Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Macbeth, King of Scots

Macbeth, King of Scots, died in the Battle of Lumphanan on the 15th of August, 1057.

Macbeth ruled Scotland following his defeat and killing of Duncan I in a battle at Spynie. Macbeth was seen as a wise and good King of Alba, who ruled his country for seventeen years from his castle at Dunsinane, north of Perth. He is regarded as one of the more successful early Scottish Kings and his rule was marked by efficient government and the imposition of law and order. A verse history, the ‘Prophecy of Berchan’ describes Macbeth as “the generous king of Fortriu” and “the red, tall, golden-haired one”, which gave him the nickname of ‘Rí Deircc’ (the Red King). The near contemporary ‘Duan Albanach’ calls him “Mac Bethad the renowned”. Macbeth ruled equably and encouraged Christianity, which was an important thing in the ‘Dark Ages’. The various ‘Annals’ state that Macbeth travelled to Rome in 1050 and in so doing, he became the only reigning King of Scotland to make a pilgrimage to Rome. Of course, it says a lot for about how secure he felt in his position, that he could leave the country for several months on such a journey, and it is surely a sign of domestic political and economic stability. In ‘Marianus Scotus’, it is said that whilst in Rome he “scattered alms like seed corn”, which Andrew of Wyntoun's metrical poem, ‘Orygynale Cronykil’, confirms with the line “In pilgrimage hither he came, and in almus he sew siller”. Macbeth was also a brave leader and he had to be, for ultimately there were attempts upon his Throne, by the relatives of Duncan I. Whatever peace there was did not last.

Mac Bethad mac Findláich mac Ruaridh was born in Moray, some time between 1000 and 1005. His father was Mormaor of Moray, which was the ancient title of provincial, Celtic sub-Kings (recorded in Latin as ‘comes’ and effectively, an Earl). His mother was Donada (Donalda), who was most likely a daughter, rather than a granddaughter, of Malcolm II, judging by Macbeth’s birth date. If so, Macbeth, like Duncan I, was a grandson of Malcolm II. In Macbeth's time, the Mortuath of Moray that his father ruled extended much further than its present-day borders and included the area around Inverness. Around 1020, his father was killed by Macbeth’s cousin, who became Mormaor. The ‘Annals of Ulster’ and the ‘Annals of Tigernach’ differ on that issue, with the latter suggesting that is was Gille Comgáin, the son of Findláich’s brother, Máel Brigte, who was responsible.

It appears that at some early stage, Macbeth became part of the Royal Court of Malcolm II, where he would have been in close company with his future King, Duncan. Some historians have also identified Macbeth with MaelBaethe, one of two ‘Kings’ who, according to the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, accompanied Malcolm II in paying homage to King Cnut (Canute) in 1031. This is very unlikely as Macbeth didn’t succeed to the Mortuath of Moray until the following year and wasn’t seen as being senior to Duncan, for example, who was being lined up for the Regal succession by Malcolm II. It is more likely that MaelBaethe was Malcolm mac Bodhe, a grandson of Kenneth II and brother of Macbeth’s future wife, Gruoch, or the father of those two, Bodhe mac Cináeda (Boede or Boedhe), a son of Kenneth II. In the course of events, Malcolm II was responsible for the deaths of both of those men. Actually, Gruoch’s father could have been a son of either Kenneth II or Kenneth III, both descendants of Kenneth mac Alpin, but in any case, that lineage gave legitimacy to Macbeth’s claim to the Throne.

Macbeth became Mormaor (Rí or sub-King) of Moray in 1032, after his cousin, Gille Comgáin, and fifty of his followers were trapped in a building and burned to death. Those killings were either an act of revenge for his father's death on the part of Macbeth, or the ridding of a rival by Malcolm II. Both suggestions are plausible as is one in which both men were complicit; intimating Malcolm was ultimately responsible, regardless of who gave the order for the fire. Gille Comgáin had been married to Gruoch and in 1034, after his horrible death, she was quite happy to marry Macbeth. Maybe that is significant; it is unlikely to have been true love. Macbeth has also been described in some ‘Annals’ as ‘King’ of Fortriu, but that is really just an earlier name for what was by then Moray. As Mormaor of Moray, Macbeth exerted influence beyond his immediate environs; there is evidence that he owned land elsewhere and was able to grant estates in West Fife.

When Malcolm II died at Glamis, on the 25th of November, 1034, Duncan became King, despite others having equally compelling claims. Malcolm’s will prevailed and Duncan was cute enough to make sure that it did. Whatever Macbeth thought of it all is not recorded, but he bided his time. Duncan was not a successful King and his prestige was dealt a severe blow when he suffered an ignominious defeat during an attempted siege of Durham in 1039. That defeat led to insurrection by the Mormaors, who wanted to “put hyme [Duncan] down” and declared for Macbeth. Duncan marched north to bring a rebellious Macbeth to heel and, while Macbeth was at the River Lossie facing the King of Dublin, Duncan was met by Macbeth’s half-borther, Thorfinn ‘Raven Feeder’, at Torfness (Burghead), on the 14th of August, 1040. Duncan fled that battle, but was then intercepted by Macbeth who killed him during a secondary battle, which took place near Spynie. Within two weeks of the decisive battle, Macbeth had moved to Scone, where he was inaugurated as their ‘Ard Rí’ (High King) in the traditional way on the Moot Hill.

In 1046, Earl Siward of Northumbria, together with Malcolm Canmore, the exiled son of Duncan I, invaded Alba in order to depose Macbeth. That move was sanctioned by Edward the Confessor, King of England. After an initial setback, Macbeth won a second battle and sent Siward packing, but he came back a few years later, in 1054. Malcolm Canmore and Siward defeated Macbeth’s army at the Battle of Dunsinane Hill on the 24th of July and Macbeth was forced to cede the southern part of his Kingdom to Malcolm. He was still notionally the King and remained so for a further three years, but perhaps isolated back in Moray, for Malcolm seems to have taken over Perth and Fife. Then, on the 15th of August, 1057, Macbeth made his last stand when he was defeated and killed by the army of Malcolm Canmore at the Battle of Lumphanan. Seventeen years to the month after he had killed Duncan I, Macbeth was himself killed by Duncan’s son.

Macbeth’s stepson, Lulach, managed to get himself installed as King, but his reign lasted only a few short months, before he too was killed by Malcolm, at Essie, near Strathbogie, in March 1058. Malcolm Canmore restored the House of Dunkeld and ruled as Malcolm III from 1058 until 1093. Like many of his predecessors, Macbeth was buried on Iona.

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