The Man who made the Weems Famous

William Shakespeare


Unquestionably, the man who made the Weems famous was none other than William Shakespeare. The killing of Kings in Scotland and many other European countries was little more than a “Cottage Industry”. 

Those in the Weems family might be amazed to discover that almost all of the characters in the play are related to you. Can you believe this. One of the most famous plays ever written was about a short episode in your family lineage. 

For whatever reason, William Shakespeare wrote his most famous tragedy about the slaying of a direct ancestor of the Weems. This was indeed fortunate (at least for the Weems notoriety.) 

Typically, such an event about a cousin killing a king and placing himself on the throne is most often just a small footnote in history. 

Shakespeare’s play is based loosely upon historical evidence but must be regarded as fiction. Most of the characters in the play were real and the important characters all have a strong ancestral relationship with the Weems (WEMYSS) family. 

A list of these characters might serve some usefulness to those interested in this relationship.

King Duncan, King Macbeth, Macduff (Thane of Fife), King Malcolm, King Donalbain, Ross (a cousin of Macbeth),Siward, Earl Siward of Northumbria and young Siward.

Globe Stage 1

A synopsis of the plot of the play:



A thunderstorm and three witches conclude a meeting. They decide to confront the great Scottish general Macbeth on his victorious return from a war between Scotland and Norway. The Scottish king, Duncan, decides that he will confer the title of the traitorous Cawdor on the heroic Macbeth. 

Macbeth, and another General called Banquo, happen upon the three witches. The witches predict that he will one day become king. They also predict that Banquo will beget a line of kings, although will not ascend the throne himself. King Duncan arranges to visit him at his castle. Macbeth cannot stop thinking about the witches' prediction that he will become king and decides that he will murder Duncan. Macbeth's wife agrees to his plan. 

Duncan arrives at the castle with his entourage but he has second thoughts about the murder plot. The forceful Lady Macbeth holds him to his vow to kill Duncan and further encourages him. She then summons evil spirits to "unsex" her and fortify her with cruelty. He then murders Duncan assisted by his wife who smears the blood of Duncan on the daggers of the sleeping guards. 

A nobleman called Macduff discovers the body. Before investigation can take place Macbeth kills the guards insisting that their daggers smeared with Duncan's blood are proof that they committed the murderous crime. Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, do not believe their father, however, fearing for their lives, they flee Scotland. This makes them appear guilty so the crown passes to Macbeth. 

He remembers the prophecy of the witches that Banquo will beget a line of kings so he sends hired assassins to murder Banquo and his sons Donalbain and Fleance. Fleance, is the only one to escape with his life.

At a feast the bloodied ghost of Banquo appears to Macbeth but to no one else causing Macbeth to act and speak strangely. His wife sends the guests away. 

 Macbeth plagued by the fear of being discovered begins to suspect that Macduff, a nobleman who refused to attend the feast suspects him. He meets with the witches again and they confirm that he has good reason to fear Macduff but they soothe his fears by telling him that no born of woman can harm him.

After meeting with the witches he learns that Macduff is urging Duncan's son, Malcolm, to reclaim the throne. In revenge, he has Macduff's wife and son murdered. Macduff organizes an army to bring down Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth's conscience now begins to torture her and she imagines that she can see her hands covered with blood. She commits suicide.

Macbeth meets Macduff in hand-to-hand combat confident that he will win the day because ''none born of woman'' can harm him. Macduff then reveals that he was not ''of woman born'' but was ''untimely ripp'd'' from his mother's womb. Macduff kills Macbeth and the witch’s prediction proves true. Malcolm becomes king. The themes discussed are ambition, fate, deception and treachery. 

Characters of the Play


Duncan King of Scotland

The Weems are direct descendants of King Duncan

Macbeth was a cousin of King Duncan and in the Royal family. The Weems would
have to consider MacBeth a cousin


 Malcomb King of Scotland  

Note: Malcolm, son of King Duncan (The Weems are a direct descendent of Malcolm.)


Research done by the Scottish Shop on their web site: 

 Malcolm, son of Duncan I and brother of Donalbain, to us known as Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland 1058-1093 was one of the two boys who fled south upon the death of their father at Pitgaveny near Elgin. Some sources say to Cumbria and his uncle Maldred others to Siward of Northumbria who was a distant relation to his mother through marriage.

In the year 1050 with the help of Siward, he invaded southern Scotland and forced Macbeth back towards the north but was later countered and repulsed. He then married a daughter of Thorfinn, a woman called Ingibiorg and some say that this union cemented an alliance against Macbeth. Malcolm had much to be vengeful about for his grandfather Crinnan was also the victim of Macbeth when that Abbot led an unsupported rebellion against the king in 1045 and was killed for his trouble.

            Putting the setback of 1050 behind him Malcolm again struck north, supported by the men of Northumbria, and in 1054 defeated Macbeth at Dunsinnan near Perth forcing the king north. Declaring himself King of Scotland we now had two rulers in a divided kingdom. Three years later he caught up with Macbeth at a little place called Lumphanan near Aberdeen where the final battle and longed for revenge took place. Macbeth was killed and the body was beheaded with the head placed on the customary spear for display to the victors. 

                  That didn't end the affair, for the men of Moray declared Lulach son of Gruach and stepson of Macbeth to be King. Lulach tried to rally enough support to raise an army large enough to beat Malcolm but he proved to be no Macbeth, and, less than a year later in 1058 at Essie in Strathbogie, Malcolm's immediate ambition was fulfilled by the killing of that man.

