Jacobites!

Pine MartenNicola here. Today I’m talking about an eccentric museum in the Scottish Highlands, a ruined castle, a monument and… The “Harry Potter” train! The thing that unites them all is the Jacobites.

A couple of weeks ago, like Bonnie Prince Charlie, I made my way to the Scottish Highlands and enjoyed following in his footsteps around many of the places with connections to the Jacobite cause. (I also enjoyed seeing the wildlife, especially the pine marten in the picture which visited the bird table at the place we were staying!) I’ve always had a soft spot for the Stuart dynasty. Their political judgement might have been wayward but there is something dashing and romantic about their struggles again the Hanoverians. Like so many lost causes they appeal to the heart not the head.

The Jacobites aimed to restore the Roman Catholic King James VII and II, and his heirs, to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland. Jacobites rebelled against the British government a number of times between 1688 and 1745. There was support for the Stuart Monarchy all over the country but most particularly in the West Highlands of Scotland where some of the clans had strong Roman Catholic affiliations.   The story of Bonnie Prince Charlie has become inextricably linked with the Highlands and the Scottish clans but also with tins of shortbread, mugs and… trains.

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Visiting Scotland in the Regency

Welcome_to_Scotland_sign_A1_roadNicola here. It’s no secret that amongst the Wenches and our
readers there are a lot of fans of all things Scottish. It’s a beautiful
country, one of the places in the world I could never tire of visiting and I
have had some amazing experiences there, from climbing mountains to swimming in
the lochs, from sailing amongst the Northern Isles to wandering the cobbled
streets of Edinburgh. I’ve fallen over in Scottish bogs, been bitten by midges,
danced at a ceilidh and been marooned in every sort of weather you might
imagine, flood, fog and snow. It’s been brilliant.

In making my frequent trips to Scotland I’m hardly unique.
Nor is heading to the Highlands a recent phenomenon. Scotland was a tourist
destination as early as the 18th century and in the later years of that century and in the early 19th century its popularity exploded. “It has now become fashionable to make a tour
into Scotland for some weeks or months,” The Weekly Magazine commented in 1772,
whilst Eliza Diggle observed in 1788: “All the world is travelling to Scotland
and Ireland.”

Here are a few of the snippets I've picked up about the history
of tourism in Scotland when I was researching the background to The Lady and
the Laird
(with a few of my own photos for illustration!)

Intrepid Travellers

The earliest authors who wrote about Scotland, including
Martin Martin in 1698 and Daniel Defoe in
Intrepid travellers 1724, were intrepid individuals whose
writings inspired other travellers to venture into those wild lands. In 1771
Thomas Pennant published his Tour In Scotland, which was a vast success.
He had previously written a similar guide to Ireland, which he admitted was
very incomplete “owing to the conviviality of the country.” Visitors to
Scotland were attracted by Pennant’s descriptions of landscape and his account
of folklore. His enthusiasm for picturesque views and for nature was keen. He
did much to inspire Dr Samuel Johnson’s travels and despite disliking Pennant’s
politics Johnson said of him: “He is the best traveller I ever read; he
observes more things than anyone else does.”

Dr Johnson and James Boswell followed swiftly in Pennant’s
footsteps, travelling mainly through the Western Isles. Here they found the
Highlands in a state of change. The clan system had been dismantled, the
wearing of tartan was prohibited and the land was being cleared. Johnson
wondered if he had left it too late to witness the “old” way of life of the
Highlands. He did note, however, that illegal whisky distilling was common and
that there was a custom called the skalk, whereby a man took a glass of whisky
as an aperitif before breakfast. (My husband turned a bit pale when he heard
that. He likes a wee dram but not before breakfast. I remember visiting the
Talisker Distillery last year and doing some whisky tasting at about 11 in the
morning. The rest of the day is a bit hazy.)

