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Sunday, January 11, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #2: Duncan I of Scotland

     Duncan I of Scotland ( in Gaelic, Donnchadh mac Crionain) or Duncan Mac Crinain was the grandson and successor to Malcolm II who united Scotland into one country in about 1027.  Duncan was born in about 1001, the son of Crinain, hereditary lay abbot of Dunkeld and Bethoc, daughter of Malcolm II. Malcolm apparently chose Duncan to be his successor as his own sons were dead and there was no opposition to Duncan becoming king even though there were other possible successors.

     Duncan became King in 1034. He was known as both "le Gracieux" (the gracious) and "An t-llgarach" (the diseased), I find no explanation for either appellation.  His reign was relatively quiet at first.  Then in 1039 he led a large army to beseige Durham, in northern England, which ended disastrously for him. Almost immediately after that he took his army to Moray to fight his Uncle MacBeth who, along with his wife, had an equally good claim to the crown.  Duncan was killed in this battle at Pitgavenny near Elgin and buried at St. Orans' chapel on the Isle of Iona. He left three sons, two of whom, Malcolm and Donald became King after defeating MacBeth. Duncan founded the House of Dunkeld which ruled Scotland until 1286.

     Duncan would not have been particularly know if William Shakespeare hadn't written MacBeth, a play that was based on the story of Duncan and MacBeth.  However, in Shakespeare's play Duncan is an older monarch, who is a model of a wise and benevolent king. And the play is really about evil and the price of guilt. Still it is interesting to find that we have an ancestor who was immortalized by Shakespeare! I also find it interesting to note that we find Duncan I on the Kells family tree, through the Avery family.  In 1877 our ancestor, Stephen Avery Kells, married Isabella Duncan.  In researching her tree I found a statement that her father, James Duncan, was descended from "King Duncan" but I have not been able to corroborate this. It may be, then that both sides of my grandfather, Lucas Kells', family were descended from King Duncan I!

     Let us let Shakespeare have the last word here.  These lines are spoken by King Duncan in MacBeth Act I, Scene 4:

     "But signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine
      On all deservers.  From hence to Inverness,

      And bind us further to you."

1 comment:

  1. I didn't realize we had this connection. I'll pay more attention to King Duncan the next time I see "Macbeth"!