               Malcolm III was crowned at Scone the sole ruler of Scotland and was known to history as Malcolm Canmore, but that was not to be the end of his adventures for he too tried to beat Thorfinn only to suffer the same results as his predecessor.

Like his father before him, Malcolm was to cost Scotland dear when he tried to enlarge his kingdom at the expense of England.

MACDUFF, Thane of

 Our direct descendent, was the named the Earl of Wemyss. When surnames started to become common many were adopted from their Royal title. This is the point that Wemyss was inserted into traceable lineage.

A Scottish nobleman hostile to Macbeth's kingship from the start. He eventually becomes a leader of the crusade to unseat Macbeth. The crusade's mission is to place the rightful king, Malcolm, on the throne, but Macduff also desires vengeance for Macbeth's murder of Macduff's wife and young son. He is the Thane of Fife, and flees to England to Malcolm, the son of King Duncan when he suspects that the king was slain by Macbeth. In his absence, his castle is ambushed and his wife and children slaughtered. He later fights Macbeth during a war to take back the throne; it has been
prophesied that Macbeth cannot be killed by any "man of woman born," but Macduff reveals he was born by caesarean section, and kills him.

t is thought that a castle may have been built here by the MacDuff Thanes (or Earls) of Fife in the 11th century, at the time of Macbeth. The present castle was built by the Wemyss family in the 14th century. Edward I of England paid a visit here in 1304, staying with MacDuff's descendant, Michael Wemyss. However, Wemyss later joined forces with Robert the Bruce and Edward ordered the castle to be destroyed.

After the Wemyss family moved to nearby Wemyss Castle, it passed to the Livingstones and then in 1530 it was taken over by the Colvilles who built a second tower in the south-west corner and an enclosed courtyard. It is that second tower which still survives.

The castle, which is now owned by Historic Scotland,

Donalbain King of Scotland

Donalbain, younger son of Duncan


Note: Donalbain was the younger son of King Duncan (from which the Weems are descended.) 

Research done by the Scottish Shop on their web site: 

Donalbain became King of Scotland on the death of his brother Malcolm In the year 1094, Donalbain and his army were driven across the Forth by Malcolm's son Duncan who had been brought up at the court of William Ruffus the son of William the Conqueror and who felt that he had a better claim to the throne.


A few months later Donalbain was to return in triumph as Duncan was himself killed by the Mormaer of Angus and Mearns's men. He, that is Donalbain, ruled the country for three years trying hard to retain the customs of Scotland in the Celtic fashion but he was fighting a losing battle, for too many changes had happened to Scotland thanks to his brother.


 In the year 1097 he was captured by Edgar , another son of Malcolm and endured an horrific captivity on the orders of his nephew. His eyes were plucked out in front of all his relatives.,and he died some time later. His body was taken to the Island of Iona to be interred in the traditional Celtic fashion, by some loyal clansmen, much against the wishes of the new king.


Ross, nobleman of Scotland
Ross (a cousin of Macbeth)

Ross is Macduff's cousin. He acts as a messenger in the play, bringing good news of Macbeth's military victory and bad news about Macduff's family.

Shakespeare speaks of one called Ross in the play but from history we know that Macbeth was in fact the Thain of Ross. Whether the character for Ross was real or not is open to debate. Shakespeare took a lot of his information from the works of earlier writers, but as history has proved, they were not exactly the most reliable of sources. On reading some of the writings of these men, one wonders what their agenda was. Perhaps they were too close to the Canmore family throne.

Their reputations have not been enhanced by their scurrilous works on the life of an exceptionally good King.

Siward Earl of Northumbria

In 1054 Siward led the English invasion of Scotland. He defeated Macbeth's forces when the two armies clashed on July 27 (some historians suggest that Siward's army disguised their attack by concealing themselves behind tree branches and wood "used as camouflage" from nearby Birnam forest). The Annals of Ulster reported that the Battle of Dunsinane left 3000 Scots and 1500 English dead. Thus, the incursion was met with limited success, even though it succeeded in capturing the fortress of Dunsinane.

Although Macbeth's army suffered heavy losses, Macbeth himself managed to escape north and continued to rule for another three years until his final and decisive defeat in 1057 at the Battle of Lumphanan

Sigurd Björnsson, also known as Siward the Dane (died 1055), was an English nobleman in the eleventh century, and the earl of Northumbria.
Siward was allegedly a descendant of the Danish royal family, whose ancestors may have arrived in England a few generations earlier as part of the Norse colonisation of Britain. Some historians suggest that Siward arrived in England with King Canute I and that Canute invested the title and position of Earl of York onto him in 1031. At the time Canute was replacing all the old Anglo-Saxon nobility with his own trusted men.

n 1033 Siward married into the Northumbrian princely house, that of Bamburgh (after winning their admiration as a warrior) by taking Aelfled, granddaughter of Uhtred, former Earl of Northumbria, as his wife and thus strengthening his own position in that domain. Some sources say that through this marriage, Siward was then distantly related to Duncan; another version is that Siward's own sister became wife of King Duncan. This relation to the Scottish royal family would later affect the landscape of Scottish politics.

Through marriage, Siward became either the uncle or the brother-in-law of Malcolm Canmore (one text erroneously calls him his grandfather). Following Macbeth's defeat of Malcolm's father King Duncan I in 1040, the infant Malcolm was sent to Northumbria to be guarded by Siward.  Siward provided protection, shelter and military training for the future Scottish ruler.


Young Siward

Young Siward is Siward's son. He is slain by Macbeth in hand-to-hand combat