Heir to a Prophecy

General Fiction

By Mercedes Rochelle

Publisher : Top Hat Books

ABOUT Mercedes Rochelle

Mercedes Rochelle
I write Historical Fiction about 11th Century Britain. Come witness the tumultuous events surrounding the Viking Invasion with Canute the Great and his heirs. Visit late Anglo-Saxon England with Earl Godwine, Harold Godwineson, and King Edward the Confessor; see Macbeth's and Malcolm III's More...



Shakespeare's Witches tell Banquo, "Thou Shalt 'Get Kings Though Thou Be None". Though Banquo is murdered, his son Fleance gets away. What happened to Fleance? What Kings? As Shakespeare's audience apparently knew, Banquo was the ancestor of the royal Stewart line. But the road to kingship had a most inauspicious beginning, and we follow Fleance into exile and death, bestowing the Witches' prophecy on his illegitimate son Walter. Born in Wales and raised in disgrace, Walter's efforts to understand Banquo's murder and honor his lineage take him on a long and treacherous journey through England and France before facing his destiny in Scotland.

King James I was a great witch hunter, and considered himself an expert on the subject. So why would Shakespeare write a play about witches setting up his ancestor, so to speak? At face value, it doesn't seem to make sense. However, a closer look at Holinshed gives us an alternative: "the common opinion was, that these women were either the weird sisters, that is (as ye would say) the goddesses of destiny, or else some nymphs or fairies imbued with knowledge of prophesy." Well, that is something altogether different! The word "weird" has its origins in the Saxon word wyrd meaning fate, or personal destiny. Some even attribute the first modern use of the word "weird" to Shakespeare. If you look at the Weird Sisters from the Scandinavian point of view, the word wyrd translates to Urd, one of the Norns of mythology who controlled the destiny of mankind. Presumably that would be more palatable than agents of the devil. If we were to accept that the Witches were actually the Norns, their presence makes more sense to me. Like the Greek Fates, their will was thought to be unalterable. The Norns are said to appear at the bedside of a newborn and shape the child’s future. Hence they appear several times in my novel; their heavy guiding hand is never entirely far away. Although modern scholars tend to believe that Banquo and his heirs never really existed, if their genealogy is good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me!