Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The English Princess - beloved wife and mother

by Anna Belfrage

Margaret of Connaught
In 1905, the Swedish Heir Apparent, Gustav Adolf (later Gustav VI Adolf) married Princess Margaret of Connaught, granddaughter to Queen Victoria. They met earlier that same year in Egypt, when Margaret and her sister were being presented to various eligible partners – although I think Egypt was something of a detour.

Gustav Adolf was actually in Capri visiting his mother when he received the invitation to a ball in Cairo in honour of the Connaught girls, and something must have piqued his interest already then - or maybe he just wanted to dance the night away, virtuoso dancer that he was. Whatever the case, off he went to Egypt. It is said it was love at first sight between the pretty English princess and the tall and dark haired Swedish prince. In actual fact, the idea was that the prince was to wed Margaret’s sister, but the moment he clapped eyes on Margaret, well, Gustav Adolf was lost, and after a whirlwind courtship the young couple were married at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, attended by a crowd of royals.

Gustav Adolf
This spontaneous behaviour was most uncharacteristic of Gustav Adolf – and of his rather stiff and formal family. Or maybe not so stiff, come to think of it, but more about that later. Gustav Adolf and his two brothers were the product of a dynastic marriage between the future King Gustav V of Sweden and Victoria of Baden, granddaughter to the German emperor, Wilhelm I. Initially, this young couple was very affectionate towards each other, and over the course of seven years Victoria would produce three sons – one heir and two spares.

By then, Victoria and Gustav led quite separate lives, this dictated to a large extent by Victoria’s declining health which required she spend the winters as far away from Sweden as possible. Things were not improved when Victoria, during a trip with her husband to Egypt, apparently dallied with one of the royal adjutants, and from Gustav’s letters home, he was more than torn apart by her betrayal. Victoria went on to spend most of her time and affection on Axel Munthe, the royal doctor who attended on both Victoria and her husband, while Gustav was supposedly to develop a preference for young men – as I said, not all that stiff and formal after all...

With their mother mostly away from home, the two young princes, Gustav Adolf and Wilhelm, were left in the care of their paternal grandmother, Swedish Queen Sofia. (The youngest boy was sickly and cared for elsewhere) The queen had been an eager supporter of Victoria as wife to her eldest son, but over time the two ladies developed an active dislike of each other, and Sofia was more than pleased to involve herself deeply in the day-to-day lives of her grandsons - preferably to countermand Victoria's instructions.

When Victoria was in Sweden, life was led according to rules. Victoria was strict and structured, and showed little overt affection for her sons. When Victoria was away, life was also led according to rules – Sofia’s rules – and while Queen Sofia has a reputation for being a kind lady, she was also stickler for protocol – royals had to behave as behoved royals.

By the time Gustav Adolf met Margaret in 1905, I think he was pretty sick of rules and protocols. And when he saw her, he decided that this was one opportunity at happiness he had no intention of letting slip through his fingers, ergo that most unusual burst of spontaneity and determination.

With Margaret - or Daisy, as her family knew her - English customs entered Swedish life. With Margaret, Sweden saw an upswing in flowered wallpaper, in tea consumption and in gardening. With Margaret, the wide-eyed Swedish populace saw pictures of their princess – their blue-blooded English princess – digging her own garden beds and laughing with her husband. Some of those flower beds she so meticulously planned and planted have been restored and can be viewed at Sofiero, the little palace she and Gustav Adolf converted into their summer house.

In retrospect, Margaret and Gustav Adolf seem to have been very happy together. While this is great news for them, it leaves the aspiring writer bereft of “tension”, the inherent conflict that has the reader’s eyes glued to the page. But when one starts scraping the surface, there are some streaks of darkness that come to life – like Gustav Adolf’s supposed affair with an actress, or the young man who insisted he was Gustav Adolf’s son. The king, as he was then, never uttered a word either confirming of rebutting this particular story.

And then we have the fact that it must have been very difficult for Margaret to adapt from her life in England to the stilted dreariness of the Swedish court. Where Gustav Adolf had captured a vibrant butterfly, an injection of energy and colour in his rather staid and boring life, Margaret had netted a handsome man who had little reason to believe in the longevity of happiness – he had seen first-hand how his parents’ marriage collapsed. But Margaret was not a quitter, and besides she was very much in love with this husband of hers, with his cleft chin and sensuous mouth, with the low timbre of his voice.

In 1906 came the first of the couple’s children – a prince, joy of joys, thereby ensuring Margaret had done her duty. Named after his father, the little boy thrived, and one year later he was joined in the nursery by boy number two, little Sigvard. To the astonishment of the Swedish court, Princess Margaret insisted on being very involved in the lives of her children – a most odd and English notion as per the older members of the royal family. Margaret didn’t care, in matter such as these she trusted her instincts.

