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Blog Tour: Guest Post by D. K. Marley: The Real Lady Macbeth

     This guest post by author D.K. Marley is extremely fascinating! She is the author of The Fire of Winter, which examines the life of the historical "Lady Macbeth". I have always been fascinated by this woman and wanted to know more about who she really was, and Mrs. Marley has been gracious enough to share her story with my readers! I am honored to have her as a guest post author. Thank you, D.K. Marley!

The Real Lady Macbeth

     When I first embarked on writing the novel about the real Lady Macbeth and her infamous husband, I must say that my knowledge of the two of them was entirely relegated to what I knew of them from Shakespeare’s play. Macbeth, the play, is one of my favourites of his tragedies, so I knew right off after finishing “Prince of Sorrows”, the historical adaptation of Hamlet, that this would be next on my list.

    My repertoire of research links and hours spent on this dangerous couple is immense, spanning countless articles of their life and genealogy, and to my great delight, an incredible story to tell bursting the boundaries of the woman with bloody hands in the play.

    Gruac (or Gruah, Gruach, Gruoch) ingenBoite, was the daughter of Boite macCineada, the son of Kenneth III of Scotland, born in the year anywhere from 1005 – 1020 from my research, however her marriage to Gille Comgain, the Mormaer of Moray, in 1030 might likely put her birthyear closer to 1010 – 1015. For my novel, I used the date of 1012.

    She was a noble born princess of the Alpin line of Kings, thus a marriage to her formed a link to the throne and her heir would thus be a possible King of Scotland. Gruac’s brother also had a claim to the throne, but according to my research, he was killed at an early age.

    Gruac’s distant cousin was Duncan (Donnchad), the son of Malcolm II, who was first cousin to Gruac’s grandfather, Kenneth III. (Oh, what a tangled web!!)

    Much of the bloodlines and claims to the throne reminded me quite a bit of the relationships between the houses of York and Lancaster in England during the War of the Roses, not to mention the fictional history in the Game of Thrones!!

    When Gruac married the Mormaer of Moray in 1030 (or thereabouts), the idea was to link these clans into producing an heir to take the throne, in my opinion. A strong bloodline needed to be established since a man was enthroned in Scotland not by blood, but by the laws of tanistry, but it is obvious that the tradition of passing the rule onto the strongest and fittest of the King’s men was in decline, and the Thanes knew this, thus it was like a scramble to make the strongest claim.

    Malcolm II is the first (or from what I could see) to change the law of tanistry in favour of his son, Donnchad, in a heretical passing the Crown instead of choosing from among his strongest thanes.
However, this did not stop the wrangling and ‘behind closed doors’ manoeuvring of those who felt they had the right.

   Macbeth saw the throne in his sight, within his reach, and Gruac was the key to his success, perhaps even the impetus to his rise. I think Shakespeare got that part right in his play. However little we know of the real woman, she had to have known of her importance in who sat on the throne, even considering herself an equal to the daughters of Malcolm II (one of which was the mother of Macbeth) in inheritance.

    Macbeth had his own reasons for wanting Gille Comgain, Gruac’s first husband, dead, for the Mormaer and his brother murdered Macbeth’s father, Findlaech, who was then the Mormaer of Moray (King in his own right of the land of Moray), and seized the title and throne, taking any chance for Macbeth to inherit the right from his father.

Gille Comgain’s motives were purely strategic, and with the birth of a son with Gruac, he felt a right to the throne of Scotland. Lulach, their son, was born in 1030 (1031), and yet, something in my gut said that there had to be more to the story of his conception. I even toyed with the idea of Lulach being Macbeth’s son, as you will see in my novel.

    Macbeth did take his revenge on Gille Comgain (or was it Gruac who held the torch) when Gille Comgain and fifty of his men were burned to death during a banquet. Macbeth married Gruac with utmost speed and became the protector of the boy, Lulach.

    There is evidence that Gruac knew that her own brother was murdered by the then reigning King Malcolm II to secure the inheritance to his own son, and now with a son of her own and the throne on the horizon of her future, the only one in the way to what both she and Macbeth wanted was Donnchad, the King’s son.

