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Posted in Historical articles, History, Royalty, Scotland on Friday, 24 May 2013
This edited article about Queen Elizabeth I originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 266 published on 18 February 1967.
Lady Scrope throws the tell-tale sapphire ring to Robert Carey by Angus McBride
In the January of 1603, the court of Elizabeth I moved to Richmond. The Queen was sick, and though it was only a minor ailment, she was a very old woman of 70. “Richmond,” she said, “would be the warm winter box to shelter my old age.” Before she left London she warned her councillors that her throne was the throne of kings, and only those of her blood should follow her. The councillors presumed that she intended James VI of Scotland to succeed her, even though she disliked him, but neither then, nor later, did she actually name him. James intended to take no chances. He gave a valuable sapphire ring to Lady Scrope, one of Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting, and hinted that the person who brought it to him on certain news of Elizabeth’s death would receive a rich reward. He would then be able to move ahead of his rivals and claim the throne immediately.
Richmond seemed to suit Elizabeth, and she revived. But by the end of February her last, fatal illness was upon her. It seemed that she refused to recognise the fact that her time was come. For four days and nights she half sat, half lay, on cushions in a public room, and nothing that her servants or her physicians said could persuade her to go to her own room and bed. She hinted that ghosts hovered about that bed – a sure indication of her failing mind – for in her senses she would have scorned such fancies. Someone asked her if she had any secret cause of grief, and she snapped back that nothing in this world was worthy of troubling her.
Nevertheless, she had reason to fear ghosts arising from the past to accuse her. Popular though she had been as Queen, England was in a turmoil, and in the last years of her reign executions were continual. A Frenchman reported that he had seen 300 heads stuck up on London Bridge all at the same time. Two memories in particular must have returned to haunt her: the memory of Essex, her favourite, whom she had been forced to execute for treason, and the memory of Mary, Queen of Scots, whose death warrant she had signed – and then attempted to blame others for doing so.
She was obviously dying. Cecil, one of her ministers, told her that, to content the people, she must go to bed. Something of her old spirit flashed out then, and she smiled contemptuously at him. “Little man, little man, the word must is not used to princes.” At last she was persuaded to go, but continued to refuse all medicine. Her bed-chamber was crowded with people – ambassadors, doctors, politicians and priests – most of them waiting eagerly for her to name her successor. Particularly interested was young Robert Carey, her cousin and a brother of Lady Scrope, with whom he had come to a discreet arrangement. At last the courtiers could wait no longer. Elizabeth was unable to speak, but they called out the names of all possible successors, and when, at the name James, she moved her hand, it was believed that she had assented.
Elizabeth died in the early hours of 24th March, 1603. Robert Carey and his sister were already prepared. As soon as the doctors confirmed the news, Lady Scrope hurried to a window of the palace and leaned out. Carey was already below in the cold darkness, and his sister dropped the ‘blue ring’ into his eager hands. He mounted his horse and rode furiously to Scotland, bearing the ring which told of the end of the great Tudor dynasty.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Religion, Royalty, Scotland on Thursday, 23 May 2013
This edited article about Mary, Queen of Scots originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 263 published on 28 January 1967.
Mary, Queen of Scots faces her executioner by Pat Nicolle
After seven turbulent years Mary, Queen of Scots and her supporters were defeated at the battle of Langside in 1568, and she abdicated the throne in favour of her infant son, and fled across the border into England.
Mary sought the protection of her cousin, Elizabeth I, queen of England. But Mary was a dangerous guest. She was a Catholic, and Protestant England was fearful of attempts to restore the old religion.
Spain in particular would be delighted to use such a person as Mary, who could show claims to the English throne almost as strong as Elizabeth’s.
So, gradually, Mary’s protection turned into imprisonment and, inevitably, she lent her ear to plots against Elizabeth. Knowledge of these plots came to the attention of the English queen, but she ignored them until at last there came a serious plot to assassinate her. The danger that Mary presented could no longer be ignored: she was brought to trial and condemned.
The English ministers now had the difficult task of persuading Elizabeth to sign the death warrant. “Let just condemnation be followed by just execution” Parliament urged her.
