Gruoch, The Real Lady MacBeth

My muse, my literary, my creative, my feminist idea of Scotland began with my interest in Lady Gruoch , the real Lady Macbeth.

Once when I was teaching my playwriting course, I did all the assignments I gave my students, both to assess how well the assignments could be handled in the time allotted, and to create the kind of strutcture one sometimes needs to begin new work. One of the assignments was to research an historical figure and to write a monologue for that figure. I could not think of many “real” people who interested me who had not been overwritten, but I could think of a number of fictional ones, and Lady Macbeth was one. I asked the the magic Google if she had been real. Indeed she was.

The second wife of the real MacBeatha or MacBethad, Gruoch was a granddaughter of Kenneth III of Scotland, daughter of Boite or Boidhe, son of Kenneth, and may have been of true royal blood. She had been married to Gilllacomgain Mac Maelbrigte, one of two of MacBeatha’s cousins who had killed MacBeatha’s father–Findlaech Mac Ruadri, the governor (mormaer) of Moray, during an intrafamilial civil war for power over that Northeastern territory of Scotland. It appears that MacBeatha was a member of a posse of about 50 men who burned Gillacomgain and his men to death in his own castle. Gruoch and her son, Lulach, survived. Mac|Beatha ruled as King for 13 years before being killed by his rival for the throne, Duncan.

Both Macbeth and Lulach (the Foolish, dead within six months of becoming king) are buried on the Isle of Iona, with the other kings of Scotland.  They lie in the Orran Chapel cemetary, adjacent to the Abbey.  Since Iona was the cradle of Christianity in Scotland, brought by St. Columba in 563, all the kings of Scotland and some Norse, Dane and a French one, were buried with pomp in this place.  In the early 18th century, the gravemarkers were brought inside the abbey to protect them from extreme erosion.  The archaeologists forgot to mark which stones were taken from which graves.  So the actual gravesite of Macbeth is unknown.

Though Hagg[us] will not be traveling north to Moray, the place from which Gruoch hails and the place at which the Mormaer Macbeth would have needed to defend Scotland from the Norse, Gruoch’s spirit is another centering female emanation. Her burial place is unknown.

The history of Gruch’s travails as Queen reflect the history of Scotland itself, but more importantly, her story is a woman’s story of being subject to the will of others and finding the courage to stand up or ones’ own true needs and self.

The accompanying links cover the life of the context of Guroch tell you the bare bones of Lady Gruoch’s biography.



British Peerage entry on Gruoch

Another version of Gruoch’s life


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