14 April 2022

Articles on the Women of Bruce and Dunbar

Coming in 2022
Women of Bruce - Part 7 - Daughters of Robert the Bruce - Marjorie Bruce Stewart, Elizabeth de Brus Oliphant of Gask, Margaret de Brus of the Glen, Christian de Brus of Carrick, Maud de Brus de Issac, Margaret de Brus Countess of Sutherland, 

Coming 2022
Women of Bruce Part 7 and 8
The Sisters of Robert the Bruce: Maud and Marjorie

Coming in  2022
Women of Bruce - Part 6 -  The Oft Forgotten Sisters of Robert the Bruce--Mary

 Isabel Douglas Drummond Stewart, Countess of Mar and Garioch
Great-Grandniece of Robert the Bruce

Wyntoun's War of the Rough Wooing of my 16th Great Grandmother (and cousin to Robert the Bruce)

Women of Bruce - Part 5 - Sisters of Robert the Bruce--A Tale of Two Isabels

Women of Bruce - Part 4 - Sisters of Robert the Bruce--Christian

Women of Bruce - Part 3 - The Wives of Robert the Bruce

Women of Bruce - Part 2 - Isabel Macduff, countess of Buchan, a woman who crowned a king

A Tale of Two Women and One Castle - The Ladies of Dunbar - Part Two - Agnes Randolph

A Tale of Two Women and One Castle - The Ladies of Dunbar - Part One - Marjorie Comyn

Countess Mabel Montgomerie -- a woman ahead of her times, or a monster in men's eyes

(Just a note -- images are stock images or digitally created images, not meant to be taken as real images of the Bruce women...lol.  Actor portrayed, you might say)

17 March 2022

11 March 2022

“Well, Little Girl, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Shards of Destiny

A fellow author wrote a very interesting blog last month:


Kaye Spencer's favorite childhood toy. Check it out. For me, her words brought up distant memories...and good ones.

When I was a small child I recall people asking me, “Well, little girl, what do you want to be when you grow up?”  Most children were quick with an answer.  A nurse. A ballerina.  An astronaut.  A cowboy or a policeman.  Those children seemed so sure of their futures.  Yet, when those queries came to me, I felt nothing but confusion.  I would shrug and think myself stupid for not having an answer.  Always a bit of a rebel, a loner, and most definitely a daydreamer, none of the typical professions seemed to call to me. 

However, there were two points when destiny revealed itself to me—a special shard in time that whispered, “pay attention, lass...this is a turning point in your life.”  I was too young to fully understand when they occurred, yet in hindsight, the signposts were so clear.

The first time the Hand of Fate touched my young life was in 1958.  It came in the form of a magical toy—at least it was magical to me—one that I could only obtain by collecting box tops from Kellogg’s cereal.  That special toy leapt to mind when I read Kaye Spenser’s blog.  Obviously, it wasn’t the value, since it was something you earned by eating cereal!  Yet, to me it was the most precious treasure. 

In the 1950s you often could earn items by collecting box tops, or even found items concealed inside boxes of products.  I recall my mum collecting a set of plates, cups and saucers from boxes of soap flakes (NO such thing as liquid soap back then!).  Each box had one of the pieces of pottery.  Sometimes, it would be tumblers.  And you could save the box tops to get bigger pieces like salad bowls, or serving platters, or a cut crystal pitcher.  I guess it was an adult’s version of Cracker Jacks with their “surprise” inside.  For kids, there were other items you could earn with your box tops.  Recall in the movie The Christmas Story when Ralphie sent off for his Ovaltine’s Little Orphan Annie’s decoder ring?  Well, now you have how an idea of kids of my era eagerly munched Kellogg’s cereals, trying to save enough box tops before an offer’s time ran out.  I never tried before. The gifts of toy cars, dolls and such didn’t interest me enough to keep eating the same cereal for months.  One day that changed. My indifference vanished when I picked up a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and happened to glance at the back.  I felt as if I couldn’t breathe.  For a heartbeat the earth stopped rotating and all around me receded to shadow. All I could see was a very colorful image of ladies and warriors, and two armoured knights jousting.  As my surroundings receded about me, I heard the sounds of the huge destriers, their snorting, hooves pounding, the crash of the lances against shields.  I’m sure they intended them as a promotion for boys, but I wanted those toys so much.  They offered two knights—one in black armour on a black barded horse, and one in silver on a silver charger.  The knights were detachable from the horses, as were the knights’ shields and lances.  You could wind them up, and set them hurdling toward the other so they actually jousted.  A very sophisticated toy for a box top offering.  I was determined to earn those toys!