Elizabeth did all that she could to avoid the guilt of spilling the blood not only of another woman and a cousin but also a sister queen. She desired the end of the problem but not the blood-guilt that went with it. She even urged Sir Amyas Paulet, Mary’s gaoler, to do away with her discreetly. But Paulet indignantly refused ‘to shed blood without law or warrant’. Elizabeth alone could give the order for the execution of a queen.
At length Elizabeth did indeed sign the warrant and it was published, amid popular rejoicing. She hoped, perhaps, that its execution would still be delayed; that some loyal subject would take from her the guilt of killing Mary. Afterwards she claimed that she did not know that the warrant was being rushed by fast messenger to Fotheringay, the great castle in Nottinghamshire where Mary lay captive.
On 8th February, 1587, the warrant was executed, Mary meeting her death with courage and dignity. Immediately the son of the Earl of Shrewsbury took horse and left to inform Elizabeth. All that day he rode, and through the night, and in the morning he came at last to Greenwich.
Four hundred years ago Greenwich was a village outside London. Elizabeth had been born there and loved the place. On this morning she was out riding in the great park and so missed the messenger on his arrival. He, it seems, lost no time in spreading the news for when she returned it was to hear the bells of London ringing in rejoicing.
Elizabeth listened to the messenger calmly enough but as soon as he had finished she retired to a private room and there burst into a flood of tears.
Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Royalty, Scotland on Monday, 13 May 2013
This edited article about Scotland originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 253 published on 19 November 1966.
Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn by C L Doughty
In 1603, James VI of Scotland succeeded without opposition to the throne of England, and put an end to the friction which, for hundreds of years, had marred the relationship between the two neighbouring kingdoms.
From early times Kings of Scotland accepted the King of England as their overlord, and some paid homage.
One Scottish King who refused to do homage for his throne was Alexander III, but when Alexander died in 1286, he had outlived all his children, and his line was only continued across the North Sea in the frail life of his grand-daughter Margaret, who was called The Maid of Norway. A regency was set up in Scotland for the three-year-old girl, but many feared trouble in the long years before the little Queen came of age.
England’s King at this dangerous time in Scotland’s history was one of the strongest and most purposeful rulers of medieval England – Edward 1. Edward exercised his power in many directions and took any chance he could of extending it.
When the young Queen Margaret died on her way to Scotland in 1290, the country was at once divided against itself. There were numerous claimants for the throne and the laws governing who should succeed had never been clearly stated.
Scotland turned to Edward I and asked him to step in and decide to whom the throne should lawfully go. Edward’s moment had come. He agreed to the request on condition that both the claimants to the Scottish throne and all the important men in Scotland should recognise him as superior lord of the kingdom and swear oaths to that effect. They agreed to this and resigned the kingdom into Edward’s hands until their own new King should be installed.
There were 13 claimants to the throne, but only two of them really mattered – John Baliol and Robert Bruce. They were both descendants of David, Earl of Huntingdon, the brother of King William the Lion. Baliol was the grandson of David’s eldest daughter, and Bruce was the son of the second daughter.
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Posted in English Literature, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, Scotland on Monday, 13 May 2013
This edited article about Sir Walter Scott originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 252 published on 12 November 1966.
Lochinvar is the hero of a ballad of that name which Sir Walter Scott included in his poetic saga ‘Marmion’. It was published in 1808. The ballad, which is written in the romantic style of the early 19th century, opens with the famous lines: -
Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the West,
Through all the wide border his steed was the best.
and its rhythm is so exciting that one can almost hear the galloping of horses’ hooves, especially if it is read aloud.
The ballad, which is set in the Scottish Border country, tells how young Lochinvar’s beloved, ‘the fair Ellen’, is about to be married to an unworthy suitor of her father’s choice. Lochinvar arrives at the bridal feast and claims a dance with Ellen. They dance over to the door of the hall, he swings Ellen on to his horse and rides swiftly away with her. The wedding guests pursue them – in vain!
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was one of the finest of British novelists and poets, his works being frequently set in his native Scotland. They include ‘Rob Roy’, ‘Ivanhoe’, ‘The Heart of Midlothian’ and ‘The Lady of the Lake’. He was created a baronet in 1820.
Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Medicine, Scotland, War on Saturday, 11 May 2013
This edited article about Arthur Conan Doyle originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 251 published on 5 November 1966.
Arthur Conan Doyle served as a surgeon during the Boer War by Roger Payne
Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in May 1859 and died, after a long eventful life, in July 1930. During his lifetime he produced an amazing number of books, covering a wide variety of subjects and characters and establishing him as a popular International author.
Arthur Conan Doyle came from a well-known family of artists. He was educated at Stonyhurst and later at Edinburgh University where he studied medicine, graduating M.B. in 1881.
It was while he was in medical practice in Southsea that Conan Doyle published his first book, ‘A Study in Scarlet’, in which he introduced to the public the debonair Sherlock Holmes who, with his worthy friend and companion Dr. Watson, was to become the leading figure in detective fiction.
Sherlock Holmes depended on careful, systematic examination of minute details and a logical process of deduction from the points observed to solve the crimes that baffled everyone else. It is said that his creator modelled his methods on an eminent surgeon, Dr. Joseph Bell, who had continually impressed upon his students the necessity, during diagnosis, of closely observing all the given facts and then making an intelligent interpretation of them.
Conan Doyle’s own life was as active and virile as the stories he wrote. He was a good cricketer and general sportsman, especially keen on boxing – bringing the sport into one of his best novels, ‘Rodney Stone’. He was a real-life detective whose advice was frequently sought by the police, and a champion of those whom he believed to have been wrongfully convicted – against strong police opinion, he proved one man innocent and saved him from a life sentence.
Besides detective stories, Conan Doyle wrote sporting novels, poems, pirate and adventure yarns, histories of the Boer War, plays, imaginative works, such as ‘The Lost World’, and historical romances. He was a great stickler for detail. Before writing ‘Sir Nigel’ he read over sixty books dealing with heraldry, armour, falconry, the medieval habits of the peasants of that time and the social customs of the aristocracy too. Only when he was sure that he knew those times as if he had lived in them did he start to write; and in describing the adventurous life of Sir Nigel, the perfect knight, he gave a brilliant, exciting description of that chivalrous period of English history.
Conan Doyle was a patriot. During the South African War of 1899-1902 he acted as senior physician to a field hospital, and he played an important part in the First World War. He was interested in all aspects of life and death. Spiritualism fascinated him, and during his last years he became a lecturer on psychic matters. Everything he did was tackled with enthusiasm and vigour, and this fact shines out from his books as a fitting memorial.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Interesting Words, Language, Scotland, Sport on Saturday, 11 May 2013
This edited article about Scotland originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 251 published on 5 November 1966.
Few places in Britain have a more time-worn atmosphere than the long street in Edinburgh called the Royal Mile. The street runs from the grim, black castle on the crest of the hill, down past the ruined Holyrood Abbey and the restored royal palace of Holyrood House.
Medieval ‘skyscrapers’, among the oldest in Europe, still cling precariously on the height close by the castle. More than half a dozen storeys high, these old tenements are black and shabby, but they were once the best houses in town. This was before people of influence moved down into the flat land below the castle, where Edinburgh’s New Town was laid out in the early 19th century.
This ‘new town’, which had squares of classical proportions and long, wide streets such as Princes Street, Queen Street and George Street, was inspired by the Scottish-born architects, the Adam brothers.
The tall assembly hall of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland stands on the hill alongside the tenements. Farther down the street are St. Giles, the Presbyterian’s principal ‘kirk’, the black stone official chambers of the city’s Lord Provost, and the restored medieval cross where royal proclamations are still made.
The errand boys of Edinburgh once congregated here. They were called ‘caddies’, a Scottish version of the French word, cadets, meaning ‘youngsters’ or ‘juniors’. An English traveller, Edward Topham, referred to them in 1776 as “a set of men who are called in this country caddies, who constantly attend the Cross in the High-street and whose business is to do anything that anybody can want and discharge any kind of business . . .” In other words, they were jacks-of-all-trades, willing to turn their hands to most tasks.