The Guidebook – An Insipid Tour

Edinburgh guide bookBy the turn of the 19th century guide books to
Scotland abounded. The Quarterly Review of 1806 complained: “There is Johnson’s
Philosophic Tour, Pennant’s Descriptive Tour, Gilpin’s Picturesque Tour,
Stoddart’s Sketching Tour, Garnet’s Medical Tour, Mrs Murray’s Familiar Tour,
Newte’s Nautical Tour, Mawman’s Bookselling Tour, Campbell’s Crazy Tour,
Lithie’s Insipid Tour…All those Caledonian memorabilia that the more desperate
visit in person.”  I must admit I am a
keen reader of guidebooks. The guide book to Edinburgh I used last year was
particularly good on helping me put my itinerary together even if it wasn’t
called “An Insipid Tour of Edinburgh.” (Here is a photo of me consulting it in the famous Greyfriars church yard.)

It’s difficult to know how many of the 18th and
19th century travel guides were bought by people who simply had an
interest in reading more about Scotland and were not actually intending to
leave the comfort of their armchair. The tour guides definitely played a part
in encouraging a growing interest in the country, its landscape, the rugged scenery,
the geology, the literature and the legends. Perhaps some of those people who
read about the country still saw it as too wild and dangerous to visit but
reading about it at home made it seem safer.

At the same time the refurbishment of inns and the development
of hotels does suggest that people were travelling in increasing numbers. The
Napoleonic Wars certainly benefited travel in Britain as much of the continent was closed to tourists; one newspaper commented:
“Edinburgh is as much visited by every dashing citizen who pretends to fashion
as Margate or Tonbridge.”

An Opportunity for Tour Guides

With tourism came a need for people to show the visitors
around. Guides could make a good income
Handbook from fees and tips and some
supplemented their talks by selling handbooks and souvenirs. By the 1790s the
more entrepreneurial were designing advertisements offering their services.
Towns such as Perth and Sterling appointed town guides and abbeys offered
guided tours, as did stately homes. In 1814 the Duke of Atholl’s factor devised
a set of guidelines for the people who showed visitors around the gardens at
Dunkeld. They had to wear a badge for identification and they had to ensure
that all visitors signed in. The tourists were not permitted to walk round on
their own because some of them would help themselves to “souvenirs” of plant
cuttings or carve their initials on the trees! The Head Gardener himself would
show the more important guests around although on one occasion he made a
mistake when two rich American visitors came posing as sailors. He took one
look at their shabby attire and consigned them to an underling, thus missing
out on a substantial tip.

The Visitor’s Book

In Scotland the visitor’s book started its life in the 18th
century as “the album given to strangers.” Most people simply signed their
names but a few made comments about the place and whether or not they had
enjoyed their visit. From this developed the idea of feedback on the
attractions which today manifests itself in Trip Advisor! I haven't found any rude comments in Scottish visitors' books but I was
intrigued to read that the gardens at Nuneham Courtenay in England had a
problem with people writing uncomplimentary comments in the visitors book in 1815. One
visitor wrote: “Well does the dinner and the day agree; the food is cold and so
are we.”

By Land and Sea

Taymouth_Castle_James_NorieAs tourism started to take off it gave a boost to Scottish
hotels and inns. This was much to the relief of the nobility and gentry who had
previously offered friends and acquaintances accommodation in their own houses.
In 1773 Lord Breadalbane commented that: “We have had a good deal of company
here this summer… Many of them from England, some of whom I knew before, others
recommended to me. Sometimes it is a little troublesome…” Guest had to be fed
and entertained, which could be expensive, and they all wanted to participate
in some Scottish country dancing.  Poor
Lord Breadalbane found that he had barely a moment to himself before the next
carriage load of visitors rolled up to the door!

Of the inns, the best were excellent but the worst had a
name for being appalling. The Inchture Inn between Perth and Dundee was noted for
serving a very poor breakfast of stale eggs, rancid butter and inedible bread.
The well-organised tourist sent ahead to organise rooms, request fresh bedding
and make sure there would be good food. The roads were equally mixed, some in
excellent condition, others very poor. Whilst highway robbery was almost
unknown by this period, other mishaps were all too frequent. Tourists
frequently got lost because there were no road signs. Even Queen Victoria got
lost in the hills above Dunkeld, and carriages could easily overturn and horses
go lame. North of Perth the inns did not always provide horses for hire which
meant that travellers had to rest their own teams until they were able to continue.

