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King of the Picts
Reign 878–889
Predecessor Áed
Successor Donald II
Father uncertain; probably Dúngal
possibly Domnall mac Ailpín, King of the Picts

Giric mac Dúngail (Modern Gaelic: Griogair mac Dhunghail (born c. 832, Scotland),[1] known in English simply as Giric, and nicknamed Mac Rath, ("Son of Fortune");[2] fl. c. 878–889) was a king of the Picts or the king of Alba. The Irish annals record nothing of Giric's reign, nor do Anglo-Saxon writings add anything, and the meagre information which survives is contradictory. Modern historians disagree as to whether Giric was sole king or ruled jointly with Eochaid, on his ancestry, and if he should be considered a Pictish king or the first king of Alba.

Although little is now known of Giric, he appears to have been regarded as an important figure in Scotland in the High Middle Ages and the Late Middle Ages. Scots chroniclers such as John of Fordun, Andrew of Wyntoun, Hector Boece and the humanist scholar George Buchanan wrote of Giric as "King Gregory the Great" and told how he had conquered half of England and Ireland too.


The sources for the succession in what later became the Kingdom of Alba are meagre and confused following the peak of Viking devastation in 875-6. The descendants of Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín) in the male line lost the kingship between 878 and 889. Two names of possible kings in this period are Eochaid and Giric. Giric is very obscure; he may have been Eochaid's guardian; and he may have lost power following a solar eclipse.[citation needed]

The Chronicle of Melrose and some versions of the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba say that Giric died at Dundurn in Strathearn.

Son of Fortune

... the Son of Fortune shall come; he shall rule over Alba as one Lord.[3]
The Britons will be low in his time; high will be Alba 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) in the sovereignty of Scotland.
He will have in bondage in his house Saxons, Foreigners, and Britons.[4]
The Prophecy of Berchán.[5]

The Prophecy of Berchán, an 11th-century verse history of Scots and Irish kings presented as a prophecy, is a notably difficult source. As the Prophecy refers to kings by epithets, but never by name, linking it to other materials is not straightforward. The Prophecy is believed to refer to Giric by the epithet Mac Rath, "the Son of Fortune".[6]

The entry on Giric in the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba is perhaps corrupt. It states:

And Eochaid, son of Run, the king of the Britons [of Strathclyde, and] grandson of Kenneth by his daughter reigned for eleven years; although other say that Giric, the son of another, reigned at this time, because he became Eochaid's foster-father and guardian.
And in [Eochaid's] second year, Áed, Niall's son, died; and his ninth year, on the very day of [St] Cyricus, an eclipse of the sun occurred. Eochaid with his foster-father was now expelled from the kingdom.[7]

Kenneth is Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín); Áed, Niall's son is Áed Findliath, who died on 20 November 879; and St Cyrus's day was 16 June, on which day a solar eclipse occurred in 885.[8]

Gregory the Great

By the 12th century, Giric had acquired legendary status as liberator of the Scottish church from Pictish oppression and, fantastically, as conqueror of Ireland and most of England. As a result, Giric was known as Gregory the Great. This tale appears in the variant of the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba which is interpolated in Andrew of Wyntoun's Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland. Here Giric, or Grig, is named "Makdougall", son of Dúngal. Giric, and Eochaid, are omitted from the Duan Albanach, but they are not unique in this.

This account, found in the Poppleton Manuscript, is not matched by other regnal lists. The lists known as "D", "F", "I", "K", and "N",[9] contain a different version, copied by the Chronicle of Melrose.[10] List "D", which may be taken as typical, contains this account of Giric:

Giric, Dungal's son, reigned for twelve years; and he died in Dundurn, and was buried in Iona. He subdued to himself all Ireland, and nearly [all] England; and he was the first to give liberty to the Scottish church, which was in servitude up to that time, after the custom and fashion of the Picts.[11]

Giric's conquests appear as Bernicia, rather than Ireland (Hibernia), in some versions. William Forbes Skene saw a connection between this and the account in the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto which claims that soon after the death of King Halfdan, the Northumbrians and the Northmen united under King Guthfrith to defeat a Scots invasion.[12]