Golf was the principal sport in Scotland, and one of the most frequent tasks of the caddies was to carry the players’ clubs on the links. The term ‘links’ referring to a golf course, which has now become world wide, originated in Scotland and is still the term used in Scotland to describe any stretch of semi-waste land along the sea. (Early golfers had found their courses among the natural plateaux and hollows of sand dunes near the sea shores.)
When Scotland’s King James VI came to London as England’s King James I, he played golf on Blackheath, near the old Greenwich Palace, and here two caddies were employed. One of them was called the forward caddy, and players used to cry “fore” to warn him to follow the ball that had just been hit.
Caddies no longer serve as messengers and handymen in Edinburgh, and mechanical devices are replacing caddies on the Scottish links, as elsewhere. But, especially in big matches, a golfer will still occasionally call for a caddy.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Royalty, Scotland on Thursday, 9 May 2013
This edited article about Mary, Queen of Scots originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 248 published on 15 October 1966.
Beautiful, talented and headstrong, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was a centre of political attention. Queen Elizabeth I had no children and, by descent, Mary had a strong claim to the crown of England: Scottish and Catholic, Mary played the part of both rival and heir to England’s Protestant throne.
Fleeing from Scotland after abdicating in favour of her infant son, James, Mary fell into the hands of Elizabeth in 1568, and remained a prisoner in England for 19 years. Her position was intolerable for, like a magnet, she attracted enemies plotting against Elizabeth.
Not until war with Catholic Spain made Mary the positive, Catholic candidate for Elizabeth’s throne, were plans laid for trapping her in treasonable activities. In June, 1586, she was found corresponding with a man called Anthony Babington, who, with a number of accomplices, planned to assassinate Elizabeth and put Mary on the throne. Babington and his friends were arrested and executed, and on 14th October, 1586, Mary was brought to trial before a Commission.
Mary was allowed no help in conducting her defence, nor was she allowed to see the originals of the letters which were used in evidence against her. If these were genuine, then her guilt is certain. She claimed that they were forgeries.
The trial was transferred to Westminster where judgment was given against the Scottish queen in her absence, and Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded at Fotheringay on 8th February, 1587.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Legend, Scotland on Wednesday, 8 May 2013
This edited article about Tam o’ Shanter originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 246 published on 1 October 1966.
As Tam flees across the Brig o' Doon Meg loses her tail to the pursuing demons by John Millar Watt
Of the many famous people associated with the Scottish town of Ayr through the centuries, no one can match Robert Burns for the number of statues, monuments and other structures which are kept today as shrines to his memory.
Burns, the best loved of the Scottish poets, was born on 25th January, 1759, in a cottage about two miles from Ayr. Many of his songs and poems were woven around the familiar sights and sounds of this locality. Perhaps the best memento of him is the graceful, moss-covered brig (bridge) which rises over the crystal waters of the river Doon.
The Brig o’ Doon was the bridge that Tam o’ Shanter crossed on Meg, his grey mare, on the frightful night ride which is depicted so vividly in Robert Burns’ poem Tam o’ Shanter.
The poem tells how Tam, after drinking till late in the inn at Ayr, rode home through a raging storm. As he passed Alloway’s haunted kirk (church) he saw a fearsome sight, “warlocks and witches in a dance . . . Tam stood, like one bewitched”. Then suddenly the demons noticed him . . . and the chase was on!
Tam knew that the flying demons could not cross a running stream, so he frantically urged Meg forward, trying to reach the Brig o’ Doon before they could catch him. Just as the terrified pair got to the bridge, the fiends made a final furious effort and clutched at the desperately galloping mare. They were too late. Meg crossed to safety, “but left behind her ain grey tail”.
The original Tam o’ Shanter was Douglas Graham, of Shanter Farm, near Ayr. Ayrshire farmers are known to their neighbours by the names of their farms rather than by their surnames. As Graham used a boat called Tam for fishing, everyone called him Tam o’ Shanter.
Still standing today in the High Street in Ayr is the Tam o’ Shanter Inn, kept as a museum by the city. The tiny drinking room is so small that you can almost touch all four walls at once. On market days, Tam used to sit there, with Robert Burns.
On the walls hang a series of paintings illustrating Tam’s awful ride from the inn. The paintings show Tam wearing the traditional lowland Scotch bonnet – a round, flat, blue woollen cap with a tuft on the top, made in the neighbouring towns of Kilmarnock and Stewarton. The name of tam-o’-shanter came to be applied to the bonnet Tam always wore.
