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Macbeth Macfinlay, future king of Scotland, is born.
Macbeth Macfinlay becomes the Mormaer of Moray in northern Scotland.
Macbeth Macfinlay marries Gruoch, the granddaughter of Kenneth III of Scotland.
1034 - 1040
Reign of Duncan I of Scotland.
1040 - 1057
Reign of Macbeth Macfinlay, king of Scotland.
14 Aug 1040
Duncan I of Scotland is killed in battle at Pitgaveny and so Macbeth Macfinlay takes the throne.
Macbeth, king of Scotland, defeats a rebel army at Dunkeld led by Duncan I’s father Crinán.
Siward, Earl of Northumbria, invades and defeats an army of Macbeth, king of Scotland.
Macbeth, king of Scotland, goes on a pilgrimage to Rome.
An English army invades Scotland.
27 Jul 1054
An English army defeats Macbeth, king of Scotland at Dunsinane.
12 Aug 1057
Macbeth, king of Scotland, is fatally wounded in a skirmish at Lumphanan against supporters of future Malcolm III of Scotland.
15 Aug 1057
Macbeth, king of Scotland, dies from battle wounds.
Sep 1057 - 1057
Lulach, stepson of Macbeth Macfinlay, becomes the king of Scotland.
Sep 1057 - Mar 1058
Reign of Lulach as king of Scotland.
1058 - 1093
History of Scotland Timeline
History of Scotland Timeline
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Duncan and MacBeth
Duncan and MacBeth – famous names thanks to Shakespeare and the Scottish Play, ‘Macbeth’. But how historically accurate is Shakespeare’s story, if at all?
For centuries, the clans had been waging war on each other. Viking warriors had been raiding the coasts of Scotland. King Malcolm of Scotia, king of the Scots and Picts, routed the Angles of Lothian in the Battle of Carham in 1018 and became the most powerful man in Scotland.
When King Owen of the Britons of Strathclyde died later that year without issue, Duncan (Malcolm’s grandson) became the rightful heir through marriage. Malcolm was therefore able to unite the Four Kingdoms of Scotland under one throne. Scotland in the early 11th century had finally become a single nation.
Duncan – King of Scotland 1034 – 40
Duncan became King of Scotland upon the death of Malcolm in 1034. He was a much weaker character than Malcolm and a terrible leader. He led a disastrous campaign into Northumbria and was forced to retreat ignominiously back to Scotland.
His cousin MacBeth, chief of the northern Scots, also had a claim to the throne through his mother. MacBeth formed an alliance with his cousin the Earl of Orkney, and they defeated and killed Duncan near Elgin in 1040.
MacBeth – King of Scotland 1040 – 57
Mac Bethad mac Findláich or MacBeth as he is known in English, the Mormaer of Moray, claimed the throne on his own behalf and that of his wife Grauch, and after the death of Duncan made himself king in his place. Respected for his strong leadership qualities, MacBeth was a wise king who ruled successfully for 17 years. He lived in a fortified castle at Dunsinane north of Perth. His rule was secure enough for him to go on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1050. However the peace was not to last: Duncan’s son Malcolm had fled to Northumbria after the defeat of his father and had never given up his claim to the throne. In 1054 with the support of Earl Siward, he led an army against MacBeth, defeating him at the battle of Dunsinnan. MacBeth remained king, restoring Malcolm’s lands to him. But in 1057 at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire on 15th August, MacBeth was finally defeated and killed and Malcolm became King.
Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, written nearly 400 years ago, is widely accepted as one of his great tragedies and rated alongside ‘Hamlet’, ‘King Lear’ and ‘Julius Caesar’. But how historically correct is it?
It is generally accepted that Shakespeare wrote the play sometime between 1604 and 1606, when there was a new king on the throne, King James I and VI of Scotland. Shakespeare would have gained approval for a Scottish play from the new King. Especially one with witches in it, for it was well known that the King was interested in witches, witchcraft and the supernatural (in 1597 James had written a book on spirits and witchcraft called ‘Daemononlogie’).
Shakespeare appears to deliberately mix fact and fiction in the play. Apparently using Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland’ (1587) as his source, Shakespeare sets the battle between Duncan and MacBeth in 1040 at Birnam Hill in Perthshire, rather than near Elgin where it actually took place. In the play MacBeth dies at Dunsinane whereas in reality it was at Lumphanan where he was defeated and killed in 1057.
Shakespeare’s play takes place over a year whereas in reality, MacBeth ruled for 17 years.
Charles Kean and his wife as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, in costumes aiming to be historically accurate (1858)
As for the personalities of the two main characters, Duncan and MacBeth, again Shakespeare’s portrayal is not historically correct. In the play Duncan is portrayed as a strong, wise and elderly king whereas in reality he was a young, weak and ineffective ruler. Shakespeare’s Macbeth has virtually no legitimate claim to the throne whereas the real MacBeth had a respectable claim through his mother’s side – indeed both MacBeth and his wife were descended from Kenneth MacAlpin. Shakespeare also gives MacBeth the title ‘Thane of Glamis’ but in fact Glamis was not known as a thanage in the 11th century.
In Shakespeare’s play, MacBeth’s friend Banquo is shown as a noble and loyal man, resisting evil, a contrast to the character of Macbeth. In Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles’ however, Banquo is shown as exactly the opposite: he is an accomplice in MacBeth’s murder of Duncan. The new king, James I and VI of Scotland, claimed ancestry from Banquo through the Stewart line of kings. To have shown Banquo as a murderer of kings would not have pleased James! Indeed there is debate as to whether or not Banquo actually existed at all in history.
All in all, the confusing mix of fact and fiction which runs through the play is bewildering.
However it has to be asked – who, outside of Scotland, would have heard of these two Scottish kings had it not been for Shakespeare and the ‘Scottish Play’?
Mac Bethad mac Findlaໜh (Modern Gaelic: MacBheatha mac Fhionnlaigh), anglicised as Macbeth, and nicknamed Rí Deircc, "the Red King" (died 15 August 1057), was King of the Scots (also known as the King of Alba, and earlier as King of Moray and King of Fortriu) from 1040 until his death. He is best known as the subject of William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth and the many works it has inspired, although the play is historically inaccurate.
Macbeth was the son of Findlh mac Ruaidrí, Mormaer of Moray. His mother, who is not mentioned in contemporary sources, is sometimes supposed to have been a daughter of the Scottish king Malcolm II (Mพl Coluim mac Cin). This may be derived from Andrew of Wyntoun's Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland which makes Macbeth's mother a granddaughter, rather than a daughter, of Malcolm.