Even odder, Margaret insisted her children be dressed in comfortable clothes, with comfortable shoes, so that they could run wild and crazy through the grounds of Sofiero. Not, let me tell you, the way Swedish royal children had been raised previously. What, little princes to come in with twigs in their hair and mud-caps on their knees? And look at their nails, their hands, covered with dirt. Once again, Princess Margaret smiled serenely and shrugged. And as to her husband, Gustav Adolf was as happy as a calf in clover with his loud and boisterous family. What he had never experienced as a child, he now tried to compensate himself for as an adult, supported by his loving wife.

A happy family upon the birth of child nr 4, Bertil
In 1910, a little girl, Ingrid, was born, in 1912 yet another son, Bertil, and in 1916 came the baby, Carl Johan. Five children in ten years. Margaret looks a bit pale and strained in the pictures from this time, as if all this child-bearing was taking quite the toll on her. But nonetheless they were happy and busy, the children thrived as did the gardens, and it was year after year of marital bliss.

In 1919, Margaret became pregnant again. She was thirty-seven at the time, still young enough for the pregnancy not to be a concern. The baby was due in June of the following year, and everything seemed to be progressing as it should. Until Princess Margaret caught a cold. Not a major issue, one would assume – as did Margaret and Gustav Adolf. She sniffled and coughed for some days, she sniffled some more and started complaining that her ear hurt. A lot. An ear infection, no more, the doctors diagnosed. An ear infection that went very bad, developing into a full-blown mastoiditis.  From one day to the other, the Princess went from being eight months pregnant with an aching ear to being dead, leaving her five children motherless and her husband utterly bereft.

Sweden’s English princess was dead. The English butterfly that had so captivated her husband, bringing colour and light into his life, was gone. I imagine Gustav Adolf took a long walk in the gardens she had planned, in the greenhouse she had ordered, sinking down to sit on her favourite perch. His happy family was gone, his brief excursion into a world dominated by love and laughter was at end. Gustav Adolf retreated into the protective armour of protocol and rules.

Louise Mountbatten
In 1923, Gustav Adolf married yet another English lady of royal blood, Louise Mountbatten. Theirs was to be a very long if childless marriage, and by all accounts Gustav Adolf was as lucky in his second marriage as in his first, finding in Louise a woman who was capable of great affection. Not as strikingly beautiful as Margaret, at times painfully shy, Louise compensated by being well-read and interested in everything from politics to social welfare, a good companion to her erudite and equally well-read husband. (As an aside, Gustav Adolf left a library consisting of 80 000 books - and he had read them all)
But despite all her qualities, despite her husband's affection for her, I believe that there were very many days when Louise felt she lived in the shadow of her predecessor and close relative, the oh so beautiful, oh so loved Princess Margaret of Connaught.

Anna Belfrage is the successful author of six published books, all of them part of The Graham Saga. Set in 17th century Scotland, Virginia and Maryland, The Graham Saga is the story of Matthew Graham and his wife, Alex Lind - two people who should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him

Anna's books are available on Amazon US, Amazon UK, or wherever else good books are sold.

For more information about Anna and her books, please visit her website! If not on her website, Anna can mostly be found on her blog or on FB

Monday, July 21, 2014

Make-up in the Eighteenth Century - a fatal attraction.

by Mike Rendell

Have you ever wondered about Eighteenth Century make-up, and in particular about the curious fashion for wearing face patches/mouches/Court plasters (call them what you will)? They were especially popular in the latter years of the Seventeenth Century but still remained fashionable until the end of the Georgian period.

The patches seem to fall into two separate categories - those worn for high fashion, and those worn to hide pock marks. The desire to cover up a disfigurement is understandable. Smallpox affected perhaps a quarter of the population, and frequently left the sufferer with facial blemishes. To reach adult-hood and have a perfect complexion was unusual – and therefore “masking” the blemish was considered important.

Even worse, the great pox (as venereal disease was known) and its treatment with mercury, frequently caused dreadful facial disfigurements. Small wonder then, that women with ravaged faces sought to hide the evidence of disease either with a thickly applied make-up, or with patches (or more usually, both). The image is of the bawd in The Harlot's Progress, by William Hogarth (Plate 1).

A stunning gold and agate box for patches and rouge, c. 1750.
Shown courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Looking at the patches worn wholly for fashion, you need to remember that a porcelain-white complexion was a sign of high class - after all, the lower orders had to work outside and so had ruddy complexions. Her Ladyship distanced herself from such labourers by emphasizing her pale skin, often slathering on white lead. Yes, it was poisonous, and yes, that was known at the time, but it did not prevent those dedicated followers of fashion from literally killing themselves to look as white as a sheet.

