Following several abortive attempts to establish a long-running dynasty in Crusader Kings 2, I finally settled on the Dunkeld kings of Scotland. After an on-again-off-again playthrough lasting many months I finally completed my first full run-through of the game, preserving the Dunkeld grasp on the throne of Scotland through the entire 387 year history of CK2 from 1066 to 1453. This entailed 18 kings, whose reigns ranged from the trifling (less than 12 months for the ill-fated King Findlay) to the legendary (63 years for Godfrey the Great). In reality, the Dunkelds reigned over Scotland only until 1286, when they were supplanted by the Bruces and then the Stuarts. Here then is the alternate, condensed history of my Crusader Kings 2 version of Scotland's history. (n.b. The leaderhead in the top left of each screenshot is Duncan the Great, who was king when the game finished in 1453)
King Malcolm III (r.1058-96)
King Duncan II 'the Cruel' (r.1096-98, 1105-09)
Duncan's reign illustrated how messy Scottish politics could be in the Middle Ages. Immediately upon taking the throne in 1096, Duncan was excommunicated by the Pope, thereby paving the way for the Duke of Lothian to rebel against Duncan's all-too-new rule. By 1098 Duncan had defeated the rebellious Lothian, but the kingdom was wrested from him and passed to his 23-year-old son, William. Biding his time, Duncan now styled himself the Duke of Albany and consoled himself with the idea that at least he still had his head. He also served as his son's Marshal, leading the Scottish armies, and giving him plenty of time to plot his revenge. By 1103 it was time to pounce, and Duncan launched his claim to regain the throne. William's supporters saw the writing on the wall by 1105, and as Duncan was besieging his son William they stripped William of the title and passed the kingdom to William's son Donald (Duncan's grandson), who was only eight years old at the time. Within six weeks Duncan's relentless siege was a success and he proclaimed himself king once more. Duncan's enemies were punished, but not his errant son or grandson, both of whom later had a second chance at kingship. Duncan's prize was four more years on the throne, until he died a natural death aged 52 whilst campaigning in France.
King William (r.1098-1105, 1109-18)
William didn't have long to wait for his second taste of life as the king, but the start of his new reign was troubled. Moray rebelled in 1110, and the covetous King Rayner I of England declared war on Scotland in 1111. William suffered a major setback, losing Cumberland to England the following year, but at least by 1114 he had crushed the Moray rebellion and imprisoned its leader. Seeking to atone for his losses to Rayner, William claimed Galloway from its rightful (or should I say 'current') owner. Alas, in 1118 William died at the Battle of Dunragit, fighting Duke Bard of the Isles, at the age of 43.
King Donald III (r.1105, 1118-21)
An ill-starred king. Duncan's grandson had six weeks on the throne whilst cooped up in an isolated castle when he was merely a boy, but by the time he finally regained the throne aged 21 it was clear he was not suited to a life in command of an entire kingdom. While he did manage to oversee the surrender of Galloway and its addition to the Scottish realm, after a mere three years on the throne Donald died aged 24, of symptoms arising from severe stress.
King Malcolm IV 'the Noble' (r.1121-74)
A mere toddler when he came to the throne, Malcolm's early regency was turbulent as Rayner I of England renewed his bullying of Scotland, declaring war a few months after learning of Donald's death. Two terrible Scottish defeats in 1122 saw English spirits soar - at Carlisle Malcolm lost 3800 men and at Roxburgh a further 1000 died; Teviotdale was lost to Rayner. Matters worsened the following year when Galloway rebelled once more, seeking to install the pretender Prince Duncan on the throne. After years of warring, Rayner was halted and by 1129 Galloway was finally imprisoned; Teviotdale and Cumberland were reclaimed for Scotland! Upon attaining his majority in 1135 Malcolm immediately took Princess Cecile of France as his wife, and the following year he set forth to earn his reputation on crusade to Jerusalem. With a mere 1425 men Malcolm reached the Holy Land and fought the infidel, but it was in Catalonia and Sardinia that he made his mark, taking Tortosa and Cagliari for Christendom.