When I told my mother that I wanted them, she arched an eyebrow and rolled her eyes.  I could clearly read her thought, “That’s your grandfather’s doing.”  Well yes, he did teach me to love history, especially the Middle Ages.  Knights, Scotland, Robert the Bruce, James “Black” Douglas and Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray were tales with which he filled my hungry mind.  He read me stories about them instead of fairytales.  So true, he planted the seeds.

Yet, it was something more.  A feeling as if the Hand of Destiny was touching my young life.  I had no idea what it truly meant, or how it would shape my future, but I knew it was important that I earn those toys.  One stumbling block—such a sophisticated item required a higher number of box tops.  My heart feared I would never be able to consume enough corn flakes in the time allotted.  When I emptied my first box, I cut out the painting of the ladies and knights at the tournament on the back and kept it close.  I slipped it under my pillow at night and dream beautiful stories of ancient times.  At Christmastime when I went to my grandfather’s there were toys—expensive toys.  Oddly, I don’t recall what presents I received that year.  I do clearly recall the knights that I wanted so badly and sadly knew they wouldn’t be under the tree.

Late one night, I was sitting up in the dark, cuddled in the window seat with a tartan blanket, and watching the night sky.  I hoped to spot a shooting star so I could make a wish—one that I would somehow get those knights.  I often talked to myself, or sometimes imaginary friends—signs of an intelligent child, I have since learned.  So when I did see the star streaking across the night sky, I made my wish.  “Star light, Star bright, wish I may, wish I might...”  My grandfather came in minutes later and said if I got in bed, he would tell me a tale of the valiant James Douglas.  I didn’t know then that he had overheard my wish.

As I had worried, I failed to save enough box tops.  My heart ached, despondent that I would never get those toy knights.  Easter came, then school let out.  One day, I got a notice to pick up a parcel at the post office.  Sometimes, my uncles would send me things, small remembrances.  Curiosity was burning as I ran home with the box. Breathlessly, I opened the package wrapped in brown paper and string, and imagine to my surprise, my utter delight, when I discovered nestled in a bed of tissue paper where the two knights.  After hearing my wish, my grandfather had gone out and bought twenty boxes of corn flakes to get the box tops.  Bless him!  At times, in my small child’s eyes he seemed so formidable.  As an adult, I never doubted the love in his heart.

My hands were shaking as I wound them up, and sent them to jousting.  Merely cheap plastic toys gained by eating corn flakes.  Yet, they were so much more.  As I played with them, I didn’t see toys designed for little boys to enjoy. Instead, I saw handsome James Douglas and Thomas Randolph jousting before King Robert Bruce.  In my mind’s eye, I envisioned Bruce’s wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, or another countess at court, tying their ribbons of favor to Douglas’ or Randolph’s sleeves.  Those toys were touchstones that carried me into a magic realm of adventures, of handsome knights and lords, beautiful ladies, and love.

My treasured toys were carefully protected through the decades.  But Fate isn’t often kind.  They were lost in a house fire ten years ago.  I lost many precious items in that fire.  They were just little plastic toys.  Yet, I mourned their forfeiture.  They were and had been so much more to me.  One day, after I moved into my new home in another town, I was prowling a secondhand shop with Candy Thompson, looking for unusual finds.  Imagine my shock when sitting there in the middle of a big bowl were the two knights!  While not the original ones, it felt like a piece of the past had come back to me.