Ut regem nostrum Girich

In a recent discussion of the "Dunkeld Litany", which was largely fabricated in Schottenklöster in Germany in late Medieval and Early Modern times, Thomas Owen Clancy offers the provisional conclusion that, within the emendations and additions, there lies an authentic 9th century Litany. The significance of this Litany for the question of Giric's authenticity and kingship is contained in a prayer for the king and the army, where the king named is Giric:

Ut regem nostrum Girich cum exercito suo ab omnibus inimicorum insiidis tuearis et defendas, te rogamus audi nos.[13]

He shall rule over Alba as one Lord

A.A.M. Duncan argues that the association of Giric and Eochaid in the kingship is spurious, that Giric alone was king of the Picts, which he claimed as the son of daughter of Kenneth MacAlpin, and that the report that he was Eochaid's guardian (alumpnus) is a misreading of uncle (auunculus). A.P. Smyth proposed that Giric was a nephew of Kenneth MacAlpin, the son of his brother Donald MacAlpin (Domnall mac Ailpín), which appears to rest on what is probably a scribal error. The entry also states that an otherwise unknown Causantín, son of Domnaill (or of Dúngail) was king. Finally, Benjamin Hudson has suggested that Giric, rather than being a member of Cenél nGabráin dynasty of Kenneth MacAlpin and his kin, was a member of the northern Cenél Loairn-descended dynasty of Moray, and accepts the existence of Giric's brother Causantín.


  1. Giric mac Dúngail is the mediaeval form.
  2. Skene, Chronicles, p. 87.
  3. Alternatively, "he shall knead Alba into one kingdom"; A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, pp. 366–367.
  4. Hostages signifying his rule over these peoples. Foreigners, (Old Irish: gall), means Scandinavians or Norse Gaels.
  5. After A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, pp. 366–367.
  6. A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, pp. 366–367. Hudson, The Prophecy of Berchán, is the fullest study of this source.
  7. Skene's Chronicles of the Picts..., p. 9, quoted in A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, pp. 363–364.
  8. St Cyrus day and the eclipse: A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, p. 364, note 3. Confirming the eclipse, see the NASA Catalog of Solar Eclipses: 0801 to 0900.
  9. The surviving lists and their origins and relationships are discussed extensively by Marjorie Ogilvie Anderson.
  10. The Chronicle of Melrose account, from Skene, op. cit, pp. 22 & 224, is quoted in A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, p. 368.
  11. Skene, op. cit., p. 151, quoted in A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, pp. 364–365. The untranslated texts are give by M.O. Anderson, pp. 264ff.
  12. A.O. Anderson, Early Sources, p. 365, note 2; A.O. Anderson, Scottish Annals, pp. 62–64. Guthfrith appears to have reigned in Jórvík from 883 to 24 August 895.
  13. Hudson, p. 206.


  • Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History A.D 500–1286, volume 1. Reprinted with corrections. Paul Watkins, Stamford, 1990. ISBN 1-871615-03-8
  • Alan Orr Anderson, Scottish Annals from English Chronicles. D. Nutt, London, 1908.
  • Marjorie Ogilvie Anderson, Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland. Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh, revised edition 1980. ISBN 0-7011-1604-8
  • Dauvit Broun, "Giric, King of Picts" in John Cannon (ed.) The Oxford Companion to British History. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1997. ISBN 0-19-860514-5
  • Thomas Owen Clancy, "Scottish Saints and National Identities in the Early Middle Ages" in Alan Thacker & Richard Sharpe (eds), Local Saints and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002. ISBN 0-19-820394-2
  • A.A.M. Duncan, The Kingship of the Scots 842–1292: Succession and Independence. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2002. ISBN 0-7486-1626-8
  • Hudson, Benjamin T., The Prophecy of Berchán: Irish and Scottish High-Kings of the Early Middle Ages. Greenwood, London, 1996.
  • Alfred P. Smyth, Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80–1000. E.J. Arnold, London, 1984 (reprinted Edinburgh UP). ISBN 0-7486-0100-7
  • Ann Williams, Alfred P. Smyth & D.P. Kirby, A Biographical Dictionary of Dark-Age Britain. Seaby, London, 1991. ISBN 1-85264-047-2

External links

Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of the Picts
(traditionally King of Scots)

878 – 889
with Eochaid (878? – 889?)
Succeeded by
Donald II