You might have read Shakespeare’s dark drama Macbeth in school: a grasping noble kills his aging king to seize the Scottish throne then lives and dies tormented by guilt and fear. But did you know that Macbeth was a real Scottish king?
While researching for my latest wip Sons of Alba, I came across some intriguing facts:
#1 Macbeth (Mac Bheatha mac Fhindlaich) and King Duncan I were first cousins, and young: roughly the same age. In a culture where kings often rose to the throne because of the people’s choice rather than direct male line, Duncan and Macbeth had a reasonably equal claim to the throne, both being grandsons (on their mother’s side) of the previous king.
#2 Macbeth was actually a good king, and quite well liked. He apparently had the support of most of Scotland to take the throne. History records him not only as a capable war leader but also generous to the poor.
#3 Macbeth killed Duncan in self defence. At the time of Duncan’s death, he was marching on Macbeth’s territory in force. Macbeth killed him while fending off his invasion.
#4 Macbeth was killed in an English invasion, not by the fictional MacDuff. Knocking the Scottish king off the throne was in England’s best interests as they attempted to consolidate their rule over the entire island of Britain.
So next time you pick up Shakespeare’s masterpiece, remember the real man behind the tragic legend. And I just might write this interesting historical figure into Sons of Alba.