The second time, I felt Fate touch me was when I was almost thirteen.  It was summer and I was in place in the middle of nowhere Kentucky, standing before a turn-rack of paperback books, browsing novels by Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels and Phyllis Whitney.  Faintly, in the background, I heard a tune playing on a radio—The Beatles’ Paperback Writer.  Once more, for that long heartbeat the world held its breath, and all I could see was the Gothic romance in the rack before me.

As I listened to the lyrics, I knew...I wanted to be a paperback writer.  Not a bestselling author, not Jane Austin, simply a paperback writer, with a means to allowing others to follow me on my distant adventures.  Suddenly, that little six-year-old shrugging when someone asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up was vanquished.  I understood I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to pen tales of handsome warriors and beautiful ladies in a time gone by.

So what did you want to be when you grew up?  Did you have special toys that touched you in some way?  Did you have someone kind enough and understanding enough to feed those dreams?

14 January 2022

Isabel Douglas Drummond, Countess of Mar and Garoich


Isabel Douglas Drummond,
Countess of Mar and Garoich

When I research the people in my family tree I often fall in love with them as I did with James Douglas or Thomas Randolph.  How could I not?  They were men perfect to be heroes of the romance novels I pen.  Or I see their lives unfold, almost as if designed for a movie as in the romance of Margaret de Seton and Alan de Wynton— a love and marriage that nearly sparked a war.  Sometimes, I am overcome with sadness at the fate of my ancestors.  Such as the valiant hero Alexander Ramsay, who was abused and starved to death by William Douglas of Liddlesdale (who was then killed by another William Douglas—his uncle, the first earl of Douglas—in revenge for Alexander’s horrible death).  Another poor soul that touched me was my second great-grandmother, Rebecca Ellen Knight Montgomerie, who starved to death in 1937 in Nicholasville, Kentucky, ten years after her beloved husband had died and left her alone and destitute.  My grandfather remembered both Rebecca and Toby—his grandparents, and spoke of them with love and pride.  No one cared about her fate.

One that especially haunts me is Isabel Douglas, my cousin eighteen times removed.  Born in Scotland, Isabel was beauty, a rich woman, well-titled and endowed with castles and money.  She came with a rich heritage, so vital to the forging of Scotland into a nation.  And yet, all that power, wealth and influence failed her in a most spectacular, and horribly sad fashion.  

Her bloodlines came from the great Scottish houses of nobility.  Her great- grandfather on her father’s side was William ‘le Hardi’ Douglas – the valiant commander of Berwick Castle, who gave his life supporting William Wallace.  He was the first noble to back Wallace in his rebellion.  His son went on to be the fiercest fighter Scotland has ever known—Sir James ‘the Black’ Douglas.  Yes, Robert the Bruce’s most trusted commander was her great-granduncle.  But then, on her mother’s side you can see the ancient Stewart and Mar lines, going back to Bruce himself.  She was his great-grandniece, as well.  Her father was William Douglas, 1st earl of Douglas, Mormaer of Mar (the very one who killed his nephew William Douglas over the murder of Alexander Ramsay).  Her mother was Margret Stewart Swinton Mar, Countess of Douglas (through her husband), but also Countess of Mar and Garioch, in her own right.  
Isabel was thus courted by all the men in the Highlands, the most sought after woman in all of Scotland, looking to align themselves with these royal houses of Douglas, Stewart, Bruce and Mar.  Of all the swains vying for her hand, Isabel chose Sir Malcolm Drummond, the son of John Drummond, 11th earl of Lennox, to be her husband, a fine match.  He was brother-in-law to King Robert III of Scotland.  Matters went along well for the couple for nearly a decade.  Her husband was a trusted advisor to the king, and was often traveling on business of the realm.  They seemed happy, outside of Isabel bearing no children.  That last detail would soon come back to haunt her.

arms of James Douglas, 2nd earl of Douglas

She was a prize, indeed, but she expected all the castles and titles that went with her family name to go to her older brother, James Douglas.  He became the 2nd earl of Douglas and Mar upon the death of their father.  She was married, so beyond the covetous eyes of Scotland’s power-hungry men.  However, her heroic and dashing brother gave his life leading the Scots to victory at the Battle of Otterburn in August 1388.  He died without leaving any legitimate children, and with his death, all his titles and wealth, outside the Douglas entailment, were left to his sister.  She also inherited the titles through her mother, Countess of Mar and Garioch.  Like her brother, Isabel had no children—heirs, and worse, no powerful husband, brother or father to protect her.  Suddenly, she was left wide open to plots and devious plans to seize her and control the fortune, castles and the prestigious titles that came with her.

