High Lords of Princes: Áedán, Urbgen and Aeðilfrith (576–616)

James E. Fraser

in From Caledonia to Pictland Scotland to 795

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780748612314
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748672158 | DOI:
High Lords of Princes: Áedán, Urbgen and Aeðilfrith (576–616)

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The first king in Scotland whose career is attested well enough in the sources to permit piecing together into a frail narrative is Áedán son of Gabrán. According to Vita Columbae, Áedán went to Iona in order to be ordained king by Columba. The famous story is unlikely to describe a real event. It dates to almost seventy years after Áedán became king, and some thirty-five after his death. By then he had become a figure of key genealogical importance: every subsequent king of Cenél nGabráin, the descendants of Gabrán, was apparently descended from him. The early years of Áedán's reign roughly correspond to the age of the vernacular British panegyric poetry addressed to Urbgen son of Cinmarch. These poems, along with the Gododdin elegies, take for granted a sphere of political influence for mighty North British kings stretching northwards from Yorkshire across the North British zone to ‘beyond the Firth of Forth’.

Keywords: Scottish king; Scottish history; British panegyric poetry; Iona; Áedán

Chapter.  13728 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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