The ancestors of the Pictish kings
Of all the British pedigrees that purport to go back into the Iron Age, this is the most likely to be true and accurate. It is not, strictly speaking, a pedigree: it is a king list. Unlike most of Europe, which had long allowed the worship of the Great Goddess to become subsumed by the adoration of male deities, the Picts seem to have retained a dominant, female deity, Bride or Brigid. Their monarchy was hereditary in the female line, each queen being both a descendant of the goddess, and also, in all probability, an incarnation of her.
The genealogical origins of the king was irrelevant: he held his office simply because he was the consort of the queen – and thus consort of the goddess. The man who would succeed him must marry into the same queenly dynasty – which might be the king and queen’s daughter, or the queen’s sister, or perhaps even the queen herself. The extent to which the kings were mere drones, or vigorous warlords, and to which the queens were mere priestesses, or active, spear-wielding warriors like Boudica of the Iceni or Cartimandua of the Brigantes, two warrior queens in lands south of Pictland at the time of the Roman invasion, we do not know.
The king list thus holds an invisible pedigree, of the wives of the men named. We do not know their names, but we know for sure that each one was descended, in the direct female line, from earlier consorts of earlier kings named in the list. The list comes down to Kenneth MacAlpin, whose mother was one of these Pictish queens. He is a direct ancestor of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, and of millions of other people, including myself: each of us, therefore, descends from this ancient dynasty of Pictish queens, who were incarnations of their ancestress, Bride, the great goddess of the isle.
The only truly dubious names in the list are the first few. Here, there are distinct signs of tampering, as Christian Irish genealogical tradition (heavily influenced by Classical Greek genealogy) took over. The first stated Pictish king was called Cruithne. His name was Irish for ‘Britain’ and is an eponymn, that is, a name made up from the country he is supposed to have founded. His sons’ names, equally, are eponymns for parts of Scotland:
Fib = Fife
Fodla or Atfodla = modern Athole
Fortren = western Perth, including the vale of Strathearn
Cait= Cathanesia, modern Caithness
Ciric or Circin = Maghcircin, modern Mearns
On the basis of his named successors and the lengths of their reigns, we can say that Cruithne, if he existed, would have lived about 442 or 476 BC. But I suspect that he and his sons are a later Irish invention, in order to give a suitably male cap to a pedigree that was otherwise, for all the male names it contained, a female one.
The Irish, keen to synchronise Cruithne with the all-encompassing genealogical scheme of the Lebor Gabála Érenn, attributed an earlier pedigree to him. William F. Skene’s Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots and other Early Memorials of Scottish History (HMSO, 1867), provides several versions of this.
Skene’s version A (from almost identical versions in the Books of Ballimote and Lecain) gives this confusing account:
The children of Gleoin, son of Ercol, took possession of the islands of Orcc, that is, Historend, son of Historrim, son of Agam, son of Agathirsi, and were dispersed again from the islands of Orcc; that is, Cruthne, son of Cinge, son of Luctai, son of Parthai, son of Historech, went and took possession of the north of the island of Britain, and his seven sons divided the land into seven divisions; and Onbecan, son of Caith, son of Cruthne, too the sovereignty of the seven divisions. Finach was lord of Erin at that time, and took hostages of the Cruthneach…
Version B is more straightforward:
Cruithne, son of Cinge, son of Luctai, son of Parthalan, son of Agnoiun, son of Buain, son of Mais, son of Fathect, son of Jafeth, son of Noe.
Version D says:
The Cruithne came from the land of Thracia; that is, they are the children of Gleoin, son of Ercol. Agathirsi was their name. Six brothers of them came at first, viz, Solen, Ulfa, Nechtan, Drostan, Aengus, Leithenn… the Cruthneach later came to Ireland where they had great power, but were expelled by Herimon and the first of their kings in Scotland was Cathluan son of Gub. It then says that ‘the two sons of Cathluan were Catinolodar and Catinolachan. The two champions, Im, son of Pern, and Cind, the father of Cruithne; Crus, son of Cirigh, their soldier; Uaisnemh, their poet; Cruithne, their artisan. Donald, son of Alpin, he was the first,till Britus, son of Isacon, slew him. The clan Neimhidh possessed after Britus, viz, Iarglun. The Cruithneach possessed after that, after they had from from Erin. The Gael possessed after that, viz, the sons of Erc, son of Eachdach. (A rather splendid poem ensues).
Version E (Book of Lecain) says:
Cruithnechan, the son of Lochit, son of Ingi, went over from the sons of Mileadh to the Britons of Fortrenn to fight against the Saxons; and he defended the country of Cruithentuaith for them, and he himself remained with them…
These accounts are contradictory, of course, but are none-the-less attempts to fit Cruithne into the Milesian story, generally associating the Picts with the Partholonians who (in the Lebor Gabála) were early invaders of Ireland. They are not so absurd when you remember that, to the monkish mind, all humans had to be descended from Noah somehow.
