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General History of the Highlands
Macbeth through to Malcolm III 1093


Duncan, son of Bethoc or Beatrice, daughter of Malcolm II, succeeded his grandfather in the year 1033. "In the extreme north, dominions more extensive than any Jarl of the Orkneys had hitherto acquired, were united under the rule of Thorfinn, Sigurd's son, whose character and appearance have been thus described: - 'He was stout and strong, but very ugly, severe and cruel, but a very clever man'. The extensive districts then dependant upon the Moray Maormors were in possession of the celebrated Macbeth". Duncan, in 1033, desiring to extend his dominions southwards, attacked Durham, but was forced to retire with considerable loss. His principal struggles, however, were with his powerful kinsman, Thorfinn, whose success was so great that he extended his conquests as far as the Tay. "His men spread over the whole conquered country", says the Orkneyinga Saga, "and burnt every hamlet and farm, so that not a cot remained. Every man that they found they slew; but the old men and women fled to the deserts and woods, and filled the country with lamentation. Some were driven before the Norwegians and made slaves. After the Earl Thorfinn returned to his ships, subjugating the country everywhere in his progress". Duncan's last battle, in which he was defeated, was in the neighbourhood of Burghead, near the Moray Firth; and shortly after this, on the 14th August, 1040, he was assassinated n Bothgowanan, - which in Gaelic, is said to mean "the smith's hut", - by his kinsman the Maormor Macbeda or Macbeth. Duncan had reigned only five years when he was assassinated by Macbeth, leaving two infant sons, Malcolm and Donal, by a sister of Siward, the Earl of Northumberland. The former fled to Cumberland, and the latter took refuge in the Hebrides, on the death of their father.

Macbeth, "snorting with the indigested fumes of the blood of his sovereign", immediately seized the gory sceptre. As several fictions have been propagated concerning the history and genealogy of Macbeth, we may mention that, according to the most authentic authorities, he was by birth Thane of Ross, and by his marriage with the Lady Gruoch, who had claim to the throne, as granddaughter of Kenneth, became also Thane of Moray, during the the minority of Lulach, the infant son of that lady, by her former marriage with Gilcomgain, the Maormor or Thane of Moray. Lady Gruocj was the daughter of Boedhe, son of Kenneth IV; and thus Macbeth united in his own person many powerful interests which enabled him to take quiet possession of the throne of the murdered sovereign. He, of course, found no difficulty in getting himself inaugurated at Scone, under the protection of the clans of Moray and Ross, and the aid of those who favoured the pretensions of the descendants of Kenneth IV.

Various attempts were made on the part of the partisans of Malcolm, son of Duncan, to dispossess Macbeth of the throne. The most formidable was that of Siward, the powerful Earl of Northumberland, and the relation of Malcolm, who, at the instigation or command of Edward the Confessor, led a numerous army into Scotland in the year 1054. They marched as far north as Dunsinnan, where they were met by Macbeth, who commanded his troops in person. A furious battle ensured, but Macbeth fled from the field after many displays of courage. The Scots lost 3,000 men, and the Saxons 1,500, including Osbert, the son of Siward. Macbeth retired to his fastness in the north, and Siward returned to Northumberland; but Malcolm continued the war till the death of Macbeth, who was slain by Macduff, Thane of Fife, in revenge for the cruelties he had inflicted on his family, at Lumphanan, in Aberdeenshire, in the year 1056, although, according to Skene (Chronicles), it was in August 1057.

Macbeth was unquestionably a man of great vigour, and well fitted to govern in the age in which he lived; and had it not been for the idelible character bestowed upon him by Shakesperwe (who probably followed the chronicle of Holinshed), his character might have stood well with posterity. "The deeds which raised Macbeth and his wife to power were not in appearance much worse than others of their day done for similar ends. However he may have gained his power, he exercised it with good repute, according to the reports nearest to his time". Macbeth, "in a manner sacred to splendid infamy", is the first king of Scotland whose name appears in the ecclesiastical records as a benefactor of the church, and, it would appear, the first who offered his services to the Bishop of Rome. According to the records of St. Andrews, he made a gift of certain lands to the monastry of Lochleven, and certainly sent money to the poor of Rome, if, indeed, he did not himself make a pilgramage to the holy city.

