A Golden Scotland

With the release of my novel The Marriage Alliance happening on Tuesday, August 15, I think this is the time to share some historical facts of my romance novel’s setting. The Marriage Alliance is set in 1256 Scotland. This era is a time when all seemed bright for the nation. No one knew that darkness would swoop in and cast the nation in a war.

In 1249, seven-year-old Alexander’s father died. Many sons lost their parents however, this boy was not another farmer. He was the Prince of Scotland. In July, Alexander sat upon the Stone of Scone and became the King of Scots. Some historians consider this period in Scottish history as the Golden Age. There was relative peace in the nation (though it was the Middle Ages so it wasn’t exactly peaceful) and the throne was secure.

At this time, England and Scotland enjoyed a close bond because of the relationships between the nobles of both nations. Many Scottish nobles possessed estates in England including the King of Scotland. To keep this ties knotted, Alexander married the daughter of the English king, Henry III. In December 1251, Alexander traveled to York to be knighted and celebrate his marriage to Margaret.

Henry III asked Alexander to do homage. But the young king understood the politics at play and replied, “I had come to marry not to answer so difficult a question.” Thankfully, this young king had loyal nobles in his government so he was able to reach his majority without a grab for his crown. The king had plans to grab some land–some islands off the coast of Scotland.

Alexander became the leader of a nation that was smaller than the Scotland we now know. At this time, the Hebrides, Shetland, and Orkney islands fell under Norwegian rule. To fulfill his father’s dream, Alexander first tried diplomacy to win the isles yet that failed. So in October 1263, the Battle of Largs happened.

The Battle of Largs is not considered a proper battle, more a series of skirmishes that occurred on the beaches of Largs.  The King of Norway and his fleet sailed to the western coast of Scotland. The Scots were helped by a gale that crushed the Norwegian fleet. The King of Norway failed to secure the isles and soon sickened and died. After this, the Hebrides became part of Scotland.

By 1275, the Queen of Scotland Margaret and sister to Edward I of England (also known as Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots) died. Margaret was much loved and has a religious following in the nation. Now a widow, Alexander had no reason to marry again. He had three children, an heir, spare, and a daughter who was married. Soon, death came for them all. David, the youngest son, died first then his daughter died in childbirth though her daughter (known in history as Maid of Norway) survived. Then on the 17 January 1284, his heir and namesake perished.

With all three children lost, the king had to marry again. He was still a young man so the nobles were not worried that more children would one day come.  He married Yolande, Comtesse de Montford, daughter of Robert, Comte de Dreux.

Five months after their marriage, the king was in Edinburgh to meet with his council. While he was in the royal burgh, the weather took a turn for the worst. That did not stop the king from setting out to the royal castle named Kinghorn located in Fife.

Though the storm was a northerly gale with heavy snow and led to a very dark night. He was able to sail across the Firth of Forth. The men in his party begged him to stay the night instead of continuing in his travels. He continued onward.

In the darkness, somehow the King of Scotland fell to his death. His body was found at the foot of the hill the next morn. The spot is now called the King’s Crag. He was 36 years old.

His wife was pregnant but she soon miscarried and the Maid of Norway died on the crossing to Scotland. The Wars of Independence would soon rage.  If Alexander had rested his head instead jumped into his saddle then Scottish and world history would have changed.

The Jane Austen Novel that Matters

July 18, 2017 is the bicentennial anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. I have read her books, seen the movies and read her letters. She has inspired me to write Regency and learn about the royal navy and even imagine strolling the streets of Bath. I have numerous copies of her novels.

But there is one book that twists my heart with a mere mention of its title and that is Persuasion. Jane’s last novel, which was published after her death in December 1817.

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen for two reasons. The first reason I love this book is its theme–a second chance at love and the second reason is the dishy, perfect hero Captain Fredrick Wentworth.

No doubt, you must have read the novel (if you are reading this, it is likely that you are a Jane Austen fan) so I will not go into the plot. With Fredrick’s return and Anne’s family’s fortunes dwindling, both Anne and Fredrick now have a chance for second love. Their love has never died after a denial and eight long years. As I read Jane’s words, I cannot stop from imagining Fredrick out at sea, heartbroken and carrying that pain. And when he returns he is now a man of fortune and gets the chance to show Anne what she denied.

