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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guest Post with Susan Fraser King

I would like to extend my warmest welcome to author Susan Fraser King today. King is the author of the newly released Queen Hereafter and has a previous release Lady Macbeth. She has dropped by today with a guest post about these two queens - what drew her to their story and how they were true opposites of each other. Please read on and enjoy the post!

Two Queens: Lady Macbeth and Margaret of Scotland 

Guest Post by Susan Fraser King, author of 
Queen Hereafter


A few years ago I read a little about the historical Macbeth and his queen, who ruled Scotland in the 11th century—and the idea of writing about this obscure young woman began to intrigue me. I knew little about her beyond Shakespeare, but key historical facts hinted at a story with real substance for fiction. A warrior king and queen, their 17-year reign was, according to Macbeth’s own contemporaries, peaceful and prosperous—this was unusual for 11th century Scotland. Lady Macbeth was likely very different from Shakespeare’s ambitious bloody harridan with more than a touch of crazy. The more I studied the era, the more I wanted to write about her.

Lady Macbeth had appeared as a secondary character in novels by Dorothy Dunnett and Nigel Tranter, and she stole the show in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. She deserved her own novel with an updated historical perspective providing an authentic portrait of this obscure 11th century queen. Gruadh, as she is called in the novel, was probably quite young when Macbeth, her second husband, took the throne. Raised in a Celtic warrior society, tradition, lineage and obligation would have mattered very much to her. As royalty with a better bloodline than most, she was probably a strong, independent, well-educated young woman familiar with war, with mysticism, superstition, even magic. The men around her were successful, dominant warlords, yet they were attacked, betrayed and even murdered; she must have understood revenge, too, for the Celtic Scots of the time were fiercely loyal, clever and often vengeful.

Her youth at the time that Macbeth killed King Duncan in battle and took the throne is rarely mentioned in historical accounts--yet she was probably a teenage bride and mother, and only in her early twenties when she became queen. As a product of a society that was more Dark Ages in its aspects than medieval, she was not likely to have been a submissive medieval queen, but a woman who had to survive in a tough environment. She may have embroidered and was probably devout at her prayers, but she would have understood the business end of a sword, too, and had some privilege of equality in her culture.

Her marriage to Macbeth may have begun in conflict – he may have killed her first husband -- yet their long-term relationship seems to have been one of loyalty and respect, and we can easily guess affection from that. Macbeth is now regarded as one of the better kings of early Scotland, and his queen may have shared the sense of loyalty and fairness that Macbeth apparently had as a ruler. Seeded in the research were clues that their relationship was supportive. For example, they were married for 25 years and ruled Scotland for 17 years, and never had a surviving child between them—yet Macbeth never set her aside, although it was not uncommon in childless royal marriages. In 1050 when Macbeth went on pilgrimage to Rome (a first for a Scottish king), it is reasonable to assume that he would never have left his country, which was situated between Vikings and Saxons, without a capable regent ruling in his place. Lady Macbeth must have been his trusted queen. The circumstantial evidence in the historical accounts was often compelling with regard to both their character and their relationship.

Lady Macbeth and Margaret of Scotland were both queens of Scotland, one after the other on the throne, yet they were virtually opposites. Their differences—and similiarities—caught my interest as both a historian and a novelist. Where Lady Macbeth was the last truly Celtic queen of Scotland, Margaret was essentially the first medieval queen there. A Saxon princess raised in Hungary and England, she married King Malcolm Canmore—the warrior-prince who had killed Macbeth to reclaim the throne for his royal line—and brought the wider world to Scotland.

Both women are fascinating, unique in their times, bred of very different cultures yet both living in a dynamic and changing Scotland. The 11th century was a turning point for Scotland and Britain, and these two queens were part of that transformation. The documentation is very scant for Lady Macbeth, so that I had to rely on what is known of the men and circumstances around her—yet for Margaret, a great deal of information has survived, including a rare biography written by her personal confessor. Margaret is one of the more complex medieval queens--cosmopolitan, educated, compassionate and beloved, she was almost fanatically devout and very hard on herself.

And Margaret’s story, preserved by her friend and priest, is remarkable, the stuff of a natural fairy tale romance—a beautiful princess forced to flee the Norman invaders with her family, she was shipwrecked on the coast of Scotland, and married King Malcolm, who promised to aid her brother’s cause against the Normans. Later this match of convenience became a marriage of true affection, producing eight healthy children. Her biographer hinted at Margaret’s real character, indicating an intelligent woman of great heart and temper who took her religion so seriously that she felt great obligation and compassion for others, yet damaged her own health with repeated fasting.

Lady Macbeth and Queen Hereafter explore the lives of two very different women, linked by their places in history and their shared love of Scotland and its people. Chronologically, Lady Macbeth’s story takes place before Margaret’s in Queen Hereafter, and the novels share a few characters, places and events. Yet they are quite different novels, reflecting their very different heroines, and can be read separately or as a pair. I hope that readers will love both stories!


Thank you Susan for that wonderful post! Reading Queen Hereafter has been a delight and I look forward to what you will bring us next!  You can visit Susan at her website for more information about her books.




Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

4 comments:

  1. Wow what a great post! I love novels about empowered women! I haven't read much about the Scottish Queens, but this really makes me want to start! I'm really intrigued with Lady Margaret's story.

    Taylor @ http://allthingshistoricalfiction.blogspot.com/

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  2. I enjoyed this very interesting post. I have Lady Macbeth on my 'read soon' shelf, and my daughter just rec'd Queen Hereafter in a secret santa exchange. I'm very anxious to read them both.

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  3. Taylor- I hadn't really read about Scottish Queen's before this either - but they would have to have been very strong women to survive there!

    Linda - I hope you enjoy them!

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