After the reign of Macbeth, the former irregular and confusing mode of succession ceased, and the hereditary mode of succession ceased, and the hereditary principle was adopted and acted upon.

Lulach, the great-grandson of Kenneth IV, being supported by the powerful influence of his own family, and that of the deceased monarch, ascended the throne at the age of twenty-five or twenty-six; but his reign lasted only a few month, he having fallen in battle at Essie, in Strathbogie, in defending his crown against Malcolm. The body of Lulach was interred along with that of Macbeth, in Iona, the common sepulchre, for many centuries, of the Scottish kings.

Malcolm III, better known in history by the name of Malcolm Ceanmore, or great head, vindicated his claim to the vacant throne, and was crowned at Scone, 25th April, 1057. His first care was to recompense those who had assisted him in obtaining the sovereignty, and it is said that he created new titles of honour, by substituting earls for thanes; but this had been disputed, and there are really no data from which a certain conclusion can be drawn.

In the year 1059 Malcolm paid a visit to Edward the Confessor, during whose reign he lived on amicable terms with the English; but after the death of that monarch he made a hostile incursion into Northumberland, and wasted the country. He even violated the peace of St. Cuthbert in Holy Island.

William, Duke of Normandy, having overcome Harold in the battle of Hastings, on the 14th October, 1066, Edgar AEtheling saw no hopes of obtaining he crown, and left England along with his mother and sisters, and sought refuge in Scotland. Malcolm, on hearing of the distress of the illustrious strangers, left his royal palace at Dunfermline to meet them, and invited them to Dunfermline, where they were hospitably entertained. Margaret, one of Edgar's sisters, was a princess of great virtues and accomplishments; and she at once won the heart of Malcolm.

The offer of his hand was accepted, and their nuptials were celebrated with great solemnity and splendour. This queen was a blessing to the king and to the nation, and appears to have well merited the appellation of Saint. There are few females in history who can be compared with Queen Margaret.

It is quite unnecessary, and apart from the object of the present work, to enter into any details of the wars between Malcolm and William the Conqueror, and William Rufus. Suffice it to say that both Malcolm and his eldest son Edward were slain in a battle on the Alne, on the 13th November, 1093, after a reign of thirty-six years. Queen Margaret, who was on her death-bed when this catastrophe occurred, died shortly after she received the intelligence with great composure and resignation to the will of God. Malcolm had six sons, viz, Edward, who was killed along with his father, Edmund, Edgar, Ethelred, Alexander, and David, and two daughters, Maud, who was married to Henry I of England, and Mary, who married Eustache, Count of Boulogne. Of the sons, Edgar, Alexander, and David, successively came to the crown.

Thorfinn, Earl of Orkney, died in 1064, and his extensive possessions in Scotland did not revert to his descendants, but to the native chiefs, who had had the original right to possess them. These chiefs appear to have been independent of the Scottish sovereign, and to have caused him no small amount of trouble. A considerable part of Malcolm's reign was spent in endeavouring to bring them into subjection, and before his death he had the satisfaction of seeing the whole of Scotland, with perhaps the exception of Orkney, acknowledging him as sole monarch. The Norwegian conquest appears to have effected a most important change in the character of the population and language of the eastern lowlands of the north of Scotland. The original population must in some way have given way to a Norwegian one, and, whatever may have been the original language, we find after this one of a decidedly Teutonic character prevailing in this district, probably introduced along with the Norse population. "In the more mountainous and Highland districts, however, we are warranted in concluding that the effect must have been very different, and that the possession of the country by the Norwegians for thirty years could have exercised as little permanent influence on the population itself, as we are assured by the Saga it did upon the race of their chiefs".

"Previously to this conquest the northern Gaelic race possessed the whole of the north of Scotland, from the western to the eastern sea, and the general change produced by the conquest must have been, that the Gael were for the first time confined within those limits which they have never since exceeded, and that the eastern districts became inhabited by that Gothic race, who have also ever since possessed them".


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