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MacAlpin's Treason

MacAlpin's treason is a medieval legend which explains the replacement of the Pictish language by Gaelic in the 9th and 10th centuries.

  • Date AD 841

In AD 841 Kenneth MacAlpin united the Picts and Scots, the event sometimes referred to as McAlpin's Treason

Kenneth McAlpin was King of the Scots in the western territory of Dalriada. He was one of several contenders for the throne of the Picts in the North. Legend has it that after a series of victories by his army, McAlpin invited the heads of seven Pictish Royal houses to Scone, half mile outside Perth, to discuss his claim-and slaughtered them as they dined. One account suggests that the Scots had booby trapped the benches occupied by Picts, who were dropped into pits sown with deadly blades. McAlpin's Treason resulted in a united Scotia.


  • Location Scone, Perthshire

Kenneth I (810 – 13 February 858) was king of the Picts

Cináed mac Ailpín (Modern Gaelic: Coinneach mac Ailpein), commonly Anglicised as Kenneth MacAlpin.

Kenneth MacAlpin's mother was probably descended from the royal house of Fortrenn and his great-grand uncle, Alpin I, had reigned as Kings of the Picts until deposed by Oengus I in 728.

Two sources of how Keneth McAlpin became King of the Picts are the Prophecy of Berchán, and De Instructione Principus, which note that in 841 Mac Alpin attacked the remnants of the Pictish army and defeated them. Mac Alpin then invited the Pictish king, Drest, and the remaining Pictish nobles to Scone to settle the issue of [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dál_Riata Dál Riata's] freedom or MacAlpin's claim to the Dál Riatan crown. Faced with a recently victorious MacAlpin in the south and a devastated army in the north, Drest, as well as all claimants to the Pictish throne from the seven royal houses attended this meeting at Scone. Legend has it that the Gaels came secretly armed to Scone, where Drest and the Pictish nobles were killed.

Giraldus Cambrensis in De Instructione Principus recounts how a great banquet was held at Scone, and the Pictish king and his nobles were plied with drinks and became quite drunk. Once the Picts were drunk, the Gaels allegedly pulled bolts from the benches, trapping the Picts in concealed earthen hollows under the benches; additionally, the traps were set with sharp blades, such that the falling Picts impaled themselves.

The Prophecy of Berchán tells that MacAlpin plunged them in the pitted earth, sown with deadly blades. Trapped and unable to defend themselves, the surviving Picts were then murdered from above and their bodies, clothes and ornaments plundered.

Following this event, Kenneth MacAlpin became king of both realms, heralding back to his maternal ancestry to establish his claim to the throne of Pictavia and inheriting Dál Riada from his father. He merged the two into one body named Alba.

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