Monday, March 25, 2019

The Baronets of Nova Scotia and Bannockburn House

The above plaque, on the wall just by the entrance to Edinburgh Castle, is ignored by just about everyone. However this spot is, in some sense, a part of Nova Scotia, Canada and as a result, Baronetcies of Nova Scotia can be created here  - and were created here from 1624 to 1707.

It was all the idea of Sir William Alexander of Menstrie, courtier, poet and adventurer who took Nova Scotia, other parts of Maritime Canada, (and the present state of Maine) for his king, James VI of Scotland, 1st of England. In return he was given Long Island, New York which he sold! 

However most of the 329 Baronets of Nova Scotia lived happily in Scotland without so much as a look at the Atlantic, let alone crossing it. This was an early example of 'Cash for Honours'.

It is nicely summed up by Electric Scotland. He writes that Sir William suggested to his Majesty that "it might encourage development of a New Scotland if His Majesty were to offer a new order of baronets. The King liked the idea. After all, his creation of the Baronets of England in 1611 and the Baronets of Ireland in 1619 had raised £225,000 for the Crown. King James signed a grant in favour of Sir William Alexander covering all of the lands ‘ between our Colonies of New England and Newfoundland, to be known as New Scotland ’ (Nova Scotia in Latin), an area larger than Great Britain and France combined." 

About 100 of these baronetcies are still in existence. A display of the shields of the Arms of the Baronets of Nova Scotia is on display at Menstrie Castle.

Menstrie Castle
Most of these upwardly mobile lairds and their houses are forgotten by history, but the fine 17th century house of one has just had new life breathed into it. Sir Hugh Paterson of Bannockburn came from a family of staunch Lowland Jacobites and was convicted of treason after joining the 1715 Rising. He returned to Bannockburn and politics after the amnesty of 1717.

In 1746 during the siege of Stirling, Sir Hugh provided lodging for Bonnie Prince Charlie who fell ill of a fever and was nursed by Sir Hugh's niece, Clementina Walkinshaw, later the mother of his only child Charlotte.

Bannockburn House, just by the big Stirling interchange on the M9, was in private hands until bought recently by the community, .

Bannockburn House

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Camelot by Kelso

Not many people go to Roxburgh Castle nowadays. It's a nice walk along the Borders Abbeys Way where Teviot joins Tweed, but nothing much to see...

In most history books it is only referred to as the place where King James II of Scotland was killed in 1460 by his own cannon exploding beside him (his nine year old son was then crowned James III in Kelso Abbey).

But before it was destroyed, Roxburgh Castle and its associated town to the east on what is now Friars Haugh, were a significant centre of power. In the time of King David I it was for a time the de facto capital of Scotland.

In the Middle Ages the town had as much importance as Edinburgh, Stirling or Perth; indeed it was the first recorded Scottish burgh. Situated on the Tweed, upstream from the major port of Berwick, and close by Dere Street, it was a substantial market town, exporting large quantities of raw wool and hides to Bruges, Ghent and beyond.

At that time the castle may have looked like this (with thanks to Andrew Spratt).

Roxburgh has also been closely associated with King Arthur, inspiring leader of a well disciplined mounted force that won a reported 13 battles, mostly in the lands north of Hadrian's Wall.

Writing about Roxburgh in his 'History of the Borders', historian Alistair Moffat writes, "Cavalry forts have special requirements and the castlemount and the wide haughland between the Tweed and the Teviot provide all of them...The ancient Celtic name of Roxburgh Castle was preserved and before the Angles came to change it, it was called Marchidun: in Old Welsh, the Horse Fort. Medieval and modern Arthurians would have preferred to call it Camelot."