Returning to Scotland as a famed young warrior, Malcolm proceeded to expand his holdings by revoking rivals' titles, invading Ireland and building strong claims to new lands. Fife, Ulster, the Isle of Man, and Caithness joined the kingdom over the next 10 years. Following an ill-advised adventure to France to aid the Duc de Berry, in which Malcolm's forces were defeated by Moorish hordes at Tours, Malcolm was bereaved in 1155 when the 35-year-old Queen Cecile died. He did not remarry for four years, when he finally wed the 17-year-old Duchess Tatyana of Vladimir from the far lands of Rus. Malcolm earned the title of champion of a tournament in 1161, which led to him staging Scotland's greatest tourney of the 12th century two years later. Further territorial additions led to secret rivals hatching a kidnapping plot against the king in 1167, but this was foiled by chance. In thanks for this lucky escape, Malcolm collected his Welsh territories and crowned himself King of Wales alongside his Scottish claims, and also joined the Pope's crusade in Aragon. While 1170 was marked by the diplomatic triumph of the marriage of Malcolm's daughter Princess Cecilia to Basileus Isaakios II of Byzantium (nice to have an empress in the family), it also saw a stinging Scottish defeat at the Battle of Zaragoza (2900 dead). Malcolm's luck on the battlefield had deserted him. He was scarred in 1172 at the Battle of Ossona, and two years later in 1174 he died a natural death aged 55, still crusading in Aragon.
King Ingram (r.1174-91)
On attaining the throne at age 34, Ingram chose the wise path of buttering up potential rivals, dispensing duchies, earldoms and counties to his vassals. Following a brief sojourn against the infidels in which he took Santiago in Galicia, he returned to put down a rebellion on the Isle of Man in 1176. By 1180 Ingram's attention had switched to Aragon, which was claimed by Christendom in 1181. In 1184 Ingram showed his diplomatic mettle, marrying two of his half-sisters to European rulers: Princess Agatha was wed to King Klas of Sweden and Princess Isabel married Prince Ljutomirl of Croatia. He later returned to crusading, venturing to Anatolia in 1188 and on to join the King of Croatia's crusade against Transylvania the following year. Ingram died like his father, on crusade, but even further from home - he passed from this world after a severe illness in Semender in the remote Caucasus, aged 51.
King Malcolm V (r. 1191-98)
Young Malcolm's reign was dominated by the rebellion of the Countess Aelfthryth of Dyfed in Wales, who was joined by four other disloyal Scottish vassals, leading to a Scottish civil war. The highest price for this conflict was paid by Malcolm's brother Prince Ingram, who died aged 22 in a suspicious accident, presumably having been assassinated by Malcolm's rivals. Malcolm fought long against his rivals, but eventually perished in 1198, aged 31, at the Battle of Fortingall against the Earl Oystein of Caithness.
King Alwin I 'the Hunter' (r.1198-1213)
The third son of King Ingram, Alwin was not expected to take the throne, but he outlived his brothers Malcolm and Ingram and became king aged 25. Soon after his reign commenced Scotland was riven with another civil conflict: in 1200 the Duke of Lothian declared full independence. Biding his time, Alwin permitted the insult to go unpunished for the time being, and concentrated on defeating rebellious Ulster. By 1203 Alwin was ready to punish Lothian, and declared war to regain the territory for Scotland; this was achieved by 1205 and the erstwhile duke was sent to Alwin's dungeons. A failed campaign to wrest the county of Durham from the Duc de Normandie occupied Alwin for several years until the annus horribilis of 1211 in which the new Duke of Lothian declared independence just like the last one (it's so hard to get good help these days), and Alwin's Queen Janet died of syphilis! How ignominious, particularly given that Alwin preferred the company of men, both in the halls and bedchambers of royal Scone. Alwin tried to keep the news of his wife's infidelity from spreading, but his reign was cut short only two years later when he was besieging Roxburgh; he caught an infection and died a natural death, aged only 40. Ultimately, Alwin left a great legacy for Scotland: despite his homosexuality, he sired five children, and all became monarchs. His three sons, Findlay, Alwin and Stirling all ruled Scotland in turn, and his two daughters Mariota and Elspeth became Queen of France and England respectively.
