Donald III of Scotland

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Donald III
King of Scots
Reign 1093–May 1094
Predecessor Malcolm III
Successor Duncan II
King of Scots
Reign 12 November 1094–1097
Predecessor Duncan II
Successor Edgar
Born before 1040
Died 1099
Rescobie, Angus, Forfarshire, Scotland
Burial Dunfermline Abbey, later removed to Iona
Issue Bethóc; Ladhmann?
House House of Dunkeld
Father Duncan I of Scotland
Mother Suthen

Donald III (Medieval Gaelic: Domnall mac Donnchada; Modern Gaelic: Dòmhnall mac Dhonnchaidh),[1] and nicknamed "Donald the Fair" or "Donald the White" (Medieval Gaelic:"Domnall Bán", anglicised as Donald Bane/Bain or Donalbane/Donalbain), (died 1099) was King of Scots from 1093–1094 and 1094–1097.[2]


Donald was born in 1033, during the reign of his great-grandfather King Malcolm II. He was the second known son of the King's grandson, Duncan. Malcolm died when Donald was a baby, at age 80, and Donald's father became king. King Duncan I however, perished in 1040 when Donald was still a boy, killed by Thane Macbeth, yet another grandson of King Malcolm II, who usurped his place as king.

Following his father's death, Donald went into hiding in Ireland for 17 years, for fear that he would be killed by Macbeth. His elder brother, Malcolm, went to England. It was during this time that Malcolm's grandfather, Crinan of Dunkeld, who was married to Malcolm II's daughter, was killed fighting Macbeth. When Malcolm grew to manhood, he overthrew Macbeth and became the new king. Donald was 24 years old at that time.

Donald's activities during the reign of his elder brother Malcolm III (Máel Coluim mac Donnchada) are not recorded. It appears that he was not his brother's chosen heir, contrary to earlier custom, but that Malcolm had designated Edward, his eldest son by Margaret of Wessex, as the king to come.[3] If this was Malcolm's intent, his death and that of Edward on campaign in Northumbria in November 1093 (see Battle of Alnwick (1093)) confounded his plans. These deaths were followed very soon afterwards by that of Queen Margaret.

John of Fordun reports that Donald invaded the kingdom after Margaret's death "at the head of a numerous band", and laid siege to Edinburgh with Malcolm's sons by Margaret inside. Fordun has Edgar Ætheling, concerned for his nephews' well-being, take the sons of Malcolm and Margaret to England.[4] Andrew of Wyntoun's much simpler account has Donald become king and banish his nephews. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records only that Donald was chosen as king and expelled the English from the court.[5]

In May 1094, Donald's nephew Duncan (Donnchad mac Maíl Coluim), son of Malcolm and his first wife Ingibiorg Finnsdottir, invaded at the head of an army of Anglo-Normans and Northumbrians, aided by his half-brother Edmund and his father-in-law Gospatric, Earl of Northumbria. This invasion succeeded in placing Duncan on the throne as Duncan II, but an uprising defeated his allies and he was compelled to send away his foreign troops. Duncan was then killed on 12 November 1094 by Máel Petair, Mormaer of Mearns.[6] The Annals of Ulster say that Duncan was killed on the orders of Donald (incorrectly called his brother) and Edmund.[7]

Donald resumed power, probably with Edmund as his designated heir.[8] Donald was an elderly man by the standards of the day, approaching sixty years old, and without any known sons, so that an heir was clearly required. William of Malmesbury says that Edmund bargained "for half the kingdom", suggesting that Donald granted his nephew an appanage to rule.[9]

Edgar, eldest surviving son of Malcolm and Margaret, obtained the support of William Rufus, although other matters delayed Edgar's return on the coat-tails of an English army led by his uncle Edgar Ætheling.[10] Donald's fate is not entirely clear. William of Malmesbury tells us that he was "slain by the craftiness of David [the later David I] ... and by the strength of William [Rufus]".[11] The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says of Donald that he was expelled,[11] while the Annals of Tigernach have him blinded by his brother.[12] John of Fordun, following the king-lists, writes that Donald was "blinded, and doomed to eternal imprisonment" by Edgar. The place of his imprisonment was said to be Rescobie, by Forfar, in Angus.[13] The sources differ as to whether Donald was first buried at Dunfermline Abbey or Dunkeld Cathedral, but agree that his remains were later moved to Iona.


