James Graham – 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose

James Graham

James Graham

Portrait by William Dobson, some commentary by Carolyn Bruce.

James Graham was hung, quartered and his head impaled on a stake at the Mercat Cross on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, today in 1650!

On 21 May 1650, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose, Chief of Clan Graham and an able and brilliant soldier, was hanged at Old Market Cross in Edinburgh. When Charles I tried to force upon the Scots a prayer book they regarded as “too Catholic”, the Presbyterian Scots resisted, and James Graham joined them,  partially because of the political power King Charles had vested in Anglican Bishops. Civil war raged for years, with Montrose participating at first against the king, and later, against the Covenanters, as he tried to establish an apolitical clergy. His reputation as a military leader was well earned, and after the Battle of Kilsyth in 1645, the king appointed him Lord Lieutenant and Captain-general of Scotland. When Charles I was defeated in the Battle of Naseby and sent for Montrose to come to his aid, Montrose was defeated at Philiphaugh. Unable to raise another army, he escaped to Norway. Charles I was beheaded, and his son, Charles II, in exile, from where he appointed Montrose Lieutenant of Scotland. As such he returned home to raise an army, but was betrayed; the king had struck a deal with the Covenanters to regain his throne. After his execution “The Great Montrose” was decapitated and his head was set upon “the prick [pike] on the highest stone” of the Old Tolbooth at St. Giles Cathedral. There it remained for 11 years, at which time his body parts were reunited for a hero’s funeral.


You can read about this event in my novel DARK DESTINY, which is book three of the DARK BIRTHRIGHT TRILOGY.

Here is an excerpt:

Chapter 30 – “Letters” June 29, 1650

Drake Castle

The Duke stood in his study, gazing out the open window.  The day was oppressively hot, with temperatures above ninety.  Because of the weather, he was informally dressed – in breeks, a shirt, and no shoes or socks.  “Whew, it’s hot!”  He mopped his brow with a handkerchief.

Dughall spotted Jamison crossing the courtyard with a pack of letters in his hand.  His spirits lifted.  “Perhaps it’s from Gilbert.”  He left the window and moved his ledgers to the sideboard.  There was a knock on the door.  “Come in.”

Jamison entered.  “My Lord.”  The servant was sweaty from the heat.  “A courier dropped these letters at the gate.”  He placed them on the desk.

“How many are there?”


Dughall motioned for him to take a seat.  He picked up one of the envelopes and saw that it was addressed to Jamison.  “This one is for ye.”

The servant grinned.  “I know.  I want to read it together.  It’s from my contact in Edinburgh.  He’s a member of Parliament.  I asked about Montrose.”

Dughall frowned.  “Ah…  The trial.”

“And execution.”

“We shall see.”  The Duke sliced open the envelope and extracted the letter.  “Shall I read out loud?”


The author had some schooling.  It was written in fancy handwriting.

Jamison my friend,

You inquired about the Marquess of Montrose.  There is quite a story to tell.  The Parliament condemned him to death in absentia before he arrived here.  James Graham was brought as a prisoner to Edinburgh and without trial was sentenced to death on May 20th.  Archibald Johnston read his fate out loud for all to hear.  He was to be hanged at the Market Cross with a copy of De Rebus hung ‘round his neck.  This book you may remember was Bishop Wishart’s favorable biography of Graham’s life.  But there was more to his humiliation!  He was to swing on the scaffold for three hours, after which time, his head was to be severed and his body quartered.  Unless he repented, he was to be buried in unhallowed ground. 

Graham did not repent.  He insisted that he was a real Covenanter and a loyal subject.  This was met with jeers and shameful gestures of mockery.

I watched the sentence carried out on May 21st at the town market cross.  I must say that Graham accepted his fate with grace and courage.  When allowed final words, he prayed to heaven, “Scatter my ashes!  Strew them in the air, Lord, since thou knowest where all these atoms are.”

