Most of what we think and feel about Lady Macbeth comes from Shakespeare’s play based on the life of her husband. We come away thinking of her as a scheming, bloodthirsty ambitious woman who bullies her husband into evil deeds, only displaying a conscience after they get what they want.
But-she was a real person. Her name was Gruoch and she was born around 1005, the daughter of Bodhe and the granddaughter of Kenneth III, giving her a hereditary claim to the throne of Scotland. Stories say she met Macbeth in 1020 and they were attracted to each other. Macbeth was described in the Prophecy of Berchan as “the ruddy-faced king. The strong one was fair, yellow-haired, and tall.” He sounds like the type of man to set a lady's heart fluttering. However, Gruoch was ordered by King Duncan to marry his cousin Gillecoemgain in 1032. They had one son Lulach. Gillecoemgain was killed in a gruesome way- in a fire along with fifty others, possibly by Macbeth in revenge for the killing of his father, or possibly at the hand of King Duncan, who was a bloodthirsty ruler and not quite the good king he was portrayed to be in the Shakespearean play.
Gruoch fled to Moray to Macbeth as her protector and married him in 1932, becoming Queen of Scotland in 1040 when Macbeth in turn killed Duncan in battle, not by murdering him in his bed.
Macbeth was considered to be a generous and good king. He and Gruoch went on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1055, the first Scottish king to do so, and gave money to the poor. He encouraged Christianity and the kingdom was peaceful and prosperous. Under his reign daughters were declared to have the same rights as sons.
In 1057 Macbeth was killed by Malcolm. His stepson Lulach became king for a brief seven months, before being killed in battle. Macbeth was the last of the Highland Kings of Scotland.
Gruoch died in 1060.