King Findlay (r.1213-14)
The doomed boy king Findlay reigned for less than a year before succumbing to a youthful bout of pneumonia, aged 14. During his brief reign the Lothian rebellion was suppressed once more, but the Countess of Carrick also rebelled.
King Alwin II 'the Just' (r.1214-1229)
The second son of Alwin the Hunter took the throne aged only 13, but unlike his older brother he attained his majority. His reign started perilously with a military defeat in Ulster, which saw the boy king fleeing across the sea to Gowrie. Determined on revenge, Alwin opened the Scottish coffers and recruited the famed White Company of mercenaries, unleashing 6100 trained men. Displaying his flair for military strategy, the Countess was soon defeated and imprisoned. In 1217 Alwin joined a crusade for Andalusia, but upon the death of the traitorous Duke of Lothian in the dungeons at Scone, his son Coenwulf, the new Duke, rebelled against the crown. By 1219 Alwin had come of age. He married an obscure Croatian courtier, Rijeka, who was famed for her genius, and before the year was out he had captured and imprisoned Coenwulf. (The young Duke spent five years in the dungeons and emerged chastened and loyal to the king; Alwin gained a reputation as a fair and lawful monarch).
Feeling secure, Alwin set sail for al-Andalus with an army of 3200 men to join the siege of Almonte. Soon he was defeated by a superior Muslim force at the Battle of Fuente de Maestre (in 1220, 3000 men lost). In 1222 Alwin made history by founding the city of Falkland in Fife, but the year was marred by the king's terrifying bout of typhoid fever, which he fortunately survived. By the late 1220s Scottish advisers were increasingly concerned that Queen Rijeka had produced no male heirs, having delivered five clever daughters but no sons. But the king was still young. Ever active, Alwin ventured with an army of 3000 to support his ally the Duke of Vladimir in Rus, but he was soon called back westwards by the rebellion of Duchess Janet of Deheubarth, who fought for an independent Wales. A sixth royal daughter for Alwin didn't improve the situation overly, but the fortunate marriage of the king's sister, Princess Elspeth, to the ominously-named King Rayner the Ill-Ruler of England cemented a useful alliance. Alwin joined Rayner's wars against Munster and Cornwall in 1228, but was called away to more important matters: a mundane, run-of-the-mill peasant uprising in Lothian. Leading the army to restore order, Alwin suffered a humiliating accident when he was isolated at the Battle of Abercorn and massacred by peasant levies who mistook him for a hated nobleman. Alwin II was the last Scottish king to die on the field of battle.
King Stirling 'the Just' (r.1229-62)
The following year Stirling took his armies to France to fight for King Berenger against an Orleanite rebellion, but the war was short-lived because Berenger was killed in battle. In 1255 things went from bad to worse for Stirling when his wife Queen Euphrosine died aged 53, and shortly afterwards the Orleans armies massacred Scotland's army in the Battle of Luzen. Stirling fled to Scotland, where he succumbed to a debilitating bout of consumption. Seeking a soulmate, and against his counsellors' advice, the king took the lowborn Donada, a mere 23-year-old, 30 years younger than the king. Donada piqued Stirling's curiosity, being a sickly, celibate genius whose nimble wit fascinated the ageing monarch. Sadly, Donada's illness worsened dramatically and she died a mere three weeks after the modest wedding ceremony. Stirling consoled himself with the good news that one of his daughters wed Basileus Belisarios I of Byzantine. Ill fortune stalked Stirling now, because in quick succession in 1257 his son and heir Prince Alwin died of a wasting illness and the following year his grandson and new heir Stirling also died, this time of typhus. Seeking a partner more his own age, Stirling married for a third time, this time to Godgifu, the 51-year-old daughter of the Duchess of Moray. Godgifu was present at the founding of the new city, Kenmore, in 1259, and by this time Stirling had gained the same epithet as his brother: the Just, for his work reforming the Scottish law codes. Stirling set sail for France once more that year to battle the Orleans forces. Besieging Bordeaux, the king became enfeebled and infirm, but he rallied and eventually took Orleans itself, earning a white peace for the weakened King of France. In 1262 Stirling ordered one last campaign: his forces invaded Orkney and besieged its Danish lord. Alas, Stirling died bedridden and infirm before victory was achieved. He was 58.
King Godfrey I 'the Great' (r.1262-1325)
The second grandson of Stirling the Just, Godfrey was an unlikely king, being largely fascinated with religious texts rather than kingly duties, but he eventually became Scotland's longest-reigning monarch of the medieval period. The new 13-year-old king's first task was to put down the Moray rebellion, plus that of his disloyal uncle Prince Giric, who inflicted a huge defeat on the king's men at the Battle of Dunkeld in 1264, in which Godfrey's army suffered 10,800 casualties. Matters were saved when Godfrey came of age and wed Princess Maud of England; this brought King Robert V of England into the Scottish civil war on Godfrey's side, and following a defeat at the Battle of Scone, Prince Giric surrendered. To celebrate Godfrey staged a Grand Tourney in 1269, the first in over a century. In 1272 Godfrey declared a holy war on the Moorish invaders holding Brittany. Several counties were returned to Christian rule under hand-picked Scottish vassals. Favouring the king for his piety, the Pope granted Godfrey an annulment of his marriage to Queen Maud, who had produced five daughters in a row (something of a Dunkeld family curse). In her place Godfrey married Duchess Richwara of Upper Lorraine, who after yet another daughter finally produced a son and heir, Donald, in 1277. Godfrey also took the opportunity to expand Scotland's holdings in Iceland, seizing the west of the island in 1276.
Emboldened by his success in Brittany, Godfrey declared holy war on Galicia in 1283, and set sail with 21,300 men in 233 ships, a massive armada for the time. When this war ended inconclusively Godfrey consoled himself by besieging Quimper in Brittany. Relations with England soured to a point when, in 1291, King Robert the Cruel declared war to regain Cumberland. The strain of the war was too much for Queen Richwara, who died of distemper not long after Robert invaded. Godfrey quickly remarried for a third time, to Princess Christina of Denmark. This quickly paid off when Christina give birth to a second royal son, Gilbert, in 1292. Three years later, Godfrey had successfully beaten back the English armies. After seizing York Castle, Robert was forced to surrender his claim to Cumberland and pay a hefty fine of gold into the coffers at Scone. Soon Queen Christina would show her considerable mettle: on her orders the royal spymaster the Duke of Lothian was murdered, and Christina took over the position of spymaster herself! She performed well in this role for nine years, until her sad death of slow fever in 1308, at the age of 38. Seeking another wifely spymaster, Godfrey then married his fourth bride, Eufemia of Vodi. In 1311 the now elderly Godfrey completed his hold over all of Ireland, and four years later he took Yorkshire from a weakened and fragmented England. Godfrey's reign stretched on and on, displaying his impressive longevity. By the time he died a natural death in 1325 he was 77, and had reigned for 63 years, producing 12 children and marrying four times.
King Donald IV (r.1325-1333)
Donald inherited his father Godfrey's fascination with matters religious, but preferred obscure mystic and occult matters to traditional churchly fare. He had many years to hone his knowledge, because his father's long life did not end until Donald was 48. Upon finally taking the Scottish throne, Donald had to wage war against the Lollard heresy of the Duke of Ulster, and was then beset by King Christopher of England, who tried to test the martial skill of the new monarch. Within a year it was the English who had been taught a lesson, suffering a huge defeat at the Battle of St Peters (9000 English casualties); by 1331 Christopher had surrendered and paid gold tribute to Scotland, just like King Robert in 1295. Following a brief period of crusading in Navarra, Donald had returned to Scotland, where he rapidly sickened and died of natural causes at the age of 56.