Death of James Douglas, 2nd earl of Douglas at Otterburn

In 1402, Isabel was left behind at Kildrummy Castle, the seat for the Earldom of Mar, while Malcolm was off for business at one of their other castles.  No sooner had he reached his destination than he was set upon by a band of Highlanders, led by Alexander Stewart, the illegitimate son of Alexander Stewart, earl of Buchan, ‘the Wolf of Badenoch’.  Alexander tossed Malcolm into the dungeon of his own castle, where he soon died at the hands of his captors.  Isabel was left alone and increasingly isolated.

A crime such as this would have been dealt with swiftly in better times, but Scotland was undergoing a period of upheaval.  The king was old and sick, nearly infirmed by this point, and the real power in the country was Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, who virtually was king from 1388 to 1420, during the final years of reign of his brother Robert III, and even into the early reign of James I, who had been imprisoned in London.  His nephew David, duke of Rothesay was heir to the crown, but he died after Albany imprisoned him at Falkirk. When one plays fast and free with laws and decency, I suppose it’s not surprising that he turned a blind eye at what his nephew Alexander did to Malcolm Drummond. 

Kildrummy Castle

In August of 1404, Alexander and his gang fell upon Kildrummy Castle and forced Isabel to sign over the earldoms of Mar and Garloich to him and his descendants.  I am sure after Alexander murdered her husband, she signed anything put before her just to save her life.  The next month, she anticipated that the charter would be invalidated for reason of duress.  It’s unclear what happened, whether the charter was voided or not, but in the summer of 1404 Isabel Douglas Countess of Mar and Garioch and Stewart held a major meeting in the fields in front of the gates of Kildrummy Castle. The "purpose" was to "consider the needs of the state and local government" with Alexander, Bishop of Ross, Andrew Leslie of Sydie, Walter Ogilvy of Carcary, William Chalmers, Richard Lovell, Thomas Gray and all the people of the neighborhood. In presence of this noble assembly, Isabel agreed to marry Alexander Stewart, and handed over to him the castle of Kildrummy, with all its charters and rich goods and the earldom of Mar.  Oddly handled affair, for if she was marrying him of free will, then why make a demonstrations of giving him all her money, titles and castles?  The marriage took place 9th December 1404 sealing her fate.  Since she was now legally his wife, the king (Alexander’s cousin) confirmed Alexander as the earl of Mar and Garloich.

The events shocked the kingdom, but Alexander escaped any punishment due to his close relationship with the royal family.  Isabel was held prisoner for the last four years of her life, dying in Douglas Castle in 1408.  No one cared that the murderer of her husband forced her to wed him so he could usurp her titles and inheritances, or kept her prisoner during the final years of her life.  After all, she was just a woman.  She was barely forty-seven years old when she died.  She died childless.  Totally alone.

Castle Douglas

In 1424 his self-styled titles of earls of Mar and Garioch were regularized by James I, his cousin.  Alexander Stewart lived on, dying in August of 1435.  He had remarried in 1410, to Marie van Hoorn, daughter of the Lord of Duffel.  She failed to give him any heirs.  He did have an illegitimate son, Thomas Stewart, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Archibald Douglas, 4th earl of Douglas, duke of Toraine, and great-granddaughter of James ‘the Black’ Douglas.  However, since he was illegitimate he could not inherit the titles his father had stolen.  Oddly enough, Alexander was on a jury of twenty-one knights and peers that convicted his first cousin, Murdoch Steward, 2nd duke of Albany and two of his sons for treason just before his death, destroying the Stewarts of Albany.  Another son, James fled to Ireland to escape the same fate.

