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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dunkeld and the Real Macbeth

On the death of Malcolm II, the House of Alpin failed in the male line. Malcolm had two daughters, and the only surviving descendant of his cousin and immediate predecessor Kenneth III was a grand-daughter. King Malcolm's grandsons and King Kenneth's grand-daughter were the leading characters in the drama with which the history of the new dynasty opened.

Malcolm's elder daughter Bethoc married Crinan "the Thane", lay abbot of Dunkeld. At this period, when Celtic monasticism was in decline, lay abbots appear to have been as accepted a part of the ecclesiastical structure as they became centuries later on the eve of the Reformation. Crinan was a great nobleman, as his title implies, and he possessed the added prestige of belonging to the kindred of St. Columba. It was from his abbacy of Dunkeld that the new royal House took its name, for Crinan and Bethoc were the parents of King Duncan I.

Malcolm's younger daughter, whose name may have been Donada, married Finlaech, Mormaer of Moray (Mormaer was a Celtic title which appears to have been the equivalent of Thane or Earl), and they were the parents of Macbeth, who was therefore Duncan's first cousin. His name was in fact 'Maelbeatha', though it would be somewhat pedantic to revert to it.

Macbeth married Kenneth III's grand-daughter Gruoch, the original of Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth. Gruoch had been previously married to Gillicomgan, Mormaer of Moray, a cousin of Macbeth's father Finlaech. By her first marriage she had a son named Lulach.

The events in which Duncan, Macbeth and Gruoch took part were different in emphasis and timing from the familiar events of Shakespeare's tragedy. Read more about the real Macbeth.

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