Little Bits of History

Macbeth

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 15, 2012

King Macbeth of Scotland

August 15, 1057: King Macbeth is killed. Mac Bethad mac Findlaich was also nicknamed Ri Deircc or “the Red King” and was the King of the Scots. He was also known as King of Alba and earlier as King of Moray and King of Fortriu. Most of what we “know” about Macbeth (the Anglicanized version of his name) comes from the tragedy written by William Shakespeare somewhere between 1603 and 1606, probably. Shakespeare was a brilliant playwright but was not so good as a historian.

While we know some of Macbeth’s genealogy, the family tree remains partly in shadow. Systems of succession of rule worked for some time, but early in the 11th century there were succession crises throughout the areas today called Scotland and Ireland. In 1031, Cnut the Great came north and three kings submitted to him – Malcolm (King of the Scots), Macbeth, and Iehmarc. This record from history leaves room for dispute over the amount of power Macbeth actually held. Was he there as an equal to Malcolm or a subordinate? It is unknown how much status he had at the time. We do know he became King of the Scots in 1040 after a battle in which Duncan was slain by Macbeth.

He became universally accepted as King by 1045 after Duncan’s father was killed in a battle. As his acceptance grew, he decided to travel to Rome, making a pilgrimage in 1050. Records say that along the way, he gave “money to the poor as if it were seed.” Back in Scotland, by 1052 Macbeth received exiles from Norman England. This brought him indirectly into the issues in England between Godwin, Earl of Essex and Edward the Confessor.

These issues led to an invasion of Scotland which the Annals of Ulster say left 3,000 Scots and 1,500 English dead. Macbeth survived this invasion. However, he met the son of Duncan (whose mother had fled with her children after Macbeth’s victory years before) in battle. On the north side of the Mounth, son and victor met with the current victory going to the younger man. Duncan, after killing Macbeth and avenging his father, became King Malcolm III.

If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me.

Stars, hide your fires! / Let not light see my black and deep desires.

I go, and it is done; the bell invites me. / Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell / That summons thee to heaven, or to hell.

Lay on, Macduff, / And damn’d be him that first cries, Hold, enough! – all from Macbeth, as told by William Shakespeare

Also on this day:

Yasgur’s Farm – In 1969, Woodstock begins.
Requiem – In 1935, a plane crash killed Will Rogers and Wiley Post.
Military Precision – In 1995, Shannon Faulkner arrives at the Citadel.

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