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Otters Oddities

Alas, forsooth, verily thou sayeth odd-bodkins!

I'm going to speculate that most, if not all of you, have been exposed to the Bard at one point or another in your lives. And, I'd be willing to wager a tuppence that that exposure was in the form of school.


Let's face it, there aren't to many kids these days who read Shakespeare willingly. In fact, most can't get through the Cliffs Notes without falling asleep.

I'll admit, my first exposure to the Bard was in 7th grade and was in the form of the play, Macbeth. I remember not enjoying it too much. My distaste stemmed from the fact that it was darn near impossible to understand. I was later forced to read Macbeth in high school, and it was better. But, I had a few more years to learn how to understand ye olde English. (I was fortunate enough to have travelled extensively when I was young, and was able to see 'Julius Caesar' performed by the Royal Shakespeare Players in Stratford-Upon-Avon. I was unaware at the time, but in the early 90's, my sister showed me the playbill from the play, and Patrick Stewart was in the play. Yup...I saw Picard do Shakespeare.)

I'm sure some of you have read the genre of literature called 'Historical Fiction'. It can involve real people in made up scenarios, or real life events with made up main characters who may or may not interact with historical figures.

What you probably didn't know was, Shakespeares 'Macbeth' is historical fiction. In fact, it's not entirely fiction. While Shakespeare took liberties in the telling of the story, (in reality, there was not three witches. Lady Macbeth was the only witch.....)


Now, I could tell you the story of how Macbeth came to be king, but, quite honestly, the story is more confusing that reading Shakespeare for the first time. So, I'm going to do something I've never done before: I'm going to let someone else relate the story of the secession.

The following comes directly from Wikipedia because, well, I tried to make it easier to read, but, frankly, couldn't.

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 Donada, a daughter of the Scottish king Malcolm II (Máel Coluim mac Cináeda).

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 mac 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 mac 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. 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.

Both systems of alternating succession coincidentally failed in the early 11th century. In Ireland, the failure of the northern Uí Néill to support their southern kinsman Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill against Brian Bóruma, and the resulting end to the system of Uí Néill High Kingship appears to have been caused by political geography. In northern Britain, the violent struggle between the various candidates for power seems to have removed Clann Áeda mac Cináeda from the contest, leaving only Clann Constantín mac Cináeda, in the person of Máel Coluim son of Cináed, to claim the kingship. Máel Coluim appears to have had rivals from within Clann Constantín killed during his reign.

It has been proposed that the base of Clann Áeda mac Cináeda's power lay in the north of the kingdom of Alba, beyond the Mounth (eastern Grampians) in what had once been Fortriu and which was now called Moray (in Irish annals of the period, MacBethad is occasionally referred to as King of Fortriu, as well as King/Mormaer of Moray, before his succession to the throne of Alba). It was in this region that Mac Bethad's kin appear to have been based. Later in the eleventh century, from the time of Gille Coemgáin's grandson Máel Snechtai, a genealogy was compiled which traced Máel Snechtai's descent and Clann Ruadrí's origins to the Cenél Loairn founder Loarn mac Eirc. Loarn was supposedly the brother of Fergus Mór, whom the descendants of Kenneth claimed as an ancestor. The genealogy as it survives is apparently constructed by combining two distinct genealogies which are found attached to the Senchus fer n-Alban, that of Ainbcellach mac Ferchair (died 719), to which has been appended that of Ainbcellach's kinsman Mongán mac Domnaill. It is likely that this conception of Clann Ruadrí's origins predates Máel Snechtai and was prevalent in Mac Bethad's time or even earlier.

The extent to which Gaelic kingship rested on agnatic (male line) descent can be seen in the case of Kenneth MacAlpin's daughter's daughter's son Congalach Cnogba. Congalach was the grandson of High King Flann Sinna of Clann Cholmáin and succeeded to the Uí Néill High Kingship in unusual circumstances on the death of his mother's half-brother Donnchad Donn. Rather than proclaim his near kinship with recent kings—grandson of Flann, nephew of Donnchad and Niall Glúndub—Congalach's propagandists preferred to advance his claim to rule as a male-line descendant in the tenth generation of Áed Sláine (died circa 604). Like Congalach, Clann Ruadrí may have had a claim to the kingship in the female line which legal tradition would have considered to be of little importance. It is possible that Ruaidrí, or his father Domnall if he existed, may have married into Clann Áeda mac Cináeda and so inherited the allegiance of that family's supporters.

It is not clear whether Gruoch's father was a son of King Kenneth II (Cináed mac Maíl Coluim) (d. 995) or of King Kenneth III (Cináed mac Duib) (d. 1005); either is possible chronologically. After Gille Coemgáin's death, Macbeth married his widow and took Lulach as his stepson. Gruoch's brother, or nephew (his name is not recorded), was killed in 1033 by Malcolm II.


OK....did you all understand that? No? Well, don't feel bad. Ancient Celtic and Pict history is confusing.

But one fact remains: Shakespeares rendition of Macbeth wasn't really all that far from the way it actually happened.


***DISCLAIMER*** Like I said earlier in the post, this is the first time I've copied data from another source. I try to make my posts all original work, but in the case of this post, I really didn't feel like spending a few hours making it understandable. I hope you can all forgive me. Rest assured, I will always let you know, and post links, if any portion of my posts are taken from another source.

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