Findlh was killed in 1020. According to the Annals of Ulster he was killed by his own people while the Annals of Tigernach say that the sons of his brother Mพl Brigte were responsible. One of these sons, Mพl Coluim son of Mพl Brigte, died in 1029. A second son, Gille Coemgáin, was killed in 1032, burned in a house with fifty of his men. Gille Coemgáin had been married to Gruoch with whom he had a son, the future king Lulach. It has been proposed that Gille Coemgáin's death was the doing of Mac Bethad, in revenge for his father's death, or of Mพl Coluim son of Cin, to rid himself of a rival.
CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts at University College Cork including:
Genealogies from Rawlinson B.502 (no translation available)
Gaelic notes from the Book of Deer (with translation)
The Annals of Ulster (translation)
The Annals of Tigernach (translation in progress)
The Chronicon Scotorum reproduces a considerable part of the Annals of Tigernach and is available in translation.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Mss. D and E, various editions including an XML version by Tony Jebson.
The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba
The Chronicon ex chronicis attributed to Florence of Worcester.
Barrell, A.D.M., Medieval Scotland. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-58602-X
Barrow, G.W.S., Kingship and Unity: Scotland 1000. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, (corrected ed.) 1989. ISBN 0-7486-0104-X
Byrne, Francis John, Irish Kings and High-Kings. Batsford, London, 1973. ISBN 0-7134-5882-8
Crawford, Barbara, Scandinavian Scotland. Leicester University Press, Leicester, 1987. 0-7185-1282-0
Duncan, A.A.M., The Kingship of the Scots 842: Succession and Independence. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2002. ISBN 0-7486-1626-8
Hudson, Benjamin T., The Prophecy of Berchán: Irish and Scottish High-Kings of the Early Middle Ages. Greenwood, London, 1996.
McDonald, R. Andrew, Outlaws of medieval Scotland: Challenges to the Canmore kings, 1058. Tuckwell, East Linton, 2003. 1-86232-236-8
Ó Cróinín, Dáibhí, Early Medieval Ireland: 400. Longman, London, 1995. ISBN 0-582-01565-0
Sellar, W.D.H., "Moray: to 1130" in Michael Lynch (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Scottish History. Oxford UP, Oxford, 2001. ISBN 0-19-211696-7
Smyth, Alfred P., Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80. Edinburgh UP, Edinburgh, 1984. ISBN 0-7486-0100-7
Taylor, A.B., "Karl Hundason: King of chickens" in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, LXXI (1937), pp. 334.
Woolf, Alex, "Macbeth" in Lynch (2001).
Notes=== [ These Notes are unreferenced. Sources are needed to back up details such as assertions that Thorfinn was Mormaer of Moray - Thanks Sharon]
Gilcomgain and Gruoch had one son Lulach.
Lulach suceeded Macbeth to the throne but was slain four months later in 1057 AD.
The assasination of Macbeth is believed to have caused the downfall of the clan Fionnladh and it's being declared illegal along with their tartan. The Fionnladh took cover under the clan Farquharson.
King of Scotland (1040-1057) and the subject of William Shakespeare's 1606 play, he was a G-G-G-G Grandfather of Archibald Finley. His mother was Princess DONADA, daughter of MALCOLM II. Macbeth established himself on the throne after his cousin King Duncan died from wounds inflicted by Macbeth or his adherents in battle near Elgin. (He was not killed in bed as Shakespeare told it.)
He married Gruoch (Lady MACBETH), a descendant of King Kenneth III who ruled from 997-1005.
History records that MacBeth was one of the best kings of Scotland, not the usurper of Shakespear's play.
"MACBETH and GRUOCH set themselves to reign well. He made laws for the common will, which were most benign and liberal."
"The leniency of MACBETH contrasts to advantage with the bloody steps which marked the descent of MALCOLM II. Even DUNCAN's sons were allowed to escape to England."
Macbeth was killed in battle by Malcolm III, son of Duncan, with assistance from the English.
Clan Finley was outlawed after Macbeth's death. They took the name Farquharson and did not emerge from obscurity as a clan until 1236 when Archibald distinguished himself at the battle Largs.
See the Macboeda Macbeth FIONNLADH FINLAY genealogy page at RootsWeb.
The following is an excerpt from Part 3 of Finley Findings International Vol 1, titled The Most Famous Finley of Them All.
Elmer CROCKETT, states the following: "In the year 1009, Momaar FINLEIGH or FINLEY of Moray, father of MACBETH, was the overlord of the tributary of the Manor of Morey or Moray."
WOOD quotes the following from Pinkerston's History of Scotland, Vol. II, p. 333: "During this early period in Scotland, there were two kings, for Finlay MC RUAIDHRI, who ruled over western Scotland, was murdered in 1020 to make MALCOLM II the sole king, and when MACBETH, son of FINLAY, succeeded to the throne after the death of DUNCAN, he came into his lawful heritage."
However, as WOOD and FRANCE tell us, "Frequent battles followed and FINLAY defeated Sigurd and gained possession of Moray and continued as Mormaer of that district until the year 1020, when he was slain by his nephews, MALCOLM, who died in 1029, and GILLACOMGAIN, who was assassinated by the orders of MALCOLM II in 1032.
"From this union of Princess DONADA, daughter of MALCOLM II, and Finlay MC RUARI, was born ca. 1005, MACBETH, or MacBida MC FINLAY (MACKENZIE calls him MAELBEATHA), who in 1039 became King of Scotland, and who had married earlier, in 1032, GRUOCH, daughter of BODHE and the widow of GILLACOMGAIN. From this line, the FINLAYs and FINLEYs of Scotland are descended.
"WYNTON, the most veracious chronicler of the earlier history of Scotland, styles MACBETH as Thane of Crumbacty, which is Gaelic for Cromarty, where Macbeth Castle stood. The union of Ross and Cromarty under one sheriffdom as at present, seems to be the boundaries of the ancient kingdom.
"GRUOCH (Lady MACBETH) was a lineal descendant of that Kenneth MC ALPIN, who, in the ninth century, had united Scotland into one kingdom. She was the daughter of BODHE, who was the son of KENNETH III, who was the son of DUBHE, who was the son of MALCOLM I, who was the son of DONALD IV, who was the son of CONSTANTINE, who was the son of Kenneth MC ALPIN.
"Her grandfather, KENNETH III, had been dethroned and slain by the cousin now ruling, MALCOLM II, who, having waded through blood to seize the throne, had determined to secure peaceful succession of his own descendants, so since GRUOCH's brother was regarded as the rightful heir under the old laws of Scotland, he had to be assassinated.
