Basic Introduction

Mac Bethad Mac Findlaech, or as he is now known Macbeth, was a man who lived during the eleventh century, a grandson of a king, a king himself and a father of kings. He was an interesting man, and one whose legacy is felt to this very day.
Macbeth of Scotland

Macbeth, The Early Years

Mac Bethad Mac Findlaech (Macbeth I)
King of Scots
Ceremony 16th November, 1040, Scone.
Predecessor Duncan I
Successor Macbeatha I
Reign 1040-1069
Consort Gruoch
Issue Fearchar Og Mormaer of Argyll, Macbeatha I (King of Scots)
Full name
Mac Bethad Mac Findlaech
Full name

Given name: Macbeth
Era name and dates
Early Middle Ages: 1000-1069
Regnal name
Macbeth I
Languages spoken Gaelic, Latin
Clan House of Moray
Clan House of Moray
Dynasty House of Moray
Father Findlaech mac Ruarí
Mother Doada Ingen Mael Coluim
Born Mac Bethad mac Findlaech
Died 1069
Burial 1070
Religion Christianity
Occupation King
Not much is known about the early years of Macbeth, or as he was known in those times Mac Bethad Mac Findlaech. Very few records survive from that time period, but what is known is that he was the son of Findlaech Mormaer of Moray and Doada daughter of Malcolm II. He was born into an ancient line of rulers and as such it seems reasonable that he would have received an education that befitted his rank. This education would have included lessons in gaelic, latin, the scriptures and in the art of war.

As a grandson of King Malcolm II, he would have attended his grandfather's court on occasion and a surviving roll of attendance from a court session held in Scone in 1015 lists one Mac Bethad Mac Findlaech in attendance with his father who is known as the Ri of Moray, suggesting that Findlaech was a sub king under Malcolm II, who was recognised as High King.

One thing that seems clear from what little records survive from this time, suggests that Mac Bethad, or as he would late come to be known as Macbeth, grew up close to one Gruoch Ingen Boite, his future queen and wife. Gruoch being the daughter of Boite Mac Cinaeda, a royal prince from the house of Alpin. Furthermore, it seems that Mac Bethad was also close to his cousin and future predecessor as Mormaer of Moray, Gillacomgain.

The Wilderness Years (1020-1029)

In January of 1020, Macbeth's father Findlaech was slain during a journey coming back from one of his lord's castles in Moray. The person responsible was Macbeth's cousin Malcolm, who was also Findlaech's nephew. It seems that this act was done, due to Malcolm's growing impatience waiting for his uncle to die, and perhaps in revenge for Findlaech's inadvertent role in Malcolm's own father's death. Macbeth, it seems was with his father's party as it travelled back to their home, however, during the fighting that followed he was separated from the main host, and ended up fleeing southward. He and some ten men fled toward Scone, where they are noted as being received by Malcolm II, who upon being informed of the events in Moray, began making preparations for an invasion. However, it seems that the two Malcolms made their peace with one another, for shortly afterward Macbeth disappears from any list or charter from his grandfather's court. What became of him during his cousin's reign as Mormaer is not known, it seems he might have spent some time at his grandfather's court, and a bit of time travelling through Scotland itself as well as perhaps spending time in Orkney with his cousin Thorfinn.

What is known is that when Malcolm, Mormaer of Moray died in 1029, his brother Gillacomgain ascended as Mormaer of Moray, and met with Macbeth in Inverness, where the two were reconciled with one another, in an attempt to perhaps consolidate their holdings, and fend off rivals from distant branches of the family. Macbeth, it seems married a daughter of one Fergus Mac Cinaeda, a local chieftain within Moray, and together they had a son later in the year who was named Fearchar Og.

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.

King of Scots (1040-1069)

Macbeth was crowned King of Scots at Scone on 16th November, 1040, the man who placed the crown atop his head and named him king was his father in law, Boite Mac Cinaeda, Mormaer of Fife. With his crowning, the Mormaerdom of Moray and the crown were merged together, and this was to become the issue that would dominate the first few months of Macbeth's reign. Some of the lords within Moray, wished for a separation between the crown and the Mormaerdom, whilst others thought that now one of their own was king, they would be fine. Macbeth's thoughts the issue were simple, as one chronicle from the time comments this was what he had to say. 'I was born in Moray, I lived in Moray, I rule Moray.' And as such the Mormaerdom remained with him throughout his reign.

The next issue that King Macbeth faced following the settlement of the Mormaerdom, was the traditional military exercise, that kings would go on to prove their might, now whilst some historians have argued that King Macbeth did not need to go on such an expedition having proven himself fighting Duncan as well as in Duncan's wars, others have argued that Macbeth needed to show to himself more than anyone that he was capable of ruling as King. And so, it seems that it was for this reason that the king ventured not into the northern half of England as his predecessors had done, but rather into Strathclyde, a kingdom that had long enjoyed some level of autonomy from the crown. In late 1041, King Macbeth invaded Strathclyde, and in a series of battles defeated King Malcolm II of Strathclyde, but instead of beheading him and claiming the kingdom for himself, Macbeth was more than happy to allow the man to remain as king, but an underking, and so King Malcolm swore fealty to King Macbeth, and Macbeth returned to his capital in Scone.

