Gruadh knows that although Macbeth reigned for seventeen years of relative peace and prosperity, he will not be remembered by history, as “contentment is a thing not often recorded in the annals.”
Gruadh reflects on how, given more time, Macbeth would have worked to blend Celtic traditions with the “the ways of the Church and even the Saxons.” Gruadh protested that giving up any Celtic traditions was threatening Scotland’s soul, but Macbeth argued that blending old traditions with new ones would allow Scotland to survive, grow, and thrive, integrating and trading with the outside world.
Gruadh and Macbeth often debated about the value of tradition versus the new order. Gruadh preferred Celtic tradition, but often turned to Christianity in her life. In his kingship Macbeth did his best to help bring Scotland into the future, by blending both the new and the old together.
Gruadh recalls that in 1054 Lulach married Thorfin’s daughter, Ingebjorg, uniting Moray and Orkney. That spring, Mother Enya died, and in her last meeting with Gruadh told the queen that she should “heed your dreams […] for they are your counselors.” Within a year Lulach and Ingebjorg had a young son, Nechtan. He had dark hair like Thorfin and Bodhe. Gruadh instantly loved him.
Although Gruadh and Macbeth were never able to produce children, her son, Lulach, acted as he de-facto heir. She is happy to have her and Bodhe’s line continue on through her grandchildren. Additionally, Lulach’s marriage finally puts Gruadh’s grudge against Thorfin to rest.
Gruadh remembers how one evening Malcolm mac Duncan’s men attacked the fortress at Kincardine where she and Macbeth were staying. Gruadh helped Ingebjorg with her new infant daughter so Ingebjorg could carry Nechtan. Macbeth urged Gruadh to leave whereas he would stay and “put an end to this.”
Macbeth does his best to protect the ones he loves and his step-grandchildren who he hopes will carry on his legacy. At the same time young Malcolm is doing his best to avenge his own ancestors.
Gruadh, her daughter-in-law, and her grandchildren escaped to Banchorrie. They waited all night and in the morning realized it was the seventeenth anniversary of the day Macbeth killed Duncan, which Malcolm mac Duncan had likely known and planned. Eventually, Macbeth arrived. He had been stabbed in between the ribs by Malcolm and was clearly dying. He refused to come inside, but insisted they took a boat south to Scone so they could crown Lulach as king.
Malcolm is totally motivated by revenge, and by his desire to kill Macbeth is fully a desire to make up for the death of his father. The wounds he inflicts on Macbeth are the same wounds Macbeth inflicted on Duncan, and the dates are similarly significant—again showing violence and revenge to be cyclical. Meanwhile, Macbeth does all he can to guarantee his legacy will continue through Lulach.
Macbeth explained to Gruadh that if he died before Lulach was made king, Gruadh and all her heirs would be in danger. He also warned Gruadh that Malcolm mac Duncan might force her to marry him, so, instead of staying at Banchorrie to potentially recover, Gruadh agreed to go with Macbeth and Lulach to Scone. They traveled on a boat lent by Thorfin.
For the second time in her life, Gruadh’s vision of traveling on a boat with a dead or dying king has come true. Macbeth’s dying wish is to make sure his legacy continues on through his stepson. Although he would likely die anyway, Lulach’s crowning is more important to him than any medical attention.
Gruadh remembers feeling dread decades ago when she saw three ravens sitting on a stone. She realizes now the site was Lanfinnan, where Macbeth and Malcolm mac Duncan battled and where Macbeth was fatally wounded.
Essentially all of Gruadh’s visions of the past have now come true—visions of dying kings on boats, of Malcolm’s rise, and of the site of her husband’s death.
Gruadh also acknowledges that she almost singlehandedly saved the lives of Malcolm mac Duncan and Donald Bán, both because of her promise to Sybilla and her instincts as a mother. She understands that she indirectly led to the death of her own husband, Macbeth. She believes she made the right choice, but with a steep price.
Gruadh must live the rest of her life knowing she had the information to save Macbeth but did not use it. Still, she feels that killing a child, and breaking her promise to Lady Sybilla, would have been unforgivable.
Macbeth made sure Gruadh understood that he wants to die in Scone as “rightful king of Scots,” not up north “a wounded king with half a realm.” He insisted on being buried on Iona, like a true king, even if Malcolm mac Duncan protested. Macbeth lived just long enough to see Gruadh crown Lulach, and then died upon the hill where Gruadh once crowned him.
Tradition and legacy has always been important to Macbeth, and so it follows that his dying wish would be to continue his legacy through his stepson, and ensure that he will be buried in a way that acknowledges his status.