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About King Kenneth MacAlpin

Our Clan Society takes it's name from King Kenneth MacAlpin.

However, ancient records are very few and almost nothing is known about persons living between MacAlpine's reign and about 1100 AD. Although we can probably presume that Kenneth's direct male line ruled Scotland for 200 years, there is no clear picture of his descendants following that time. By some point in time, probably by 1300 AD, the MacAlpines had become landless and there is no Chiefly line. There is no Chief today.

In early times, a Clan Chief picked his successor in accordance with the Gaelic practice of "Tanistry." The Chief would select the most able candidate within the "derbhfine" (an extended kinship group normally consisting of the male descendants of a common great-grandfather) but, usually a close relative, such as a brother, son, cousin, nephew, etc. Today, Tanistry has given way to the practice of passing the title directly from father to eldest son, and so on. In addition, today, any person claiming to be Chief of a Scottish Clan must petition the Lord Lyon in Scotland for a Coat of Arms and legally prove in Lyon Court they are entitled to be recognized as Chief.  Lord Lyon has established guidelines and procedures that can be followed to form an "Ad Hoc Derbhfine" or "Family Meeting", and find a new Clan Leader (called a "Commander") who might ultimately be recognized as Chief, thereby establishing a new Chiefly bloodline.

 Given our  ancient and unrecorded history, it is not expected that any individual can prove to Lord Lyon's stringent requirements direct descent from a former Chief. Thus, we must follow Lyon Court's guidelines and procedures to form an Ad Hoc Derbhfine for the purpose of finding a new Clan Leader, a Commander, who might ultimately become our new Clan Chief.

 

History of the MacAlpines

The history of the MacAlpines is ancient. The MacAlpines reached their peak of power and influence at a time when no written record was kept, leaving only the vague history of tradition. This has led some to conclude, that a Clan MacAlpine never existed. Yet, the voices of the bards (ancient oral historians) cannot be silenced and evidence of the Clan's existence and significance abounds.

Kenneth MacAlpin became the first King of Scotland in AD 843 when he united the Scots and the Picts. He was the son of King Alpin and the descendant of a long line of Dalriadic Kings. His direct male descendants ruled Scotland for the next 200 years and every Sovereign of Scotland since, including Queen Elizabeth II, today, has had his Royal blood coursing through their veins. It is from him that our Society takes its name.

The history of the MacAlpines is shrouded in Scotland's distant past; it is debated by scholars and will likely never be clear. Capturing that history is currently a work in-progress of the Society.

King Kenneth undoubtedly brought many of his family advisors and kinsmen with him when he moved his capital from Argyllshire, the traditional seat, to Scone, in Perthshire, leaving behind others to look after the interests in Argyll. Perhaps thusly was ultimately created a Chiefship of Clan MacAlpine separate from the Kingship of Scotland. The Clan seat in Argyll may have become an outpost on the old frontier of a New Kingdom.

In his book, "The Scottish Tartans," Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon King of Arms, refers to the claim that this Royal Clan is the most ancient in the Highlands. He states that the Clan MacAlpine is Celtic and that records indicate that, for 25 generations, the Kings of Scotland were of MacAlpine lineage. He also states that the ancient crest was a boar's head, the war cry being "Cumbrich Bas Ailpein" or, "Remember the death of Alpin," and that the traditional home of the MacAlpines was Dunstaffnage, near Oban, Argyll. This former Lord Lyon is one of the most respected Lyons to serve Her Majesty and, therefore, his description of the Clan, its history, and its symbols is considered to be authoritative.

There is an old Gaelic saying: "Cnuic `is uillt `is Ailpeinich" ("Hills and Streams and MacAlpine", which signifies the origin of the MacAlpines was contemporary with the origin of the hills and streams, that is, the earth.)

"Tradition claims MacAlpin or MacAlpine as the oldest and most purely Celtic of the Highland Clans, of royal descent from the dynasty of Kenneth MacAlpin who united the Picts and Scots into one kingdom from the year 850, and transferred his capital to Perthshire from Dunn Add in Dalriada (beside Loch Crinan.)" (From "Scots Kith & Kin," page 49.)

Regarding the name MacAlpine, one of the earliest records of an early form of the name appears when John MacAlpyne witnessed a charter by Malise, earl of Stratherne, of the lands of Cultenacloche and others in Glenalmond, c. 1260 (Grandtully, I, p. 126.) Monaghe fiz Alpyn of the county of Perth rendered forced homage to Edward I of England in 1296. (From "The Surnames of Scotland" by George F. Black.)

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