Friday, March 11, 2022

“Well, Little Girl, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Shards of Destiny

A fellow author wrote a very interesting blog last month:

Kaye Spencer's favorite childhood toy. Check it out. For me, her words brought up distant memories...and good ones.

When I was a small child I recall people asking me, “Well, little girl, what do you want to be when you grow up?”  Most children were quick with an answer.  A nurse. A ballerina.  An astronaut.  A cowboy or a policeman.  Those children seemed so sure of their futures.  Yet, when those queries came to me, I felt nothing but confusion.  I would shrug and think myself stupid for not having an answer.  Always a bit of a rebel, a loner, and most definitely a daydreamer, none of the typical professions seemed to call to me. 

However, there were two points when destiny revealed itself to me—a special shard in time that whispered, “pay attention, lass...this is a turning point in your life.”  I was too young to fully understand when they occurred, yet in hindsight, the signposts were so clear.

The first time the Hand of Fate touched my young life was in 1958.  It came in the form of a magical toy—at least it was magical to me—one that I could only obtain by collecting box tops from Kellogg’s cereal.  That special toy leapt to mind when I read Kaye Spenser’s blog.  Obviously, it wasn’t the value, since it was something you earned by eating cereal!  Yet, to me it was the most precious treasure. 

In the 1950s you often could earn items by collecting box tops, or even found items concealed inside boxes of products.  I recall my mum collecting a set of plates, cups and saucers from boxes of soap flakes (NO such thing as liquid soap back then!).  Each box had one of the pieces of pottery.  Sometimes, it would be tumblers.  And you could save the box tops to get bigger pieces like salad bowls, or serving platters, or a cut crystal pitcher.  I guess it was an adult’s version of Cracker Jacks with their “surprise” inside.  For kids, there were other items you could earn with your box tops.  Recall in the movie The Christmas Story when Ralphie sent off for his Ovaltine’s Little Orphan Annie’s decoder ring?  Well, now you have how an idea of kids of my era eagerly munched Kellogg’s cereals, trying to save enough box tops before an offer’s time ran out.  I never tried before. The gifts of toy cars, dolls and such didn’t interest me enough to keep eating the same cereal for months.  One day that changed. My indifference vanished when I picked up a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and happened to glance at the back.  I felt as if I couldn’t breathe.  For a heartbeat the earth stopped rotating and all around me receded to shadow. All I could see was a very colorful image of ladies and warriors, and two armoured knights jousting.  As my surroundings receded about me, I heard the sounds of the huge destriers, their snorting, hooves pounding, the crash of the lances against shields.  I’m sure they intended them as a promotion for boys, but I wanted those toys so much.  They offered two knights—one in black armour on a black barded horse, and one in silver on a silver charger.  The knights were detachable from the horses, as were the knights’ shields and lances.  You could wind them up, and set them hurdling toward the other so they actually jousted.  A very sophisticated toy for a box top offering.  I was determined to earn those toys!

When I told my mother that I wanted them, she arched an eyebrow and rolled her eyes.  I could clearly read her thought, “That’s your grandfather’s doing.”  Well yes, he did teach me to love history, especially the Middle Ages.  Knights, Scotland, Robert the Bruce, James “Black” Douglas and Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray were tales with which he filled my hungry mind.  He read me stories about them instead of fairytales.  So true, he planted the seeds.

Yet, it was something more.  A feeling as if the Hand of Destiny was touching my young life.  I had no idea what it truly meant, or how it would shape my future, but I knew it was important that I earn those toys.  One stumbling block—such a sophisticated item required a higher number of box tops.  My heart feared I would never be able to consume enough corn flakes in the time allotted.  When I emptied my first box, I cut out the painting of the ladies and knights at the tournament on the back and kept it close.  I slipped it under my pillow at night and dream beautiful stories of ancient times.  At Christmastime when I went to my grandfather’s there were toys—expensive toys.  Oddly, I don’t recall what presents I received that year.  I do clearly recall the knights that I wanted so badly and sadly knew they wouldn’t be under the tree.

Late one night, I was sitting up in the dark, cuddled in the window seat with a tartan blanket, and watching the night sky.  I hoped to spot a shooting star so I could make a wish—one that I would somehow get those knights.  I often talked to myself, or sometimes imaginary friends—signs of an intelligent child, I have since learned.  So when I did see the star streaking across the night sky, I made my wish.  “Star light, Star bright, wish I may, wish I might...”  My grandfather came in minutes later and said if I got in bed, he would tell me a tale of the valiant James Douglas.  I didn’t know then that he had overheard my wish.