"Being merely a woman, GRUOCH was of scant importance, despite her august presence and queenly dignity, so she was left alive to carry her royal blood, her heritage of vengeance, into Moray, where she married GILLACOMGAIN, son of MAELBRIGDI, a powerful chieftain of that district. DUNCAN, MACBETH and THORFINN, three sons of three sisters, were all related to GRUOCH. Her husband, GILLACOMGAIN, was a cousin of MACBETH.
"Presently, another blow was to fall upon GRUOCH as a result of this blood feud, for a punitive party succeeded in pinning her husband into his fortress and fired it, and he was burned to death with some 50 of his men in 1032. By some miracle, GRUOCH escaped, but it is small wonder that the child she carried (MACKENZIE tells us he was later known as LULACH the Fool) became mentally unhinged. She fled from Moray into Ross, filled from crown to toe with cruelty and appealed to MACBETH for help. He, fair, yellow-haired and tall, having some claim to the crown, made his claim effectual by espousing the heiress of line.
"Thus, when death had released the strong grasp of Malcolm II, this lineal race of Kenneth MC ALPIN had become extinct and the succession reverted to DUNCAN, the son of CRINAN, who had married the daughter of MALCOLM II. DUNCAN, the people held, was soft and gentle of nature -- strangely different from his cousin MACBETH, who was a valiant gentleman.
"DUNCAN ruled with a light hand and after enjoying the throne for about 5 years, his people took advantage of the absence of THORFINN, Thane of Moray, on an expedition to England, and placing DUNCAN at their head, forced their way into the district of Moray. But the Pictish natives of the north refused to recognize his rights to the crown, and at least looked upon him as an usurper, and headed by MACBETH, attacked DUNCAN in the neighborhood of Elgin, routed his army, and DUNCAN, being severely wounded by MACBETH or his adherents, was carried to Elgin, where he died of his wounds."
MACKENZIE adds the following: "In 1040, the sixth year of DUNCAN's reign, MAELBEATHA carried his wife's feud into action and avenged her brother on his slayer's heir. DUNCAN was killed, not, apparently, by murder at Glamis or Inverness, but in battle at Bothgowanan, and MAELBEATHA took the throne by right of his young stepson, and was accepted, for the only other grown man with any claim was THORFINN of Orkney."
WOOD and FRANCE continue: "No satisfactory evidence exists of the cause of this hostile meeting nor why the king invaded the territory of his sub-king. All this is obscure but the result is shown by unquestionable evidence existing in the Chronicum Rythmecum, preserved in the Melrose Chronicle and embodied by WYNTON in his early historical works. In a former number of that provincial newspaper, the Kelmarnock Journal, in which a vast mass of interesting antiquarian information is from time to time preserved, there occurred a very learned and ingenuous argument, the object of which was, if not fully to vindicate the character of MACBETH, at least to remove much of the obloquy thrown upon his memory.
"Some historians tell us that MACBETH was a murderer and usurper, and the genius of England's great dramatist has so immortalized the fictions of BOICE, that it is doubtful if ever they will be eradicated from the popular mind. Desirous to arrive at the truth, we have ventured to state what occurs to us to be pretty near the real facts of the case, that DUNCAN was not murdered under trust by MACBETH at Glamis instead, he died of wounds received in a conflict at a place near Elgin, that he was carried to Elgin by the victor, where he died and that his conqueror transplanted his reamins to the Royal Cemetery at Iona.
"The leniency of MACBETH contrasts to advantage with the bloody steps which marked the descent of MALCOLM II. Even DUNCAN's sons were allowed to escape to England. The death of BANQUO and others are mere fiction of BOICE, originating, no doubt, under the CANMORE rule, being desirous to blacken the reputation of MACBETH.
"MACBETH pursued his success and made himself master of the whole kingdom. He was proclaimed King of the Scots at Scone, under protection of the Clans of Ross and Moray, and representing the northern and Celtic elements of the public by birth and marriage, had the most powerful interests in the country behind him. GRUOCH was Queen of the Scots at last, and her dead brother was avenged, for she sat on the throne in his stead. MACBETH and GRUOCH set themselves to reign well. He made laws for the common will, which were most benign and liberal."
Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 6, gives the following insight into MACBETH's reign: "MACBETH's victory in 1045 over a rebel army, perhaps led by DUNCAN's father, CRINAN, near Dunkeld, Perth, may account for the later references (in SHAKESPEARE and others) to Birnam Wood, for the village of Birnam is near the town of Dunkeld. In 1046, SIWARD, Earl of Northumbria, unsuccessfully attempted to dethrone MACBETH in favor of MALCOLM (afterward, King Malcolm III CANMORE), eldest son of DUNCAN I.
"By 1050, MACBETH felt secure enough to leave Scotland for a pilgramage to Rome (MACKENZIE says while there, MACBETH made great gifts to the poor). But in 1054, he was apparently forced by SIWARD to yield part of southern Scotland to MALCOLM. Three years later, MACBETH was killed in battle by MALCOLM, who, as SHAKESPEARE indicates, had assistance from the English. MACBETH was buried on Iona, an island off Scotland's west coast regarded as the resting place of lawful kings, but not of usurpers."
As WOOD and FRANCE state, "His subsequent defeat and death in Aberdeenshire (MACKENZIE says the actual location in Aberdeenshire was Lumphanan on Deeside) on 5 Dec 1057 was calamitous to his family. His clan name ceased and for a time, the FARQUHARSON took its place."
MACBETH's death ended a dynasty which began with the earliest foundations of Ireland and Scotland, as we have already seen. At the time of his death, his children were young, so the Clan FIONNLAGH placed his stepson, LULACH, on the throne. However, he reigned only 6 months, being defeated and slain at Eske in Strathbogie by the Saxon invaders and the rebellious adherents of Malcolm CANMORE.
After LULACH, no other member of the Clan FIONNLAGH has been on the throne of Scotland to the present day. Members of the clan became hunted outlaws, long before religious persecution drove them from the British Isles.
Because of this the Clan FIONNLAGH took on the name of the Clan FARQUHARSON, so named because of the Farquhar SHAW of Rothiemurchus. WOOD and FRANCE state: "In 1236 in the Braes of Mar at the head of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, there was a certain chief named FEARCHAR, son of FARQUHAR, who was the fourth son of Shaw DUBH of Rothiemurchus, who was head of a powerful clan known in the Highlands as Clan FIONNLAGH, a sept of the great confederation, Clan CHATTAN, which held large possessions which were acquired by marriage with the heiress of Invercauld and from this FEARCHAR.
"The clan also took the name of MC EARACHAR or FARQUHARSON. The chiefs were lineal descendants of the ancient Thanes of Ross and Moray, of whom the most famous is MACBETH, the progenitor of this clan. The descendants of this FEARCHAR had moved and settled on the borders of Perth and Angus some took the name of MC EARACHAR or FARQUHARSON others, the name of MC FINLAY or FINLAYSON, and of this branch, FINLAY and FINLEY."