    Details are hazy about the death of Malcolm II, which provided ample fictional writing and weaving the story of Hecate and her daughters into the storyline. Malcolm II died in 1034 and Donnchad succeeded to the throne. The details of King Donnchad are not as Shakespeare portrayed. He was not an old man, nor did he die as a guest of the Macbeths. Donnchad marched into Moray with an army in 1040 and was met by Macbeth in Pitgaveny near Elgin, and this is where Donnchad lost his life. However, again, as we know with political manoeuvrings, it is possible to create stories where things are unclear and people do believe the propaganda spread by a government.

    Donnchad’s widow fled to England under the protection of King Edward (the Confessor), and Macbeth and his wife became King and Queen of Scotland, ruling for 17 years, even enjoying a certain amount of peace, enough for Macbeth to leave the country and take a pilgrimage to Rome.
The rest of their reign saw a fair share of prosperity, but ultimately the constant battles from other thanages, as well as the threat from England along with the support from one of Macbeth’s own thanes, MacDubh, in favour of Donnchad’s son, Malcolm, would bring the end to their reign.
What happened to Lady Macbeth after Macbeth died in Lumphanan?

    There are no records of what happened to the lady, but her husband was buried in Iona in the ancestral burial grounds of Scotland’s Kings. This fact alone led me to wonder about this woman and how she just faded from memory, but something tugged at my heart that her story was far from over at her husband’s death, thus you will have the rest of the story in my novel.

    My story is based on the history told by Holinshed. He said, “his wife lay sore upon him to attempt the thing, as she that was very ambitious, burning in unquenchable desire to bear the name of a Queen...” - however ambitious she may have been, she ruled Scotland beside her husband for almost twenty years, so somewhere in there lies the truth, as well as the fiction ripe for the telling.

The Fire of Winter by D.K. Marley

Publication Date: June 1, 2019
eBook; 355 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Gruah, granddaughter of King Cìnéad III of the Royal Clan Alpin, marries two men in less than six months, one she loves and one she hates; one in secret, the other arranged by the High King of Scotland. At the age of eighteen, she lays her palm upon the ancient stone of Scone and sees her destiny as Queen of Scotland, and she vows to do whatever necessary to see her true love, Macbeth macFindlaech, beside her on the throne.

     Amid the fiery times and heated onslaughts from Denmark and England, as the rule of Scotland hangs in the balance, Gruah seeks to win the throne and bring revenge upon the monsters of her childhood, no matter the cost or amount of blood tainting her own hands; yet, an unexpected meeting with the King called the Confessor causes her to question her bloody path and doubt her once blazing pagan faith. Will she find redemption or has the blood of her past fire-branded her soul?

      The story weaves the play by William Shakespeare with the actual history of Macbeth and his Queen in 11th-century Scotland.

“…a woman’s story at a winter’s fire…”
(Macbeth, Act III, Scene IV)



     “This beautifully written reworking of the Macbeth tale told from Lady Macbeth’s point-of-view flows from the page and you quickly become immersed in the politics and intrigues of feudal Scotland as she fights for her rightful place and her true love! A mesmerizing read that grips from start to finish and Gruah is now one of my all-time favorite literary crushes. “ – Iain Leonard, ARC Reviewer

     “Brilliantly conceived and beautifully written, The Fire of Winter is a tale not to be missed by lovers of Shakespeare, lovers of history, or lovers of the written word.” – Riana Everly, Author of Teaching Eliza and Through a Different Lens

Amazon | IndieBound

About the Author:

     D. K. Marley is a historical fiction writer specializing in Shakespearean themes. Her grandmother, an English Literature teacher, gave her a volume of Shakespeare's plays when she was eleven, inspiring DK to delve further into the rich Elizabethan language. Eleven years ago she began the research leading to the publication of her first novel "Blood and Ink," an epic tale of lost dreams, spurned love, jealousy and deception in Tudor England as the two men, William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, fight for one name and the famous works now known as the Shakespeare Folio. She is an avid Shakespearean / Marlowan, a member of the Marlowe Society, the Shakespeare Fellowship and a signer of the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate. She has traveled to England three times for intensive research and debate workshops and is a graduate of the intense training workshop "The Writer's Retreat Workshop" founded by Gary Provost and hosted by Jason Sitzes. She lives in Georgia with her husband and a Scottish Terriers named Maggie and Buster. 

     For more information, please visit D.K. Marley's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away copies of The Fire of Winter + a surprise gift to three lucky winners! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on August 19th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

  The Fire of Winter 


  1. Thanks so much for hosting DK Marley & her blog tour today!

    HF Virtual Book Tours


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