Since the earldom could not pass to Thomas, it reverted to the crown, and was later given to John Erskine, 6th Lord Erskine, whose descendants hold the title to this day.  I have a feeling Isabel perhaps found some measure of peace in Stewart losing in the end what he fought so hard to gain.

My writer’s imagination can envision the terror of a woman finding herself alone in the world, and her only value is the material things she can offer a man.  I often wonder about her death, how she died at such an early age.  I can see her in my mind’s eye, walking a dark corridor and knowing there was no saving herself.  As I said, she haunts me.

There is an interesting side note to this, and just my supposition.  Isabel's brother, James, the 2nd earl of Douglas, married Isabella Stewart, the illegitimate daughter of Robert II and Elizabeth Mure.  Like her brother Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch, when Robert II married Mure, both Alexander and Isabella Stewart were made legit.  

However, after James Douglas' death at the Battle of Otterburn, the bulk of his monies went to his sister, along with all lands not entailed to the Douglas line.  I have to ponder if Isabella, now a "princess" of the Stewart line, and was forced to wed a second husband after James' death, wasn't a bit jealous of Isabel Douglas, her sister-in-law.  Isabel was younger by a decade, considered the most sought after woman in Scotland, beautiful, with dozens of castles and the most wealthy woman in Scotland, thanks impart to her brother.

It was the son of Isabella's brother who murdered Murdoch Drummond, and took Isabel Douglas hostage, later forcing her to marry him.  Maybe it's the writer's mind in me, but it makes me curious what, if any, part Isabella Stewart Douglas played in the plotting for her nephew to seize control of Isabel Douglas Drummond?

Deborah writes a Scottish Medieval Historical series the Dragons of Challon in the time of Robert the Bruce,
and Contemporary  Paranormal Romance series 
the Sister of Colford Hall.

06 January 2022

The Tragic loss of my cousin Mary Folk


Mary Irene Elizabeth Folk
(7th February 1957 - 5th January 2022)

It is such sad news.  My second-cousin, Mary, died yesterday.  Mary was born with cerebral palsy.  She endured many operations trying to help her legs, leaving her unable to bend her knees and ankles.  She was independent lady, who saw the loss of three brothers, one her twin, and a sister over the years.  Her father, a vet who served in Vietnam, died in the 1990s.  Then her mother, Jewel was lost over a silly accident--a stubbed toe that caused a secondary bone infection, which eventually claimed her life.  Her younger brother, Richie, broke his back in a diving accident when he was in his teens and was left a quadriplegic.  Mary helped care for him until his death.  

So many times, so many turns, life was not kind to Mary.  She walked with a cane, but kept her mobility until a bad fall several years ago.  At that time I began a campaign to get Mary to move from Corona California, where she lived most of her life, to be closer to me.  I tried to help her make plans to sell her house, and help her buy a home here.  I didn't like her being alone.  She refused flatly, citing she had better medical benefits in California and not wanting to lose them.  I tried for months to change her mind, but Mary could be quite stubborn when she chose.  I think, in truth, she didn't want to leave her home, because the cemetery where where beloved brother, mother and step-father was just across the street from her home.  She couldn't leave them.

  She began to have a problem with her ankle, it split open and the wound wouldn't heal.  Another bout in the hospital to help heal that brought another specter -- she caught Covid while in the hospital.  She seemed to recover, but she was never back to normal.  From that point she stopped walking.  As of late, she was confided to her bed, with a caregiver coming daily to aid her. 

Somehow, a fire started behind the hospital style bed.  Mary had no escape.  The fire department reached her, but she was horribly burned by then.  They took her to the hospital where she died later that day.  After barely escaping a house fire myself, I shudder at the nightmare way this kind soul was lost. 

Life was never kind to Mary.  It seems death was not either.  I am in shock.  She was the kindest person, so full of laughter and love.  No matter what life threw at her, she was always laughing and looking for the bright side of things.  Life is never fair, but for Mary it seems so cruel.

Words cannot express the deep sorrow within me...