Travel on the water was even more perilous. The journey to
see the famous Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of
StaffaStaffa was considered extremely
dangerous (and I have to admit that it was pretty rough the day we visited and
our dog didn’t much appreciate being lifted in and out of the boat by two hefty
sailors!) This is one of our photos showing the sea breaking over the entrance to Fingal's Cave.

The Medicinal Visit

The therapeutic value of sea bathing was not as quickly
recognised in Scotland as it was in England, perhaps because it’s cold getting
in the water in Scotland whatever the season.  (There is a photo of me swimming in Scotland but it's censored because of my horrified expression when the cold water hits!) A saltwater bath was built at
Peterhead in 1762 to augment the existing mineral spring treatments and in 1788
there were bathing machines for hire at Tynemouth and other resorts. By the
turn of the 19th century there were a number of seaside towns near
Edinburgh that offered sea bathing and this was generally recognised as being
good for the health.  Dr William Buchan
recommended seawater as a cure for skin complaints and a preservative of
general health. These towns also developed coffee rooms, circulating libraries
and music chambers for those occasions on which the weather turned wet.

Nicola at the top of the mountainScotland also offered other opportunities for a healthy
holiday. Equestrian trips, pedestrian tours and mountain ascents were all on
offer by the end of the 18th century. As the 19th century
progressed the idea of a picturesque tour of Scotland to admire the scenery or
a medicinal visit for exercise and sea bathing was joined by the sporting visit
so beloved of Victorian and Edwardian aristocrats. Scotland’s popularity as a
tourist destination hasn’t waned since. 

Are you a planner or a pantser when it comes to taking a
trip? Do you like to read the guidebooks beforehand or simply turn up and
decide what to do when you arrive? And have you ever visited somewhere that was
completely different from how you expected it to be? (For me it was Stonehenge – I expected it to be bigger!)

Scottish Island Reads!

Isle of SkyeNicola here! I’m feeling pretty happy because in a few days time I am heading North of the Border on a holiday and research trip to the Isle of Skye and the Scottish Highlands. I’ll be visiting Dunvegan Castle, home to the Chiefs of the Clan Macleod for centuries and one of the most imposing medieval castles in the islands. My research will also take me to the Talisker Whisky Distillery – strictly for academic study purposes, of course.

Then there’s the holiday reading. I have every intention of spending a lot of time eating, drinking andDunvegan Castle reading (and I need to be prepared for rain or even snow) so I must have a good supply of books. One thing I do enjoy about staying in cottages all over Britain is discovering the books left on the shelves there for visitors to peruse at their leisure. But just in case it rains for the whole holiday I also like to take along my “Scottish Island Keepers,” old favourites to re-read and new books to delve into. Here are a few of those books that are already in my bag (yes, I’m so keen to go that my book bag is already packed!)

The eagle of the ninthThe Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

An all time keeper for me, I loved this book from the first time I read it at school in my teens. The story of the Ninth Legion disappearing into the Scottish mists has been one of my favourite historical mysteries ever since. I even watched both recent films based on the story, Centurion and The Eagle.

Glenrannoch by Rona Randall

I can’t believe this books dates for 1976! Does any one else remember this? It's another throwback to my youth when I first read and adored romantic suspense. This book has a wonderful Highland setting and a fabulous Scottish alpha hero. Like The Waiting Sands by Susan Howatch it’s a Scottish set book that inspired my love of that country.

Heartstone by C J Samson

This is the latest Tudor mystery featuring the lawyer Matthew Shardlake. You can practically taste and feel Tudor London in the pages of Samson’s books and I do love a good historical mystery. This is 600 pages of a vivid, riveting historical read!