Donald left one daughter but no sons. His daughter Bethoc married Uctred (or Hadrian) de Tyndale, Lord of Tyndale (son of Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria), the probable ancestor of the Barons de Tyndale and the Tyndale/Tindal family.[14] Bethoc's daughter, Hextilda, married Richard Comyn, Justiciar of Lothian. The claims of John II Comyn, Lord of Badenoch to the crown in the Great Cause came from Donald through Bethóc and Hextilda.[15] Ladhmann son of Domnall, "grandson of the King of Scots" who died in 1116, might have been a son of Donald.[16] He may equally have been a son of Domnall, son of Máel Coluim who died in 1085, who may in turn have been a son of Malcolm III or of Máel Coluim mac Maíl Brigti, Mormaer of Moray.

Bethoc's second husband was Radulf of Nithsdale.

Fictional depictions

The minor character of Donalbain in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth represents Donald III.



  1. Domnall mac Donnchada is the Mediaeval form
  2. Donald's elder brother Malcolm III (Máel Coluim mac Donnchada) is presumed to have been between two and ten years of age in 1040; Duncan, p. 42. Walter Bower's Scotichronicon says that Donald passed his exile during the reign of Macbeth (Mac Bethad mac Findlaích) in the Hebrides, but this is unlikely given his age; McDonald, p. 104.
  3. Scottish Annals, p. 112, quoting Symeon of Durham; Duncan, p. 54; Oram, David I, p. 39.
  4. Fordun, V, xxi.
  5. Scottish Annals, pp.117–118; Oram, David I, pp. 40–41.
  6. Oram, David I, pp. 42–44.
  7. Annals of Ulster, s.a. 1094.
  8. Duncan, pp. 55–56; Oram, David I, pp. 44–45.
  9. Anderson, SAEC, pp. 118–119.
  10. Oram, David I, p. 45.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Anderson, SAEC, p. 119.
  12. Annals of Tigernach, s.a. 1097.
  13. Fordun, V, xxvi; Duncan, pp. 57–58; Oram, David I, pp. 47–48.
  14. Young, Alan, Robert the Bruce's Rivals: The Comyns, 1213–1314, (East Linton, 1997), pp15 -
  15. Duncan, pp. 241, 270, & 348–349.
  16. Annals of Ulster, s.a. 1116; McDonald, p. 23.


  • Anderson, Alan Orr, Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers A.D. 500–1286. D. Nutt, London, 1908.
  • Ashley, Mike., "British Kings & Queens." Carroll & Graf, NY,2002. ISBN 0-7867-1104-3, pg. 115
  • Duncan, A.A.M., The Kingship of the Scots 842–1292: Succession and Independence. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2002. ISBN 0-7486-1626-8
  • John of Fordun, Chronicle of the Scottish Nation, ed. William Forbes Skene, tr. Felix J.H. Skene, 2 vols. Reprinted, Llanerch Press, Lampeter, 1993. ISBN 1-897853-05-X
  • McDonald, R. Andrew, Outlaws of Medieval Scotland: Challenges to the Canmore Kings, 1058–1266. Tuckwell Press, East Linton, 2003. ISBN 1-86232-236-8
  • Oram, Richard, David I: The King Who Made Scotland. Tempus, Stroud, 2004. ISBN 0-7524-2825-X
  • Oram, Richard, The Canmores: Kings & Queens of the Scots 1040–1290. Tempus, Stroud, 2002. ISBN 0-7524-2325-8
Donald III of Scotland
Born: before 1040 Died: 1097 or later
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Malcolm III
King of Scots
Succeeded by
Duncan II
Preceded by
Duncan II
King of Scots
Succeeded by