Gruoch (fl. 1020–1054)
Gruoch (fl. 1020–1054)
Queen of Scotland. Name variations: Lady Macbeth or Lady MacBeth. Born around 1015; flourished around 1020 to 1054; daughter of Beoedhe also known as Bodhe or Boite (who was probably the son of King Kenneth II or Kenneth III); granddaughter of either King Kenneth II (971–995) or Kenneth III (997–1005); married Gillacomgain or Gillacomgan, mormaer (ruler) of Moray; married Macbeth or MacBeth also known as Machethad, Machetad, Macbethad, and often confused with MacHeth in later sources (c. 1005–1057), king of Scotland (r. 1040–1057), after 1032; children: (first marriage) Lulach (1032–1058, known as the Fool or the Simple), mormaer of Moray and king of Scots (r. 1057–1058, who married Finnghuala of Angus ).
Gruoch, the historical "Lady Macbeth" (though she would not have been called this), was the daughter of Bodhe and probably the granddaughter of King Kenneth III. Gruoch married Gillacomgain, who, in 1020, had been involved in the murder of his uncle Findlaech MacRuaridh, mormaer of Moray. As a result, Gillacomgain was mormaer of Moray at the time of the marriage.
Consisting of a large territory centered on modern Inverness, Moray extended west to the coast, east to the river Spey, and south along Loch Ness while being separated from the rest of Scotland by a rugged ridge of mountains called the Mounth. Strategically, Moray was important because it acted as a buffer zone between the attacks of the Norsemen in the north and the remainder of the kingdom of Scots in the south.
The rulers of this province had a special importance attached to them. Although often referred to as mormaers like the rulers of the other provinces, in many Irish sources the rulers of Moray are called "kings," and sometimes even "king of Scots," suggesting their high status. Modern genealogical research, moreover, has demonstrated that they were descended from one of the three families which first settled on the western coast of Scotland from Ireland in the early 6th century. Since the kings of Scots were regularly drawn from the other two of these families, the rulers of Moray had a legitimate claim to royal status in the 11th century.
In 1032, the same year that Gruoch and Gillacomgain had a son Lulach, Gillacomgain was "burned, along with fifty of his men," according to the Annals of Ulster, possibly by his cousin Macbeth for killing Findlaech—for Findlaech was Macbeth's father. On the death of her first husband, Gruoch married Macbeth, the new mormaer of Moray. By this marriage, Macbeth merged several claims to the kingship of Scots: his own, as the son of Findlaech, and those of Gruoch, since she was granddaughter of Kenneth. At the same time, Macbeth adopted Gruoch's son Lulach. Although marrying the killer of one's spouse may seem strange, it is found quite frequently in Irish and Scandinavian literature.
Duncan I, king of Scotland, died in 1040, after a brief reign of six years. Having come to the throne in 1034, aged about 33, he had spent much of his reign raiding south into England; these raids proved largely unproductive, and in 1040 he was forced to turn his attention northward to Moray. One source says that Duncan was killed "by his own subjects" near Elgin. However, Marianus Scottus recorded that "Duncan, the king of Scotland, was killed in autumn, by his earl, Macbeth." His account is the only contemporary evidence implicating Macbeth in the murder of Duncan, suggesting that all future accounts of Macbeth's involvement were derived from it. Regardless of whether or not Macbeth was personally involved in Duncan's death, as mormaer of Moray he would still have been held partly responsible for the murder that took place within his province. Yet even so, Macbeth did not murder a kindly old man in his sleep, urged on, as he was in Shakespeare's play, by "vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself," and by an equally ambitious Lady Macbeth.
Macbeth was inaugurated as king of Scots, and Gruoch was queen. In the year 1050, Macbeth next appears on the record, on a pilgrimage to Rome, possibly with Gruoch. Sometime during his reign, likely after he returned from the pilgrimage, Macbeth and Gruoch made a grant of land to the Culdees or Celtic monks of Lochleven in return for prayers for their souls.
In 1054, Macbeth was driven from southern Scotland by Malcolm (III), son of Duncan, and Siward, the earl of Northumbria. Macbeth and Gruoch fled to Moray. In 1057, Macbeth was killed by Malcolm at Lumphanan. Because Macbeth had no children of his own, Gruoch's son Lulach was able to gather enough support to rule briefly over part of Scotland. In 1058, Lulach was killed, and Malcolm III's reign formally began. Both Macbeth and Lulach, and possibly Gruoch, were buried on the tiny island of Iona, situated off Scotland's west coast.
Much of Macbeth's evil reputation has been derived from chroniclers writing long after his
death, who often had dramatic or moral obligations to fulfill. Although accounts of the historical King Macbeth are scarce, it is apparent that his contemporaries found him more deserving of praise then condemnation. As for Gruoch, she has suffered severely from the pen of William Shakespeare.
Anderson, A.O. Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers, A.D. 500–1286. David Nutt, 1908.
——. Early Sources of Scottish History, A.D. 500–1286. 2 vols. Oliver & Boyd, 1922. Vol. 1, pp. 550–604.
Barrow, G.W.S. Kingship and Unity: Scotland, 1000–1306. Edward Arnold, 1981.
Dickinson, W.C. Scotland from the Earliest Times to 1603. 3rd ed. Revised and edited by A.A.M. Duncan. Clarendon Press, 1977.
Dunbar, Sir A.H. Scottish Kings. A Revised Chronology of Scottish History, 1005–1625. David Douglas, 1899.
Dunnett, D. "The Real MacBeth," in The Sunday Mail Story of Scotland. Vol. 1, pt. 4. R. Maxwell, 1988.
Ellis, P.B. MacBeth High King of Scotland, 1040–1057. Frederick Muller, 1980.
McDonald, Russell Andrew. "MacBeth," in Anne Commire, ed. Historic World Leaders. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1992.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Edited by S. Barnet. Penguin, 1987.
Skene, W.F. Celtic Scotland. 3 vols. David Douglas, 1876–1880.
"Gruoch (fl. 1020–1054)." Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 18, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/women/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gruoch-fl-1020-1054
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