The hanging was then carried out.  As prescribed, his body hung for three hours, was decapitated, and quartered.  The head was displayed on a pike at the Tollbooth Prison, while the parts were dispersed for display in Glasgow, Perth, Stirling, and Aberdeen.      

I suspect that you will approve of this action, given your experience with the man.  But it was a disgraceful end for a Lord of the realm.  I fear that we have set a bad precedent.  After his death, some of us convinced Parliament to bury his body parts in hallowed ground.  They were going to dump them in a common grave on Burgh Muir.

In closing, we must be careful what we wish for!  Someday, it could apply to us.  I hope that this satisfies your curiosity.  Stay safe, my friend.  Give my regards to Lord Drake and the Lady of the castle.

 Sincerely – John H.

The Duke shuddered.  “He’s right.  That was a disgraceful way for a lord to die.”

Jamison grunted.  “Agreed.”


Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

You can read about the trilogy at:



Honours of Scotland

Honours of Scotland

Honours of Scotland

Picture and some commentary courtesy of Davy Tolmie on the Scottish & Proud facebook group

The Honours of Scotland, the Royal Regalia
The Scottish royal regalia, the Honours, consist of a crown, a broadsword, a scabbard and a scepter—like the Stone of Destiny, they too fall into the category of “things mysterious.” For reasons to be explained shortly, unlike the Stone of Destiny, the Honours are no longer used today. The Honours were first used in the coronation of the nine-month-old Mary “Queen of Scots” in 1543. The crown was last worn at the coronation of Charles II at Scone in 1651. According to Scotland’s National Tourism Board: “The Sceptre of Scotland and the Sword of State were both gifts given to James IV by the Papacy, the sceptre in 1494 and the sword in 1507. The original silver-gilt sceptre was restyled and lengthened in 1536 to its present design, which has a polished rock globe atop a finial featuring various religious figures. The sword is 4.5 feet (1.4 m) in length with an elaborately decorated silver gilt handle and etched blade. It is accompanied by a wooden scabbard covered in velvet and silver and a woven silk and gold thread belt. The Crown of Scotland was refashioned in 1540 from an earlier crown for James V. The base circlet is made from Scottish gold and encrusted with 22 gemstones and 20 precious stones taken from the previous crown; freshwater pearls from Scotland’s rivers were also used.”

Read more on “The Honours” at lonk below, a remarkable story of how they survived through the years to eventually end up displayed in Edinburgh after Sir Walter Scott’s efforts in 1818.



I write about the coronation of Charles II at Scone in 1651 in my novel DARK DESTINY.

You can read about the DARK BIRTHRIGHT TRILOGY at:


Eilean Donan Castle and a legend about Seilkies

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

Picture and some commentary courtesy of Davy Tolmie as posted in the Scottish and Proud facebook group.

Eilean Donan Castle is located northwest of Fort William.  It is at the meeting point of three sea lochs on the west coast of Scotland and is situated by the picturesque village of Dornie on the main tourist route to the Isle of Skye.  Here is a link to a webcam of the castle.

Eilean Donan Castle is on Loch Duich.  Davy found this story about a legend connected with Loch Duich.

Legend states that three brothers went fishing at the loch one night. They became enraptured by three seal-maidens who had thrown off their furs and assumed the likeness of humans. While the maidens danced in the moonlight the brothers stole their furs, intending to claim the seal-maidens as their wives. The youngest brother, moved by his seal-maidens distress, returned her seal-skin. For his kindness, the girl’s father allowed the youngest brother to visit the maiden every ninth night. As for the other two brothers, the middle brother lost his seal-maiden wife after she found her stolen fur, and she returned to the loch. The eldest brother, determined to keep his seal-maiden wife, burnt her fur as a preventative measure, only to burn her accidentally in the process.