King Godfrey II 'the Apostle' (r.1333-1363)
Soon it was time for one of Scotland's great medieval epics: in 1356 Godfrey declared war on the English over Lancaster, and in a famous campaign taking the war to the soft Sassenachs even besieged Westminster itself in 1359. With Lancaster won, Godfrey turned his gaze once more to Brittany and the remaining Almoravid lands there. Declaring a holy war in 1362 he took 31,300 Scotsmen across the sea, and in the Battles of Leon and Lezergue he wreaked havoc against his enemies, gaining a reputation as a holy warrior of Christendom. Sadly, Godfrey's days were numbered: in the third major battle in Brittany, the Battle of St Brieue, Godfrey received a severed blow to the head and was rendered mentally and physically incapable. Unable to be moved, he died the following year abed in Brittany, aged 66, having dealt a crippling blow to the health of the Muslim conquest in France.
King Kenneth IV (r.1363-65)
Definitely ill-suited to the throne, Kenneth was at heart a simple man - his loves were falconry, old-fashioned hymn-singing, and drunken carousing. His reign started with the chilling revelation that Kenneth was a reviled kinslayer, having murdered his younger brother in an insane rage. After 18 months of uneasy rule Pope Vigilius III had been convinced (with healthy donations from the Scottish coffers) that Kenneth deserved absolution. It was to be of no avail, because almost immediately the king set forth to complete his father's punishment of the Almoravids in Brittany, where he was maimed and crippled in battle. Kenneth died aged 49, like his father, on a sickbed in Brittany.
King James 'the Fat' (r.1365-1409)
Coming to the throne at age 23, James' interests were primarily in things martial, although he also took an interest in agriculture and gardening, hoping to improve the crops grown in his kingdom. He was also concerned with the Dunkeld legacy, and in 1367 commissioned a scholar to write his family chronicles for posterity. The following year James completed the work of his grandfather when he pushed the Almoravids out of their last lands in Brittany, and crowned himself King of Brittany. The ensuing goldrush of titles for James' vassals secured his popularity. During a two-year papal crusade in Sicily, James suffered the loss of his wife Queen Maud, who died aged 27 of an unknown illness. His second wife, Antonina, was a Byzantine princess. From 1377 to 1379 James fought for the Holy Roman Emperor in his war against Burgundy, and once this was won he called a Grand Tourney in 1380 to celebrate the return of peace. In this legendary event the king, still vigorous at age 38, was triumphant in the open melee. Two more wars for his ally the Holy Roman Emperor followed: a holy war in Alger and the Atlas Mountains, and a crusade against the Shia in Africa.
As he entered middle age James lost the enviable warrior's physique of his youth and gained in girth. Soon he became known as James the Fat, a name that stuck for the remainder of his rule. Now James' attention was directed homewards, by the exploits of his wayward daughters. The unmarried Princess Affraic fell pregnant and delivered a bastard son Angus; James took custody of the babe and married off his daughter to King Marcau II of Aquitaine. Seeing this outcome, James' younger unmarried daughter Princess Maud also gave into temptation and delivered her own bastard, Godfrey. James followed suit, fostering the boy and marrying Maud off to the Duke of Thuringia. He also vowed to pay more attention to his domestic responsibilities. Following several years of recuperation as a result of a serious hunting wound, James returned to campaigning for his imperial ally, joining the Holy Roman Emperor Gottfried's war against Thuringia, which his daughter Maud had become Duchess of five years earlier. In 1393 James won the siege of Zutphen and the battle of Nijmegen, but this was insufficient to save Gottfried's doomed campaign, and the emperor lost the rebellious province. James was also distracted by the machinations of his heir's wife Sheena, who his spymaster discovered was plotting to have the king done away with. Despite his son Duncan's protestations, Sheena was despatched to house arrest in her quarters.
In 1396 James ventured to France to support King Robin in his war against Orleans, and the following year's conquest of Le Mans by Scottish troops was a major factor in Robin's eventual victory. As he entered old age, James' exploits were fewer, but he found time to seize the Shetland Isles and joined Ferrara in its trade embargo war against Venice. In what was to be one last hurrah James joined another papal crusade for Sicily in 1408; the following year Scotland took Erice from the Muslim forces, and the crusade was won by the Emperor. But during the seaborne return to Scotland the 67-year-old James weakened and in a rapid decline, died while his ship was still in Mediterranean waters.
