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Parents and Children of the Lord Rhys

                         WHO WAS 'GREG, KING OF THE PICTS'?        
                                      By Dr J. White-Phillip
 
           An entry in the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba [1] (Version B) reads: "Eochodius son of Run king of the Britons, grandson of Kenneth by his daughter, reigned for 11 years; although others say that Ciricium [Giric] son of another reigned at this time, because he became Eochaid's foster-father and guardian".

           In our paper "Rhun ap Arthgal and His Family", we discussed an apparent Alban coup that occurred in 878.  The reports [1-3] state that a certain "Giric" (Greg)  installed himself and Eochaid ap Rhun as “joint” kings, after the death of Aed of Alba in 878. From our work on previous generations of this family, we determined that Eochaid would have been a scant 16 years old at the time of these events. [4] Giric/Greg is described as some type of "guardian" for the boy, which supports the suggested minority of Eochaid at the time of the coup.
  

          To answer the query posed by this paper's title, we begin by posing a number of questions which require an answer.  The scant information for our research comes from De Situ Albanie, which exists in various forms [1-3]. In these documents (the letters below denote the various versions of this manuiscript), Girig or Greg is variously named Ciricius, A; Giric, B; Girig, C; Girg, DI; Grig, ELMN; Carus, F; Girgh, G; Tirged, H; Tirg, K. His ancestry is provided only as "Dungal's son" BCDEFGIKN ; "Dugall's son" H; "Donald's son" LJVI. His reignal dates are also somewhat varied: 11 or 3 years, BC ; 11 years, A, given to Eochaid, Run's son; 12 years, DEGHIK; 10 or 18 years, LM; 15 years, N; 13 years. Taken together, we would tend to name him Giric, with a Latin form “Ciric” or “Ciricus”, which we'd anglicize to “Greg” and we'd name his father (if Celtic) “Dungual” or if Brythonic “Dyfnwal”- in both cases a name anglicized to “Donald”. His reign, such as it was, should probably be placed between 10-12 years, beginning in 877 either after the death of Constantine (if contested), or 878 after the death of Aed of Alba (uncontested).

         Answers to the following questions are unavailable in any sources we have yet investigated:
 
1. What was Greg's ancestry and what was his entitlement to rule any kingdom?
 
           One strong possibility is that Greg himself had NO claim to kingship in either kingdom, that he was required to use his "ward" to accomplish his ambitions.  

          Version D of the Chronicle, a later revision, inserts an explanation for Aed's short reign, not found elsewhere: “His brother, Aed White-foot, reigned; and he perished, wounded by the sword of Giric, Donald's son. After he had completed his first year on the throne, [Aed] ended his life by a wound, in Strathallan".  We do not find this passage in other (earlier) versions of De Situ Albanie, and cannot credit that it is accurate. The Annals of Ulster provide an obit in 878: "Aed son of Cinaed, king of the Picts, was killed by his own associates", but do not name those responsible, or otherwise expound on who these associates might have been. [5]  The passage in the Annals of Ulster suggests that the transition of power in 878 did involve some violence, regardless of Giric's ancestry.

          John of Fordun states:  "Now, according to the rule of the kingship, Gregory, son of Dungallus, should have come before him [Aedh mac Cinaed]; wherefore, the chiefs of the kingdom being divided amongst themselves, a battle was fought at Strathallan, wherein the king was mortally wounded at the first shock, and died two months after...."

           Here, Fordun appears to claim that Greg or Giric's father was a man of the Alpinid dynasty, and identifies his father “Dyfnwal” as Donald I (812-863). Further, Fordun appears to suggest that the conflict between Aed and Giric was based on Giric's legitimate claim. There is no known record in any chronicle or other documentary source attesting to any children fathered by Donald I. We think this is an assumption made later to support the assertion that “all the Kings of Alba during this period were an unbroken lineage of Alpinids”.

