Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Friday, September 21, 2012

Death Before the Altar by Laura Vosika

Today on History Undressed, I'd like to welcome guest author, Laura Vosika! Today she's sharing with us a fascinating and gripping bit of Scottish history! Enjoy :)

Death Before the Altar

by Laura Vosika

The Butterfly Effect: it’s a source of endless fascination to us, to contemplate how the smallest decision can have profound and far-reaching effects. Books have been written, movies have been filmed, and every one of us knows such a story first-hand, how oversleeping saved someone from being killed or how a man changed his mind about which movie to see that night and ended up meeting the woman he would marry. We marvel at how that one decision, that one small detail, affected not only the individual’s life, but so many lives all around him, spreading out sometimes for generations.

Such was the case for poor John Comyn, a Scottish earl in the late thirteenth century. He couldn’t begin to guess how the wild weather in March 1286, or his king’s race to get home to his new wife, would lead to his own death, years later, in 1306.

Maybe, considering he was a king and his death was bound to have an impact, it’s not entirely fair to call this the butterfly effect. Nonetheless, Alexander’s decision, a very personal one, on the night of March 19, should have been, historically speaking, nothing but the beat of a butterfly’s wings. After a council meeting, he wanted to get home to his new wife. This was nothing like the political decisions being made in his councils with his earls. It was nothing that should have affected the fate of a nation, except, hopefully, to produce an heir.

But the meeting went long. The night grew dark. And the weather grew rough.

Alexander ignored the warnings of his men to stay put; he ignored the warning of the ferry man to stop and insisted on crossing; and somewhere in the night, on the other side of the water, his horse stumbled. Alexander was found dead of a broken neck. He left no heir, but his granddaughter, the young Maid of Norway. She died in the Orkney Islands on her way to be crowned the new ruler, leaving Scotland with no clear heir.

What followed is the time many of us know from the movie Braveheart, when Edward I of England stepped into the gap and began his takeover of Scotland; when William Wallace resisted and was finally captured and executed in 1305.

In the wake of a failed kingship by John Balio, and Wallace’s death, there remained the question of who would take the throne. As the two strongest contenders, whose families had long been at odds over the question, John Comyn, Earl of Badenoch, and Robert the Bruce, agreed to meet at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, to set aside their long-standing differences and discuss the matter. They left their swords outside the church.

Historians have argued for centuries, and perhaps will for years to come, about what happened in the kirk and why. But the end result was that Bruce pulled a knife, there before the altar, and stabbed John Comyn. There are those who believe he went to the meeting intending to do so. He had made agreements with various people, including Comyn, that would not have been to the liking of Edward I of England, and he had reason to believe that Comyn had betrayed him to Longshanks.

My personal belief is that Bruce went into the meeting with honorable intentions. He had been known as hot-tempered in his younger days, and there had been a long history of animosity between himself and Comyn. Some sources state that he spent the rest of his life feeling guilt for that act before the altar.

Whatever his intentions, Comyn ended up dead at Greyfriars Kirk, one of thousands of deaths that ultimately resulted from Alexander’s insistence upon defying a rough, wild night to reach his new bride.

About Blue Bells of Scotland
Shawn Kleiner has it all: money, fame, a skyrocketing career as an international musical phenomenon, his beautiful girlfriend Amy, and all the women he wants--until the night Amy has enough and leaves him stranded in a Scottish castle tower.

He wakes up to find himself mistaken for Niall Campbell, medieval Highland warrior. Soon after, he is sent shimmying down a wind-torn castle wall into a dangerous cross country trek with Niall's tempting, but knife-wielding fiancee. They are pursued by English soldiers and a Scottish traitor who want Niall dead.

Thrown forward in time, Niall learns history’s horrifying account of his own death, and of the Scots’ slaughter at Bannockburn. Undaunted, he navigates the roiled waters of Shawn’s life-- pregnant girlfriend, amorous fans, enemies, and gambling debts--seeking a way to leap back across time to save his people, especially his beloved Allene. His growing fondness for Shawn’s life brings him face to face with his own weakness.

About the Author

Laura Vosika, author of the Blue Bells Chronicles, is also working on several other novels and a non-fiction book on raising a large family. Past publishing credits include an essay in Glamour magazine.

Laura grew up in the military, visiting castles in England, pig fests in Germany, and the historic sites of America's east coast. She earned a bachelor's degree in music, and master's degree in education, and worked for many years as a freelance musician, private music instructor, and school band director.

She currently lives in Minnesota with her nine children, and assorted menagerie.

Blue Bells of Scotland:
The Minstrel Boy:


sarahrichmond.com said...

Fascinating post. Thanks.

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