King Duncan III 'the Blind' (r.1409-37)
The scholarly 36-year-old Prince Duncan had journeyed to Argyll to meet his father's fleet returning from Sicily, but instead was told the news of his accession to the throne. Seeking to make his own mark, Duncan declared a holy war on the mighty Sultan for his lands in Asturias in 1411. He was forced to abandon this campaign temporarily the following year when the underhand King Gerald III of England declared war on Scotland to reclaim Yorkshire. Instead of making his name in Spain, Duncan entered the history books fighting at home: in two battles in 1413 his forces killed first Duke David of York and then, in the Battle of Conisbrough, slew King Gerald himself. The 20,000 English casualties suffered in the latter battle broke the English spirit. However, in 1415 Duncan suffered his own tragedy, when boiling pitch from an enemy siege engine took his sight permanently at the age of 42. Just before Christmas of that year King Nicholas I of England surrendered and offered huge gold tribute to the blinded Scottish king.
This permitted Duncan to return to his long-neglected Asturian ambition in 1416, but after two further years of crusading there and in Qulumriyah Duncan had to admit defeat, and pay some of his hard-earned English gold to the Sultan to secure peace. To salvage his pride Duncan staged another Grand Tourney in 1422. After several years of political management in Scotland, Duncan was surprised by the death of his wife Queen Sheena of depression at age 63. It was mused (in private, out of Duncan's hearing) that the queen had never truly recovered from her long incarceration by her father-in-law. Taking a new wife, Duncan married the 24-year-old Albina of Tusculum, a devotee of the dark arts of espionage and intrigue. While Albina gave Duncan another son (his sixth), more tragedy struck in the same year when the king's heir, the 39-year-old Prince James, Duke of Moray, was crushed to death when a pile of flagstones fell from a cathedral roof directly onto him. Duncan's spirit was diminished by these setbacks, and during a campaign against the rebellious Earl Gilmure of Ross, Duncan died at Scone of complications resulting from his old battle wounds, aged 64. His heir, Duncan, was a mere boy of 11.
King Duncan IV 'the Great' (r.1437-??)
Duncan's father James had married wisely if in an unorthodox fashion, taking Gurbesu of Ryazan as his wife: widely regarded as one of Europe's greatest female geniuses. Gurbesu played a major role in safeguarding Duncan's early rule when he became king. Titles were dispensed to vassals judiciously and fairly, and alliances were forged with valuable friends, including King Stenkil II of Sweden. When he attained his majority in 1442 Duncan married Princess Nada of Poland, a woman after his mother's heart, in that she was a renowned theologian in her native land. For two years young Duncan fought for his new father-in-law in the Polish king's war against the rebellious Duchess Katalin, joining the siege of Balga, and proceeding to invest Znin. It was in these far Baltic lands that Duncan's heir Prince James was brought into the world. Returning to Scotland after the war's successful conclusion in 1444, Duncan craved the excitement of battle. Unfortunately Duncan's father's ill luck appeared to be hereditary, because while on an expedition in the woods of Gowrie hunting the fabled white stag, his charger stumbled over a tree root and pitched the king onto a rocky outcrop. Despite the efforts of court physicians the 19-year-old king lost the full use of his right leg. This did not halt Duncan's quest for battlefield glory, however. In 1447 he battled Duchess Margaret of Gwent, and in 1449 he set sail with 20,000 Scots to support King Stenkil's ailing civil war campaign against would-be usurpers of the Swedish throne. Duncan's force took the strategic fortress at Gripsholm, helping Stenkil to put down the rebellion. As New Year's Day dawned in 1453 the 27-year-old Duncan was loved and admired by the Scottish people for his fortitude and military prowess, and a mighty reign akin to that of Godfrey the Great seemed surely to be his destiny.
And that's where the game ended! The year 1453 was selected by the designers as the traditional end date for the Middle Ages, as it coincided with the Ottomans' conquest of Constantinople on 29 May of that year. Here is the core of the Scottish empire ruled by Duncan the Great at the end of the game:
Comedy: Dara O'Briain, 'His behaviour in the field was erratic at best', 5 March 2013
Blog: The new kings of Ireland, 7 July 2012
Blog: Feudal backstabbing in all its glory, 25 May 2012