As I had worried, I failed to save enough box tops.  My heart ached, despondent that I would never get those toy knights.  Easter came, then school let out.  One day, I got a notice to pick up a parcel at the post office.  Sometimes, my uncles would send me things, small remembrances.  Curiosity was burning as I ran home with the box. Breathlessly, I opened the package wrapped in brown paper and string, and imagine to my surprise, my utter delight, when I discovered nestled in a bed of tissue paper where the two knights.  After hearing my wish, my grandfather had gone out and bought twenty boxes of corn flakes to get the box tops.  Bless him!  At times, in my small child’s eyes he seemed so formidable.  As an adult, I never doubted the love in his heart.

My hands were shaking as I wound them up, and sent them to jousting.  Merely cheap plastic toys gained by eating corn flakes.  Yet, they were so much more.  As I played with them, I didn’t see toys designed for little boys to enjoy. Instead, I saw handsome James Douglas and Thomas Randolph jousting before King Robert Bruce.  In my mind’s eye, I envisioned Bruce’s wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, or another countess at court, tying their ribbons of favor to Douglas’ or Randolph’s sleeves.  Those toys were touchstones that carried me into a magic realm of adventures, of handsome knights and lords, beautiful ladies, and love.

My treasured toys were carefully protected through the decades.  But Fate isn’t often kind.  They were lost in a house fire ten years ago.  I lost many precious items in that fire.  They were just little plastic toys.  Yet, I mourned their forfeiture.  They were and had been so much more to me.  One day, after I moved into my new home in another town, I was prowling a secondhand shop with Candy Thompson, looking for unusual finds.  Imagine my shock when sitting there in the middle of a big bowl were the two knights!  While not the original ones, it felt like a piece of the past had come back to me.

The second time, I felt Fate touch me was when I was almost thirteen.  It was summer and I was in place in the middle of nowhere Kentucky, standing before a turn-rack of paperback books, browsing novels by Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels and Phyllis Whitney.  Faintly, in the background, I heard a tune playing on a radio—The Beatles’ Paperback Writer.  Once more, for that long heartbeat the world held its breath, and all I could see was the Gothic romance in the rack before me.

As I listened to the lyrics, I knew...I wanted to be a paperback writer.  Not a bestselling author, not Jane Austin, simply a paperback writer, with a means to allowing others to follow me on my distant adventures.  Suddenly, that little six-year-old shrugging when someone asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up was vanquished.  I understood I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to pen tales of handsome warriors and beautiful ladies in a time gone by.

So what did you want to be when you grew up?  Did you have special toys that touched you in some way?  Did you have someone kind enough and understanding enough to feed those dreams?

Friday, January 14, 2022

Isabel Douglas Drummond, Countess of Mar and Garoich


Isabel Douglas Drummond,
Countess of Mar and Garoich

She was the richest, most sought after woman in Scotland. The great-grandniece of Robert the Bruce and James "Black" Douglas. Her brother died a hero leading Scotland to victory at the Battle of Otterburn.  Her father was the mighty William Douglas, 1st earl of Douglas....and none of that could save her.

When I research the people in my family tree I often fall in love with them as I did with James Douglas or Thomas Randolph.  How could I not?  They were men perfect to be heroes of the romance novels I pen.  Or I see their lives unfold, almost as if designed for a movie as in the romance of Margaret de Seton and Alan de Wynton— a love and marriage that nearly sparked a war.  Sometimes, I am overcome with sadness at the fate of my ancestors.  Such as the valiant hero Alexander Ramsay, who was abused and starved to death by William Douglas of Liddlesdale (who was then killed by another William Douglas—his uncle, the first earl of Douglas—in revenge for Alexander’s horrible death).  Another poor soul that touched me was my second great-grandmother, Rebecca Ellen Knight Montgomerie, who starved to death in 1937 in Nicholasville, Kentucky, ten years after her beloved husband had died and left her alone and destitute.  My grandfather remembered both Rebecca and Toby—his grandparents, and spoke of them with love and pride.  No one cared about her fate.

