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Malcolm IV (between April 23 and May 24, 1141 – December 9, 1165) was King of Scotland from 1153 until his death. He was the eldest son of Henry, Earl of Huntingdon and Northumbria (died 1152) and Ada de Warenne.

Called Malcolm the Maiden by later chroniclers, a name which may incorrectly suggest weakness or effeminacy to modern readers, he was noted for his religious zeal and interest in knighthood and warfare. For much of his reign he was in poor health and died unmarried at the age of twenty-four.

Henry, Earl of Huntingdon and Northumbria son and heir of King David I of Scotland, had been in poor health throughout the 1140s. He died suddenly on June 12, 1152. His death occurred in either Newcastle or Roxburgh, both located in those areas of Northumbria which he and his father had attached to the Scots crown in the period of English weakness after the death of Henry I of England.

Unlike in the case of the English king, who had been left without male heirs after the death of his only legitimate son, William Adelin (Ætheling), in the shipwreck of the White Ship, the King of Scots, David I, did not lack for immediate heirs upon the death of Earl Henry. This was because Earl Henry had left behind three sons to carry forward the lineage of his father.

Malcolm, the eldest of Earl Henry’s sons, was only eleven years old when he became heir apparent. Nonetheless, he was sent by his grandfather on a circuit of the kingdom, accompanied by Donnchad, Mormaer of Fife, and a large army. Donnchad had been styled rector, perhaps indicating that he was to hold the regency for Malcolm on David’s death.

These preparations were timely, because King David survived his son by less than a year, dying on May 24, 1153 at Carlisle. King Malcolm IV was inaugurated as king on May 27, 1153 at Scone at age twelve.

Donnchad, who duly became regent for the young Malcolm, ensured that the inauguration took place before the old king was even buried. This might appear unseemly, but there was good reason for the haste. Malcolm was not without rivals for the kingship. Donnchad himself died a year later, in 1154.

Malcolm IV was not only King of Scots, but also inherited the Earldom of Northumbria, which his father and grandfather had gained during the wars between King Stephen of England and Empress Matilda, during the period known as the Anarchy.

Malcolm IV granted Northumbria to his brother William, keeping Cumbria for himself. Cumbria was, like the earldoms of Northumbria and Huntingdon, and later Chester, a fief of the English crown.

While Malcolm IV delayed doing homage to Henry II of England for his possessions in Henry’s kingdom, he did so in 1157 at Peveril Castle in Derbyshire and later at Chester. Henry II refused to allow Malcolm to keep Cumbria, or William to keep Northumbria, but instead granted the Earldom of Huntingdon to Malcolm, for which Malcolm did homage.

After a second meeting between Malcolm IV and Henry II, at Carlisle in 1158, “they returned without having become good friends, and so that the king of Scots was not yet knighted.” In 1159 Malcolm accompanied Henry to France, serving at the siege of Toulouse where he was, at last, knighted. “Whether this was the act of a king of Scots or of an earl of Huntingdon we are not told; it was certainly the act of a man desperate for knightly arms, but that did not make it any more acceptable in Scotland.”

Sometime before July 1163, when he did homage to Henry II, Malcolm IV was taken seriously ill at Doncaster. Scottish sources report that a revolt in Moray brought Malcolm north.

Having made peace with Henry II, replaced Fergus of Galloway with his sons, and resettled Moray, only one of Malcolm’s foes remained, Somerled, by 1160 king of the Isles as well as of Argyll.

In 1164, Somerled led a large army of Islesmen and Irishmen to attack Glasgow and Renfrew, where Walter Fitzalan had newly completed a castle. There Somerled and his son Gillebrigte were killed in battle with the levies of the area, led by the Bishop of Glasgow, probably Herbert of Selkirk at that time. The chronicles of the day attributed the victory to the intercession of Saint Kentigern.

Marriage project

In 1160, a marriage between Malcolm IV and Constance of Penthièvre was considered. Constance’s brother Duke Conan IV of Brittany had married Malcolm’s sister Margaret earlier the same year. However, Constance refused to marry the Scottish king, hoping to wed King Louis VII of the Franks instead, but Louis married Adèle of Champagne.


Malcolm IV died on December 9, 1165 at Jedburgh, aged twenty-four. His premature death may have been hastened by Paget’s disease (a chronic disorder that typically results in enlarged and deformed bones).

While his contemporaries were in no doubt that Malcolm had some of the qualities of a great king, later writers were less convinced.

According to legend, he had a daughter who was betrothed to Henry, Prince of Capua, on the latter’s deathbed, but this is said to be false as Malcolm had no heirs.

However, since illegitimacy did not apply to medieval females, but it was often pretended that it did, she may have been overlooked. Malcolm’s mother had formulated a plan for a marriage to Constance, daughter of Conan III, Duke of Brittany, but Malcolm died before the wedding could be celebrated. This does not mean that Malcolm could not have had a concubine, or mistress.

Upon Malcolm IV’s death on December 9, 1165 at age 24, his brother William ascended the throne as King William I the Lion of Scotland. The new monarch was crowned on December 24, 1165.

In contrast to his deeply religious, frail brother, William was powerfully built, redheaded, and headstrong. He was an effective monarch whose reign was marred by his ill-fated attempts to regain control of his paternal inheritance of Northumbria from the Anglo-Normans.