Letters: Never mind Shakespeare, give Macbeth his due as a good king

ANDREW McKie in his insightful article on the monarchy and its future (“Should we skip over King Charles and go for King William?”, The Herald, February 8), might have found a more compelling list of “bad” kings. Surely he doesn’t believe that Shakespeare’s presentation of Macbeth bears any resemblance to verifiable historical facts?

Macbeth’s 17-year reign was a period of peace and prosperity unusual for any northern European kingdom of the eleventh century: as an Irish chronicle of the following century puts it, “Scotland was full of food in the east and in the west during the reign of the red, the brave king”. Richard III of England, too, owes his bad reputation mainly to Shakespeare: whether he was responsible for the murder of the princes in the tower remains uncertain, although I suppose recent scholarly opinion is that his guilt is established convincing; but he assuredly did not poison his wife or accuse his brother Clarence of a false charge of treason (Clarence’s treachery to the reigning King Edward IV was quite real, and it was Edward who had him executed but maybe not by drowning in wine-bout).

As ahistorical as they are (some more than others), Shakespeare’s plays about kings are among the glories of literature; and we have our own worthy counterparts, like Robert McLellan’s Jamie the Saxt, Liz Lochhead’s Mary Queen of Scots had her head cut off and of course Rona Munro’s plays on James I, II and III: we look forward to his next comedy-drama treatment of Jacques IV. If the monarchical institution has inspired literary works of this caliber, it is surely a small point in its favor.

Derrick McClure, Aberdeen.


As an amateur but keen student of Scottish history – particularly of the Wars of Independence – I feel I must respond to Ken MacVicar’s letter (February 8).

When Robert Bruce was crowned King of Scotland at Scone in March 1306, his second wife (married 1302) was Elizabeth de Burgh – daughter of the Earl of Ulster, making her Queen Elizabeth of Scotland.

The fact that his father was Edward’s close friend may have saved his life after he was captured near Kildrummy.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well for the rest of the Bruces. Bruce paid dearly to ascend the throne.

Wallace, Bruce, Douglas, Randolph, MacDonald and others were violent men in savage times. Each of them had “clay feet” to varying degrees.

Bruce to his eternal credit became a good king and a brilliant general.

Tom Irvine, Strathaven.

* MY stepfather and his friends were supporters of the Queen, but when it came to Loyal Toast it was always ‘Queen Elizabeth, second to none, God bless her’.

They were also horrified when she came to receive honors from Scotland in a cocktail dress.

Alasdair Speirs, Barnyards, Fife.

* IN your report on the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, two photographs were incorrectly captioned. One, from the Queen at her coronation, gave the date of this event as June 2, 1963. That was, of course, 10 years earlier. Another, from the Queen with Prince Andrew, refers to him as “her youngest son”. Prince Andrew was born in 1960, Prince Edward in 1964.

On the other hand, I was impressed by Murdo Fraser’s mental acuity and insight. In his article on the jubilee, he makes two profoundly philosophical statements: firstly, that “Queen Elizabeth has been an integral part of the lives of the vast majority of the British population for decades” (seven, in fact – the whole point of the jubilee); and, second, that “anyone under the age of 70 will have no memory of another monarch”. Wow, great arithmetic, Mr. Fraser.

John Park, Irvine.


I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking there’s something medieval about an elderly queen proclaiming who will be the next queen consort (“Queen marks 70 years on throne with coronation wish for Camilla “, The Herald, February 7), and that it’s a bit creepy that an old lady in the 90s poses as “your servant”, reminiscent of the bygone days of maids and old nannies. And how very unfair that an eight-year-old boy was apparently told that his future was already decided for him, and whether we like it or not, one day he will be king.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.


I AM in almost total agreement with Elizabeth Allen (Letters, February 8), when she gently chides Iain Macwhirter for his use of the word Neanderthal as an epithet. However, I do not fully accept that the extinction of Neanderthals was due solely to their inability to adapt to climate change. Although in recent years geneticists have concluded that non-African modern humans have traces of approximately three percent Neanderthal DNA, implying interbreeding, I believe the most likely cause of their demise was the advancement of modern humans.

Whether this is due to an inability to compete with us, or the arrival of new diseases brought by us, or a genocide perpetrated by us, or a combination of the three, one can only speculate. However, history has many examples of similar results within our own species. It was, if I remember correctly, the theme of William Golding’s highly acclaimed 1955 novel The Inheritors.

Jim Meikle, Killearn.


I sympathize with Bill Eadie (Letters, February 4) for his smart meter problems.

I think it’s a good idea to be able to check your energy usage on your smart meter’s home screen. It is, of course, when it works, as mine was until September of last year. Unfortunately, since then, SSE has not been able to restore service. Numerous emails and phone calls to and from did not help, despite sending requested details to my smart meter. It didn’t help when they assured me they could read my usage from the smart meter.

In December last year, there was an apology, but the account “is migrating to OVO”. In January, I received a welcome from OVO with the assurance that “your service will remain friendly and reliable”.

We are now in February; do I have a working home screen? No.

Bill Wilson, Kirkwall.


CAN I add to the palindromic revival (Letters, February 5, 7 and 8)? James Thurber in an essay gave us “one man one plan one canal – Panama”.

In another essay, he advised us not to “put our Decartes before our Horace”. Informed advice.

Simon Paterson, Glasgow.

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