Macbeth of Scotland

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Mac Bethad mac Findlaích (Modern Gaelic: MacBheatha mac Fhionnlaigh,[1] anglicised as Macbeth, and nicknamed Deircc, "the Red King"[2]; died 15 August 1057) was King of the Scots (also known as the King of Alba, and earlier as King of Moray and King of Fortriu) from 1040 until his death. He is best known as the subject of William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth and the many works it has inspired, although the play presents an inaccurate portrayal of his reign and personality.

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Origins and family

Macbeth was the son of Findláech mac Ruaidrí, Mormaer of Moray. His mother, who is not mentioned in contemporary sources, is sometimes supposed to have been a daughter of the Scottish king Malcolm II (Máel Coluim mac Cináeda). This may be derived from a granddaughter, rather than a daughter, of Malcolm.[3]

Findláech was killed in 1020. According to the Annals of Ulster he was killed by his own people while the Annals of Tigernach say that the sons of his brother Máel Brigte were responsible. One of these sons, Máel Coluim son of Máel Brigte, died in 1029. A second son, Gille Coemgáin, was killed in 1032, burned in a house with fifty of his men. Gille Coemgáin had been married to Gruoch with whom he had a son, the future king Lulach. It has been proposed that Gille Coemgáin's death was the doing of Mac Bethad, in revenge for his father's death, or of Máel Coluim son of Cináed, to rid himself of a rival. The origin myth of the kingdom of Alba traced its foundation to the supposed destruction of Pictland by Kenneth MacAlpin, and its kings were chosen from the male line descendants of Kenneth, with the possible exception of the shadowy Eochaid, said to be Kenneth's daughter's son. During the century in which the lists correspond well with the annals, the succession to the kingship of Alba was held in an alternating fashion by two branches of the descendants of Kenneth MacAlpin, one descended from Kenneth's son Constantín, Clann Constantín mac Cináeda, and one from Constantín's brother Áed, Clann Áeda mac Cináeda. This alternating succession is also seen in Ireland, where the High Kings of Ireland come from two branches of the Uí Néill, the northern Cenél nEógain and the southern Clann Cholmáin. Both systems have been compared with the concept of tanistry found in Early Irish Law, although the political reality appears to have been more complex.

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