THE LAST OF THE PICTS
King Achaius married the daughter of the King of the
Picts, and long after his death his grandson, Kenneth
Macalpine, claimed the Pictish crown, as well as that of
the Scots, because his grandmother had been a Pictish
Princess. The Picts, however, did not want a Scottish
king, so there was war between the two nations.
But the Scottish lords at this time did not desire to
fight against the Picts, so for some years, although the war
went on, there was no great battle, but only little fights
every now and again.
Kenneth Macalpine, however, did not give up his
determination to win the crown of the Picts, and at last
he called all his lords together to a council, and tried to
persuade them to gather for a great battle. He talked
to them very earnestly, but, say what he might, he could
not move them. They did not want to fight, and they
would not fight.
Seeing he could not persuade them to do as he wished,
the King brought the meeting to an end, but commanded
them all to come together again next day to talk once
more about the matter.
Now King Kenneth Macalpine had made up his mind
that, as he could not persuade the lords by talking to
them, he must try some other plan.
That night he made a very grand supper, and invited
THE LAST OF THE PICTS 25
all the lords to come to it They came, and it was such a
grand supper, with so many courses, that it lasted far into
the night At length it was over, and all the lords went
to bed. They were so tired with the long day that they
fell asleep at once.
But while the lords feasted, the King‘s servants had
been busy. No sooner were the lords asleep, than there
appeared at each bedside a man dressed in fish-skins,
covered with shining scales. In one hand he held a torch
and in the other an ox-horn. The night was very dark,
and the light from the torches shone on the fish-scales,
making a soft and silvery light When each man was in
his place, they all raised their horns, and speaking through
them as through a trumpet they cried, ‘ Awake.’
At the sound of that great shout each lord started
wide awake, and seeing the strange being at his bedside,
lay trembling and wondering what it might mean.
Then speaking through their horns, which made their
voices sound terrible and unearthly, and quite unlike the
voice of any human being, the dressed-up men said, ‘ We
are the messengers of Almighty God to the Scottish
nobles. We are sent to command you to obey your King,
for his request is just The Pictish kingdom is due to
him as his rightful heritage. Therefore, you must fight
for him and win it That is the will of the Lord of All.’
Having so spoken, these pretended messengers from
heaven put out their torches. The glimmer of the silver
scales vanished, and in the darkness the men stole quietly
In fear and trembling each lord lay in his bed, and
could sleep no more that night Was it a dream ? each
asked himself. Was it a vision ? Had any other seen or
heard it ?
When the grey morning light streamed in through the
windows, and the darkness was no longer terrible around
them, the lords arose. Quickly they gathered to the great
Council Chamber. With pale faces and questioning eyes
they looked at each other. ‘ You too have heard ? You
too have seen ? Then it was no dream. A message has
indeed been sent from heaven ; a message which we must
So they spoke to each other, and after some hurried
consultation, they went quickly to the King.
‘ Great King,’ they said, ‘ this night we have seen
strange signs and visions. The Lord of Heaven himself
hath sent a message to us, and we are ready to fight as
you command us.’
Then they told the King of the vision which each one
had seen in the night
‘ I too have seen a vision,’ said the King, ‘ but I said
naught of it, fearing lest you should think I boasted. But
now I tell you as you have all seen the like.’
This of course was not true, and the King knew very
well that what the lords had seen was no vision, but only
his own servants dressed up.
So in this manner the King had his own way, and his
lords gathered all their soldiers together, till there was
such a great army as had never before been seen in the
land of Scots.
When the King of Picts heard of the great prepara
tions which the Scots were making, he too gathered all
his soldiers together. But finding that his army was not
large enough to withstand so great a host, he sent to
England and asked the Saxons to help him. And the
Saxons, because he promised them great gain and plunder,
Very early one morning, when it was just beginning
to grow light, the battle began. Without a shout or
THE LAST OF THE PICTS 27
sound of a trumpet, the Scots rushed upon the Picts, and
when the Saxons saw this silent host moving through the
dim morning light like ghosts, they were dreadfully afraid.
So afraid were they, that they took to their heels, and fled
away to the mountains near. The noise and clattering
made by these fleeing Saxons startled the Picts, and threw
them into great confusion. Their King tried in vain to
encourage them, and bring order again into the ranks. It
was of no use. The Scots fought so fiercely, that in a
very short time the Picts were utterly defeated, and
following the example of the Saxons, they too fled away.
Their King himself, seeing that all was lost, turned his
horse, and rode fast from the field, he and all his army
pursued by the victorious Scots.
After this battle the King of Picts sent messengers to
Kenneth Macalpine desiring peace. ‘ Tell your master,’
replied Kenneth, ‘ that he shall have peace when he gives
the crown of Picts to me‘ It is mine by just right and
When the messengers went back to the King of Picts
with this answer, he was very angry. ‘ I will never give
up the crown,’ he said, so the war continued.
Battle after battle was fought, sometimes one side,
sometimes the other, winning. But at last in a great
and terrible battle the King of Picts and nearly all his
nobles were slain.
Then Kenneth marched through Picüand, killing men,
women, and children in the most cruel manner, till those
who were left fled away to England to escape from his
Thus the kingdom of Scots and the kingdom of Picts
were united, and Kenneth Macalpine ruled over both.
He took all the land belonging to the Pictish nobles and
gave it to the Scottish nobles who had fought for him
28 SCOTLAND’S STORY
and helped him to conquer the Picts. He changed the
names of all those lands and gave them Scottish names,
so that the memory of the Picts might utterly perish.
Some people say that the story of the great slaughter
of the Picts is a fairy tale. Perhaps it is. But this is
true, that about this time the Picts did vanish away out
of the story of Albion, and we hear no more of them, but
only of Scots.
The Picts vanished away so completely that even very
wise people cannot find out what kind of language they
spoke. And so these wise people cannot agree as to
what race the Picts belonged to.
Kenneth Macalpine was a wise king and made good
laws, and after the battles with the Picts were over he
ruled his people in peace. He reigned for twenty-three
years, seven years over the Scots alone, and sixteen years
over the whole land. He died in 859 a.d., and was
buried in the island of Iona, which, ever since St. Columba
had built his church and monastery there, had been used
as a burying-place for the Scottish kings. If you ever
go there, you may still see the graves of some of these
ancient rulers of Scotland.
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