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Elizabeth Woodville, wife to King Edward IV, has always fascinated me as a historical character. This is her story written with Philippa Gregory’s trademark passion for history.

Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

Juliet Archer writes contemporary versions of Jane Austen’s classic books and I adored her first book in thePersuade Me series, The Importance of Being Emma. Persuade Me is a modern take on the story of Ann Elliot and Frederick Wentworth, and as I love Persuasion more than any other Jane Austen book, this is one that I can’t wait to read. In fact I’ve already started – cheating, I know, but I already love this Wentworth as much as the original.

Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart

 Set on the Isle of Skye, this always was one of Mary Stewart’s books that both terrified and fascinated me. Romantic, vivid and compelling but also so atmospheric that I’m not sure I will dare set foot outside the door of my Skye cottage after I’ve read it!

Which books would you pack for your desert island – or Scottish Islands – reads? 

The Wine Glass over the Water

Desgoffe detail God bless the King
I mean our faith’s defender.
God bless no harm in blessing the Pretender.
But who Pretender is, and who is King
God bless us all That’s quite another thing.
          John Byrom

 
Bonnie_young_princiJoanna, here, talking about an interesting sort of drinking glass our hero and heroine might have encountered in their travels through Georgian or Regency England.

The Jacobite Drinking Glass.

These are wine glasses that form a body of distinctive Eighteenth Century artwork.

 

We have these through a confluence of lucky chances.

First off, by 1700, English glassmaking was particularly advanced. 
A century before, the champion glassmakers were Venetian. The best glass in England was made by imported Italian glass artists, working by Italian methods. 

This changed when the English developed flint glass.  'Flint glass' contains a high proportion of lead oxide, an ingredient that makes for tough, workable, clear-as-water product.  Excellent stuff, in short.  And it was an English specialty.

I'd always wondered why this kind of glass was called 'flint glass'.  In researching for this blog, I found my answer.  In the spirit of 'I have done my research and now you are going to suffer for it', let me tell you about flint glass.

The 'flint' part of it comes from flint stone.  Flint is found in the South Downs chalk deposits of southeast England. Think 'White Cliffs of Dover'. Flint 2 wiki Wiki Seven_Sisters

When you go walking along around the South Downs, the ground underfoot is white, which is remarkable.  You're walking over exactly the kind of chalk you use on a blackboard.  In that chalk you find nodules of a brown, hard, glassy rock. 

The chalk is calcium carbonate from the skeletons of billions of microscopic algae and sea creatures. (You can thank these tiny sea critters next time you use chalk.) The calcium carbonate settled to the bottom of the ancient seas to become what geologists like to call 'a white ooze'.  So expressive.

Flint was laid down at the same time.  Flint comes from the remains of sponges and other bottom-dwelling denizens of the early sea that used silica as their support structure.  The silica gelled and flowed through the soft white calcium carbonite muck till it found a void left by the carapace of some crab or sea urchin or the tunnel of some burrower.  There, it settled in.  And, voilà, we have flint, sitting there in the chalk happy as a raisin in a plum pudding.

Flint is a heavy and smooth mineral.  Very glasslike.  Some of these flints fit three in your hand.  Some are big as cantaloupes.  They are just amazing stuff to pick up in the chalk matrix.

Yarmukian_Culture_-Sha'ar_HaGolan,_flint_arrowhead Our pretechnological ancestors found flint nifty stuff to chip into arrowheads and knives.  In the Seventeenth Century folks came up with a new use for it.  They ground it to produce pure, high-quality silica sand.  And silica sand is used for glassmaking.

Turns out, flint is just heavily endowed with lead oxide.  Glassmakers blowing this new sort of glass were doubtless delighted to discover their flint silica produced a heavy, strong, crystal-clear glass exactly suited for engraving.

Edward Dillion, in his book, Glass, talks of the this quintessentially English flint glass.