          We tend to discount the assertions of Fordun with respect to the identity of Giric's father Dungual, and thus his asserted Alpinid ancestry. Had Greg been a man closely related to the Mac Alpin clan, he could simply claim kingship in Alba “by birthright”, in which case Greg would have no need to share power with a teenager. Instead, both men are cited together in chronicles describing their reign, wherein Giric's ward, Eochaid, is clearly indicated as the man who has a claim to both thrones. It is Eochaid who is named as son of the late king of Strathclyde (filiis Run regis brittanorum), and as a maternal grandson of Kenneth mac Alpin (nepos Cinadei ex filia) in the Chronicles of the Picts.  After the death of Aed in a conflict (that might or might not have involved Giric), we posit that there were no males in the next generation of the extended Alpinid family who were yet teens, and thus Eochaid had the “best” claim to the Alban throne.
  
 
2. What was Greg's relationship to Eochaid?          

           Citations from the chronicles indicate Greg is acting as a guardian for young Eochaid. This guardianship suggests a close familial relationship between the two men. Since Greg appears to use Eochaid's claim to the Alban throne, we propose any familial relationship between the two men should be charted through the Strathclyde (Brythonic) branch of the family, rather than the Pictish Alpinids. 

          Thus, we suggest that Giric/Greg ("ap Dyfnwal”) was a man of unknown ancestry who married a sister of Rhun ap Arthgal and was the paternal uncle-by-marriage of Eochaid ap Rhun. When Rhun died (or was killed ca 878) his wife left her teen-aged son in the care of his paternal aunt and her husband Giric while she likely relocated to Alba to help care for the sons of her brothers, namely: Donald II mac Constantin b bef 877, reigned from 889/90-900, and Constantine II mac Aed b bef 878; reigned 900-943.   Further, we include our suggestion of this possibility: the entire scheme of 878 might have been orchestrated by “Uncle Greg”; using Eochaid to justify his ascendancy after the death of Aed of Alba.

 
                                    750  Rhydderch
                                                 l
                                    780  Dyfnwal
                       ______________l____________
                      l                                                l
           813  Owain         Kenneth             810 Arthgal                  ?
                     l              mac Alpin           _____l_______        Dyfnwal
                     l                    l                 l                      l             l
        845  Dyfnwal            Dau=====Rhun 838    daughter==Giric/Greg  830
                    l                               l   
        875  Owain                863  Eochaid 
 
      (chart of the Strathclyde family with our suggested relationship with Greg)


3. Did the men rule both kingdoms jointly, or was Greg alone in Alba while controlling the boy-king of Strathclyde?

           It is interesting to note that in the “Pictish King List” only Gregory is named as king of Alba though both men are addressed together in early versions of the chronicle. [1-3] In later revisions, Eochaid is omitted from discussion in Giric's entry. [2, 3, 6] We tend to favor the earlier versions of documents before they have been revised by many hands.

           The various versions of the Pictish Chronicles provide a reign of 10-13 years with 11 or 12 the most frequently cited for the two men. [1-3] Fordun provides a reign of 18 years for Giric as a sole ruler, ending in 892. [6] Fordun would have Giric “crowned king” somewhere around 875, a date decidedly during the reign of his predecessor Constantine. [6] Again, we tend to disagree with Fordun's presentation.

          The passage in the Pictish Chronicles [1, 2, 4] informs us that in the ninth year of reign, a solar eclipse occurred on the day of “St Cirici”. The eclipse can be dated to 16 Jun 885. [7]  This would be the ninth year of a reign beginning in 877, a date prior to the death of Aed. Further dating is provided using the obit of Eochaid's Irish relative Aed Mac Niall whose death is placed on the 20th Nov 878 from citations in the Annals of Ulster and Chronicon Scotorum, which itself is preceded by a solar eclipse that ensures accurate dating. [8] Together, these dates place the ascension of Eochaid to a date between late 876 and early 877. We would place this after the death of Constantine of Alba and actually prior to the reign of Aed.

           These dates suggest that either 1) the 877 reignal dates provided in the chronicles are calculated based on Eochaid's accession in Strathclyde, and further, that his father Rhun died in battle alongside Constantine; or 2) the years 877/8 were disputed in Alba, which ended with Aed's death in 878.

            As to “who held power”, the primary sources appear to suggest Eochaid was controlled by his guardian. We suspect John Rhys was mostly correct in his statement “... the real relation in which Girig probably stood to Eochaid was that of a Non-celtic king of Pictish descent, wielding the power of the Pictish nation, with Eochaid ruling among the Brythons...” [9] We can't assert whether Giric was Pictish, or Celtic or neither, but we do think he was more than likely in control of both thrones as a regent. At the very least, Eochaid was a sub-king in Strathclyde, under his uncle's guidance.