The Pictish King List, as reproduced in Skene’s book (and taken from Ms Colb. Bib. Imp. Paris. 4126), reads as follows:
Cronica de origine antiquorum Pictorum
Cruithne mac Cinge pater Pictorum habitandium in hac insula .c. annis regnavit
Vij. filios habuit. Hec sunt nomina eorum: Fib, Fidach, Floclaid, Fortrenn, Got, Ce, Circinn.
Circin lx. regnavit
Gede olgudach lxxx.
Guidid gaed brechnach l
Gest gurcich xl
Brude bont, a quo xxx. Brude regnaverunt Hiberniam et centum l. annorum spacium, xlviij. annis reguavit. Id est
Brude gart et urgart
Gilgidi c l. annis regnavit
Cimoiod filius Arcois vij.
Dectotr’ic frater Diu xl
Deo ardivois xx
Gartnaitb loc, a quo Garnart iiij. regnavere, ix. annis regnavit
Breth filius Buthut vij.
Vipoig namet xxx. annis regnavit
Canutulachama iiij. annis regnavit
Wradech uecla il annis regnavit
Gartnaich-diuberr Ix. annis regnavit
Talore filius Achivir Ixxv. annis regnavit
Drust filius Erp c. annis regnavit et c. bella peregit; ix decimo anno regni ejus Patricius episcopus sanctus ad Hiberniam pervenit insulam. [Drust is known to have died in 458 AD]
Talore filius Aniel iiij. annis regnavit
Necton morbet filius Erip xxiiij. regnavit Tertio anno regni ejus Darlugdach abbatissa Cilledara de Hibernia exulat pro Christo ad Britanniam. Secundo anno adventus sui immolavit Nectonius Aburnethige Deo et Sancte Brigide presente Dairlugdach que cantavit alleluia super istam hostiam.
Optulit igitur Nectonius magnus filius Wirp, rex omnium provinciarum Pictorum, Apurnethige Sancte Brigide, usque ad diem judicii, cum suis finibus, que posite sunt a lapide in Apurfeirt usque ad lapidem juxta Ceirfuill, id est, Lethfoss, et inde in altum usque ad Athan. Causa autem oblationia hec est Nectonius in vita julie manens fratre suo Drusto expulsante se usque ad Hiberniam Brigidam sanctam petivit ut postulasset Deum pro se. Orans autem pro illo dixit: Si pervenies ad patriam tuam Bominus miserebitur tui: reg-num Pictorum in pace possidebis.
DrestGurthinmoch xxx. annis regnavit
Galanan erilich xij. annis regnavit.
Da Drest, id est, Drest filius Gyrom, id est, Brest filius Wdrost v. annis conregnaverunt Brest, filius Girom solus v. annis regnavit
Garthnach filius Girom vij. annis regnavit
Cailtram filius Girom uno anno regnavit
Talorg filius Muircholaich xL annis regnavit
Brest filius Munait uno anno regnavit
Galam cennaleph uno anno regnavit.
Cum Briduo i. anno.
Bridei filius Mailcon xxx. annis regnavit In octavo anno regni ejus baptizatus est sancto a Columba.
Gartnart filius Bomelch xL annis regnavit
Nectu nepos Uerd xx. annis regnavit
Cinioch filius Lutrin xix. annis regnavit
Garnard filius Wid iiij. annis regnavit.
Breidei filius Wid v. annis regnavit
Talore frater eorum xii annis regnavit
Tallorcen filius Enfret iiij. annis regnavit
Gartnait filius Bonnel vj. annis regnavit et dimidium.
Brest frater ejus vij. annis regnavit
Bredei filius Bili xxL annis regnavit
Taran filius Entifidich iiij. annis regnavit.
Bredei filius Derelei xL annis regnavit
Necthon filius Derelei xv. annis regnavit
Brest et Elpin congregaverunt v. annis.
Onnist filius Urgnist xxx. regnavit
Bredei filius Wirguist ij. annis regnavit
Ciniod filius Wredech xij. annis regnavit
Elpin filius Wroid iij. annis regnavit et dimidium.
Brest filius Talorgen iiij. vel v. annis regnavit.
Talorgen filius Onnist ij, annis et dimidium regnavit
Canaul filius Tarl’a v. annis regnavit
Custantin filius Wrguist xxxv. annis regnavit.
Unuist filius Constantini, et Talorgen filius Wthoil iij annis conregnaverunt
Uven filius Vnuist iij annis regnavit.
Wrad filius Bargoit iii et
Bred uno anno regnavernunt
Kinadius igitur filius Alpini.
This latter was Kenneth MacAlpin (d. 858), a Dalriadan prince, who united the kingdoms of the Picts and Scots.