Subject: Re: Macbeth page on rootsWeb
Date: Tue, 6 Feb 2001 13:50:49 -0600
I have gone back to my source: "The Clan Finley", Second Edition Revised
and corrected, 1956, Volume One, Compiled and edited by Herald F. Stout,
Rear Admiral, U. S. Navy (Retired).
39. Macboeda or Macbeth, born 1005, reigned 1039-1057. He married Gruoch,
daughter of Bodhe, and widow of his own nephew Gilcomgain.6 Macbeth lost
Moray to Sigurd, his brother-in-law, in an intraclan feud. [ The exact sources for this would be very useful to have, as the only Sigurd who I know who might be considered a brother-in-law of Macbeth, is the Sigurd who died at Clontarf - well after Malcolm and Gillecomgain were dead. Also, the timing appears to have occurred when Macbeth was still a child. Interesting to discuss further - Sharon' ]
Sigurd was then slain by Malcolm and Gilcomgain, the latter being the father of Lulach,
Macbeth's later step-son.7 In the downfall following the death of Macbeth
at Lumphanen,8 the Clan Fionnladh (Finlay) was outlawed.
According to tradition: MacBethad, son of Findlh, son of Ruadrí, son of Domnall, son of Morggán, son of Cathamal, son of Ruadrí, son of Ailgelach, son of Uraad, son of Uurgus, son of Nehhtonn, son of Colmán, son of Bพtán, son of Eochaid, son of Muiredach, son of Loarn, son of Erb, son of Eochaid Muinremuir. MacBeth (1005-1057), Mormaer of Moray, married Gruoch, daughter of Boedhe, who was the son of Kenneth III. So MacBeth, who had ancestral roots in Moray, was the grandson of King Malcolm II, and his wife was the granddaughter of King Kenneth III.
Under the ancient law of the Picts, he had as much claim to the throne of Scotland as did King Duncan I. He was commander for Duncan I, whom he defeated and slew, thereby becoming king. MacBeth was proclaimed king, and Scotland prospered during his reign. He was later defeated by Malcolm, the son of Duncan. Malcolm had gone to England to raise funds and an army to bring about MacBeth's downfall. His debt to the English would have disastrous effects on Scotland for years to come.
It is a generally held opinion by Scottish historians that if MacBeth had not been killed by the future King Malcolm III, Scotland would probably have remained a separate nation until this day and might have conquered England. Records show that he used his power for the good of his country. His reign verifies that Picts actually ruled Albann after Kenneth MacAlpin. .
In Angus, 'MacBeths' received a charter from David II in 1369, but this family was of the ancestral line of the Fife Bethunes, who anciently held lands in the area. The later history of the MacBeths, the Highland Beatons and Bethunes has become hopelessly confused for, in the various lands with which they are associated, both forms were used, often referring to the same family, sometimes even to the same person. Others duly removed to the shires of Inverness, Sutherland & Easter Ross and the name was also found in Moray where they had association with the Macbeans.
The name of this clan will always have overtones of Shakespeare's tragic Scottish king. The real MacBeth ruled 1040 to 1057,and had little in common with the villainous figure portrayed in he play. He had a valid claim to the throne and slew his rival on he battlefield, not in the bed chamber. He ruled wisely and generously, finding time to make a pilgrimage to Rome, where he scattered money among the poor like seed. He did in fact die in battle, at Lumphanan - not when Birnam Wood moved to Dunsinane as Shakespeare wrote.
Macbeth (Medieval Gaelic: Mac Bethad mac Findlaích Modern Gaelic: MacBheatha mac Fhionnlaigh nicknamed Rí Deircc, “the Red King” c. 1005 – 15 August 1057) was King of Scots from 1040 until his death. He ruled over only a portion of present-day Scotland.
Little is known about Macbeth’s early life, although he was the son of Findláech of Moray and may have been a grandson of Malcolm II. He became Mormaer of Moray – a semi-autonomous lordship – in 1032 and was probably responsible for the death of the previous mormaer, Gille Coemgáin. He subsequently married Gille Coemgáin’s widow, Gruoch, although they had no children together.
In 1040, Duncan I launched an attack into Moray and was killed in action by Macbeth’s troops. Macbeth succeeded him as King of Alba, apparently with little opposition. His 17-year reign was mostly peaceful, although in 1054 he was faced with an English invasion, led by Siward, Earl of Northumbria, on behalf of Edward the Confessor. Macbeth was killed at the Battle of Lumphanan in 1057 by forces loyal to the future Malcolm III. He was buried on Iona, the traditional resting place of Scottish kings.
Macbeth was initially succeeded by his stepson Lulach, but Lulach ruled for only a few months before also being killed by Malcolm III, whose descendants would rule Scotland until the late 13th century. Macbeth is today best known as the main character of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth and the many works it has inspired. However, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is based on Holinshed’s Chronicles (published in 1577) and is not historically accurate.
Macbeth’s full name in Medieval Gaelic was Mac Bethad mac Findlaích. This is realised as MacBheatha mac Fhionnlaigh in Modern Gaelic and anglicised as Macbeth MacFinlay (also spelt Findlay, Findley, or Finley). The name Mac Bethad, from which the anglicised “Macbeth” is derived, means “son of life”. Although it has the appearance of a Gaelic patronymic it does not have any meaning of filiation but instead carries an implication of “righteous man” or “religious man”. An alternative proposed derivation is that it is a corruption of macc-bethad meaning “one of the elect”
Some sources make Macbeth a grandson of King Malcolm II and thus a cousin to Duncan I, whom he succeeded. He was possibly also a cousin to Thorfinn the Mighty, Earl of Orkney and Caithness. Nigel Tranter, in his novel Macbeth the King, went so far as to portray Macbeth as Thorfinn’s half-brother. However, this is speculation arising from the lack of historical certainty regarding the number of daughters Malcolm had.
Mormaer and dux
When Cnut the Great came north in 1031 to accept the submission of King Malcolm II, Macbeth too submitted to him:
… Malcolm, king of the Scots, submitted to him, and became his man, with two other kings, Macbeth and Iehmarc …
Some have seen this as a sign of Macbeth’s power others have seen his presence, together with Iehmarc, who may be Echmarcach mac Ragnaill, as proof that Malcolm II was overlord of Moray and of the Kingdom of the Isles. Whatever the true state of affairs in the early 1030s, it seems more probable that Macbeth was subject to the king of Alba, Malcolm II, who died at Glamis, on 25 November 1034. The Prophecy of Berchán, apparently alone in near-contemporary sources, says Malcolm died a violent death, calling it a “kinslaying” without actually naming his killers. Tigernach’s chronicle says only:
Máel Coluim son of Cináed, king of Alba, the honour of western Europe, died.