From Wikipedia:  A Faroese stamp depicting the capture of a seal woman – Selkies (also known as silkies or selchies) are mythological creatures found in Faroese, Icelandic, Irish, and Scottish folklore. The word derives from earlier Scots selich, (from Old English seolh meaning seal).   Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land. The legend apparently originated on the Orkney and Shetland Islands.  Stories concerning selkies are generally romantic tragedies. Sometimes the human will not know that their lover is a selkie, and wakes to find them gone. In other stories the human will hide the selkie’s skin, thus preventing it from returning to its seal form. A selkie can only make contact with one human for a short amount of time before they must return to the sea. They are not able to make contact with that human again for seven years, unless the human is to steal their selkie’s skin and hide it or burn it.


In my novel Dark Birthright, two young boys, Ian and Dughall, talk about Selkies as they are watching seals on the rocks.  Here is an excerpt:

Dughall stood on the precipice and looked below at the sea cliffs. The wind whipped his dark curls around his face. He ran his fingers through his hair, smoothing it back. Water crashed as the tide surged into rock hollows.

Ian gave him a shove, pushing him closer to the edge.

“Hey, stop it!” Dughall shivered as he studied the sheer drop. His heart pounded like a drum.

“Scared ye, didn’t I?”

“Aye!” A puffin stood on the cliff with its bill full of sand eels. It peered into a burrow and bobbed its head, feeding chicks. Dughall’s heartbeat slowed. “Look. A mother puffin feeding her chicks.”

Ian nodded and pointed at the sea, where jagged rocks rose out of the water. “There, on the rocks. Four gray seals.” A speckled male plunged into the water and caught a fish. He lay back and floated, biting off the head. Females lay on the rocks, clapping their flippers.

“Do ye think they’re silkies?” Dughall asked. “That they come ashore and shed their skins, to sing and dance as lads and lassies? Aunt Maggie says if ye steal their skin, they’ll stay with ye as husband or wife. Yer children will have webbed feet.”

Ian rolled his eyes. “Just a story, Brother. Have ye seen such children? Do ye believe everything Maggie tells ye?”

Dughall smiled.  “Aye.”


You can read about the novel at:


Dunnottar Castle – Scotland – a brief history

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle

Picture and historical commentary courtesy of Davy Tolmie

Dunnottar Castle is a venue in my book DARK LORD – where it is the scene of a battle between Covenanters and Royalists.

Here is a bit of history from another perspective:

Dunnottar Castle was the home of the Earls Marischal of Scotland, once one of the most powerful families in the land. The Earl Marischal oversaw all ceremonial activities in the Scottish Court, including the coronations. He was also responsible for the security of the Scottish Crown Jewels, known as the ‘Honours of Scotland’. The story of how a small garrison in Dunnottar Castle saved the Honours of Scotland from certain destruction is one of the most captivating in Scottish history.

Charles I, King of both Scotland and England, was executed in 1649 by Oliver Cromwell. The following year his son (later Charles II) arrived in north east Scotland in a bid to retake the two kingdoms and on his journey south he stayed overnight at Dunnottar Castle. However, in England, Oliver Cromwell was so enraged at the young King’s arrival he invaded Scotland. In some haste therefore, Charles II was crowned at Scone, but the crown and the other coronation regalia could not be returned to Edinburgh Castle which had now been taken by Cromwell’s army. The English crown jewels had already been destroyed by Cromwell and the Honours of Scotland, the most potent remaining icon of the monarchy, were next on his list. His army was fast advancing on Scone and the King ordered the Earl Marischal to secure the Honours and many of his personal papers at Dunnottar Castle.It was not long before Dunnottar was under siege and a scratch garrison of 70 men held out for eight months against the invading forces. Its unique position made the Castle impregnable to infantry attack, but when the heavy cannons finally arrived and began to raze the major buildings, the situation became untenable. Before surrender was contemplated, however, the King’s papers were taken through the besieging forces by a brave young lady acquaintance of the Governor who secured them around her waist. The crown, sceptre and sword meanwhile, had been lowered over the seaward side of the Castle and received by a serving woman, there on pretence of gathering seaweed.