4. Why were they expelled?

           While the fate of Eochaid is unknown, Fordun provides an uncorroborated death for Giric at “Dundurn” and dates this event to 892. [6] Using the most frequently cited dates in our sources, we begin around 877/8, reign 11-12 years, and arrive at approximately 889/90. [1-3] While we do not know the exact reason for their expulsion, we would suggest that there was in fact a “reason” beyond “someone else took over”.

           We think that this account from Simeon of Durham's “History of the Church of Durham” suggests that there was a Scottish invasion of Northumbria during the time of Guthred or Guthfrith. [10]

           "After the lapse of some time, the nation of the Scots collected a numerous army and, among their other deeds of cruelty, they invaded and plundered the monastery of Lindisfarne. Whilst king Guthred, supported by St. Cuthbert, was about to engage in battle with them, immediately the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them all up alive, herein repeating the ancient miracle in the matter of Dathan and Abiron".

            A.O. Anderson further dates this event somewhere between 883 and 889. [3] We'd suggest that a military defeat in 889 would have been a humiliating loss for Giric (and Eochaid). While no obit is given for either man, we think “swallowed alive by the earth”, might have been an earthquake which occurred and contributed to the military loss. (We take no stand on Saint Cuthbert's involvement in any proposed geological events.)

           We suggest that the combination of the “Solar eclipse” on the day of the King's Saint (Cyricus), followed by this unexplained geological catastrophe, was enough to tip the balance in favor of an opposing Alban faction. We suggest that shortly after this failed Northumbrian incursion, Donald Mac Constantine garnered the support required to oust Giric and Eochaid from Alba.

5. Why are there conflicting accounts of “Gregory” and his reign? A Cautionary Tale....

           Later Versions of the Chronicle and other documents of kings include a magnification of Giric, praising his deeds, until he is equated with the greatest of all the kings in life and myth. (Alfred of England, King Arthur and so on). Fordun, in particular, devotes several chapters of praise to “King Gregory” who is also afforded great deeds [6]:

          “Moreover, he brought the whole of Ireland, and nearly the whole of England, under his yoke. And though Ireland belonged to him by right of succession, he did not get possession of it without war on the part of some who withstood him. The sovereignty of his possessions in England he won partly by his arms, and partly by kindness".

           We note at this point that the contemporary Annals and Histories of Ireland contain not one word of Greg “King of the whole of Ireland”. Also, we're not sure how he has any claim to the Irish kingship, as his lineage doesn't present any cause to assert this right. The Welsh Annals Cambriae take no notice of him, though these certainly discuss events in Strathclyde. The Anglo Saxon Chronicles too, are quite silent. Charters and regnal lists from elsewhere in Britain contain no mention of Greg.  Instead, the Anglo Saxon Chronicles contain many passages regarding the “Great Heathen Army” that ravaged England through 870s, resulting in the 876/7 death of Constantine of Scotland and perhaps Rhun of Strathcldye at his side. (This is the series of conflicts that started the whole succession mess in Alba and Strathclyde in the first place.) We do however believe that Alfred the Great, (king of the Anglo-Saxons from c. 886 to 899) were he able to comment, might take umbrage with Fordun's assertions regarding Greg's reign over “Most of England”.

           From whence came these magnified claims of “dubious” historical accuracy? We think that perhaps Fordun and other chroniclers were swayed by a text known as “the Prophecy of Berchan”, which describes 24 Scottish kings from the 800-1100.
 

                       Berchan's Prophecy, stanzas 132-139 [1]

           After that, the king will take [sovereignty] whose name will be the Tuilti. Alas! in the west and in the east, a Briton is placed over the Gaels!

The Briton from Clyde will take [sovereignty]. The son of the woman from Dun-Guaire; [he will be] for thirteen years (in fortresses of deeds of valour) in the sovereignty of Scotland: until the Son of Fortune shall come, who will reign (?) over Scotland as sole lord. The Britons will be low in his time; high will be Scotland of melodious boats.

Pleasant to my heart and my body is what my spirit tells me: the rule of the Son of Fortune in his land in the east will cast misery from Scotland.
Seventeen years (in fortresses of valour) [he will be] in the sovereignty of Scotland. He will have in bondage in his house Saxons, Foreigners, and Britons.

