Macbeth was a king of the Scots whose rule was marked by efficient government and the promotion of Christianity, but who is best known as the murderer and usurper in William Shakespeare's tragedy.
Shakespeare's Macbeth bears little resemblance to the real 11th century Scottish king.
Mac Bethad mac Findláich, known in English as Macbeth, was born in around 1005. His father was Finlay, Mormaer of Moray, and his mother may have been Donada, second daughter of Malcolm II. A 'mormaer' was literally a high steward of one of the ancient Celtic provinces of Scotland, but in Latin documents the word is usually translated as 'comes', which means earl.
In August 1040, he killed the ruling king, Duncan I, in battle near Elgin, Morayshire. Macbeth became king. His marriage to Kenneth III's granddaughter Gruoch strengthened his claim to the throne. In 1045, Macbeth defeated and killed Duncan I's father Crinan at Dunkeld.
For 14 years, Macbeth seems to have ruled equably, imposing law and order and encouraging Christianity. In 1050, he is known to have travelled to Rome for a papal jubilee. He was also a brave leader and made successful forays over the border into Northumbria, England.
In 1054, Macbeth was challenged by Siward, Earl of Northumbria, who was attempting to return Duncan's son Malcolm Canmore, who was his nephew, to the throne. In August 1057, Macbeth was killed at the Battle of Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire by Malcolm Canmore (later Malcolm III).
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