You can read about Dunnottar Castle in the 1600’s in the Dark Birthright Trilogy:


Mother’s Day 2012 – in memory of my mother

Heartland Verses

Heartland Verses by Clara Treat

It’s Mother’s Day 2012.  My mother was an author too.  This post is in memory of my mother, who told everyone I was an author before it was true.

HEARTLAND VERSES is a collection of WWII memoirs, stories, and poems from the heart of Clara Bastien Treat, one of America’s Rosie-the-Riveters.   About the author – Clara Treat was a wife, mother, and grandmother. She was a well-known antique dealer, inventor, and WWII Rosie-the-Riveter.   Her writing was inspired by love of family, freedom, and country. She passed away in 2010.

An excerpt from HEARTLAND VERSES:

Memoirs of a Rosie the Riveter

Chapter One

North Tonawanda, New York

December 4, 1941

A few days before the Pearl Harbor attack


            The days before Pearl Harbor were some of the happiest in my life.  The gang met at my house two or three evenings a week to play cards, listen to the player piano, talk, and eat a wonderful snack that my mother provided.  The house had been built around the turn of the century and had a long room in the front with a lovely front porch.  A gas log fireplace provided a cozy and warm place for us to meet.

            Three tables were set up for pinochle and the front parlor served as a dance floor.  There were fourteen young men and four young women in our group.  Some families wouldn’t allow their daughters to participate because they thought we were too wild, but it wasn’t true.  We were as innocent and pure as the driven snow.  After a while, we would roll up the rugs and dance to the player piano or a lively tune on the radio.

            Most of the guys were like brothers to us, except for a few.  I was regarded as Chester’s girl and my sister Julie, who was younger, was unattached.  She did however take the time to flirt with each and every one of them.

            We were coming out of the depression, which had held us down for so long. Some of our friends joined the army and navy to get a job and joined us on furlough.  To survive tough times my widowed mother ran a boarding house, providing two meals a day, a packed lunch, and a place to sleep for seven men.  My sister and I helped out; keeping busy with laundry, ironing, and housework and my brother Jim kept the lawn and maintained the house.

            On top of that, Julie and I worked as usherettes at the Riviera Theatre several evenings a week.  It was a busy life, but we enjoyed ourselves.  There was no time to get into trouble.

            Then, everything changed…

Julie and Clara Bastien (top) with friends

Julie and Clara Bastien (top) with friends


Want to read more?  Today, through May 31st, you can download a free copy of her book by using coupon code TJ42W at the checkout.

Use this link:


Clara Treat

Clara Treat

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!  Love you.


The Glasgow Assembly – Glasgow, Scotland 1638

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral taken from the cemetery path.   © Copyright Iain Marshall and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence – geograph.org.uk

The Glasgow Assembly of 1638 – a bit of background:

From Wikipedia: James VI of Scotland had reintroduced episcopacy to the Church of Scotland in 1584. After acceding to the English throne, he increased the numbers of bishops. His son, Charles I, continually tried to foster uniformity between the established churches of his realms following the Anglican model. His regulation of liturgy in Scotland through the imposition of a Book of Common Prayer in 1637 sparked rioting and led to a formalised opposition in the National Covenant. His attempts to control the situation from London were unsuccessful, and by July 1638 he decided in his English Privy Council that force would have to be used. To gain time, he agreed to a General Assembly of the Church of Scotland which met at Glasgow in November 1638, but the Assembly firmly decided that bishops were to be deposed and the prayer book abolished. Support for the Covenant grew under the leadership of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl of Argyll, while soldiers serving abroad returned to Scotland, including General Alexander Leslie.


