Monthly Archives: January 2015

Perkin Warbeck ~ Pretender to the English Throne

The Freelance History Writer


The Yorkist/Lancastrian conflict known as the War of the Roses is filled with interesting stories from battles to execution by drowning in a butt of malmsey. Because the two young sons of King Edward IV disappeared in the Tower of London there was a lot of speculation about what happened to them. This left the door open for pretenders to appear. Whether or not you believe Perkin Warbeck was Richard, Duke of York, his story is intriguing, fascinating and nearly unbelievable. He managed to maintain his identity and travel the courts of Europe for eight years, soliciting money, troops and ships in an attempt to take the English throne.

Perkin Warbeck was the name he was called later in his adventures. Pierrechon de Werbecque was born c. 1474 in Tournai, in what is now Belgium. He was the son of John Osbek, a boatman and comptroller of the town and…

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Glasgow Cathedral

The Freelance History Writer

Glasgow Cathedral (Photo by Michael Hanselmann - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons) Glasgow Cathedral (Photo by Michael Hanselmann – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Glasgow Cathedral is also known as Kentigern’s or St. Mungo’s Cathedral. There is a long standing tradition dating from the fourth century that a holy man named Nynia was born among the British people. This tradition is confirmed by the writings of the Venerable Bede who tells us Nynia was trained in Rome and introduced the Christian faith in what is now Scotland. This same saint, sometimes called Ninian, came from his community in Whithorn to a place called Cathures, now Glasgow, in the Kingdom of Strathclyde and dedicated a Christian burial ground there in the early fifth century.

To this same spot, Kentigern, also called St. Mungo, came in the late sixth century as a missionary. The “Life of Saint Mungo” was written by the monastic hagiographer Jocelin of Furness in about…

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Tantallon Castle: symbol of strength

The Hazel Tree

Tantallon and beach 3Gaunt, forceful, forbidding… Tantallon Castle sits like an injured eagle on its clifftop eyrie, and for some reason you just can’t take your eyes off it.  Built to withstand a siege, it saw not one but three… and the last one was its downfall.  Incidentally, it’s pronounced ‘Tan-TALL-on’, with the accent on the second syllable, as I found out only recently.


When David II, son of Robert the Bruce, conferred an earldom upon William Douglas in 1358, the newly-created Earl of Douglas decided to make his mark on the landscape by building a magnificent castle on his estate of North Berwick, on the east coast of Scotland.

He had acquired the estate from his uncle, ‘the good Sir James of Douglas’, but William, it appears, didn’t have quite the same spotless reputation.  He was married to a sister of the Earl of Mar, and together they had a son, James;  but William fathered another son…

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Scots wha’ ha’ …

Ruby on Wheels

We’re approaching another Burns’ Night (25th January, for those who don’t know) but this year I’m really looking forward to the BBC programme about one of the major inspirations to Burns – Robert Fergusson.fergusson

The information about the programme is on, which also has a trailer for the documentary.

Every year the Fergusson Society lay a wreath on his gravestone in the Canongate Kirkyard
Fergusson's grave October 2011

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Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of David Rizzio

The Freelance History Writer

David Rizzio, National Portrait Gallery David Rizzio, National Portrait Gallery

The murder of David Rizzio, personal secretary of Mary Queen of Scots, in my mind is one of the most dramatic moments in Scottish history, if not all history. Rizzio was born in 1533 in Pancalieri in the duchy of Savoy, the son of a poor musician. He had a beautiful singing voice and was in the employ of the archbishop of Turin before he made his way to the court of the duke of Savoy in Nice and a position as secretary to the duke’s ambassador, the Marquess of Moretto. In the fall of 1561, they travelled to Scotland. The Marquess was impressed with Rizzio’s musical talents and encouraged him to seek a job at the Scottish court.

Mary, Queen of Scots was an expert musician herself and just happened to be looking for a bass to sing in a quartet of French…

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Newcastle Cathedral

St Nicholas church in Newcastle where John Knox preached between 1550-1553

The Freelance History Writer

Newcastle Cathedral by Paul Harrop from Wikimedia Commons Newcastle Cathedral by Paul Harrop from Wikimedia Commons

The Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas is a Church of England cathedral in Newcastle upon Tyne. St. Nicholas was born in Greece and died in 343 AD. He is the patron saint of children and mariners which might explain the position of the cathedral on the northern heights of the city above the River Tyne.

In 1080, William the Conqueror’s eldest son Robert Curthose came south after fighting King Malcolm III in Scotland and built a castle on the River Tyne. It was called Newcastle and just to the north, in 1091, a parish church, probably constructed of wood, was built close to the line of Hadrian’s Wall which extended through the center of the city. The first reference to a St. Nicholas church dates from 1194. Towards the end of the twelfth century, a stone church was erected on the site…

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My Guest, Author Marie Macpherson

My interview about why I write in Layered Pages

Layered Pages

Marie Macphersonjpeg

I’d like to welcome Marie Macpherson to Layered Pages today. Marie lives in a small village not far from the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. She studied at Strathclyde University, gaining a PhD in Russian Language and Literature. She spent a year at Moscow State University in the former Soviet Union to research her thesis on the 19th century Russian writer, Lermontov, said to be descended from the Scottish poet and seer, Thomas the Rhymer.

After a career teaching languages and literature, she retired from academic life to pursue her interest in creative writing and has found her niche in historical fiction.

The rich history of lowland Scotland provides her inspiration. Reeling and jigging at Scottish Country Dancing and walking the Lammermuir Hills keep her fit.

Marie, please tell me about your writing…

Why do I write?

I often ask that question myself? For writing is such hard work! Why don’t…

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