‘When Óengus Took Alba’: Despot, Butcher and King (728–61)

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:
‘When Óengus Took Alba’: Despot, Butcher and King (728–61)

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Óengus dominated northern Britain in the middle third of the eighth century like no king before him. His military and other interventions among the Gaels were unprecedented and unparalleled in (recorded) Pictish history. He seems to have negotiated successfully with the paramount king in Ireland and may even have invaded that country, a feat not matched until the fourteenth century. In some English records he was Unust, and in the Chronicle of 766 ‘a despotic butcher who stained the beginning of his reign with criminal blood, and continued likewise right up to the end’. He is the first Pictish king known to have invaded Northumbria, but he also established a peace treaty with his English neighbours.

Keywords: Pictish king; northern Britain; Gaels; Northumbria

Chapter.  14234 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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