How to get the white lead? According to Fenja Gunn, author of  The Artificial Face, you needed the following:

     several thin plates of lead
     a big pot of vinegar
     a bed of horse manure
     perfume & tinting agent

Steep the lead in the pot of vinegar, and rest it in a bed of manure for at least three weeks. When the lead  finally softens to the point where it can pounded into a flaky white powder (chemical reaction between vinegar and lead causes lead to turn white), grind to a fine powder. Mix with water, and let dry in the sun. After the powder is dry, mix with the appropriate amount of perfume and tinting dye.

It sounds delicious, especially with all that horse manure!

A face balm could also be made using a concoction of almond oil heated up with spermacetti (a waxy substance found in sperm whales, normally used in candles) mixed with a tablespoon of honey. 

Men as well as women would whiten their skin. The patches were then applied as a contrast - drawing attention to the pale complexion. They could be kept in a small patch box, and the patches might be made of silk or black paper (in which case they might be applied simply by affixing to the face with a bit of lick) or of velvet, taffeta or leather (in which case a dab of gum arabic might suffice).

There was a whole language attached to where the patch would be worn, borrowed (of course) from the French. Supposedly, you could show your political complexion by whether you wore your patch on yourright cheek or on the left. But ladies would use the patches as a language of flirting - for instance, a patch above the lip invited kissing. Those lips would be coloured with carmine - sometimes bright red but generally pink, applied with a pad of colour-impregnated wool or hair, called spanish wool. The red effect could also be achieved by dabbing on vinegar (fancy a snog anyone?) or distilled alcohol (yes please!). By the middle of the 18th Century coloured lip-balms became available, made from a mixture of carmine and Plaster of Paris. The fashion was for small, bee-sting (i.e. rose bud) lips - and colour might be applied by both genders. You only have to think of those ludicrous macaronis...

Dame a sa Toilette, by Boucher
Back to the patches - they came in all shapes and sizes and a lady might wear a dozen or more at one time. You might fancy a heart-shaped one, or a starry one - or even group them together to make a sort of stylized picture on the cheek or side of the neck. A sort of  dot-to-dot adhesive tattoo!

Other positions for patches had different meanings: just by the eye indicated passion; a heart shaped one on the left cheek showed that you were engaged  and on the right that you were already married. On the nose was saucy, and in the centre of the forehead - dignified. A beauty spot on the breast  was said to indicate a murderess - but then again, some books say that it denoted generosity! Wear two down your decolletage and perhaps you were murderously generous! Or a generous murderer...It is useful to remember that the neck, shoulders and bust were also whitened, not just the face, and for added glamour a lady might accentuate the veins on her breasts with blue lines.

Eyebrows were often plucked - either that, or they were the first thing to disappear as a result of the white lead. This resulted in people having to cut strips of mouse hair to be glued in place, and of course sometimes they came loose during an evening's entertainment, which must have looked most odd. Even Jonathan Swift commented on the fashion:

    “Her eyebrows from a mouse’s hide
     Stuck on with art on either side”

(Curiously, the same poor mouse might also be used to provide pubic hairpieces, called merkins).  

The fashion was for eyebrows to be half-moon shaped, tapered at either end, and an especially pleasing effect could be obtained by the judicious application of lamp-black (i.e. soot) or burnt cork, or even elderflower berries. Rouge would be used to accentuate the white skin - again, more lead-based products! The red would come from vermilion obtained from mixing ground-up cinnamon with mercury, or from carmine (red lead).  Other colourants came from vegetable sources such as wood resin and sandalwood, which would be pulverized and then mixed with grease or vinegar to make a paste.

The Jelly-House Maccaroni, courtesy of the British Museum. Spot the spots!

And then of course there was the high point of your toilet (in other words, your preparations before you went out to face the world) - the wig. It was a bit of a nuisance having to keep putting on powder in order to keep the dratted thing white (the hairdresser used a puffer, while Her Ladyship protected herself with a conical mask) so the fashion developed for applying lard to the wig, so that the powder stuck to it and lasted for days. No wonder lice and other insects were attracted to the smelly concoction, and there are even tales of mice nesting in wigs which were not regularly taken off and brushed through. For ladies the wig powders were often a bluish white. The poorer fashionistas and wannabees might use flour, whereas the aristos would powder their crowning glories with dust - obtained from white lead. Lead was a Bad Thing. It caused hair loss, vomiting, acute head-aches, bowel problems, blindness, and, even paralysis and death. Add that to a regular ingestion of mercury for instance from the lip colourants) and it is amazing anyone reached adulthood!

