An interesting anniversary today. Alexander the first became king of Scotland on this day in the year 1107 – being the son of Malcolm Canmore, the man who killed Macbeth. Malcolm was a Celt to the very bone whereas his wife Queen Margaret was an Anglo-Saxon. He allowed her to give their children Anglo-Saxon and non-Scottish names and so Alexander appears to have been named after Alexander the Great – a revered figure in the Middle Ages – or possibly after a pope of the time.
Malcolm was killed while raiding in to Northumberland, which was now under the Norman yoke – as was the rest of England. The reason for the raids is rooted in the dynastic politics of the time with agreements made and broken between the Scots and rulers of England – so no change there then! One has to add in to the mix, the presence on what is now Scottish soil of Scandanavian rulers. The north and west of the country was very much part of the Viking world and this influence is made very evident in Shakespeare’s play on the life and death of Macbeth.
With king Malcolm slain in Northumbria, Scots showed their Saxon queen what they really thought of her and such was the animosity that her sons fled to England. Hard to believe that Queen Margaret would eventually be declared a saint – she certainly wasn’t worshiped by the Celtic nobility at this time. The Norman king – William the second known as “Rufus” on account of his flaming red hair – saw an opportunity to meddle in Scottish politics and seized it. He installed Edgar, one of the sons, on the throne as his loyal vassal and there he remained until he died at a relatively young age.
Then enter Alexander – the next in line to the throne as Edgar had no children. He doesn’t appear to have broken with the Normans and was probably not greatly enamoured of the old Celtic families that had forced him to flee and given his mother such a rough time. To their horror, he married the illegitimate daughter of Henry I – now king of England after Rufus died in a hunting accident often suspected to have been murder. He also brought the distinctive Celtic Christian church closer to the rites of Rome – a slap in the face to the country’s ancient traditions.
Going back to Macbeth – the eleventh century king of Scotland who Shakespeare turned in to a monster – if you have never seen the play, then it’s a definite must. There are various film versions – the two most famous directed in the 1940s by Orson Welles and in the 1970s by Roman Polanski. And the more recent movie with Michael Fassbinder.
The Roman Polanski version: