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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
IV. The Kingdom of the Picts: Christianity, Paganism and the Making of Gaelic Scotland

of Viking-Celtic ancestors. In fact, these Hebridian Gaels were still under Norwegian rule, and defended their semi-independent Viking status for another 150 years: Clearly then, to be a Gael was to be a Gaelic-speaker, and as the political situation in the Hebrides and in Ireland itself makes evident, linguistic identity did not infer political unity. Only in the resurrected classical epithet "Caledonia" does any name dignify the separate identity of the Picts, and the limiting of this name to a strictly poetic context may have contributed to romanticizations about the mysterious Picts. The name of Scotland had in any case taken on a political meaning by 1124, which pointedly encouraged the conception of a Scot as a subject of the Scottish royal house, thus taking advantage of the blurred memory of previous political diversity.

The matrilineal system, since it passed hereditary authority through the female line, might seem on the surface to have invited political disaster. For instance, by the time of the merging of the two kingdoms under Kenneth MacAlpin in 843, there had alredy been a long tradition among the Picts of providing their royal women with husbands from powerful tribal dynasties to the West and South. Such exogamy might appear to invite political takeovers by jealous or power hungry sons of "foreigners" unwilling to embrace an inheritance system which disinherited them as soon as their own sisters had children who would be kings by other fathers (in the Pictish system, a son of the princess would rule, but the kingship would pass through his sister to her offspring). There is little reason to assume that such an exogamic union was anything more than a sacral marriage to a visiting prince. In any case, the system had its positive side, in that it was less prone to dynastic in-feuding than the Gaelic derb-fine system, since the competition among rival male cousins vying for the throne was effectively bypassed by matrilineality. Also, exogamy had its diplomatic side: It may have been as effective as hostage taking in helping the Picts maintain good relations with the neighboring Heroic kingdoms. Furthermore, the matrilineal system was never in a position to be threatened by outside forces before it was forced into close cooperation with the Dal Riada Scots during the ninth century. At that point, the uniting of the two kingdoms under one king who was heir to both was a natural occurrence. After centuries of royal intermarriage on both sides, and once the union was a political reality, the dynasts of both groups would naturally hasten to cement similar intermarriage arrangements in order to advance their position in the new order. Under Viking pressure, a warlord-dominated society emerged that probably continued to speak Gaelic as a lingua franca for the new kingdom.

The sociolinguistic pressures for a common Celtic tongue had grown stronger with the merger of the royal kindred of the Cineal nGabrain with the royal matrilineage of the Pictish Ard Ri. However, the identification of a Celtic tribal-cultural continuum with Ireland was also growing stronger because tribalism south of Alba and Strathclyde was gradually losing its vitality, and any P—Celtic continuum with Wales had been cut off by Northumbrian

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