last Gaelic speaking monarch and although he did not marry, he left a natural son. Nigel Tranter chronicles part of Malcolm’s stork in ‘Tapestry of the Boar.