One such tragic victim was the famous beauty Maria Gunning, who died of lead poisoning aged 27 in 1760. For a decade she had been applying liberal quantities of ceruse to whiten her skin.This compound of lead oxide, hydroxide, and carbonate proved to be a lethal cocktail as the hydroxide and carbonate combined with the moisture in her skin to form acids which slowly ate it away. Her husband obviously liked his ladies to be white as a sheet – one of his paramours (while his wife was alive) was Kitty Fisher, a notorious courtesan who similarly died in her twenties, a victim of lead poisoning. The tart had class – she directed that she be buried wearing her best ball-gown!

Rowlandson's "Six stages of mending a face" dedicated to Lady Archer.
In the finished face - bottom left - she sports patches on her chin and cheek.

Lady Archer was particularly famous for wearing vast amounts of rouge – hence the caricatures by Thomas Rowlandson, above, and by James Gillray. As far as I can decipher from the Gillray featured below and called "The Finishing Touch" it shows Lady Archer holding a rouge pot in her left hand while applying a copious amount of her trademark rouge to her right cheek. In fact I bet the old gal used a trowel...

A final quote from Jonathan Swift on the subject of cosmetics. His wonderfully scatalogical poem  from 1732 called The Lady's Dressing Room describes a man rifling through his lover's dressing table. It contains the lines:

        ...Now listen while he next produces
        The various combs for various uses,
        Filled up with dirt so closely fixt,
        No brush could force a way betwixt.
        A paste of composition rare,
        Sweat, dandruff, powder, lead and hair; 

  He goes on to describe the array of make-up jars on the dressing table:

        Here gallypots and vials placed,
        Some filled with washes, some with paste,
       Some with pomatum, paints and slops,
       And ointments good for scabby chops. 

   Serves him right for trespassing on her territory – some things are best left unseen!

Mike is the author of The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman based on the family collection of diaries and memorabilia from the 18th Century. He has also published a book about the origins of the Circus Astley's Circus - the Story of an English Hussar and is about to have published a fully illustrated book  An introduction to the Georgians. He also does a regular blog on all-things-Georgian here).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Animals of Cottage and Castle: Sheep

by Katherine Ashe

William Holman Hunt's "Stray Sheep" painted in 1852

Like all of the domestic animals we’ve considered, the sheep has been mankind’s partner in survival since ancient times. In fact the sheep is among the oldest, being with us since about 13,000 BC. “With us” may be stretching a point. Sheep have never been quite so cozy in our homes as cats, dogs and chickens. But people have followed them, herded them, plucked, sheared, milked and slaughtered them for meat from a time that was past memory even when Abraham was master of flocks in Judea.

An illuminated manuscript
pic of a shepherd
The shepherd, lowly in social rank in any culture from antiquity to the present, still enjoys a special attraction for the imagination – the allure of freedom outside the restrictions of village and town life. And it’s a stunning political statement in the New Testament that angels announced the birth of Christ to shepherds rather than to priests or kings – a declaration of a new religion specifically inclusive of, and even favoring, the most poor and humble.

For the ancient Greeks and grecophiles of 16th through 18th century Europe, the shepherd and shepherdess at home in the wilderness took on a romantic aura with more than a hint of promiscuity. But for those who labored at the work of crafts or farming, the shepherd seemed a lazy lout who did nothing but sit and daydream while his dogs guarded the sheep and gave warning at the approach of danger. Danger usually took the form of thieves, wolves or lions (yes, there once were cougar-ish lions even in Europe.)

Suffolk ram

Idle for much of the time – yes, although the shepherd had a number of specialized skills. He possessed incomparable knowledge of his country’s terrain, guiding his sheep from sheltered winter grounds to mountainous summer pastures. He acted as midwife at lambing time and as nurse to motherless or rejected lambs (called cossets – hence “cossetting”). In far ancient times he gathered the wool that was shed. As selective breeding developed (another of his accomplishments), he knew how to shear the wool from the skin with as little injury to his dismayed sheep as possible. The good shepherd knew his hundreds of sheep as individuals and who rightly owned them.

Romney ram

Unlike the flocks of Abraham, the sheep in Europe and Eurasia’s huge flocks often were the property of many owners. In ancient Rome, in medieval London, in modern-day Azerbaijan, it has been customary for the moderately rich, or even the poor with a little set by to invest, to put that excess wealth into the ownership of sheep. The immense flocks of the Pyrenees, the Cotswold hills or the Eurasian steppe comprised a sort of savings bank in which the city dweller might have his share: his “interest” paid from sale of wool and of young male lambs for meat, while the female lambs constituted the capital gain of his investment. Most ewes bear one to two lambs per year and every sheep, including year-old lambs, produces a salable fleece each year. Barring the hazards of disease, this investment can compare very favorably with the present-day bank savings account or the gyrations of the stock market.

