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Beginning to A.D. 350
A.D. 350 to 794
A.D. 1260 to

Tanistry and the Scots
right of succession

Inheritance in Scotland was not a simple matter of the eldest son assuming the rights and titles of the father. Primogeniture was established gradually in the twelfth century, in imitation of the Norman practices. Even then, it was only used in terms of royal succession, whilst other lordships continued to be inherited by the former system.

The Tanist, under the system of Tanistry, was the heir presumptive and his right to the throne was not conferred by the father but by the mother. Matrilineal succession was typical of Pictish society and this by no means an uncommon practice, whether royal of commoner succession.

Commonly the Tanist would be the son of the reigning king's sister rather than a chosen/favoured child of the King himself.

This may at first appear an unusual or even unfair system. However, what has to be borne in mind was the troubled times that this occurred in. The grown child had to be an adult who was capable of waging war if required. The eldest child may have been sickly for example and all would have been lost. Of course it also had a downside in so far as the murderous (literally) rivalry which occurred at succession time.

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