Royal succession and kingship among the Picts

Evans, N. (2008) Royal succession and kingship among the Picts. Innes Review, 59(1), pp. 1-48. (doi: 10.3366/E0020157X08000140)

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When we consider the history of the Picts we are faced with the perennial challenge for the early medievalist of deciding whether the fragments of evidence which survive are representative of the reality of Pictish society, or whether they provide us with distortions, based on patterns of survival. This issue is as relevant to the subject of royal succession as it is to other aspects of Pictish history. The debate over whether the Picts practised a matrilineal system, with the son of the previous king's sister becoming the next king, or whether it was a patrilineal system, with the kingship generally passing through the male line, has dominated the discussion of Pictish succession. Until the 1980s, the matriliny thesis was virtually unquestioned, and accepted by scholars including F. T. Wainwright, Marjorie Anderson, and Isabel Henderson1. The bases for this view were the accounts of the Pictish settlement of northern Britain in Bede's ‘Ecclesiastical History of the English People’ and Irish texts written throughout the medieval period, but mainly surviving in versions from the twelfth century or later.2 In these sources it was claimed that the Picts went to Ireland before arriving in northern Britain, and that they obtained wives from the Irish, with some versions stating that this was done on condition that the succession went through the female line. Other sources which did not openly discuss the nature of Pictish succession, particularly the Irish chronicles and the Pictish king-lists, were then interpreted by scholars in relation to these accounts and were thought to support them.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Evans, Dr Nicholas
Authors: Evans, N.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D051 Ancient History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:Innes Review
ISSN (Online):1745-5219
Published Online:01 May 2008

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