One that especially haunts me is Isabel Douglas, my cousin eighteen times removed.  Born in Scotland, Isabel was beauty, a rich woman, well-titled and endowed with castles and money.  She came with a rich heritage, so vital to the forging of Scotland into a nation.  And yet, all that power, wealth and influence failed her in a most spectacular, and horribly sad fashion.  

Her bloodlines came from the great Scottish houses of nobility.  Her great- grandfather on her father’s side was William ‘le Hardi’ Douglas – the valiant commander of Berwick Castle, who gave his life supporting William Wallace.  He was the first noble to back Wallace in his rebellion.  His son went on to be the fiercest fighter Scotland has ever known—Sir James ‘the Black’ Douglas.  Yes, Robert the Bruce’s most trusted commander was her great-granduncle.  But then, on her mother’s side you can see the ancient Stewart and Mar lines, going back to Bruce himself.  She was his great-grandniece, as well.  Her father was William Douglas, 1st earl of Douglas, Mormaer of Mar (the very one who killed his nephew William Douglas over the murder of Alexander Ramsay).  Her mother was Margret Stewart Swinton Mar, Countess of Douglas (through her husband), but also Countess of Mar and Garioch, in her own right.  
Isabel was thus courted by all the men in the Highlands, the most sought after woman in all of Scotland, looking to align themselves with these royal houses of Douglas, Stewart, Bruce and Mar.  Of all the swains vying for her hand, Isabel chose Sir Malcolm Drummond, the son of John Drummond, 11th earl of Lennox, to be her husband, a fine match.  He was brother-in-law to King Robert III of Scotland.  Matters went along well for the couple for nearly a decade.  Her husband was a trusted advisor to the king, and was often traveling on business of the realm.  They seemed happy, outside of Isabel bearing no children.  That last detail would soon come back to haunt her.

arms of James Douglas, 2nd earl of Douglas

She was a prize, indeed, but she expected all the castles and titles that went with her family name to go to her older brother, James Douglas.  He became the 2nd earl of Douglas and Mar upon the death of their father.  She was married, so beyond the covetous eyes of Scotland’s power-hungry men.  However, her heroic and dashing brother gave his life leading the Scots to victory at the Battle of Otterburn in August 1388.  He died without leaving any legitimate children, and with his death, all his titles and wealth, outside the Douglas entailment, were left to his sister.  She also inherited the titles through her mother, Countess of Mar and Garioch.  Like her brother, Isabel had no children—heirs, and worse, no powerful husband, brother or father to protect her.  Suddenly, she was left wide open to plots and devious plans to seize her and control the fortune, castles and the prestigious titles that came with her.

Death of James Douglas, 2nd earl of Douglas at Otterburn

In 1402, Isabel was left behind at Kildrummy Castle, the seat for the Earldom of Mar, while Malcolm was off for business at one of their other castles.  No sooner had he reached his destination than he was set upon by a band of Highlanders, led by Alexander Stewart, the illegitimate son of Alexander Stewart, earl of Buchan, ‘the Wolf of Badenoch’.  Alexander tossed Malcolm into the dungeon of his own castle, where he soon died at the hands of his captors.  Isabel was left alone and increasingly isolated.

A crime such as this would have been dealt with swiftly in better times, but Scotland was undergoing a period of upheaval.  The king was old and sick, nearly infirmed by this point, and the real power in the country was Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, who virtually was king from 1388 to 1420, during the final years of reign of his brother Robert III, and even into the early reign of James I, who had been imprisoned in London.  His nephew David, duke of Rothesay was heir to the crown, but he died after Albany imprisoned him at Falkirk. When one plays fast and free with laws and decency, I suppose it’s not surprising that he turned a blind eye at what his nephew Alexander did to Malcolm Drummond. 

Kildrummy Castle

In August of 1404, Alexander and his gang fell upon Kildrummy Castle and forced Isabel to sign over the earldoms of Mar and Garloich to him and his descendants.  I am sure after Alexander murdered her husband, she signed anything put before her just to save her life.  The next month, she anticipated that the charter would be invalidated for reason of duress.  It’s unclear what happened, whether the charter was voided or not, but in the summer of 1404 Isabel Douglas Countess of Mar and Garioch and Stewart held a major meeting in the fields in front of the gates of Kildrummy Castle. The "purpose" was to "consider the needs of the state and local government" with Alexander, Bishop of Ross, Andrew Leslie of Sydie, Walter Ogilvy of Carcary, William Chalmers, Richard Lovell, Thomas Gray and all the people of the neighborhood. In presence of this noble assembly, Isabel agreed to marry Alexander Stewart, and handed over to him the castle of Kildrummy, with all its charters and rich goods and the earldom of Mar.  Oddly handled affair, for if she was marrying him of free will, then why make a demonstrations of giving him all her money, titles and castles?  The marriage took place 9th December 1404 sealing her fate.  Since she was now legally his wife, the king (Alexander’s cousin) confirmed Alexander as the earl of Mar and Garloich.

