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Appears in Collections:History and Politics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Pictish Matriliny
Author(s): Ross, Alasdair
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Keywords: Picts
Matrilineal kinship
Kings and rulers Scotland
Issue Date: 1999
Date Deposited: 17-Dec-2010
Citation: Ross A (1999) Pictish Matriliny. Northern Studies, 34, pp. 11-22.
Abstract: First paragraph: In the first book of his Historia Ecclesiastica, written before 731, Bede described royal Pictish succession practices: "Cumque uxores Picti non habentes peterent a Scottis, ea solum condicione dare consenserunt, ut ubi res ueniret in dubium, magis de feminea regum prosapia quam de masculina regem sibi eligerent; quod usque hodie apud Pictos constat esse seruatum." (As the Picts had no wives, they asked the Scottis for some, the latter consented to give them women, only on condition that, in all cases of doubt, they should elect their king from the female royal line rather than the male; and it is well known that the custom has been observed among the Picts to this day.) 1 Many theories have been built around this statement although modern contributors to the debate on Pictish matrilinear succession are essentially divided into two camps: those who favour this ethnographic model include Henderson, Sellar and Anthony Jackson2 (although they do not agree on one particular type of matriliny), whereas the champion of the opposing cause is Smyth who argues for a form of patrilinear kingship.3 Neither school of thought has been able to conclusively demonstrate that their particular viewpoint is correct. However, by reviewing the arguments advanced, both for and against, in conjunction with contemporary evidence from the Pictish period, it may be possible to arrive at some sort of consensus regarding the rules of succession to Pictish kingship.
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