"The Venetians in the preparation of their cristallo laid great stress on the hard white pebbles, the cogoli, from the bed of the Po or of the Ticino; these they regarded as an essential constituent of a good glass. We in England, during the reign of Charles II, succeeded in replacing these pebbles by our native flints; and this English flint-glass, properly so-called, early acquired a good reputation on the Continent." Airstem glass from v&a detail

Georgian artistic sensibilities and this perfect medium for their expression led to some of the most beautiful glassware ever created.  The slender stem of the glass in the Georgian years holds the bowl upward like a flower.  Just lovely.  The flint glass was absolutely transparent and brilliant.  The refractive index, which is close to that of natural crystal, fills cut surfaces with fire.

Amen glass metro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A characteristic elaboration arises at this time.  There was an older custom of putting a single 'tear drop' shape of air in the stem . . . see it in the example of an 'amen' glass from the Met there on the left.  (More about amen glasses later.)

In the Georgian era, artisans elaborated that single tear drop into twisting lines of light that run the length of the glass stem.  The example at the right is from the Victoria & Albert.  

These bright lines are tiny specks of air, made by pricking a line of bubbles into a rod of heat-softened glass, covering the bubbles with a film of molten glass, and then drawing the glass out thin.  The spiral is produced by twisting and stretching the rod of molten glass.  The twist descends from right to left. Glass in met

A swirl of white ribbons, like in this example on the right, from the Met, would be made by bundling thin, opaque white rods of glass with rods of clear glass, heating, twisting, and drawing out the bundle.  This was very much a Venetian manner of handling glass and doubtless learned from those imported Venetian artisans.

After 1746, the fancification of drinking glasses was helped along by a whopping large excise tax on glass production. 

This is one of those unforeseen outcomes politicians delight us with from time to time.  The glass tax was charged on weight, so producers found it advantageous to 'add value' and sell the final product for a higher price.  The tax was the same for a plain glass sold cheaply or an engraved one sold for much more.  Taxation in support of the fine arts, as it were. 

Summing it up . . . the Eighteenth Century aesthetic gave us English drinking vessels of exceptional quality light, airy, and elegant.  Flint glass provided strength and clarity.  And the English were part of a centuries-old European tradition of engraving on metal that could now be applied to glass. 

Thus, drinking glasses that were works of art.  And since there was this plethora of innovative and delicate artistry lying about, the British immediately put it to use making political statements.  Glasses were engraved with 'No Excise,' or ' Wilkes and Liberty' or 'No 45'.  And among the other political glasses, they made Jacobite glasses.
In England aKing_James_II_from_NPGt this time, the term 'Jacobite' meant a follower of the house of Stuart.  The word Jacobite comes from Jacobus, which is Latin for James.  In this case, the James is James II of England, who was deposed from the English throne in 1688.  Here he is to the left.  One suspects this portrait was not painted by an admirer.
 
Jacobites attempted to return the Stuarts to the throne in 1689, 1690, Jacobites 1708, 1715, 1719 and, finally and disastrously, 1745.  For close to a century, Jacobites stubbornly schemed.  Secret societies met and pledged loyalty to the Stuarts.  Plots to overthrow William III, Anne, George I, or George II were brainstormed.  Treasonous toasts were drunk to the King in exile; first to James II, then to his son, then to his grandson, Bonnie Prince Charlie.  Glasses were raised 'to his Majesty', and passed above a bowl of water. making this a pledge to 'the King over the water'.

Then all leap'd up, and joined their hands
With hearty clasp and greeting,
The brimming cups, outstretched by all,
Over the wide bowl meeting.

"A health," they cried, "to witching eyes
Of Kate, the landlord's daughter!
But don't forget the white, white rose
That grows best over the water."

"But never forget the white, white rose
That grows best over the water."
Then hats flew up and swords sprang out.
And lusty rang the chorus —

"Never," they cried, "while Scots are Scots,
And the broad Frith's before us."
          The White Rose Over the Water, 1744

Sometimes, they lifted what we call, 'Jacobite glasses', in these dangerous toasts.  