The events shocked the kingdom, but Alexander escaped any punishment due to his close relationship with the royal family.  Isabel was held prisoner for the last four years of her life, dying in Douglas Castle in 1408.  No one cared that the murderer of her husband forced her to wed him so he could usurp her titles and inheritances, or kept her prisoner during the final years of her life.  After all, she was just a woman.  She was barely forty-seven years old when she died.  She died childless.  Totally alone.

Castle Douglas

In 1424 his self-styled titles of earls of Mar and Garioch were regularized by James I, his cousin.  Alexander Stewart lived on, dying in August of 1435.  He had remarried in 1410, to Marie van Hoorn, daughter of the Lord of Duffel.  She failed to give him any heirs.  He did have an illegitimate son, Thomas Stewart, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Archibald Douglas, 4th earl of Douglas, duke of Toraine, and great-granddaughter of James ‘the Black’ Douglas.  However, since he was illegitimate he could not inherit the titles his father had stolen.  Oddly enough, Alexander was on a jury of twenty-one knights and peers that convicted his first cousin, Murdoch Steward, 2nd duke of Albany and two of his sons for treason just before his death, destroying the Stewarts of Albany.   Another son, James fled to Ireland to escape the same fate. 

Since the earldom could not pass to Thomas, it reverted to the crown, and was later given to John Erskine, 6th Lord Erskine, whose descendants hold the title to this day.  I have a feeling Isabel perhaps found some measure of peace in Stewart losing in the end what he fought so hard to gain.

My writer’s imagination can envision the terror of a woman finding herself alone in the world, and her only value is the material things she can offer a man.  I often wonder about her death, how she died at such an early age.  I can see her in my mind’s eye, walking a dark corridor and knowing there was no saving herself.  As I said, she haunts me.

There is an interesting side note to this, just my supposition.  Isabel's brother, James, the 2nd earl of Douglas, married Isabella Stewart, the illegitimate daughter of Robert II and Elizabeth Mure.  Like her brother Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch, when Robert II married Mure, both Alexander and Isabella Stewart were made legit.  

However, after James Douglas' death at the Battle of Otterburn, the bulk of his monies went to his sister, along with all lands not entailed to the Douglas line.  I have to ponder if Isabella, a "princess" of the Stewart line, was forced to wed a second husband after James' death, wasn't a bit jealous of Isabel Douglas, her sister-in-law.  Isabel was younger by a decade, considered the most sought after woman in Scotland, beautiful, with dozens of castles and the most wealthy woman in Scotland, thanks impart to her brother.

It was the son of Isabella's brother who murdered Murdoch Drummond, and took Isabel Douglas hostage, later forcing her to marry.  Maybe it's the writer's mind in me, but it makes me curious what, if any, part Isabella Stewart Douglas played in the plotting for her nephew to seize control of Isabel Douglas Drummond?

Deborah writes a Scottish Medieval Historical series the Dragons of Challon in the time of Robert the Bruce,
and Contemporary  Paranormal Romance series 
the Sister of Colford Hall.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Anniversary of Battle of Stirling Bridge


11 September 1297: Andrew de Moray and William Wallace comprehensively defeat the English army at The Battle of Stirling Bridge. Moray subsequently dies of wounds suffered during the battle, and the lion's share of the victory goes to Wallace instead of Moray. History might look very different had Moray lived. The Bishop of St Andrews, the most powerful seat in Scotland, William Lamberton, along with Bishop Robert Wishart, were eyeing putting Moray on the throne of Scotland, since he was of Auld Scot blood and could rally the Highland nobles to the cause, while the Bruces were squarely backing Edward Longshanks at this point.

