Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Macduff

The ODNB (article Dubh) suggests this person is a literary invention.

MACDUFF, Thane or Earl of Fife (fl. 1056?), a half or wholly mythical personage, was, according to John of Fordun, the main instrument in advancing Malcolm Canmore [q. v.] to the throne held by the usurper, Macbeth [q. v.] The story is that, on his way through Fife, Macbeth saw a yoke of oxen belonging to Macduff fail in their task, and on being informed to whom they belonged expressed the opinion that Macduff himself should be put in the yoke. Fearful of the fate that might be in store for him, Macduff set sail for England, and Macbeth, on seeing his small vessel out at sea, captured and destroyed his castles, although the statement that he also murdered his wife and children is a later embellishment. Macduff ultimately persuaded Malcolm to return to Scotland to nght the usurper, and it was his forces chiefly that enabled Malcolm to defeat Macbeth at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire, on 15 Aug. 1057. According to Wyntoun the person, 'never borne but of a mattyris wame was schorne,' who slew Macbeth was not Macduff, but one of his knights. In reward of his great services Malcolm, according to Wyntoun, bestowed on Macduff three privileges: that he or his successors should have the right of placing the king on his throne on coronation day; that they should lead the van in the battle wherever the royal banner was displayed; that if they or any of their kindred committed slaughter of a sudden or unpremeditated kind they should have a peculiar sanctuary or asylum to which they might flee, and should obtain full remission on payment of a certain ransom. The sanctuary of the Macduffs was, according 'to tradition, the ancient cross called the Cross Macduff, which stood to the north of Newburgh, in the pass leading to Strathearn. Only the pedestal of the cross now remains, the cross itself having been destroyed by the reformers in 1559. A portion of the inscription on the pedestal, now all but erased, has been preserved, but its import has greatly puzzled antiquarians.

Skene credits John of Fordun with the entire invention of the story of Macduff.

[Chronicles of Fordun and Wyntoun, which have been expounded and embellished by Boece; Stuart's Sculptured Stones of Scotland; Alexander Laing's Lindores Abbey and Newburgh.]

T. F. H.