Malcolm 3 Canmore

The Canmore bit is Gaelic; can is from ceann, 'chief' or 'head', more is from mor, 'great'. He could therefore have been 'Great Chief', or 'Big Head'. As he has been variously described as lusty, barbaric, aggressive and a dedicated soldier, his name probably depended on which side of him you stood. Whatever, he founded the great House of Canmore, a dynasty which consolidated royal power in Scotland for more than two centuries.

He was the son of King Duncan I, and was a child when his father was killed by MacBeth in 1040. He then spent his youth in exile in Northumberland, with his uncle Earl Siward. His uncle introduced him to Edward the Confessor at the English court, and together they aided Malcolm to defeat and kill MacBeth at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire, in 1057.

MacBeth's supporters immediately placed Lulach, MacBeth's stepson, on the throne, but he too was bumped off by Malcolm. They didn't mess about in those days you know. Malcolm was then free to claim the throne of Scotland.

He married twice. First time round was Ingibiorg, daughter (or widow) of Thorfinn of Orkney. One of his two sons by Ingy was Duncan II. Ingy died about 1069, and Malcolm then married Margaret, sister of Edgar Atheling. He was heir to the English throne, so it could have been an interesting time, but he was blocked by William the Conqueror. Malcolm gave refuge to Edgar, and so true romance had its merry way. This marriage produced six sons, four of whom would succeed to the throne: Duncan II (1094), Edgar (1097-1107), Alexander I (1107-24) and David I (1124-53).

Malcolm and Margaret had by all accounts a very happy marriage; she had the culture, he had the army. He allowed her to introduce English at court (she never learned Gaelic), and also to reform the church. But he couldn't stop playing with the English at war games, usually over land in Northumbria. In all he marched into England five times; on the last occasion he was cornered and killed, probably by trickery, at Alnwick, in November 1093. Also killed with him was his eldest son and heir Edward. Margaret, already ill, died four days later.