Remembering 9 11


Thursday, September 9, 2021

Wyntoun's War or the "Rough Wooing" of my 19th Great-Grandmother

I’m taking a small break this month from the Bruce sisters.  I promise to finish up next month with Maud, Margaret and Mary de Brus.  Due to two new roofs and other demanding needs, I just wasn't able to devote the time I need for the remaining trio.  Instead, I will speak of some Bruce relations, for they are of the blood, cousins.  But, more importantly, this tale is about love, romance, and a lovers dash to Edinburgh Castle—that may or may not have been a kidnapping—and the man and woman who were my 19th great-grandparents.

Wyntoun's War 
or the Rough Wooing of my 19th Great-Grandmother.

At the start of 1343, Lady Margaret de Seton was suddenly thrust into the role of heiress to her father, Lord Alexander de Seton, governor of Berwick Castle.  The Setons were longtime supporters of Clan Bruce, and even married into it.  Alexander was the brother of Sir Christopher Seton, who wed Christian de Brus (sister to Robert the Bruce).  You might recall from my previous article about this Bruce sister that Christopher was Christian’s second husband, and he gave his life defending the Bruce women when they were trying to flee the English in 1306.  Over the decades, the Setons were recognized for their loyalty and rewarded by Bruce, and they continued to support his son David II at the cost of their lives.

Margaret de Seton, born around 1330, was Alexander’s last child and only daughter.  She became heiress to her father’s vast wealth at a young age, and not a position she had anticipated inheriting.  She had four valiant warriors for older brothers—Alexander, John, William and Thomas.  If one fell, another would assume the titles and lands rightfully his.  Some historians dismissively list her as Alexander Seton’s granddaughter, and instead, put her as the daughter of her brother, Alexander.  A couple try to fix her as daughter of John, another brother, (likely because she became heiress after John’s death).  These careless mix-ups really cause snarls, which few show interest in fixing.  Both Alexandersfather and son—were at Berwick Castle at the time of the siege of 1332-3, so for starters, they tend to blur the two Alexanders into one person, which they are not.  The father outlived the son by over a decade.  Margaret clearly was the daughter of Alexander the elder and Christian le Chenyne (granddaughter of Isabella Macduff, countess of Buchan—the woman who crowned Bruce king).  However, the confusion doesn’t end there.  Her mother’s name was Christian, and her uncle Christopher married Christian de Brus, thus many are now listing Christopher and Bruce’s sister as her parents, which they are not.  Christopher died in 1306, long before Margaret came along.

In the late summer of 1332, Alexander—the father—was governor of Berwick Castle, when a siege was laid.  His defense of the fortress cost him three of his sons. Margaret’s brothers died valiantly in the continued struggle against Edward Balliol and Edward III.  Alexander, was killed in the Battle of Kinghorn, where the son of John Balliol was trying to land in Scotland so he might claim the Scottish crown for himself.  William also died in the same fight, drowned in repulsing the landing.  A third brother, Thomas, was captured.  Seton called for a truce, which was granted, but only on condition that he surrender if not relieved by the Scots before the 11th of July.  They were relieved by riders, men under Sir William Keith, Sir Alexander Gray and Sir William Prenderguest. Only Edward III of England said the riders came from the English side of the border, not Scottish, so the castle was not “relieved from Scotland” and thus he proceeded to execute Thomas and ten other men held prisoner.  Alexander and his wife were forced to watch as Thomas was hanged, drawn and quartered before the gates of the town.  Keith took command of the town from Alexander (small wonder), and negotiated a second truce which held—an unconditional surrender to the English, but it allowed all the Scots to leave unharmed.

Around the mid-1340s tragedy again strikes the Setons.  Twice.  First, Sir Alexander dies around 1343, and the title goes to the remaining son, Sir John.  Only, three years later, John dies at the Battle of Neville’s Cross in Durham, England.  And dies without issue.  Some list him as marrying a Margaret Ruthven and having a son, Alexander, but that is likely an echo of the mess they have created with Seaton and his son, who died at the Battle of Kinghorn.  I believe this to be false, because had there been a son, that child would’ve inherited the estate of his grandfather, not his aunt, Margaret.  For Margaret to become heiress it clearly means John didn’t have a child for the estate to go to, and as John’s younger sister, Margaret was next in line.

So, there in a space of less than three years, she loses her father, and his final son, John, dies in battle.  A lot of heartache facing a young woman.  With the passing of her father and brother, she is suddenly a very rich heiress—and target of greedy young men everywhere.

