Thorfin sends a messenger to ask about the outcome of the battle. Hearing Duncan has died, Thorfin offers to carry the body to Scone on one of his boats. Macbeth thanks him but turns him down. By noon the day after the battle Macbeth and Gruadh are sailing south along with Duncan’s corpse. Macbeth is quiet and tense and Gruadh senses he feels sadness and anticipation, emotions she also feels.
Sailing down the river with the body of a king was one of Gruadh’s visions. Although she does not know it yet, this one vision in fact depicts multiple moments in her life. Macbeth knows he will likely be chosen to be king and is excited—a lifetime of preparation has led to this moment.
Two days after arriving in Scone, mormaers, thanes, priests, and soldiers meet to elect a new king. Gruadh is not involved in the conversations and prays in her bedchamber until Macbeth finally joins her and announces he will be crowned High King of Scots. Everyone but Crinan, who is not present, has agreed he is the best choice. Macbeth explains that, since he married into Gruadh’s bloodline, “our combined claim could not be denied,” and Gruadh’s ancestry “holds the key in this.” Together, they unite “two branches of the oldest ruling tree,” and because of this Gruadh will be a full queen, not a lady or a consort. Gruadh and Macbeth embrace, and she cries, for herself and for her ancestors, who will finally reign again, through her.
Gruadh rarely prays, but this moment is important enough to warrant it. Gruadh and Macbeth had discussed previously how their combined lineages strengthened Macbeth’s claim to the throne. Additionally, their combined desire for revenge motivated them to fight for the crown. Finally, years of plotting, and years of waiting, have paid off. Gruadh’s desire for swift revenge was not met, but becoming queen, which she will be called because of her lineage, will be a slap in the face to everyone who tried to cut off her family line.
According to tradition, Macbeth dumps a boot-full of soil on the mound at Scone, a hill that, according to legend, was built by generations of handfuls of dirt from across Scotland. Macbeth will be crowned on this hill later in the day, and then the mormaers in his land will bring him handfuls of soil as homage. Gruadh joins Macbeth and says a chant for him. She feels “the old spirits watching.”
Macbeth participates in a centuries-old tradition. It is a humble gesture that suggests that even as he rules over Scotland, he remains a part of it. It is also a sign of respect for the land itself. Gruadh feels the weight of the moment and the weight of their combined ancestry.
That day, Gruadh and Macbeth participate in the Celtic crowning ceremony. A bishop says prayers, and then leads Macbeth in Latin and Gaelic vows. Gruadh places the crown on her husband’s head, to cheers and joyous stamping from the crowd. Then it is Gruadh’s turn, and, like her husband, she circles the Stone of Destiny, and repeats the ancient poem, “I am a wind, I am a wave, I am a hawk.” Macbeth crowns her. Gruadh thinks of her family as she listens to Dermot recite the list of past kings, ending with Macbeth.
As when Gruadh watched Duncan’s crowning, the ritual is more pagan than it is Christian, calling upon Celtic tradition. When Dermot recites the names of kings before, he calls upon the great tradition of Scottish rulers, some of whom were Gruadh and Macbeth’s ancestors, and whose memories they are doing their best to honor. This reflects the novel’s recurrent theme of family and heritage.
In her early days as queen Gruadh first visits Dolina, and then Drostan in his monastery. Gruadh invites him to come and be a royal cleric. She explains that she trusts him and needs him and would benefit from his advice. He agrees to join her.
As a cleric with a monk’s training Drostan will be a valuable addition to the royal household. He has knowledge of history and can be trusted to record current events in a flattering way—something Gruadh understands the importance of.