Border Leicester lamb
From Roman times to the Industrial Revolution the raising of sheep in England was the principal basis of the country’s export trade. Annually, in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the accumulated shearing was sent to Bruges where a banking consortium made cash purchase of the year’s shearing in its entirety. It was a national fiscal disaster when, in 1263, to finance the Crown’s attempt to regain sovereignty from the Parliamentary party of Simon de Montfort, Prince Edward (later Edward I) broke into the vaults of the Knights Templar in London, slaughtered the guards and stole the Wool Guild’s newly arrived annual shipment of gold from Belgium.

But what of the sheep? There are hundreds of breeds, originating in every part of the world. They are bred for meat, for their staple -- their wool that can be long or relatively short, fine or rough -- and in some places they are bred for milk from which cheese is made. Most sheep, including wild varieties from which domestic sheep first were bred, are white. This is very convenient for dyeing. Sheep fiber has a kink so that, when twisted together, the fibers stay twisted instead of sliding apart as will most hair and fur.

Shearing: This usually is done at the beginning of warm weather. By this time the sheep has been wearing her wool for a year and it’s gray, filthy and billowing around her so thickly that if she’s toppled over she can’t get up. If she won’t just lie there submissively, you sit on the ground with the poor animal upside down between your knees so she’s propped against your chest with her head on the far side of your shoulder (do watch out for those horns.) Pulling the wool to one side along the middle of her tummy, insert the point of your shears where the hair comes straight out from the skin; slip the blade between the hair and skin, and cut. Move the shears along, pushing off to each side what you’ve sheared. Roll the sheep between your knees to shear along her neck, shoulders, flanks and hips. Eventually you’ll have a near-naked sheep in your lap with only a strip down her back not yet sheared. Turn your sheep right side up -- while hanging on firmly -- and shear the last strip. The fleece will fall away and you can let your sheep bolt off to her stripped and embarrassed-looking herd mates. If you have several hundred sheep, you and your fellow shepherds can expect to spend a few days at this exercise. It may be done quickly, but there are points off for drawing blood.

Sorting: Each fleece is divided up, the best parts (back and sides) sorted from the worst (the breech), then the fleece is washed. In this process the sheep’s sweaty oil, lanolin, may be skimmed off. Yes, this is that hand lotion ingredient and perhaps it accounts for the attractiveness of shepherdesses.

Carding: Anciently this was done with thistles set in a board, then a pair of boards set with wooden or iron spikes (wire dog brushes are a small modern version of wool “carding combs.”) By the late Middle Ages manual carding had been replaced by a spiked drum through which the wool was fed. Whether by hand combing or machine, the object is to pass a matted wad of fibers through the comb’s teeth as many times as it takes to loosen the mat and set each fiber side by side in the same direction. The result is a pad, a rolag of aligned fibers that is then loosely rolled into the shape of a sausage.

Spinning: The rolag’s fibers are aligned in horizontal circles ready to be drawn out from the tip of the sausage-shape then twisted together by using a drop spindle (a smooth stick with a circular disk near one end) or that icon of feminine industry, the spinning wheel. Symbolic of virtue and economy (though also of witches), a spinning wheel was often a husband’s gift to his bride.

The sheep at Highclere, in a Paradise
Landscape typical of the 18th century
On England’s great estates small flocks of sheep were kept for their contribution to the landscape, their nibbling and evacuating producing magnificent lawns. For that sweep of classical, Arcadian and fenceless perfection, the ha-ha was used by designers William Kent and Capability Brown. It’s a deep ditch with a vertical wall on the outer side and a gradual slope on the inner. A sheep wandering down the embankment is confronted with a high wall of stone-reinforced earth that is invisible to the viewer from the far side. Out for a stroll and enjoying the view, one can easily step off the brink – amid gales of gleeful “ha has” from one’s companions.

Cheviot ewe with her lamb


Katherine Ashe is the author of Montfort, the four volume historical novel on the life of the founder of Parliament.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lady Jean Scott, the Link Between King James VI and the Queen of Scots

by Linda Root

Reiver  Raid on Gilnockie Tower,
from an original by G .Catternoll (PD Art) 

During the latter half of the 16th century, a favored means of anger management between feuding Border families was the institution of arranged marriages. There was no better example than the union of a Ker of Ferniehirst and a Scott of Buccleuch.  

But the result of the wedding of Lady Jean (Janet) Scott to Sir Thomas Ker of Ferniehirst after his first wife Janie Kirkcaldy died yielded results extending beyond arresting a half-century long border feud.  It was Lady Ferniehirst who opened the line of communication between King James VI and his imprisoned mother Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots, and even that was not the only accomplishment of this influential lady. As historians begin to look  closely at prominent 16th century Scottish women, she emerges as a person who kept the Marian cause alive in Scotland, and who gave the maturing king an entirely different insight into his mother’s policies and politics. And she managed to do it during her firebrand husband's frequent periods of exile.