Malcolm II’s grandson Duncan (Donnchad mac Crínáin), later King Duncan I, was acclaimed as king of Alba on 30 November 1034, apparently without opposition. Duncan appears to have been tánaise ríg, the king in waiting, so that far from being an abandonment of tanistry, as has sometimes been argued, his kingship was a vindication of the practice. Previous successions had involved strife between various rígdomna – men of royal blood. Far from being the aged King Duncan of Shakespeare’s play, the real King Duncan was a young man in 1034, and even at his death in 1040 his youthfulness is remarked upon.
Duncan’s early reign was apparently uneventful. His later reign, in line with his description as “the man of many sorrows” in the Prophecy of Berchán, was not successful. In 1039, Strathclyde was attacked by the Northumbrians, and a retaliatory raid led by Duncan against Durham turned into a disaster. Duncan survived the defeat, but the following year he led an army north into Moray, Macbeth’s domain, apparently on a punitive expedition against Moray. There he was killed in action, at Bothnagowan, now Pitgaveny, near Elgin, by the men of Moray led by Macbeth, probably on 14 August 1040.
High King of Alba.
On Duncan’s death, Macbeth became king. No resistance is known at that time, but it would have been entirely normal if his reign were not universally accepted. In 1045, Duncan’s father Crínán of Dunkeld (a scion of the Scottish branch of the Cenél Conaill and Hereditary Abbot of Iona) was killed in a battle between two Scottish armies.
John of Fordun wrote that Duncan’s wife fled Scotland, taking her children, including the future kings Malcolm III (Máel Coluim mac Donnchada) and Donald III (Domnall Bán mac Donnchada, or Donalbane) with her. On the basis of the author’s beliefs as to whom Duncan married, various places of exile, Northumbria and Orkney among them, have been proposed. However, E. William Robertson proposes the safest place for Duncan’s widow and her children would be with her or Duncan’s kin and supporters in Atholl.
After the defeat of Crínán, Macbeth was evidently unchallenged. Marianus Scotus tells how the king made a pilgrimage to Rome in 1050, where, Marianus says, he gave money to the poor as if it were a seed.
The Orkneyinga Saga says that a dispute between Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Earl of Orkney, and Karl Hundason began when Karl Hundason became “King of Scots” and claimed Caithness. The identity of Karl Hundason, unknown to Scots and Irish sources, has long been a matter of dispute, and it is far from clear that the matter is settled. The most common assumption is that Karl Hundason was an insulting byname (Old Norse for “Churl, son of a Dog”) given to Macbeth by his enemies. William Forbes Skene’s suggestion that he was Duncan I of Scotland has been revived in recent years. Lastly, the idea that the whole affair is a poetic invention has been raised.
According to the Orkneyinga Saga, in the war which followed, Thorfinn defeated Karl in a sea-battle off Deerness at the east end of the Orkney Mainland. Then Karl’s nephew Mutatan or Muddan, appointed to rule Caithness for him, was killed at Thurso by Thorkel the Fosterer. Finally, a great battle at Tarbat Ness. on the south side of the Dornoch Firth ended with Karl defeated and fugitive or dead. Thorfinn, the saga says, then marched south through Scotland as far as Fife, burning and plundering as he passed. A later note in the saga claims that Thorfinn won nine Scottish earldoms.
Whoever Karl Hundason may have been, it appears that the saga is reporting a local conflict with a Scots ruler of Moray or Ross:
[T]he whole narrative is consistent with the idea that the struggle of Thorfinn and Karl is a continuation of that which had been waged since the ninth century by the Orkney earls, notably Sigurd Rognvald’s son, Ljot, and Sigurd the Stout, against the princes or mormaers of Moray, Sutherland, Ross, and Argyll, and that, in fine, Malcolm and Karl were mormaers of one of these four provinces.
In 1052, Macbeth was involved indirectly in the strife in the Kingdom of England between Godwin, Earl of Wessex and Edward the Confessor when he received a number of Norman exiles from England in his court, perhaps becoming the first king of Scots to introduce feudalism to Scotland. In 1054, Edward’s Earl of Northumbria, Siward, led a very large invasion of Scotland (Duncan’s widow and Malcolm’s mother, Suthed, was Northumbrian-born it is probable but not proven that there was a family tie between Siward and Malcolm). The campaign led to a bloody battle in which the Annals of Ulster reported 3,000 Scots and 1,500 English dead, which can be taken as meaning very many on both sides, and one of Siward’s sons and a son-in-law were among the dead. The result of the invasion was that one Máel Coluim, “son of the king of the Cumbrians” (not to be confused with Máel Coluim mac Donnchada, the future Malcolm III of Scotland) was restored to his throne, i.e., as ruler of the kingdom of Strathclyde. It may be that the events of 1054 are responsible for the idea, which appears in Shakespeare’s play, that Malcolm III was put in power by the English.
Macbeth did not survive the English invasion for long, for he was defeated and mortally wounded or killed by the future Malcolm III (“King Malcolm Ceann-mor“, son of Duncan I) on the north side of the Mounth in 1057, after retreating with his men over the Cairnamounth Pass to take his last stand at the battle at Lumphanan. The Prophecy of Berchán has it that he was wounded and died at Scone, sixty miles to the south, some days later. Macbeth’s stepson Lulach was installed as king soon after.
Unlike later writers, no near contemporary source remarks on Macbeth as a tyrant. The Duan Albanach, which survives in a form dating to the reign of Malcolm III, calls him “Mac Bethad the renowned”. The Prophecy of Berchán, a verse history which purports to be a prophecy, describes him as “the generous king of Fortriu”, and says:
The red, tall, golden-haired one, he will be pleasant to me among them Scotland will be brimful west and east during the reign of the furious red one.
Life to legend.
Macbeth’s life, like that of King Duncan I, had progressed far towards legend by the end of the 14th century, when John of Fordun and Andrew of Wyntoun wrote their histories. Hector Boece, Walter Bower, and George Buchanan all contributed to the legend.
William Shakespeare’s depiction and its influence.
