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The battle scene from the Aberlemno Pictish stone, generally presumed to show the Battle of Dun Nechtain, Picts on the left, Northumbrians on the right, the mounted Pictish figure perhaps representing King Bridei
The battle scene from the Aberlemno Pictish stone, generally presumed to show the Battle of Dun Nechtain, Picts on the left, Northumbrians on the right, the mounted Pictish figure perhaps representing King Bridei

King Bridei III (or Bridei m. Beli; O.Ir.: Bruide mac Bili) (616/628?–693) was king of the Picts from 672 until 693.

Bridei may have been born as early as 616, but no later than the year 628. He was the son of Beli, King of Alt Clut. His claim to the Fortrean Kingship came through his paternal grandfather, King Nechtan of the Picts. Nennius' Historia Brittonum tells us that Bridei was King Ecgfrith's fratruelis (maternal first cousin). Bridei's mother was probably a daughter of King Edwin of Deira.[1]

Bridei was one of the more expansionist and active of Fortrean monarchs. He attacked Dunnottar in 680/681, and campaigned against the Orcadian sub-kingdom in 682, a campaign so violent that the Annals of Ulster said that the Orkney Islands were "destroyed" by Bridei ("Orcades deletae sunt la Bruide"). It is also recorded that, in the following year, in 683, war broke out between the Scots of Dál Riata under Máel Dúin mac Conaill and Bridei's Picts. The Scots attacked Dundurn in Strathearn. Dundurn was Bridei's main powerbase in the south, a great 'nuclear' hilltop fortress. The Scots apparently did not take Dundurn, as Bridei responded with an attack on Dunadd, the capital of Dal Riata. We do not know if Bridei took Dunadd, but the presence of Pictish-style carvings of that time period in Dunadd may mean that he took and occupied Dunadd. The lack of reputable contemporary sources of this conflict means that not much is known about the Scottish-Pict war of 683. But it is clear that, from his base in Fortriu (or Moray), Bridei was establishing his overlordship of the lands to the north, and those to the south, perhaps putting himself in a position to attack the Anglian possessions (or overlordship) which existed in the far south.

It is very possible then that Bridei was regarded by Ecgfrith as his sub-king. The traditional interpretation is that Bridei severed this relationship, causing the intervention of Ecgfrith. This led to the famous Battle of Dun Nechtain in 685, in which the Anglo-Saxon army of Ecgfrith was annihilated. One Irish source reports that Bridei was "fighting for his grandfather's inheritance",[2] suggesting that either Ecgfrith was challenging Bridei's kingship, or more likely given Bridei's earlier campaigns, that Bridei was seeking to recover the territories ruled by his grandfather in Fife and Circinn, but since taken by the English. The consequences of this battle were the expulsion of Northumbrians from southern Pictland (established through, for instance, the Anglian "Bishopric of the Picts" at Abercorn) and permanent Fortrean domination of the southern Pictish zone.

Bridei's death is recorded by both the Annals of Ulster and the Annals of Tigernach under the year 693.

Later traditions attributed a surviving lament for Bridei's death to Saint Adomnán, abbot of Iona.[3]


  1. ^ Woolf, "Pictish matriliny reconsidered", pp. 160–162.
  2. ^ M.O. Anderson, Kings and Kingship, p. 171, n 194
  3. ^ Clancy & Márkus, pp. 166–168.


  • Anderson, Marjorie O. (1973), Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland, Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  • Clancy, Thomas Owen; Márkus, Gilbert (1995), Iona: The Earliest Poetry of a Celtic Monastery, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 0-7486-0531-2 CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  • Fraser, James E., The Battle of Dunnichen: 685 (Charleston, 2002)
  • Woolf, Alex, "Dun Nechtain, Fortriu and the Geography of the Picts", Scottish Historical Review 85(2006), 182–201.
  • Woolf, Alex, "Pictish matriliny reconsidered." Innes Review vol. 49, no. 2, pp. 147–167. ISSN 0020-157X

External links

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Drest VI
King of the Picts
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 13 August 2020, at 20:35
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