Tartans, Clans, and Sir Walter Scott

by Guest Blogger Josi Kilpack

My newest novel Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott is my first novel set in Scotland. Having seen Braveheart once upon a time and being an avid fan of Shawn Connery’s brogue wasn’t quite enough. In order to tell the story as best I could I had to learn the history and the details of daily life in Scotland at the turn of the 19th century. So many details! One aspect I learned a great deal about was the Scottish tartan and I’m excited to share some of those details here, hopefully clear up some misconceptions that I certainly had about what is such a strong association with all of Scotland. I must put in a disclaimer that I am new to Scotland research and I know there are a lot of experts around this blog, so please correct me if I got anything wrong. I promise I can take it!

 One of the first things I learned is that as a modern American I think of “plaid” as a pattern—plaid pants, for example (no, I don’t own any 🙂 ) that guy on the MTV show that painted his parents house plaid. The pattern isn’t called plaid in Scotland, however, it’s tartan, but means the same thing—the pattern, essentially an adjective. When a Scotsman talks about a “plaid” he’s using it as a noun, and he’s referring to a woven wool blanket of tartan design. Clear as mud? 🙂

I also learned that the tartans we currently associate with different clans—for example I descend through Clan MacArthur which has its own tartan shown here—were not designated in that way prior to 1800. The colors and patterns were based on what plants were available in the area to make the dyes. It was only later, when the tartan was reintroduced, that specific tartans were more or less “assigned” to specific clans. There are other tartans that are not assigned to a specific clan, and therefore are considered generic.

And yes, I said the tartan was “Reintroduced,” another interesting tidbit I stumbled over.

I was disappointed to learn that during the years when Walter Scott was a young man, kilts and tartans were decidedly … out of fashion. After the Highland clans rose up in the ill-fated rebellions against the British crown in the 1740’s, wearing the tartan—any version of it—in public was against the law thanks to the Dress Act of 1746. The law remained in place for nearly 40 years, until it was repealed in 1782 by Parliament. Even after the repeal, however, an entire generation had become accustomed to not wearing the symbolic patterns of their ancestral clans and traditional dress and style was very similar to that of England. In 1822, when King George IV visited Edenborough—the first monarch in well over a hundred years to travel to Scotland—Walter Scott wore a kilt of Campbell tartan for the official ceremony where he was knighted a baronet. Wearing the “short kilt” became a public statement and has since become one of the strongest symbols we have of the country.

The Lady of the Lake

Walter Scott has three passions: Scotland, poetry, and Mina Stuart. Though she is young and they are from different stations in society, Walter is certain their love is meant to be. For years, he has courted her through love letters. She is the sunshine of his soul.
 
Though Mina shares Walter’s love of literature and romantic temperament, it’s hard for her to know if she truly loves him or if she has only been dazzled by his flattery. When she meets the handsome and charming William Forbes, her heart is challenged. Who will she choose?
 
But as every poet knows, “the course of true love never did run smooth,” and on one windy day in the lake country, Walter meets Charlotte.

At twenty-six, Charlotte Carpenter believes she will never find love. After all, she is a Catholic-born Frenchwoman living in London with a family history shadowed by scandal. Though quiet, practical, and determined to live a life of independence, her heart longs for someone to love her and a place to call home.
 
Passion and promises collide as Walter, Mina, and Charlotte must each decide the course for their futures. What are they each willing to risk to find love and be loved in return?

Josi Kilpack is the author of twenty-five novels—including the twelve-volume Sadie Hoffmiller culinary mystery series—one cookbook, and a participant in several co-authors projects and anthologies. She is a four-time Whitney award winner, including Novel of the year 2015, and winner of the Utah Best in State for fiction. She is currently writing historical romance. Josi loves to bake, sleep, read, and travel. She doesn’t like to exercise, do yard work, or learn how to do new things but she does them anyway. She and her husband, Lee, are the parents of four children and live in Northern Utah.

History of the British Flag

Union Jack

Union Jack

Today, the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is referred to as the “Union Jack” or “Union Flag.”

The Union Jack as we know it today was born from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801.  However, before 1603, the British flag was very different than today’s flag. England, Ireland, and Scotland were different countries, each having their own individual flags. England’s flag honored the patron saint of England, St. George with his emblem of a red cross on a white field and had been the official flag of England since the Medieval times.

Flag of England

Flag of England

King James’ flag did not become official until the reign of Queen Anne, when England and Scotland united their parliaments to give birth to the new nation of Great Britain.

Flag of Scotland

Flag of Scotland

In 1707, Queen Anne officially adopted King James I’s flag as the national flag. This new combined flag was used for 101 years.That changed when Queen Elizabeth I of England, who was unmarried and had no children, named, on her deathbed, that her cousin, King James VI of Scotland, succeed her. So King James ruled both nations. In Scotland, he was King James VI. In England, he was King James I. At that time, King James called his two countries the “Kingdom of Great Britaine.” To further show his desire that the countries be considered one, King James made a proclamation in 1606 that his countries’ flags, the red cross of Saint George, who was the patron saint of England, and the Saltire of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, be combined to reveal the joining of two countries. (Wales was not represented in the Union Flag by Wales’s patron saint, Saint David, because at that time, Wales was part of the Kingdom of England.

Flag of Ireland

Flag of Ireland

However, changes did not stop there. In 1800, Ireland became part of Great Britain in the Act of Union with Ireland, passed by both the Irish and British parliaments despite much opposition. It was signed by George III in August 1800 to become effective on 1 January 1801.

In 1801, the Union Flag was redesigned to include the Cross of St. Patrick (which has a red, diagonal crosss), the patron saint of Ireland. It is in this form that the British flag exists today.

There is some disagreement as to the origin of the the term ‘Union Jack.’ One source cites it evolving from the ‘jack-et’ of the English or Scottish soldiers. Another alternative is that it’s a shortening of Jacobus, the Latin version of “James.” It may also have been derived from the term  ‘Jack’ which once meant small as evidence by the nickname “Jack” which once meant “little John” or “John Jr”–a proclamation by Charles II required that the Union Flag be flown only by ships of the Royal Navy as a “jack,” which is a small flag at flown at the bowsprit. So really, it’s anyone’s guess.

If you are a Brit, you probably learned about the creation of the modern-day British Flag in school. But as an American history geek who loves  all things British, I find this history fascinating, and I hope you do, too.

BTW, I found a great figure of the four flags superimposed upon one another on Enchanted Learning:

http://www.enchantedlearning.com/europe/britain/flag.shtml

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Jack

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom

http://www.nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/history-of-the-british-flag.htm

http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchUK/Symbols/UnionJack.aspx

http://www.britroyals.com/union.htm