Under the guise of seeking his rehabilitation, she became a familiar figure at the Jacobean court, and thus gained the ear of  the king. What makes her even more exceptional, as pointed out in the excellent treatise Politicking Jacobean Women: Lady Ferniehirst, the Countess of Arran and the Countess of Huntly, c.1580~1603,  Ruth Grant,Chapter Eight, Scottish Women, 1102-1750, the scarcely known Lady Ferniehirst did it with a velvet glove and thus escaped the enmity that neutralized her more aggressive sisters such as  the Countess of Arran, who were less effectual because they stepped outside the limits of what was propitious for an aristocratic woman of the time.

As reviewers of my historical novels set in Marie Stuart’s Scotland are  anxious to announce, there are so many characters of the same or similar names in early Stuart politics that it is impossible to keep them straight. Just as there are several James Stewarts, there are several Jean/Jone Scotts. But according to most authorities on the Scottish peerage, the Jean Scott who is the heroine of this story was the child of Sir William Scott the Younger of Kirkurd and Buccleuch. Some sites say she was a daughter of his marriage to Grizel Bethune, but other sources list her separately from Sir William and Grizel's other children, inferring that she may have had a different mother.Thus, we are uncertain of her pedigree and totally unenlightened as to her birth date and the circumstances of her childhood.

What we do know is that Jean Scott’s  grandfather ‘Wicket Wat', the first Sir Walter Scott of Branxholme, third laird of Buccleuch who had been knighted on the battlefield at Flodden, was murdered on the High Street in Edinburgh in 1552 by a companion of a group of Kers of Ferniehirst. It was claimed to be an ambush in retaliation for a twenty-year-old murder of a prominent Ker by a prominent Scott, and it rekindled an old feud between the Scots on one hand and both the Cessford and Ferniehirst Kers on the other, who briefly ceased killing one another and focused on a common enemy.

At the time, the Regent James Hamilton, Earl of Arran /Duke of Chatellerault was having enough troubles of his own filling a role way beyond his capacity, and to simplify matters for himself, he chose to make an example of the miscreants. He ordered approximately four hundred Kers and their retainers deported to France and threatened to ward any potential troublemakers among the Scotts of Buccleuch in Edinburgh Castle. Seeking relief from such harsh penalties, the warring factions sat down and worked out a scheme of intermarriages designed to quell the enmity, but which for some reason never materialized—all except the one between Jean Scott and Thomas Ker, and it did not occur until much later. The tumultuous reign of Marie Stuart Queen of Scots intervened.

Although the Kers of Cessford sided with the Regency when the Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate in favor of her son in 1567, the Ferniehirst Kers and Buccleuch Scotts were steadfast Marians. They had marched with the Queen and Darnley in the Chaseabout Raids, and later with the Queen and Bothwell at Carberry where she surrendered to the rebels.  The following year they fought for Marie Stuart at Langside before she fled to England.

In retaliation for their loyalty to the Queen, their villages were raided and their castles plundered. In 1568  their leaders who had been captured at Langside were taken to Edinburgh Castle and placed  in the custody of the infant King’s most celebrated soldier, Sir William Kirkcaldy, Knight of Grange, who had become the Castle's governor.

In 1569, in retaliation for the Ferniehirst's support of the rebellion of her northern earls, Elizabeth Tudor had Ferniehirst Castle leveled. The Ferniehirst were without a Border fortress and were living in the Castle under the protection of its governor, who was Lady Ferniehirst's father.  It was restored in 1598 by Jean Scott's stepson Sir Andrew Ker of Ferniehirst, who later became Lord Jedburgh.

Walter Baxter
Creative Commons, Wikimedia Commons
But then, the unpredictable Knight of Grange took umbrage of the manner in which the Queen of Scots had been betrayed and the terms of her abdication perverted and switched sides, leaving him in control of Edinburgh Castle and its environs. His erstwhile Marian prisoners thus became his allies, the castle’s new defenders. After Dumbarton Castle fell to the Regent's forces, the Castilians, as they were called, became the last Marian holdouts in Scotland.  Somewhere in this time frame, Janie Kirkcaldy died and  Lady Jean Scott and Tommie Ker of Ferniehirst formalized the new alliance between Kers of Ferniehirst and Scots of Buccleuch with a marriage.

Unfortunately the most complete analysis of Lady Ferniehirst's political career does not contain information as to her life before her marriage to Sir Thomas Ker, which historians generally characterize as a peacemaking effort, which is perhaps an over-simplification. The Scots and the Ferniehirst branch of the Kers had been mending fences from the time they joined together in the Marian cause.  