The years from 1042 to 1045, it seems were rather peaceful for the kingdom of Scotland, the king and his family would often tour the kingdom, getting to know the nobility as well as the common folk. And from what records survive, it appears that Macbeth was well liked within the realm. Despite not having any children from his marriage to Gruoch at that time, it seems that he felt rather comfortable with the succession, having two male children in Lulach and Fearchar Og as in his court. However, it seems that there were a small number of nobles who were not content with Macbeth's reign, and the chief of these opponents was Cirnan Abbot of Dunkeld, father to Duncan I. In January, 1045, Cirnan alongside some 200 men rebelled against Macbeth, however, they were easily defeated, and Cirnan himself was slain by Macbeth. Other than that, it should be noted that, this battle was the first time the records make note of Fearchar Og's ferocity within battle, the young man who it seems was around sixteen at this time, was a fierce fighter, tall and muscular, compared to Lulach, he looked every inch a king. Cirnan's youngest son, Maldred was either slain or escaped into obscurity within Ireland following the battle, the records are not clear on that point.

Following the defeat of Cirnan, it seems there was peace for the rest of 1045, Macbeth, it seems spent the rest of the year touring the kingdom and making sure that his nobles were reminded of who their king was. It should be noted that this was the year that Macbeth moved the royal capital from Scone to Inverness for a brief period of time. It seems that this might have been done in response to increased aggression from Thorfinn Earl of Orkney, who was also Macbeth's cousin. The beginning of 1046, saw Macbeth meet Thorfinn and in what seems to be a rare display of peace from the Earl of Orkney, the meeting ended with Macbeth some £200 richer as it would be nowadays, in return for securing the borders of their respective lands. Following this, Macbeth it seems became determined to conquer Argyll, the first signs of this are shown in the arrangement of a marriage between his son Fearchar Og, and one Gunhilda, niece of Lachlan Lord of Argyll. It should be noted Lachlan had no sons or daughters of his own, and his nephew Mael Coluim was his heir. Following this marriage which occurred in mid 1046, Macbeth invaded Argyll in late 1046. The Lord of Argyll received some aid from the isles, but for the large part, it he was left to his own devices, the reason for this has never been quite clear, but it seems the King of Norway was dealing with his own issues and the men of the Isles could not be bothered moving from their lands. Over a series of battles, Macbeth demonstrated his skill at command and as a warrior, as did his son Fearchar Og, interestingly enough, Lulach was left in Scone alongside Gruoch, seemingly an indication of what type of warrior Lulach was. The war for Argyll ended in March, 1047 with the signing of the Treaty of Inveraray, in which the men of the isles and Argyll recognised Fearchar Og as Mormaer of Argyll, and that Argyll now belonged to the throne. It seems that for a time the King of Norway Harald Hardrada, new to the throne and unwilling to risk a shaky expedition, acknowledged this.

The following year, saw the birth of a son to King Macbeth and his wife Gruoch. The child was christened Macbeatha, and was soon to become all important to Macbeth. The remaining time from the time his son was born to the time he ventured to Rome, the kingdom was spent in peace, and things seemed to be going well. In fact when Macbeth left for Rome, he left his wife as well as their two adult sons as regents. His time in Rome, was said to have been most fruitful and when he returned it is said according to some sources, that he was most happy and content. And that it would seem to have been the reason for why he was so lenient toward Malcolm of Strathclyde when the man rebelled against him in 1051. Macbeth defeated him and slew two of his sons, but pardoned him all the same, and allowed him to return to his seat as a king, taking the man's youngest son Owen as a hostage to ensure good faith. The only notable event of that campaign was that it was the first time that Lulach was known to have fought in one of his step-father's wars.

In 1052, Lulach married Finghula the daughter of Sinn, Mormaer of Angus, their son Mael Snechtai was born later that year, soon to be followed by a daughter named Ola. There was some fighting between Fearchar Og and the men of the Isles during that year, but it was relatively simple and was sorted out by the threat of Macbeth coming to solve it himself. This demonstrates the level of regard that Macbeth was held in by his vassals and by his peers as well. The following year saw Macbeth become a grandfather for the first time as his son Fearchar had a son named Kenneth. Another event of note during this time, was the acceptance of Norman exiles into Macbeth's court, this Normans had been banished from King Edward the Confessor's court, due to the growing resentment of their presence there. With them they brought some heavy cavalry, and Macbeth curious as to how this might work began observing their maneuvers.

In 1054, Malcolm II of Strathclyde died fighting the English army under the command of Siward, Earl of Northumbria, who had been sent to place Malcolm son of Duncan I on the throne of Strathclyde, allegedly. Macbeth responded, taking his men and his norman mercenaries with him, the Norman mercenaries were defeated and destroyed, and Macbeth and his men barely got away with their lives. Macbeth was forced to recognise Malcolm Canmore as King of Strathclyde, and it seems that he did not like having to do that. The next three years would be some of the tensest times for King Macbeth, as Canmore became well liked within Strathclyde, a kingdom that had always traditionally been more southward facing, and as the man became more popular, Macbeth found himself wondering when the war would come.