By him will be attacked the strong house: alas! in the country of Earn [Eire], red blood will be about his head; he will fall by the men of Fortriu.
Scotland will suffer because of it; my prophecy shall come to them, after the Son of Fortune (with fortresses of clans ) who will fall by the men of Fortriu.

           We don't know if this “prophecy” was written in the 5th century (as claimed), or if it was a later, more “poetic” version of someone else's interpretation of history. The verse certainly seems to indicate that a man from Strathclyde is an Alban king, and gives him a reign of about the same length as we've calculated for Eochaid. It's a little less accurate when one identifies the “son of fortune” as Giric, who reigned with this man from Strathclyde, and not after him.  In this “prophecy”, the “son of fortune” was identified as or attributed to Giric by Skene (and likely others). The poem lauds him, and perhaps if this document was credited as accurate by those revising “De Situ Albanie”, the acceptance of this content as fact could have influenced their additions.

          We would quote from Innes [2] “To do justice to Fordun, it appears by what we have said elsewhere of him, that none ever applied to history with more zeal for his country, nor with a better intention than Fordun, nor hath been at greater pains to find out materials, or to digest them in a more regular form, considering the times he wrote. For as to the substance of his chronicle, it must be considered, that Fordun wrote in an age where there was very little or no critical learning, and very little distinction made betwtixt certain and fabulous monuments of history; when uncertain popular traditions, and dubious legends, for want of better materials, were often employ'd as documents of history...hindered Fordun from discussing matters, and so overswayed him..... Hence it happened that the antiquities of the Scots made a new and considerable progress and figure passing through Fordun's hands......”

           Our investigation serves as a cautionary tale to other researchers: we should maintain awareness that some of our sources written in times of “very little or no critical learning” may be colored  by “dubious legends, for want of better materials.... often employ'd as documents of history”.

           Our conclusion is that Greg, son of an unknown Donald, was likely an opportunistic “nobleman” who married into the house of Strathclyde.  Circumstances aligned to enable him to rule Alba for about ten years through the claim of his foster son Eochaid. We don't believe he was otherwise remarkable, but during his reign, he may have afforded the Scottish church some freedoms they didn't have before.
 
          More background data concerning the Strathclyde family can be found in our papers at the links below:

NOTES:
[1]  De Situ Albanie/Chronicle of the Kings of Alba from Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots, and other early memorials of Scottish history by Skene, W. F. (William Forbes), 1809-1892, ed

 
           "Licet Ciricium filium"; This text has been taken out of context and interpreted to mean “Greg, son of Licet”. The word means “allow” and the statement is part of a text that reads “Licet Ciricium filium alii dicunt hie regnasse; eo quod alumpnus ordinatorque Eochaid fiebat. This text does not name Greg's father.  In other texts, this man is clearly named as Girg mac Dungaile or Grig filius Dunegal.  
[2] De Situ Albanie/Chronicle of the Kings of Alba; from “A Critical essay on the Ancient Inhabitants of the Northern parts of Britain or Scotland”, Vols I & II, Innes, London 1729. (Early and Later “revised” versions)
[3] De Situ Albanie/Chronicle of the Kings of Alba from Anderson, A. O. Early Sources of Scottish History AD 500-1286, 1922
[4] Harl 3859, pedigree 5
[5] Annals of Ulster (878.2)
            U878.2: Aed son of Cinaed, king of the Picts, was killed by his own associates.
[6] John of Fordun's Chronicle of the Scottish nation; Edinburgh, Edmonston and Douglas 1872
[8] Annals of Ulster (U879.1) ; Chronicon Scotorum (CS879)
          U879.1: Aed son of Niall, king of Temair, fell asleep on the twelfth of the 
          Kalends of December 20 Nov. at Druim Inasclainn in the territory of Conaille.
          Dating confirmed using previous AU (U878.8) entry: Solar eclipse 29 Oct 878, visible
          in Ireland
[9]Celtic Britain, Volume 2 of Early Britain 3rd ed, Sir John Rhys; Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1904
[10] Simeon of Durham, History of the Church of Durham, in “The Church Historians of England” Vol III, Part II. Translated from the original Latin, with a pref. and notes by JosephStevenson, University College Durham; Seeleys, 1855.