As you might assume, Sir Alexander was popular in the hearts of the people of East Lothian, in his never failing support around the Bruce family.  He had sacrificed a brother and three sons in protecting Bruce’s rule and his legacy, and finally the fourth son had died in the same service.  The prominence of the Seton family had risen, along with that of the Stewarts and Bruces.  Thus, the people of East Lothian felt a protectiveness toward young Margaret.  Only, others hoped to latch onto her wealth and the power of her name, so the young woman was nearly crushed in the stampede of suitors for her hand.

Into the middle of this story rides one dashing and handsome Baron Alan de Wyntoun, son of Alan de Wynton and Margaret Murray (de Moray).   This new Margaret really complicates matters in trying to keep things reasonably straight, because she is the granddaughter of Christian de Brus.  Yeah, Excedrin headache 113, and it only gets worse!  She was also the granddaughter of Thomas Randolph, 1st earl of Moray—Bruce’s nephew.  I know you are really hating all these tangled lines, but I needed to demonstrate why a small knight, a vassal of Sir Alexander Seton, would take it upon himself to swoop in and abduct Margaret.  I am assuming, though the Wyntouns, who took vows of homage and fealty to the mighty Setons, they felt they had as much right to status and position through their close lineage to the Bruces and the Randolphs.

Emboldened by the blood in his veins, Alan carried off Margaret in what the Scots called a “rough wooing”.  Well, hadn’t Marjorie Carrick snatched Robert Bruce, lord Annandale in this fashion?  And let’s not forget about William le Hardi Douglas, who executed a raid to abscond with his second wife, Eleanor Bagot de Lovayne.  Alan and Margaret grew up hearing these stories around fireside.  Alan was akin to the royal family, and was in fact cousin to the Setons.  I am guessing Alan saw the chance to raise the Wyntouns up to the level they had been heretofore denied by forcing the then seventeen-year-old woman into marriage.  At least, some said forced.

Alan wasn’t the first, nor the last Scotsman, to take this quick route to winning the hand of an heiress.  Only, it was another thing to pull this stunt so closely following Sir John’s death at Neville's Cross, and as they say, poor Alexander barely cold in his grave. 

Since the Wyntouns were close cousins to the Setons, and a cadet branch of her own family, there arose cries of consanguinity—mostly from the disappointed rivals, who still hoped to get their chance of being husband to the valuable heiress if they broke the marriage.  There is scant enough material to make a good judgment call on whether this was a kidnapping or an elopement.  I come down on the side that Margaret was a party to the plan, and was determined to marry whom she wanted before a king stepped in and forced her to wed someone she didn’t care for.  Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but how the event unfolded only reinforced that belief they were in love and wanting to control their own fate.

Inadvertently, the two lovers seemed to set half of East Lothians out for blood, while the others were ready to hold a wedding feast.  A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but it was said her abduction caused a war—the Wyntoun’s War.  Still, whether or not this was an actual abduction to force a marriage, or something Margaret actively participated in so she could marry Alan, was hotly debated at the time.  The one telling fact that sticks out in my mind—his uncle, William de Moray, brother to Alan’s mother, took the young couple into Edinburgh Castle.  He was governor there, and granted the lovers protection within the castle walls, barring the angry mob that was following in their wake.

One chronicler. Fordun, proclaimed that 'a hundred ploughs were laid aside in Lothian while the matter was discussed.’  Half favored “the ravisher” and applauded Wyntoun for taking the situation in hand.  Others were armed and ready to bring him in for punishment for daring to steal the daughter of his overlord.  And the jilted suitors likely screamed the loudest!  Citizens of Lothian grew into an angry mob and fell upon the castle, demanding Wyntoun be handed over.  When Wyntoun’s uncle refused, an objection quickly made it all the way to the ear of King David II,  and a call was sent out for Alan to be arrested—cousin or not!

Keep in mind, Alan and Margaret are my 19th great-grandparents, so I am possibly a bit prejudiced.  Be still my heart—for after much arguing and various threats, Margaret was required to perform The Ring or The Sword ceremony.  I wrote about the rite and ritual in A Restless Knight— when Tamlyn marries Julian Challon in the old ways.  Family lore says the couple I based them upon went through this ceremony when they wed, but they haven't been fully documented yet.  So, imagine my thrill at finding proof of yet another set of great-grandparents going through this very same ceremony! One tale says Margaret was blindfolded and made to choose between a sword and a ring, each resting upon a pillow.  She did not get to feel these objects, by the way, but had to touch the pillow upon which they rested to determine Alan's fate.  This was seen as a Trial by Ordeal—God’s hand would decide Alan’s fate through her selection.  Other tales say she made her own choice—knowingly, and had from the start.  Whichever you wish to believe, Margaret picked the ring, and she and Alan were officially wed.  They lived together as man and wife, and had two children*** —a son William and a daughter, Christian.