Eventually, war came in 1057, throughout the year, battles were fought in Strathclyde and in other parts of the kingdom, as the supporters of Macbeth and the supporters of Malcolm fought. One of the notable casualties of the fighting was Boite Mac Cinaeda, the Mormaer of Fife, and Macbeth's biggest supporters. The death of the second most powerful man in the realm might've been expected to dent Macbeth's morale as well as the morale of his troops, however, it seems that Macbeth more than made up for it, and at the final battle against Canmore and his English army, fought at Lumphaan, Macbeth triumphed, through sheer luck and force, slaying Canmore and defeating his army. Canmore, and his brother Mael Muire were both slain during the fighting, and the English supporters of Canmore, led by Tostig Godwinson retreated back to England. Following Canmore's defeat, Macbeth raided Strathclyde, and then placed Owen son of Malcolm II of Strathclyde on the throne of his father, and made the man recognise him as High King.

The following years were largely peaceful ones, there were a few skirmishes with men from Orkney and Macbeth often quarrelled with his cousin Thorfinn about their borders, as well as with regards to the actions of the nobles of the isles, but largely they managed to avoid coming to blows. The only true threat to Macbeth's rule came in 1063, when Donald Bane the only surviving son of Duncan I, invaded the western coast with men from the Isles as well as from Ireland. This was a fight that lasted for some time, but by the end of the year Donald's chief supporter one Máel Brigti was dead as was Donald. For now it seemed that the House of Dunkeld was dead and buried.

With the death of his cousin Thorfinn in 1062, Macbeth recognised the man's sons as Earls of Orkney as well as of Caithness and Sutherland, though he forced them to swear fealty for the last two to him. And in a treaty with King Harald of Norway, the man agreed to recognise that and the Mormaerdom of Argyll in return for Macbeth's son Macbeatha marrying Harald's daughter Ingegerd. This action it seems was the first indication that Macbeth was considering Macbeatha as his heir and not his oldest son Fearchar, as might have been considered par for course. This might well explain Fearchar's later aggression, but more of that later.

In 1066, Edward the Confessor died, leaving behind a rather confused succession, sensing that this would be a golden opportunity, Macbeth gathered the men of Scotland, and Strathclyde and invaded northern England. Harold Godwinson had been named as King of England by the Witengamot, but was having some difficult dealing with a supposed invasion of southern England by the Normans, and so his thoughts were elsewhere. Macbeth captured many of the border towns, before coming face to face with an army under the command of Morcar Earl of Northumbria at Morpeth, where in the ensuing chaos Morcar was slain and his brother Edwin led a retreat to York. Edwin, then began moving his men outward, toward the village of Stamford Bridge, where he expected to meet an army under the command of King Harold Godwinson. However, the Scottish-Norse combined army, had set foragers out to limit the supplies of the army under Earl Edwin, and as such became aware of the plans to meet with King Harold through prisoners captured during such foraging. In a bold move, Harald Hardrada decided to move out first toward Stamford Bridge where he engaged in a skirmish with Earl Edwin and his men, and just as it seemed that Edwin was going to lose, King Harold arrived with his men, and the fighting continued, and just as it seemed Godwinson was going to arrive King Macbeth and the Scots appeared. It was their appearance that turned the tide. King Harold and his brother Leofwine were slain, as was Earl Edwin, the English army was routed and King Harald emerged victorious. After some time, The Scottish-Norse army boarded the Norse ships and moved south, taking London, before sending out harrying forces, which drew a desperate William toward them, where arrows, pit traps and other such things dealt a death blow to William the bastard and his Norman army.

In the Treaty of Newcastle that followed the war, King Harald agreed to recognise Scottish hold over the lands they had conquered. This stretched from Conwill on Tweed to South Shields, in return Macbeth acknowledged King Harald as king. Macbeth, an old man now, returned back to Scone, where the last few years of his reign were spent in relative peace, he became a grandfather once more when Macbeatha and his wife had a son whom they named Macbeth in the man's honour. Furthermore, he also accepted Edgar Aetheling and the man's sister Margaret into his court for a brief time. The issue of succession seemed clear and secure as Macbeth's death came closer, he had three adult candidates to chose from, the fierce Fearchar Og, the less than impressive Lulach and his own flesh and blood and his pride and joy, Macbeatha the Red. Macbeth wrote a will in which he placed Fearchar and Macbeatha close together in the succession, claiming they were both good for the crown. He died in November, 1069, at the age of Sixty-Four.


At some point in 1029, he married an unknown woman and they had issue.

Fearchar Og: Mormaer of Argyll, Prince of Scots (1029-1109)

Following the death of their respective spouses, Macbeth and Gruoch married in 1032 and had.

Macbeatha: King of Scots (1048-1111)

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