Macbeth and the witches by Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Füssli) (1741–1825)
In Shakespeare’s play, which is based mainly upon Raphael Holinshed’s account, Macbeth is initially a valorous and loyal general to the elderly King Duncan. After being flattered by Three Witches and his own wife, Macbeth rationalizes that murdering his king and usurping the throne is the right thing to do. Ultimately, however, the prophecies of the witches prove misleading, and Macbeth alienates the nobility of Scotland and is defeated in battle by Prince Malcolm. As the King’s armies disintegrate he encounters Macduff, a refugee nobleman whose wife and children had earlier been murdered by Macbeth’s death squads. Upon realizing that he will die if he duels Macduff, Macbeth at first refuses to do so. But when Macduff explains that if Macbeth surrenders he will be subjected to ridicule by his former subjects, Macbeth vows, “I will not yield to kiss the ground before young Malcolm’s feet, to be baited by a rabble’s curse.” He chooses instead to fight Macduff to death. Macbeth is then slain and beheaded and the play ends with Prince Malcolm planning his coronation at Scone.
The likely reason for Shakespeare’s unflattering depiction of Macbeth is that King James VI and I was descended from Malcolm III via the House of Bruce and his own House of Stewart, whereas Macbeth’s line died out with the death of Lulach six months after his step-father. King James was also thought to be a descendant of Banquo through Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland.
In a 1959 essay, Boris Pasternak compared Shakespeare’s Macbeth to Raskolnikov, the protagonist of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Pasternak explained that neither character begins as a murderer, but becomes one by a set of faulty rationalizations and a belief that he is above the law.
Lady Macbeth has gained fame along the way. In his 1865 novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, Nikolai Leskov updated The Tragedy of Macbeth so that it takes place among the Imperial Russian merchant class. In an ironic twist, however, Leskov reverses the gender roles – the woman is the murderer and the man is the instigator. Leskov’s novel was the basis for Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1936 opera of the same name.
In modern times, Dorothy Dunnett’s novel King Hereafter aims to portray a historical Macbeth but proposes that Macbeth and his rival and sometime ally Thorfinn of Orkney are one and the same (Thorfinn is his birth name and Macbeth his baptismal name). John Cargill Thompson’s play Macbeth Speaks 1997, a reworking of his earlier Macbeth Speaks, is a monologue delivered by the historical Macbeth, aware of what Shakespeare and posterity have done to him. Scottish author Nigel Tranter based one of his historical novels, MacBeth the King, on the historical figure. David Greig’s 2010 play Dunsinane takes Macbeth’s downfall at Dunsinane as its starting point, with his just-ended reign portrayed as long and stable in contrast to Malcolm’s. British Touring Shakespeare also produced in 2010 A Season Before the Tragedy of Macbeth by dramatist Gloria Carreño describing events from the murder of “Lord Gillecomgain”, Gruoch Macbeth’s first husband, to the fateful letter in the first act of Shakespeare’s tragedy
Macbeth appears as a character in the television series Gargoyles with the Gargoyle Demona playing a crucial role in both his rise and fall as King of Scotland. He was voiced by John Rhys-Davies.
Chieftain and then Mormaer (1029-1040)
Under his cousin Gillacomgain, it seems that Macbeth was appointed Thane of Cullen, a role that would see him as one of his cousin's chief lords, and as such during the short reign of his cousin (1029-1032) he carried out a fair few duties for his cousin, mainly the collection of taxes and the gathering of cattle. Macbeth and his wife whose name is unknown developed a small castle at Cullen, which still stands to this day, their son Fearchar was noted as having 'Blond hair and blue eyes' a trait it seemed he might well have shared with his mother. Gillacomgain, died in 1032, the result of a house fire, which it is rumoured was caused by Macbeth in revenge for his father's death twelve years prior, however, this seems unlikely, what little record remains suggest that Macbeth and his cousin got along quite well. More evidence suggests that it was Malcolm II who was behind the fire, as it seems that he wished to prevent Gillacomgain making a move on the throne for his own son Lulach, who as a descendant of Kenneth III had a good claim to the throne.
Macbeth's wife died around 1031 from what one can gather, and as such it seems following his ascension as Mormaer of Moray, he married his cousin's widow, and his love interest Gruoch. This was a politically smart move as well on Macbeth's part, for Gruoch was a granddaughter of Kenneth III, and had a claim to the throne as a result, furthermore, her father was the powerful Boite, who was Mormaer of Fife. It seems that their relationship was rather friendly and close, and as such, when a child was born to them later that year, it seems Macbeth shared in his wife's grief when said child died.
Macbeth would swear fealty to his grandfather and recognise him as his overlord in the summer of 1032, later going south to recognise Cnut the Great, King of England as king of England and to negotiate feudal ties with the man. Relations between Macbeth and his grandfather seem to have been quite strained, Malcolm might not have approved of his grandson's marriage to Gruoch, knowing as he did the threat she posed to his own plans for the succession, indeed, the next year, Malcolm would publicly order the death of Gruoch's brother one Gille mac Boite, the reason being that Gille had committed some offense, when in reality he was a major threat to Malcolm's plans of the succession. Records indicate Boite was furious upon the death of his son, but could do nothing about it. Indeed, when Malcolm died in 1034 in Glamis it seems that Boite's hands were all over that.
Malcolm II's death in 1034 saw the meeting of the great nobles of the realm to choose the next king. Whilst Boite himself might have put his name forward, he instead named Macbeth as a potential claimant to the throne. Macbeth however, alongside the other great lords of the realm decided to abide by Malcolm II's wishes and named Duncan as their new king. Duncan ascended the throne and quickly began planning a excursion into northern England to show his prowess. This excursion which took place in late 1034/early 1035 was a failure, Duncan was beaten and nearly captured, only evading capture thanks to Macbeth and the men of Moray. The Scots returned to their homes, and some began plotting, Duncan appeared very weak after his humiliating defeat in Durham, and soon enough a rebellion broke out against him in Angus, led by Subind, half brother of Boite and Thane of Glamis. The rebellion was defeated, not by Duncan but by Macbeth, who was quickly becoming Duncan's right hand, as well as increasingly frustrated with his cousin's lack of sense.
The rest of Duncan's reign passed in relative peacefulness, until the man tried to launch another invasion of northern England, when this failed to get off the ground, with Duncan being defeated in Strathclyde, by King Drest, Macbeth decided enough was enough and he took his men back to Moray and rebelled. Duncan came to meet him and in a series of battles Macbeth showed his superiority, and eventually defeated his cousin, moving to Scone where he was crowned King of Scots on the 16th November. The Mormaerdom of Moray and the crown merged together, making Macbeth one of the most powerful men in the whole of Northern Britain.
