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According to the Complete Peerage, "Magnus Jarl of Orkney and Earl of Caithness is stated to have been the son of Gillbride Earl of Angus by his second wife sister of Harald Ugni, to whom Magnus, though an infant, was apparently recognised as successor in his half of the Earldom".It does not cite the source on which this statement is based and, as discussed further above under the possible second wife of Earl Gilbride, the hypothesis appears to be entirely speculative.Six of these local rulers are for the first time called "comes" in the foundation charter of the monastery of Scone dated [1114/15].According to Skene, the relationship between these rulers and their provinces was not purely territorial but connected with the tribes which occupied the land.

However, the grant, if the report is accurate, must have taken place after 1231, the date of the death of Earl John, last of the previous lines of earls of Orkney and Caithness.

After the accession of David I King of Scotland in 1124, the tie to the land was strengthened as the mormaerships were transformed into earldoms, the earls holding the land from the Scottish crown as tenants-in-chief in accordance with the Norman feudal system.

Heredity of the mormaerships was originally in the male line only.

There appears to be no surviving contemporary evidence concerning the grant of the earldom.

However, Balfour Paul refers to a charter "noted in an old Inventory of Oliphant writs, made about 1594, and preserved in the General Register House" which states that King Alexander II granted "the erledom of South Kaythnes" to "Magnus sone to Gylcryst sum tyme erle of Angus".

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