Bolder Jacobites engraved their drinking vessels with symbols or words that showed their loyalty to the Wineglasses v&a with light background Stuart cauAmen 2 glass in V&Ase and their hopes for its restoration.  This sort of Jacobite glass didn't survive the years without a good bit of winnowing.  (One imagines them hastily smashed in the night as government forces search the house.) Glasses that can be identified as bearing Jacobite designs are rare among Eighteenth century glass. 

This led to a lively market in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century fakes.  New engraving was done on genuine Georgian glass.  Very difficult to detect.  Recent scholarship finds the works of forgers in the best museums, including the Victoria & Albert and the Museum of London.

What was engraved on a Jacobite glass? 
Jacobite mottos, for one thing.  Probably the commonest Stuart motto was 'Fiat' 'so be it', or 'make it so'.  (Think Jean-Luc Picard.)  Also used:  Redeat. May he return.  Redditi. Restore!  Revirescit.  It revives.  'Turno tempus erit.'   There shall be a time. 

One group of glasses the most famous and among the earliest are the 'amen' glasses.  The one above  and to the left is from the V&A.  There's another from the Met further up.  Amen glasses show two to four verses of the Jacobite version of 'God Save the King', a crown, and the word 'Amen'. 

God Save the King I pray,
God Bless the King I pray
God Save the King
Send him Victorious,
Happy and Glorious

Soon to reign over us
God Save the King.

God Bless the Prince Of Wales Pettie-Jacobites-1745
The True-born Prince of Wales

Sent us by Thee
Grant us one favour more
The King for to restore 

As Thou hast done before

The Familie.

God save the Church I pray 

And bless the Church I pray

Pure to remain 

Against all Heresie 

And Whigs Hypocrisie 

Who strive maliciouslie

Her to defame.

God bless the Subjects all 

And save both great and small

In every Station 

That will bring home the King 

Who hath best right to reign

It is the only thing
Can save the Nation.

There are 37 known 'Amen' glasses.  Modern forensic scholarship, looking at the handwriting, suggests the work of a single hand, a Scots artist and line engraver, Sir Richard Strange, between 1743 and 1749.  For more information and pictures, see here.

And Jacobite symbols?

White rose 2wiki The most frequent was an open rose and two white buds, representing James II and his son and grandson.  You can't see it very well, but there's an example of this on the glass above with the opaque swir stem.

What else?  Oak leaves and acorns represented Charles Stuart's escape from his pursuers by hiding in an oak tree.  The thistle would stand for the Stuart's Scottish heritage.  A crown for kingship. 

Possible_Jacobite_symbols_in_the_fireplaces_in_the_Red_Velvet_room_at_Chiswick_house

A compass could symbolize true direction and loyalty.  A sunflower or a sun, the restoration of the Stuart kings.  A star, the birth of Bonnie Prince Charlie. 
(When the glass was raised to toast the Stuarts, the star, representing  Bonnie Prince Charming, rose also.)

A butterfly or moth would stand for regeneration and rebirth.  On one 'Amen' glass, the figure '8' hides among the scrollwork to represent the son of James II who would have been James VIII of Scotland.

This is way too many symbols.  It's been pointed out the Jacobites could have used a marketing consultant. 

Since we're talking about roses . . . I'll send one lucky commenter in the comment trail a signed copy of my book, Forbidden Rose.  it has nothing whatsoever to do with drinking glasses or the restoration of the Aaajapanese fb Stuarts, but it has a fine picture of a rose on the cover. 

So tell me . . .  what secret society — real or imagined — would you like a heroine or hero to belong to? 

Highland Shirts and Romances

RavensWish_-_Cover_-_R16 (4) I’m delighted to announce that another of my early historical romances, The Raven’s Wish, is newly available in ebook format, with a gorgeous new cover and some author edits (I can’t resist cleaning up some of my newbie prose!). "Powerful, magical and delightful–a memorable romance that will keep readers on the edge of their seats." – Romantic Times

Ravenswish This book, of all of them, is special to me–it's the first of my Scottish historical romances. While researching and writing this novel, I discovered how much I love Scotland and Scottish history …and after many historical romances and two mainstream Scottish historicals so far, I’m still in love with Scotland.