Macbeth – the Tragedy and its Historical Background
On August 14, 1040 AD, Mac Bethad mac Findlaích, Mormaer of Moray, today better known as Macbeth , killed the Scottish King Duncan I . to become the new King of Scotland. But, he has to commit further murder to maintain his power. So far the story goes. Most of the rest we know from Shakespeare ‘s adaptation of the historical events is merely pure fiction.[2,3]
Macbeth’s life, like that of his predecessor King Duncan I, had already progressed far towards legend by the end of the 14th century, when John of Fordun and Andrew of Wyntoun wrote their histories. In Shakespeare’s play (The Tragedy of MacBeth, about 1603-1607), Macbeth is portrayed initially as a valorous and good-hearted general to King Duncan, but who later is corrupted by ambition. He persuades himself that killing his king to take the throne is the right thing to do. His ambition is fostered by three witches whose prophecies however prove misleading, and his scheme is doomed to failure. Macbeth commits regicide and becomes King of Scotland. He thereafter lives in anxiety and fear, unable to rest or to trust his nobles. He leads a reign of terror until defeated by Macduff. The throne is then restored to the rightful heir, the murdered King Duncan’s son, Malcolm.
First Witch: When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
Second Witch: When the hurly-burly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.
Third Witch: That will be ere the set of sun.
First Witch: Where’s the place?
Second Witch: Upon the heath
Third Witch:There to meet with Macbeth.
First Witch: I come, Graymalkin!
Second Witch: Paddock calls.
Third Witch: Anon.
— William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of MacBeth, Scene I
Shakespeare’s source for the story is the account of Macbeth, King of Scotland Macduff and Duncan in Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587), a history of England, Scotland, and Ireland familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, although the events in the play differ extensively from the history of the real Macbeth. The events of the tragedy are usually associated with the execution of Henry Garnet for complicity in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. In Macbeth, however, Shakespeare does not confine himself to the Holinsheds Chronicles, but makes structural changes at various points. In Holinshed’s Chronicles Duncan is portrayed as a weak king who destabilises the empire through his excessive indulgence. In his account, Macbeth is a strict but righteous ruler for ten years, who, it is said, had a legitimate claim to the crown under ancient Scottish law before becoming a tyrant. Shakespeare also differs from Holinshed with regard to the character Banqo. Although he is also murdered by Macbeth in Holinshed, he does not only act as Macbeth’s accomplice in the regicide. It is assumed that Shakespeare relieved him in his play because the contemporary audience regarded him as the ancestor of the Stuarts and thus of King Jacob I . Another change concerns the figure of Lady Macbeth, who appears in the source solely as the wife of the protagonist without an essential role or function
MacBeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth, who is only mentioned in one movement in Holinshed, becomes Shakespeare’s partner, who acts as both a protagonist and a contrasting figure. Lady Macbeth , became Queen of Scotland after goading her husband into committing regicide, but later suffered pangs of guilt for her part in the crime. She dies off-stage in the last act, an apparent suicide. Also in the play Lady Macbeth ambition is not only want her husband to be king, she also wants to be queen to rule over England. she wanted to be a part which she would grant her evilness to change the country.
Turning the Story
In this way, Shakespeare turns the foundation of Holinshed’s history, which is already oriented towards the exemplary but has no special potential for statement, into a drama which, on the basis of a historical case, explores the problem of evil on the individual level of meaning as an individual human involvement in guilt and atonement, on the social-political level as overthrow and restoration, and on the metaphysical level as a confrontation between heavenly and hellly forces or, as the case may be, as the case may be. as a battle between nature and unnature, modelled and dramaturgically staged. Furthermore, Lady MacBeth has gained fame along the way, lending her Shakespeare-given title to a short story by Nikolai Leskov and the opera by Dmitri Shostakovich titled Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.
Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under it.
— William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of MacBeth, Lady Macbeth, Scene V
Macbeth in the Movies
The earliest known film Macbeth was 1905’s American short Death Scene From Macbeth, and short versions were produced in Italy in 1909 and France in 1910. Two notable early versions are lost: Ludwig Landmann produced a 47-minute version in Germany in 1913, and D. W. Griffith produced a 1916 version in America featuring the noted stage actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree . In 1947, David Bradley produced an independent film of Macbeth, intended for distribution to schools, most notable for the designer of its eighty-three costumes: the soon-to-be-famous Charlton Heston . Orson Welles ‘ 1948 Macbeth, in the director’s words a “violently sketched charcoal drawing of a great play,” was filmed in only 23 days and on a budget of just $700,000. Joe MacBeth ( Ken Hughes , 1955) established the tradition of resetting the Macbeth story among 20th-century gangsters. In 1957, Akira Kurosawa used the Macbeth story as the basis for the universally acclaimed Kumunosu-jo. Roman Polanski ‘s 1971 Macbeth was the director’s first film after the brutal murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, and reflected his determination to “show [Macbeth’s] violence the way it is”. William Reilly’s 1991 Men of Respect, another film to set the Macbeth story among gangsters, has been praised for its accuracy in depicting Mafia rituals, said to be more authentic than those in The Godfather or GoodFellas .
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
— William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of MacBeth, Macbeth, Scene V
At yovisto academic video search you might watch Prof. William Carroll from Boston University in the Annual University lecture about ‘Macbeth and the Show of Kings’.
Places connected with Macbeth, King of Scots (1040-1057)
Follow in the footsteps of Macbeth, the king who inspired William Shakespeare's world-famous play, with our guide to places connected with the life of this Scottish monarch.
Follow in the footsteps of Macbeth, the king who inspired William Shakespeare's world-famous play, with our guide to places connected with the life of this Scottish monarch.
Dingwall - Macbeth's birthplace
Macbeth was born in the royal burgh of Dingwall, a port town until Victorian times when the river receded. He was born at Dingwall Castle, the remains of which are on Castle Street. This was once the biggest castle north of Stirling and acted as a fort for the surrounding area. It was established in the 11 th century and had an exciting history, being garrisoned by the armies of Edward I of England and the venue for the double murder of Aodh Mackay and his son Donald who were murdered in a clan feud in 1370.
The castle was abandoned in the early 17 th century and used as a stone quarry.
Dingwall Castle, Castle Street, Dingwall IV15 9HU
The castle of Cawdor (pictured), near Inverness, features in Shakespeare&rsquos Macbeth when the prediction of the witches is fulfilled as Macbeth becomes thane of Cawdor. The castle itself dates to the fourteenth century, long after the days of the real-life Macbeth. Visitors can explore the dungeons, towers and hidden passages.
Cawdor Castle, Nairn IV12 5RD tel: 01667 404401 website.
An iconic oak tree (pictured) in Perthshire which features in Macbeth with Macbeth&rsquos words:
&lsquoI will not be afraid of death and bane. Till Birnam Forest come to Dunisinane.&rsquo
In the play, the trees of Birnam Forest began to move, concealing the movement of an army advancing against Macbeth. The Birnam Oak is classed as a &lsquoScottish Heritage Tree&rsquo and it is believed that William Shakespeare may have visited the forest during a royal tour.