Again, we are thwarted by the lack of historical records and the shortsightedness of vindictive men like the Scottish Regent James Douglas, Earl of Morton who destroyed the family records of his enemies when Edinburgh Castle fell. Unfortunately, we do not know when the Ferniehirst wedding occurred, or even when Sir Thomas Ker's first wife Janie Kirkcaldy died. (See note#1, below).

Sir Thomas Ker was likely  taken prisoner with the other defenders of the castle when it fell and briefly detained at Blackness Castle until he was sent to France in exile, although some sources suggested that he fled to France before the castle fell when his retainers deserted. There is evidence that Ker was married to Jean Scott at about that time, and during one of his on-again off -again periods in France, she was with him in Paris and was later chastised  by the Council of the Kirk for having participated in the mass. However, she did not remain in France during his several periods of absence, but returned to Scotland to protect his interests.

 In any event, Sir Thomas  remained in exile until the meteoric rise of Esme Stuart, first cousin once removed of the  affection-starved adolescent King. However Lady Ferniehirst was back at court in Scotland before the arrival in 1579 of the man who nearly turned Scottish history upside down. Esme Stuart, son of Darnley’s uncle John Stuart, a naturalized Frenchman who had been a valued  friend of Henri II, was a a well-known French courtesan and a protege of the powerful Guises, Marie Stuart's French kinsmen, who may have instigated Esme's controversial relationship with their cousin James.

Before 1579, the Regent Morton and the young King’s harsh tutor and overseer George Buchanan had considered the correspondence between Esme and the King to be harmless, but they were wrong.  They should have intercepted and  read the letters. The King was so infatuated with the notes  he received from the sophisticated French courtesan that he offered him his dead grandfather Lennox’s earldom, and to encourage Esme to come to claim it in person, he made Esme Stuart a duke.

Buchanan and Morton were no match for flamboyant Esme. The new Duke of Lennox conspired with Captain James Stuart of Ochiltree and made quick dispatch of the Earl of Morton, who was first deprived of the Regency and later introduced to the Maiden, a primitive guillotine that he himself  has imported from Halifax.

Halifax gibbet, aka the Maiden
Russ Root (c) 2012
During the ascendancy of Esme Stuart, restrictions barring Ferniehirst’s return to Scotland were at last removed.  Jean Scott took an active part in this endeavor, and she and her husband enjoyed prominence during Esme Stuart and his henchman Captain James Stewart's virtual control of the King. Not only had she  been managing her husband’s finances during his absence, she had become a familiar face at the Stuart court, vociferously and successfully championing her husband's quest for reinstatement of his lands and titles.

However, the victory did not last long. When enemies of Esme Stuart ousted him from power, Ferniehirst was back in France again, and Lady Janet remained at home in Scotland, exercising his Power of Attorney. She was also writing to his supporters and his creditors in a capacity uncommon to a woman, even an aristocrat.
By the end  of 1583 when the King  had a firmer hold on his crown, through her machinations Thomas Ker of Ferniehirst came home for good, his itinerary and travel arrangements orchestrated by his wife who had been at Court in Falkland for months  brokering the terms of his return.

In her correspondence with her husband, she took liberties unusual for a wife.  She instructed him not to travel with Esme Stuart’s son and heir Ludovic Stuart, but to come alone and land in Glasgow, and to stay with the Earl of Huntley in the north until his affairs were sorted out.  Once he was in Scotland, she assisted him in gaining favor in the government formed by the new Earl of Arran,  Esme’s former henchman Captain Stewart, who had risen to become Chancellor. Arran was considered an upstart and even more despised than Esme had been.

Near the end of 1585, Arran was ousted  but not before the Ferniehirsts had secured a marriage between their son Sir Andrew Ker, Master of Fernieirst and  Arran's sister Lady Anne Stewart of Ochiltree, a politically advantageous move.  

Arran had barely settled into a quiet retirement before he was murdered by the Earl of Morton’s nephew, but his demise did not bring down the Fernieirsts. By then the King of Scots had come of age and was beginning to exert his own judgment, an event that brought Lady Ferniehirst’s role in history sharply into  focus.

By 1586, Jean Scott's prominence at the Stuart court was independent of that of her husband, who had managed to get himself in hot water with Elizabeth at a time when James was looking covetously at the English throne. A border incident that resulted in the death of one of Elizabeth Tudor's friends while Ferniehirst was warden of the Scottish West Marches made him the target of Elizabeth's rage at a time when the King of Scots was anxious to accommodate her. Thus, the flamboyant Marian reiver Tommy Ker of Ferniehirst spent the last year of his life under house arrest in Aberdeen.