We all have wanted to do that and some have had the chance to do it. And Fredrick does what many have done and acted as if he is not pained by the sight of her. Though, he is unaware that she too had been tormented by what could have been.

Captain Wentworth leaving Anne the love letter.

When Fredrick learns Anne still loves him, he takes his chance. And oh, the way he declares it, tears fill my eyes and my throat closes up and my bottom lip shakes.

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan–Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes?–I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice, when they would be lost on others.–Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in 

F.W.

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening, or never. 

Reading this novel, I feel the love between Fredrick and Anne as well as the longing. These emotions seep from the ink and soak into my skin and fill me. I can’t stop myself and must always hug it to my heart.

Then I can’t help but wonder–As Jane neared death, did she yearn for a second chance at love? She must have. We all do.

 

 

 

Love Letters

Chocolates taste great. Roses smell wonderful. But a love letter—oh! A love letter is a true gift and beautiful expression of love. We all wish to receive one and when you get them they will stay with you forever. I still have mine though I no longer have the man in my life.

So to celebrate Valentine’s day, here are three love letters from history.

Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn

In debating with myself the contents of your letters I have been put to a great agony; not knowing how to understand them, whether to my disadvantage as shown in some places, or to my advantage as in others. I beseech you now with all my heart definitely to let me know your whole mind as to the love between us; for necessity compels me to plague you for a reply, having been for more than a year now struck by the dart of love, and being uncertain either of failure or of finding a place in your heart and affection, which point has certainly kept me for some time from naming you my mistress, since if you only love me with an ordinary love the name is not appropriate to you, seeing that it stands for an uncommon position very remote from the ordinary; but if it pleases you to do the duty of a true, loyal mistress and friend, and to give yourself body and heart to me, who have been, and will be, your loyal servant (if your rigour does not forbid me), I promise you that not only the name will be due to you, but also to take you as my sole mistress, casting off all others than yourself out of mind and affection, and to serve you only; begging you to make me a complete reply to this my rude letter as to how far and in what I can trust; and if it does not please you to reply in writing, to let me know if some place where I can have it by word of mouth, the which place I will seek out with al my heart. No more for fear of wearying you. Written by the hand of him who would willingly remain your

HR

 

John Keats to Fanny Brawne

My sweet Girl,

I am living to day in yesterday: I was in complete fascination all day. I feel myself at your mercy. Write me ever so few lines and tell you (for me) you will never for ever be less kind to me than yesterday—. You dazzled me.There is nothing in the world so bright and delicate. When Brown came out with that seemingly true story against me last night, I felt it would be death to me if you had ever believed it – thought against any one else I could muster up my obstinacy. Before I knew Brown could disprove it was for the moment miserable. When shall we pass a day alone? I have had a thousand kisses, for which with my whole soul I thank love–but if you should deny me the thousand and first- ‘twould put me to the proof how a great misery I could live through. If you should every carry your threat yesterday into execution–believe me ’tis not my pride, my vanity or any petty passion would torment me–really ‘twould hurt my heart–I could not bear it. I have seen Mrs. Dilke this morning; she says she will come with me any fine day.

Ever yours

John Keats

Ah hertè mine!

 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning To Robert Browning

My Own Beloved, if ever you should have reason to complain of me in things voluntary and possible, all other women would have a right to tread me underfoot, I should be so vile and utterly unworthy. There is my answer to what you write yesterday of wishing to be better to me…you! What could be better than lifting me from the ground and carrying me into life and the sunshine? I was yours rather by right than by gift (yet by gift also, my beloved!); for what you have saved and renewed is surely yours. All that I am, I owe you– if I enjoy anything now and henceforth, it is through you. You know this well. Even as I, from the beginning, knew that I had no power against you…or that, I had it was for your sake.

