As an author of Scottish historical paranormal romance, I do a lot of research. I find books and periodicals helpful, but I have to admit that I have the most fun searching for things on the internet.
My books are set in the early 16th century Highlands, during a time of great conflict and loss in Scotland, but not a time of great historical record keeping. There are many sources documenting the political in-fighting at the Scottish Court after the death of James IV in 1513. Control of the 17-month-old James V meant control of the Crown, the Lowlands and the Borders. Influence on the Highlands and Islands was more tenuous, and little was written – or little remains – about life in the Highlands during this time period.
Since I’m writing about a fictional clan in the Highlands, the Court intrigue is useful for background, but not for including in large parts of my stories. Which means I spend a lot of time following link after link, searching for obscure bits of historical fact. As I’ve explored one rabbit hole after another, trying to fill in the blanks in the historical context for my books, I’ve run across a few interesting tidbits about Scotland, such as:
- James IV blamed himself for his father’s death at the hands of rebels who considered him the rightful ruler, and often wore a heavy chain around his waist as penance.
- Scotland and France have been allies since the 1200s under a treaty known as the Auld Alliance, for mutual defense against England. Adhering to this treaty is what prompted James IV to declare war and cross into England with his army in 1513. Henry VIII had invaded France, expecting to be crowned “The Most Christian King of France” by the Pope in Paris, and the French king, Louis, wanted the Scots to distract Henry and divide his forces.
- The ghost of James IV was once believed to haunt Flodden Field, where he and many of his nobles and fighting men were killed by the English in 1513. His resting place is not known. He was excommunicated after his declaration of war, so he could not be buried on holy ground. There are conflicting stories about what happened to his body after the battle, including one that claims his head was buried in a separate location.
- James V had at least 3 Regents from the time he ascended to the throne at 17 months and after he became ruler, was held captive for three years by his stepfather, who fled into exile after James escaped his custody.
- James 1 of England was actually James VI of Scotland. When he inherited the English crown, he moved lock, stock and barrel to London and only went back to Scotland once. That “union of the crowns” ended Scotland’s independence as a country in 1603.
- Trial by combat – in effect, dueling – continued in Scotland into the 16th century.
- Nowadays, it’s not unusual, but even hundreds of years ago, women could and did become the laird of their clan. It happened rarely, usually upon the death of the husband, or if the clan lacked of a suitable male heir.
- Whisky has been distilled in Scotland since the 15th century. Production finally increased to the point that whisky showed up in the tax rolls in 1494.
- The University of St. Andrews, established in 1413, is the third oldest university in the English speaking world.
- Scotland is in danger of exhausting its supply of peat, in demand for making whisky, but also for heating and other industry. It’s being used faster than it can form. Fortunately, it can be found in other parts of the world.
Scotland has a fascinating history, full of conflict, tragedy and amazing stories of betrayal and survival. It’s fun to follow links and explore rabbit holes – I never know where they will lead or what interesting bit of history I’ll find along the way.
Willa Blair is the best-selling and award-winning author of Scottish romance with a paranormal twist, set in the 16th century Highlands, when the old ways, and old talents, still shaped events.
She always wished she had several psi talents, such as reading her husband’s mind, cleaning house by simply thinking about it, and flying. But alas, no. So she endows her historical romance characters with special talents and lives vicariously through them. She loves reading and writing romance novels set in the past, present and future.
She realized her life-long dream of becoming an author after retiring from her day job to write, travel, and enjoy life. Married to her own military hero golf fanatic, she lives in the Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio where she writes, feeds hummingbirds year-round and has too many hobbies to count.
Donal MacNabb is loyal to his adopted Lathan clan, yet he resents being a pawn in their treaty negotiations with the struggling MacKyries. The MacKyrie clan needs his skills as an arms master, but its Laird is bartering for more than Donal is prepared to give.
Ellie MacKyrie knows the Lathan treaty will help protect her clan from the neighbor determined to seize her holdings any way he can—including forcing her into marriage. But she has another reason to want the Lathan alliance. She has Seen the stubborn Donal MacNabb reaching for her in her dreams.
While Donal fights to save a clan in trouble, his desire for the MacKyrie Seer wars with his obligation to his Laird. Before she is forced into a marriage that will destroy her clan, Ellie must find the heart behind Donal’s gruff exterior and convince him he is the man of her dreams.