The bonnets Scots men and women wear today are considerably smaller than those worn in Tam’s time, but all over the world from John o’ Groats to San Francisco, a Scottish bonnet is called a tam-o’-shanter.
Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, History, Language, Scotland on Thursday, 2 May 2013
This edited article about Robert Louis Stevenson originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 239 published on 13 August 1966.
Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer, with a Samoan chief.
Whenever people hear the name of Robert Louis Stevenson mentioned, they always remember him as the writer of Treasure Island – perhaps the finest tale of pirate gold ever written, and certainly a story which has been enjoyed by millions of readers since Stevenson first published it in 1882.
One of the world’s great story-tellers, Robert Louis Stevenson had a life which was itself filled with travel and adventure, and like most fiction writers, many of the places he visited and the things which happened to him, appear in his books.
The son of a Scottish civil engineer, he was born in Edinburgh on November 13th, 1850. After attending various schools, he went to Edinburgh University where he studied law and read a great deal of literature in both English and French. He qualified as a barrister, but by that time, he had already written a great deal and it was obvious he was destined for a literary career.
Although Stevenson had travelled round Scotland with his father during the school holidays and had made one or two trips abroad with him, his real experience of foreign countries began in 1876. In that year he visited Fontainbleau in France and stayed with his cousin, R. A. M. Stevenson, who was an art critic.
While on the continent he toured the canals of Belgium and explored the Cevennes, a mountainous region of France. From the material he gathered on these trips he wrote two travel books. From now on essays, articles for magazines, novels and beautifully written fantasies such as Will ‘o the Mill, began to flow from his gifted pen.
In 1879, Stevenson began to extend his travelling. He went to America and lived for a time in California where he became very ill. In spite of this he completed another book and prepared two more, such was his compelling urge to write.
The following year, having recovered from his illness, Stevenson married an American woman. He returned to Scotland with his wife and it was there that he wrote Treasure Island.
Soon after this, Stevenson went to live in the south of France where the warmer climate suited his somewhat delicate health. There, he wrote many books such as The Treasure of Franchard, The Black Arrow and, as if to prove how versatile he was, he produced one of the classic horror stories of all time, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Stevenson returned to America in 1887 and in 1888 he went on a cruise of the Pacific Islands. The romantic sunswept beaches attracted him greatly and in 1889 he bought a house on Samoa where he died five years later.
Posted in Historical articles, History, Scotland, Shakespeare on Wednesday, 1 May 2013
This edited article about Macbeth originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 237 published on 30 July 1966.
Early Scottish history is obscure, but it is known that on July 27, 1054, Macbeth, King of the Scots, was defeated in battle by Earl Siward of Northumbria and his grandson Malcolm, contender for the Scottish throne.
Macbeth’s story is familiar to many people even today, for Shakespeare made him the central figure of one of his great tragedies. Shakespeare tells of an ambitious man spurred on by his power-hungry wife to commit murder and win the crown of Scotland.
Shakespeare’s play is only loosely based on fact. Dissension in Scotland stemmed from conflicting ideas about the laws of Succession. Trouble began because King Malcolm II wanted his grandson, Duncan, already king in Strathclyde, to succeed him as King of Scotland, but according to old Scottish custom, Duncan was ineligible to succeed, and the rightful heir was the infant stepchild of Macbeth.
In the interests of his wife’s child, Macbeth opposed Duncan’s right to succeed, and killed him, quite probably in a fair fight. Macbeth held the throne on behalf of his stepchild, and Duncan’s young sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, were hurried out of the country into the care of their grandfather, Earl Siward of Northumbria. Malcolm stayed with his grandfather for 14 years, during which time Macbeth ruled Scotland and she prospered. Then they marched into Scotland, to Dunsinane, Macbeth’s castle.
Shakespeare makes the battle at Dunsinane a highly dramatic finale to his play: Macbeth is slain in single combat, and Malcolm joyously proclaimed King of Scotland. In fact, Macbeth lived three more years before Malcolm killed him in battle at Lumphanan.