*** I put the stars here to make note there is extreme conflict on the number of children.  William and Christian are fully recognized and well-documented as Alan and Margaret’s children—their only children.  However, some genealogy sites list the couple as having two other sons—Alexander and Henry. Some list the men as Margaret’s sons, half-brothers to William and Christian, implying they were fathered by another man after Alan left.  However, this doesn’t hold water for me since both of these sons inherited Wyntoun lands and titles, and chose to use the Wyntoun name, not the Seton name and honours.  The conflicts arise because both are shown as born years after Alan’s death.  I sincerely believe the date of Alan’s death is off by a decade, and these two are his legitimate sons, which jives with proof to them inheriting his holdings and electing to use his surname.  Even sites that run by the Seton family recognize both of them as Alan’s.  If you take the stance, as I believe, Alan died ten years later than they record, then these are his legitimate sons.

Alexander de Wyntoun of Seton married Jean Halyburton, daughter of Sir Thomas Halyburton of Dirleton.  The youngest son, Henry de Wyntoun, retained his father's surname and inherited Wrychthouses in Edinburgh.  Henry married Amy Brouna of Coalston, and he went on to be one of the heroes of the Battle of Otterburn, August 19, 1388. 

Margaret’s daughter Christian (though they start up with muddling things again by often calling her Margaret, too), went on to do well, marrying George Dunbar, the 9th earl of Dunbar and March—son of Gelis Isabelle Randolph and John Dunbar, of Derchester & Birkynside, earl of Fife—and grandson of Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray.  They went on to have nine daughters and sons.

After the marriage, Alan changed his name to Seton, and used the title of Lord Seton, jure uxoris (by right of wife).  Even so, rumors held that Margaret’s family tended to make life such a continuing hell for Alan that by his early fifties he took to the cross, joining the Knights Hospitallers and went off on a crusade.  Since the last crusade had ended long before this time, it’s assumed he went to the Holy Lands as a pilgrim.  He is recorded as leaving 400 ducats of gold for safe keeping with a Venetian merchant, Nicholas Zucull, in London as he departed England, but that is the last anyone hears of Alan de Wyntoun de Seton.

In 1363 his son, Lord William Seton authorized Adam Wymondham, a citizen, and Nicholas Nogrebon, a Venetian, to recover the money.  The document states that Alan had died on his way to Mount Sinai, when about to visit the tomb of St. Katherine there.  The date of Lord William seeking to recover the money in 1363 seems to support Alan “vanishing” around 1357.  There is no reason they would wait sixteen years to recover the gold.

Little is mentioned of the remainder of Margaret’s life.  She died around 1360, about four years after the disappearance of her husband.

I am sorry such a pale hangs over the end to their story, both vaguely fading into the mists of history without a definitive end to their lives, or what happened to turn Alan against his family and to leave.  But the romance writer in me loves having a real life set of grandparents who went through The Ring and the Sword ceremony, just like my beloved Tamlyn and Julian.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Anniversary of the Battle of Flodden


King James IV of the Scots

Battle of Flodden Memorial 

Battle of Flodden Noble Death-Roll
9th September 1513

A big part of my family was lost this day.
(the list is clickable to enlarge)

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Say hello to Harley Quinn


Harley Quinn came to me in January of this year.  All my foundlings tend to show up then—cold, hungry, thirsty.  I simply hate to see them suffering.  Harley is barely a year old, and clearly has been a housecat until someone tossed him away in the dead of winter.  At the time, Mamadoodle, Munchkin and Maisie were the “official porch cats”.  I took them in 8 years ago, when my friend, Candy Thompson, had to move and couldn’t take them with her.  They lived in my heated carport room and stayed mostly on the porch.  They had a big heated dog igloo they used on most days.  But Maisie died suddenly this year, and I brought them in for fear of losing the other two, which had become so dear to me.  Munchkin had been injured when about seven months old, and the ache of the old wound really caused him pain during the colder months.  He had to come inside.