Apparently his banishment did not extend to his wife. During his confinement, Lady Ferniehirst remained a liaison between the beleaguered Queen of Scots and her son during the last years of Marie Stuart's life. At her urging he read and answered his mother's letters. Lady Ferniehirst also opened lines of communication between Marie Stuart and the remnant of the Marian faction,  most notably with the young Earl of Huntley, George Gordon and other of the powerful northern earls who adhered to the auld religion insofar as they were able to get away with it.  She sponsored  those of the younger generation who sought to profit from the imprisoned Queen's favor and covertly sought to undermine the bias against the Queen of Scots instilled in James by men like George Buchanan, whom he had grown to loathe.

George Buchanan
by G. Brounckhhorst, PD-Art
When her husband died in March 1586 and his barony passed to his son by Janie Kirkcaldy, Sir Andrew Ker of Fernieirst ( later Lord Jedburgh), the dowager Lady Ferniehirst continued to assert herself at court, and to manage her husband's holdings for herself and to the benefit of her several children and step-children.  By then those with whom she did business were used to dealing with her and continued to do so after her husband's death. While her influence did not induce the ambitious King to intercede with Elizabeth to save his mother's life, it certainly inspired him to rehabilitate her after her death.  

Among those who rose to great power when James VI succeeded Elizabeth as James I was Lady Ferniehirst's youngest son Robert Carr, who had Anglicized the spelling of his name and became the controversial Earl of Somerset.

Much of the credit for the King’s change in attitude toward his mother and his tendency to reward the remaining Marians with positions in his government both before and after he went to London in 1603 is given to his Catholic Chancellor of Scotland Alexander Seton, Lord Fyvie. That, too, is testimony to the successful management style of Lady Ferniehirst who operated behind the scenes.  She had an uncanny ability to exert political influence devoid of any hint of  pressure likely to be viewed as inappropriate to her sex.  In male dominated Scotland she presented a public image of a loyal and long-suffering wife, a devoted mother and stepmother, and a true if sometimes misguided Scotswoman.

In summary, when Jean Scott wrote to the imprisoned Queen, she enclosed letters from those who wished to show friendship to the Queen, and she made personal recommendations as to who might deserve Marie Stuart's favor. She promoted those same people in her dealings with the King.  

After the Queen was executed, she continued to actively present to James VI  a view of his mother he had not been allowed to see when he was younger.  In essence,she was Marie Stuart’s secret agent at the court of James VI, and perhaps even more than Alexander Seton, it is she who inspired the king's new-found reverence for the Queen of Scots manifested in the tomb in Westminster that James VI commissioned  to commemorate his mother, a display which conspicuously outshines the one he erected for Elizabeth Tudor.

In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press,2014, Rosalind K. Marshal reports that there is no information as to how or where Lady Ferniehirst died and the only clue is in the only extant portrait of Jean Scott painted in 1593.  Doctor Marshal writes, “Above her head is the inscription ‘Ubi amor, ibi fides’ (‘where there is love there is faith’). Like many women of her time, she had supported her husband in both public and private life, finding genuine love and contentment in her arranged marriage….ROSALIND K. MARSHALL.

I am tempted to go one step further and suggest that Lady Ferniehirst may have been the cannier of the Ferniehirsts, and that her achievements are independent of those of her husband Sir Thomas Ker and endured long after his death.  Her friend and correspondent Henriette Stuart, Countess of Huntly, Esme’s daughter, is credited for covertly delivering Queen Anne of Denmark to Catholicism,  and that may well be true.  But in the same spirit and in employing the same subtle techniques, Lady Jean Scott of Ferniehirst made a Marian of King James I of England.  His mother would have been greatly  pleased.

Thank you for joining me in my introduction of this impressive woman.  ~LINDA ROOT

Note One:  Regarding Janie Kirkcaldy's death- Some place her death as early as 1569 (Rosalind K. Marshall, for example) and other sources, primarily English,  place it in London during the Lang Siege (1570-1573), probably in 1571 or 72. In my novels I elect the later date because it meshes with the role Lady Ferniehirst, presumably Janie Kirkcaldy,  is believed to have played in the Northern Rebellion of 1569 when Elizabeth's rebel earls took refuge in her house, and it makes more sense in light of the number and presumptive ages of Janie Kirkcaldy's several children and the fact that Jean Scott's oldest son Lord James Ker of Crailing was not born until 1577.

Note Two: When the Earl of Arran was indicted during the Gowrie  Regime  (circa 1585) his wife Elizabeth, Countess of Arran, was described as "a vile and impudent woman, over famous for her monstrous doings, not without suspicion of the devilish magical art."  No one ever advanced such a criticism of Lady Jean Scott.