Where Macbeth was killed at the Battle of Lumphanan in 1057 by the future King Malcolm III. The village is located 25 miles from Aberdeen and has a pub named The Macbeth Arms. The Battle of Lumphanan took place in 1057 and Macbeth is said to have been mortally wounded on the Mounth, a range of hills close to the village.
Isle of Iona
The traditional burial place of Scottish kings, where Macbeth was laid to rest. 48 Scottish kings are reputed to be buried at Reilig Odrham on the island. The island celebrated the 1450 th anniversary of the arrival of St Columba on Iona, in 2013.
King of Scotland
In 1040, Duncan opened up two fronts. The attack on the Orkneys was led by his nephew, Moddan, and Duncan led a force toward Northumbria. Both armies were soon routed and reformed only to be pursued by Thorfinn, mormaer of Orkney. Macbeth joined Thorfinn and, together, they were victorious, killing Moddan. On August 14, 1040, Macbeth defeated Duncan&aposs army, killing him in the process. Later that month, Macbeth led his forces to Scone, the Scottish capital, and, at age 35, he was crowned king of Scotland.
For 17 years, life was peaceful and prosperous as Macbeth ruled with an even hand and encouraged the spread of Christianity. He enacted several good laws, among them one that enforced Celtic tradition requiring officers of the court to defend women and orphans anywhere in the kingdom. Another allowed daughters the same rights of inheritance as sons. The only domestic disruption was in 1045, a rebellion by Duncan I&aposs supporters that was soon suppressed. In 1046, Siward, earl of Northumbria, unsuccessfully attempted to dethrone Macbeth.
In 1050, Macbeth and his wife traveled to Rome for a papal jubilee, giving alms to the poor and donating to the Church. However, upon his return, Macbeth faced political turmoil brewing outside his realm. In 1052, Normans living in England fled the chaotic situation into Scotland. Celtic custom held that all travelers were welcome in Macbeth&aposs court. However, this act of kindness didn&apost set too well with English lords. Around the same time, Duncan&aposs 21-year-old son, Malcolm MacDuncan, was lobbying English lords that he was best-suited to serve as king of Scotland.
Scottish Monarchs - kings and Queens
This section of our history covers the lives and reigns of all the monarchs of Scotland from the first Scottish King, Kenneth MacAlpin, who emerged from the mists of the Dark ages as the first King of Scotland in 843, to the death of that ill fated seductress, Mary, Queen of Scots, who was beheaded in an English prison on the orders of Elizabeth I.
Edward I of England's overbearing attempts to rule Scotland resulted in the Scottish Wars of Independence, which saw the meteoric rise of one of Scotland's most famous sons, the patriot William Wallace, who raised his countrymen to fight for the cause of freedom and was destined to suffer an agonizing death at the hands of his English enemies. After the demise of Wallace, the banner of Scottish resistance was taken up by Robert the Bruce, Scotland's greatest monarch, who lead his country to finally win her freedom from English dominance at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
The MacAlpin dynasty, which ruled Scotland throughout the Dark Ages, united the warring races of Picts and Scots as one nation. Our section on this dynasty includes the reign of Kenneth I himself and covers the bitter blood feud fought out between the two opposing lines of his successors for possession of the throne.
The following chapter, on the short lived House of Moray, includes an account of the reign of Macbeth, of Shakespearian fame, who usurped the throne of Scotland and reveals that the actual history of Macbeth and Duncan was very different to how Shakespeare has presented it to his audiences down the ages.
At the dawn of the Middle Ages, the House of Dunkeld seized the Scottish throne replacing the line of Gaelic Kings which had ruled since the ninth century. It produced such varying characters as the devout David I and Alexander I, known as the Fierce. The House of Dunkeld could also claim a saint in it's midst, in the person of Margaret, the wife of Malcolm Canmore, who was also one of the last representatives of the Anglo-Saxon House of Wessex.
The Balliol dynasty produced two kings of Scotland,John Balliol (reigned 1292-1296) and his son and heir Edward Balliol (reigned 1332-1336). After the deaths of Alexander III in 1286 and his granddaughter and successor Margaret of Norway in 1290, Balliol laid claim to the Scottish crown on the grounds that he was the 3 greats grandson of King David I. Strictly speaking he had a slightly superior claim to his main rival Robert Bruce, the grandfather of the future King Robert the Bruce. King Edward I of England, who had been asked to decide on the issue of the disputed Scottish succession approved his claim as 1291. John proved to be inefectual king and was forced to abdicate in 1296. Edward Balliol, the eldest son of John, was crowned at Scone in 1332, but was forced to flee to England only a few months later by forces loyal to David Bruce, son of Robert the Bruce. He was restored to power by English support but was defeated again in 1334. Balliol returned to Scotland following the defeat of David II at Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346 and raised an largely unsuccessful insurrection in a final attempt to gain the throne.
The Bruce's derived their claim to the throne of Scotland through their descent from Isabel Neville, the second daughter of David Earl of Huntingdon (grandson of David I) who married Robert de Brus, 3rd Lord of Annandale. The great Robert the Bruce was to become one of the most renowned Kings of Scotland, who ended English dominance over Scottish affairs when he defeated a force led by Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. On the demise of Robert the Bruce in 1329, David, aged five at the time, was duly proclaimed King of Scots and was crowned at Scone Abbey in November 1331. Edward Balliol, seizing the opportunity a minority presented, invaded Scotland with an English army and achieved victory over a Scottish army at Dupplin Moor when the regent, Robert's the Bruce's nephew, Donald, Earl of Mar was killed in battle. David II was eventually reinstated as Scotland's sovereign on the flight of Edward Balliol in 1336. The new King landed at Inverbervie in Kincardineshire on 2 June 1341. After David's death, the throne passed to his nephew, Robert Stewart, who became Robert II, the first of the Stewart dynasty.
After the Bruce dynasty failed in the male line, on the death of Robert's only son, the throne of Scotland was occupied by the romantic but ill-starred Stewart dynasty, which descended from the Bruce's daughter. The tragic Mary Queen of Scots was the last scion of their line. Beautiful, but reckless and impulsive, Mary was suspected of complicity in the murder of her ineffectual second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and later alienated the Scots lords by marrying James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, widely believed to be his murderer. She was forced to abdicate and endured a long term of imprisonment at the hands of her English cousin, Elizabeth I. In 1567 she ended her days under the executioner's axe at Fotheringay in Northamptonshire, an action which shocked all Europe. The crowns of Scotland and England were finally united in the person of the son Mary were fated never to see from infancy, James I and VI, the first King of all Britain.