I wrote about the Covenanter uprising and the Glasgow Assembly in “DARK LORD” –  book two of the Dark Birthright trilogy.  Here is an excerpt from a chapter entitled ‘The Glasgow Assembly’:

Palace of Whitehall, London, England

King Charles was in a terrible mood.  He woke this morning with a feeling of foreboding that escalated to a pounding headache.  His wife had been no help.  She’d insisted upon coupling to conceive a child.  Why should he care?  He had two strong sons to succeed him.  This headache was intolerable.  Why on earth did he marry a French woman?  Henrietta was spoiled, fiery, and impossible to please.  As he aged, her sexual appetites exceeded his, leaving both of them dissatisfied…

He slumped at the desk, massaging his temples.  “Breathe, Charles… Imagine a garden… Roses…  Lilies…  Your beloved dogs are there… It’s a perfect painting.”  He continued this fantasy until the headache subsided.

Charles took a sip of tea and followed it with a swig of laudanum.  He sighed deeply and turned his attention to matters of State.  His minister of Scottish affairs was in Glasgow, presiding over the Assembly.  Charles didn’t trust Hamilton, even though he was a kinsman.  The man had too much of a stake in Scotland to be a selfless agent of the King.  He was a compromiser who changed his mind with bewildering rapidity.  Archbishop Laud said that he had an incoherent mind.  The King wondered if that was true.  Hamilton was no diplomat, but he had a military record.  This would be vital if they went to war.  Unbeknownst to his minister, he’d been making preparations.  So far, he’d been able to raise money for weapons and soldiers by selling crown lands and levying taxes.  Swords and pikes were starting to arrive from Belgium and the Netherlands.  He’d engaged a mathematician to advise him on fortifications.  The expense was mind boggling.  Unfortunately, the prospect of full scale war would force him to summon a Parliament.  A parliament is a risky enterprise, he thought.  I’ve ruled without one for more than ten years.  Yet, it had to be done.  Opposition to one of his taxes called Ship Money had caused widespread discontent.

The King needed time to prepare for war.  A successful assembly would accomplish that.  The initial signs were good.  The Councillors had signed the King’s bond of faith and invited his bishops to attend.  Glasgow had been chosen as the venue due to the nearness of Hamilton’s tenants and kinsmen.  It was a sympathetic place to hold the Assembly.

Charles opened a fancy bottle and took another swig of laudanum.  It had a strong alcoholic taste with a touch of cinnamon.  He sighed deeply.  “Laudanum is the nectar of the angels.  To hell with my doctor’s warning!”

Glasgow Cathedral, 1pm

Glasgow Cathedral was a severe-looking structure reminiscent of the medieval period.  Built during the 13th – 15th centuries on the site of St. Mungo’s church, it had been a place of Christian worship for hundreds of years.  The interior was breathtaking, featuring richly vaulted ceilings and fluted stone pillars.  This was the site selected by James Hamilton for the Assembly of the Scottish Kirk.

Hamilton was a bundle of nerves.  Entering the congregational area, he sensed the spirits of thousands of men who walked this path before him.  He’d been given an awesome responsibility, made difficult by a changing political situation.  In his absence, events had once again marched ahead of him.  In the opening session, Lord Rothes and other Covenanters made it clear that the bishops would only be allowed to appear as criminals before the bench.  Leading laymen intended to be present as elders of the church.  It was a cunning move on the part of the Covenanters.   The elections would be managed so that no opponent of the Covenant had a chance to appear before the Assembly.

James grumbled under his breath.  Glasgow had turned out to be a hostile venue.  His tenants and kinsmen were under the control of his mother, Lady Cunningham, who recently announced that she was a Covenanter.  My own mother is against me!

His worst fears had been realized.  None of the King’s bishops attended, because they followed Bishop Spottiswood into exile.  The bishop had been falsely accused of debauchery – profaning the Sabbath, carding and dicing, adultery, incest, and drinking in taverns.  He’d narrowly escaped with his skin.  Leading lay Covenanters attended the Assembly as elders, many of them armed for conflict.