A legend from my own Scottish heritage, Clan Fraser, first inspired me to try my hand at Scottish historical fiction. I learned that after the Battle of the Shirts in 1544 (Blar na Léine in Gaelic, literally the Field of Shirts)–when the Frasers met the MacDonalds in a Highland clash that nearly wiped out both clans–a legend arose about the renewal of Clan Fraser.

Battlefield1redoSM-my pic On a hot, sunny day in July, 1544, a brewing dispute between Frasers and MacDonalds boiled over on a golden reedy meadow at the head of Loch Lochy in the Highlands (west of Loch Ness in the chain of lochs – see my photo of the site at right). The dispute concerned who should be the new chief of Clan Donald. The direct heir was a young MacDonald who had fostered with his Fraser mother’s people, and so he had Fraser loyalty behind him. Another candidate had staunch MacDonald backing.

And besides, the young heir had insulted his MacDonald kin by refusing to eat chicken. 

Yes, chicken—a food considered too ordinary (along with fish) to offer a Highland chief. So the “hen-chief” and "Gallda" or stranger, as the MacDonalds called him, was sent packing to the Frasers, who gathered in huge numbers in his defense—meeting an even larger group of MacDonalds on the loch meadow, each ready to defend their favorite’s claim.

Plaid and sporran The day had the sort of sweltering heat that comes rarely to the Highlands, and the men each broke a stick and scratched a mark or initials into it before engaging, by Gaelic custom. As the skirmish escalated, the men shed their heavy woolen plaids in the heat—by the 16th century, wrapped, belted plaids were commonly worn by Highland men—and they fought in their shirts and then without them. With hack-and-slash combat and heavy bladed weapons, the men struggled fiercely on the banks of the loch. They must have looked more like wild, furious Celts than men of the 16th century.   Highlander by david wilkie

Finally the field was littered with bodies and scattered with plaids and shirts–so the battle is remembered as Blar na Léine, or Field of Shirts. Of over a thousand men, only five or six Frasers and eight or ten MacDonalds retrieved their notched sticks that day.

A clan legend arose from the tragedy. Fraser tradition holds that 80 Fraser women widowed that day were all pregnant. Within months, 80 sons were born, bringing hope to a depleted clan, whose plant badge was the yew tree—which sprouts new branches from within the old trunk.

It is recorded that 18 years later, the Fraser chief, Hugh, was a handsome 17 year old who charmed 20-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots (and was considered for her husband). Hugh had 79 cousins of the same age who formed his “tail” or escort.

So I wondered: what if one other Fraser had been born that year—a girl? And out of that question came The Raven's Wish.

Elspeth Fraser, a cousin of Hugh and the others born after Blar na Leine, has been raised with wild Highland lads, and she's resilient, nimble, bold—and a gifted Highland seer. When Queen Mary sends one of her lawyers, Duncan Macrae, to the Highlands to settle a dispute between wild young Frasers and some rowdy MacDonalds, Elspeth senses danger for the handsome lawyer and tries to warn him away. But Duncan does not believe in visions, and ignores the wild, beautiful girl's warning…and besides, he has a private score to settle now that he is back in the Highlands…

If you'd like to know more about Blar na Leine, please click here to read my historical article on the battle written for Clan Fraser Society UK.

And if you, too, have a weakness for Scottish historical romance—tell us why! Comment below and you’ll be entered in a random drawing to win a copy of The Raven’s Wish in e-book format!

Thanks, hope you enjoy my second-ever historical – and first Scottish romance, now available in ebook format on Kindle, Nook, and most other venues! (Special thanks to Nina Paules of ePublishingWorks! for creating another beautiful ebook – and for making the ebook giveaway possible!)

SusanBTR

P.S. FYI, the price has just been lowered for the ebook of The Black Thorne's Rose!