So Harley Quinn immediately moved into the heated igloo.  I didn’t need another cat.  I was going to say “want” another cat, but that isn’t true.  I love them all, but the “inn was full”.  So Harley was welcome to stay on the porch and use the igloo and get feed four meals a day—he is a hungry baby. 

But last week, I had a new roof put on my house.  The crews arrived at 7am ready to work, and didn’t quit until 9pm.  Citadel Roofing and Construction are simply THE best.  Love my new roof.  Only, I feared Harley would be terrified, so I brought him in and housed him in the laundry and exercise rooms.  Just for a couple of  The third day they were done, but they had kicked up a beehive along one gutter, and they were swamping.  I was advised to keep all pets away from the porch until the bees moved on.  Well, that meant four days of Harley being inside.

I knew.  Yeah, SUCKER is stamped on my forehead, I suppose.  Harley would come and wrap his legs around mine and just hang on and purr and purr.  Clearly, thanking me for taking inside...forever.  Ah gee.  Poor lad thought he had a forever inside home again.  I cannot do what someone else did to him — toss him out.  So he will stay.  Harley gets his wish of being a forever inside kittah.

Just what I didn’t need.  But what my heart wants.  Harley will be one of the fortunate ones, safe and well-cared for the rest of my life.  I keep saying no more kitties for I am the age, where I feel mortality breathing down my neck. Perhaps, this was the Queen of the Cait Sidhe telling me I am going to be around a few years longer than I figure.



Sunday, August 29, 2021

The 29th of September, 2005, is a rare day in my personal life, which I shall never forget. Sixteen years ago, I was listening to the Weather Channel and watching a monster hurricane, Katrina, make landfall in Louisiana.  So clearly, this is brought to mind as I am now watching another hurricane, Ida, historically land on the very same day all these years later.  In 2005, Katrina was already sending heavy rains to our area—over a thousand miles away.  Where we lived (in the house that burnt down) we had a creek on either side of us.  Neither were more than a dip in the landscape, and were generally bone dry in the summer.  However, when heavy rains came, they could flash flood, and were suddenly rapidly moving mini rivers, and their width and depth could block us from getting out.  My hubby suggested we go to the store and stock up before that happened.  So, Mackintoshes on, we went out in the heavy downpour to shop.

While the day lives on for many because of the memories of Katrina, for me it was one that would impact my life with a force just as powerful.   A life altering event—it was the day I got The Call.  When I came in from shopping, I was nearly soaked in spite of the rain slicker, for the blowing storm was so heavy.  Going into the study, I noticed the light on the answering machine blinking.  I flipped on play, figuring it was just another sales pitch for something I didn’t want or need. Instead, I heard the sparkling voice of Hilary Sares, editor at Kensington Books, saying please call her because she wanted to buy my novel. 

As you can imagine my world was shaken with the impact of the raging Katrina!  I had been trying to sell my historical novels, and I felt like I was battling the world to get it done.  I had entered quite a few RWA contests in preparation—won several, finaled in more.  Only, I had people telling me Scottish books were done, over with, that no one was buying them anymore.  I had one author, who had close to thirty books out, tell me it was sad I was winning so many contests because no editor would buy it.  How discouraging!

So for a couple moments, I almost thought someone was playing a joke on me.  I sat down and copied the phone number on my pad.  Then, I googled Kensington Books.  The number seemed legit. So I called.  And to my surprise, I was put through to Hilary Sares.  And yes, she wanted to buy my book, Challon’s Lady.

My dream come true!  They say selling to a traditional publisher is on par with winning a lottery.  I, who was never lucky at anything, just hit that magical event.  After a year of trying, I sent the package to Hilary on a Friday afternoon.  I had been tracking what she bought for Kensington, and had a feeling she would love my tale of Julian and Tamlyn.  The outline and first chapters had landed on her desk Monday morning, first thing (thank you, US mail, for actually delivering it so fast), and within hours she was calling.

That lovely lady changed my life.  She took me from a nervous writer to author.  She gave me a brand that sells worldwide, and is translated in a dozen different languages.  So, I wish to thank the pretty lady, who loves to dance and push “virgins” to jump into volcanos, and for seeing in the talent in me, for giving me that golden moment of opening the huge box of author’s copies and holding my own book.  I cannot thank you enough.

Challon’s Lady was published nine months later as A Restless Knight.

original Kensington cover

Brazilian translation cover 

German cover and Japanese cover

Current cover