That morning, James had written a note to the King.  Your Majesty.  Truly Sir, my soul was never sadder than to see such a sight; not one gown amongst the whole company, many swords but many more daggers.  The commissioners, some illiterate, many rigid and seditious Puritans, fill me with despair.  What then can be expected but disobedience to authority, if not rebellion?

Things got worse.  Archibald Campbell, one of the most powerful Scots, attended as the eighth Earl of Argyll because of the recent death of his father.  A member of the Privy Council, he now had few reasons to prevent him from signing the Covenant.  He’d confronted Hamilton about the King’s plot to use his father’s influence against him, which made him a ready opponent.

The King’s commissioner was sweating.  This afternoon, he had to read a protest on behalf of the truant bishops.  The participants were taking their seats in the meeting area surrounding the pulpit.  As the day wore on, he tried to have the protest read and failed.  Hamilton was ignored as the Assembly elected Alexander Henderson as Moderator and Archibald Johnstone as clerk.  It was an ominous start to the Assembly.

Six days later, after a long and bitter argument with the Lords Rothes and Loudoun over election, membership, and powers of Assembly, James Hamilton declared its dissolution.  He pronounced the gathering illegal in the eyes of the King and commanded all present to depart on pain of treason.  The commissioner and other royal officers withdrew, leaving Scotland in the hands of the Covenanters…


Read about the trilogy at:


Traitor’s Gate – Tower of London

Traitors Gate - Tower of London

Traitors Gate – Tower of London

Picture  © Copyright Graham Horn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence – geograph.org.uk

Tower Of London

Tower Of London

Picture © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence – geograph.org.uk

From Wikipedia:  The Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill.  It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England.  The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078, and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite.  The castle was used as a prison since at least 1100, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.

Many prisoners of the Tudors entered the Tower of London through the Traitors’ Gate. The gate was built by Edward I, to provide a water gate entrance to the Tower, part of St. Thomas’s Tower, which was designed to provide additional accommodation for the royal family.

The name Traitors’ Gate has been used since the early seventeenth century, prisoners were brought by barge along the Thames, passing under London Bridge, where the heads of recently executed prisoners were displayed on pikes. Queen Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, Queen Catherine Howard, all entered the Tower by Traitors’ Gate.


I wrote about the Tower of London and Traitor’s Gate in my novel “Dark Lord”, which is the second book in the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a saga of old Scotland.  Can you imagine being brought through traitor’s gate to await your fate in the Tower of London?

Here is an excerpt from Dark Lord:

The Tower wasn’t a single building.  Rather, it was a complex of towers and outbuildings located on the north bank of the River Thames.  Surrounded by a moat and high walls, it served as a fortress, royal residence, and prison.  It was also a place of torture and execution, an armory, and a menagerie of rare animals.  The complex was separated from the eastern edge of the city by an open space known as ‘Tower Hill’.  Prisoners were given accommodations according to their status in life.  A peasant found circumstances quite deplorable.

Robert MacNeil had been brought to this place over a month ago.  He’d arrived through the water entrance to the Tower, referred to as ‘Traitor’s Gate’, named so because prisoners accused of treason such as Sir Thomas More passed through it.  After traversing St. Thomas’ Tower, he was taken to the bowels of the Salt Tower, where he was manacled and locked away.  So far, he hadn’t been tortured.  It was a frightening prospect for a fisherman.

Robert stared at his hands.  The iron cuffs were tight, on the verge of cutting off circulation.  The cell was dirty and infested with a variety of vermin.  The chamber pot overflowed in the corner.  His belly ached from the scarcity of food.  For the first few weeks he’d existed on a thin gruel, the color of sickly vomit.  Then for some reason the food got better.  A crust of bread and a piece of cheese certainly made a difference.  Even so, Robert was growing thin and weak…

Read about the series at:


Jeanne Treat