Dearest, in the emotion and confusion of yesterday morning, there was yet room in me for one thought which was not a feeling – for I thought that, of the many, many women who have stood where I stood, and to the same end, not one of them all perhaps, not one perhaps, since that building was a church, has had reasons strong as mine, for an absolute trust and devotion towards the man she married, –not one! And then I both thought and felt, that it was only just, for them…those women who were less happy…to have the affectionate sympathy and support and presence of their nearest relations, parent or sister…which failed to me,…needing it less through being happier!

 

 

 

A Royal Love Affair

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria is remembered as the stern-faced queen dressed in her widow weeds. But beneath her frown and black satins was a woman of passion. In 1836, Victoria was a seventeen-year-old girl who would one day sit upon the British throne. She had a sad, lonely childhood and her world consisted of the walls of Kensington Palace. Many crowns of Europe desired her little hand (she was five feet) but one man, her cousin Albert, captured her heart.

Albert Saxe-Coburg

Albert was the second son of Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Princess Louise Saxe-Gotha-Attenburg. His parents divorced when he was young and from all accounts he never saw his mother again after her banishment from court. Much like his cousin, his childhood was a sad one as well.

The two great loves first met when Albert traveled to England with his father and his brother (both named Ernest) in 1836. Of her two cousins, Albert captured her attention. “Albert, who is just as tall as Ernest but stouter, is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression; which is most delightful c’est a la fois full of goodness and sweetness and very clever and intelligent.”

During his visit, details about Albert received more attention from her pen than his brother. She calls him dearest Albert and writes paragraphs about their time together. Victoria’s heart soared. As they were to depart, Victoria wrote,  “…I love Ernest and Albert more than them, oh yes, much more.” 

So much more that when she wrote her uncle she said, “I must thank you, my beloved Uncle, for the prospect of great happiness, you have contributed to give me, in the person of dear Albert. Allow me, then, my dearest Uncle, to tell you how delighted I am with him, and how much I like him in every way. He possesses every quality, that could be desired to render me perfectly happy. He is so sensible, so kind, and so good, and so amiable too. He has besides, the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance, you can possibly see.”

Victoria’s life returned to one of isolation under her mother’s rule. On June 20, 1837, the King, William IV died. The crown now sat upon her head. But their uncle, the King of the Belgians desired this political match. But for Albert and Victoria, it was a love match first and foremost. But Albert had to wait for Victoria to make the move.

While Albert waited in his home country, Victoria enjoyed her independence and would not rush into marriage.  It took two years before Victoria sent for Albert. But upon being in his presence, the queen knew that Albert was the man for her. Five days after his arrival, Victoria proposed to Albert. Being Queen, she had to pop the question. She wrote “that it would make me too happy if he would consent to what I wanted (that he should marry me). We embraced each other over and over again, and he was so kind and so affectionate.”

Albert returned to his home country to deal with his affairs. “I need not tell you that since we left, all my thoughts have been with you at Windsor, and that your image fills my whole soul. Even in my dreams I never imagined that I should find so much love on earth. How that moment shines for me when I was close to you, but with your hand in mine! Those days flew by so quickly, but our separation will fly equally so. Ernest wishes me to say a thousand nice things to you. With promises of unchanging love and devotion, your ever true Albert.”

On February 10, 1840, Albert and Victoria married at St.James’ Palace. “Albert repeated everything very distinctly. I felt so happy when he placed the ring on my finger. As soon as the Service was over, the Procession returned as it came, with the exception that dearest Albert led me out!…”  It was a grand affair with people crowding the streets and cheering the couple with the greatest of joy.  “Oh! this was the happiest day of my life!”

They were a passionate couple whose fights rang out and whose sexual passion resulted in nine children. Victoria hated being pregnant but she wouldn’t banish Albert from her bed. She loved her husband and the passion they shared. Albert became a great consort to the queen and added to the greatness of the Victorian Era.

On December 14, 1861, the two lovers were parted when Albert died. Victoria turned into the widow-weed wearing monarch we remember. The second longest reigning monarch of Great Britain passed on January 22, 1901, and was buried in her white dress and her wedding veil.