|Emerald earring and necklace. V&A Museum.|
|Pub in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland.|
This week find me at World Travelers Today. This is a very exciting new travel site that not only features stories of wanderlust from around the world, but tips for travel safety and security plus behind-the-scenes features on local food and drink. I’m personally looking forward to the “Bartenders’ Best!”
I’m very pleased to have the honor of writing a guest post about my travels in Scotland – what a trip down memory lane! Find out why Edinburgh is a UNESCO City of Literature, and learn where to lunch like J.K. Rowling.
|Evening gown, c. 1810. The Met.|
|Homemade strawberry preserves.|
which dishes to serve for dinners at various levels of formality.
|Photograph of Dundonald Castle, c. 1903.|
Let’s face it – historical fiction is easier to get wrong than to get right. When you write historical fiction, you aren’t just writing a story; you’re building an entire 360 degree universe. Your characters likely have ways of thinking, and ways of expressing themselves, that are the result of a time and place very different from our own.
|The River Annan near the village of Annan, Scotland.|
What can be more romantic than an elopement? Thomas is 37-year-old a war hero, Kate is about 16, adventurous, beautiful, and charming (but penniless). The couple heads off to Annan, Scotlandby coach for a private ceremony, so secret that it was concealed from Thomas’ family for months.
|St. Mary the Virgin, Kent.|
Unlike the first ceremony, which had no priest or church, Kate and Thomas’ second marriage took place with a traditional ritual according to the Church of England. The ceremony was held in the small parish church of St. Mary the Virgin on a Monday morning in June. Thomas paid an extra fee for a license for the ceremony. By this time, Kate and Thomas had two young children, although he signs the register as a “bachelor” and she as a “spinster,” the common term for an unmarried woman.
Interestingly, one other couple was married in the church that same day. The bride, a Sarah Morris, made a mark in the register in lieu of signing her name.
Sadly, the church that Kate and Thomas were married in no longer stands, The parish, however, is still active and the present church building was erected in the late 1800s on the basis of a previous medieval design.
The third and final marriage was held according to the rites of the Church of Scotland. It is believed that this ceremony took place so that Thomas could receive an inheritance from one of his relations!
Kate and Thomas traveled to Scotland during the summer and autumn of 1825, retracing part of their earlier elopement route, visiting the villages of Fife, and spending time in Edinburgh. While in Edinburgh, Kate caught the attention of Sir Walter Scott, who promptly dashed off six verses of poetry in admiration!
Information on the first and third marriages drawn from Cochrane: The Real Master and Commanderby David Cordingly.
Information and documents related to the second marriage acquired through the kind assistance of staff at the Kent County Archives.
|View of Edinburgh from the gunports on the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle. Google “Mons Meg” – you”ll be amazed!|
When I stepped out of the train at Edinburgh Waverly station, a misty rain pattering the cobbles as I heaved my suitcase through the late afternoon crowds along North Bridge Street, I found that my eyes could go only in one direction – up.
Edinburgh is hilly. As a Pennsylvania native, I spent a stint living in Pittsburgh and that taught me all about cities built on hills – or so I thought. But Edinburgh is another species altogether. I moved in a perpetual uphill trajectory from the time I stepped off the train until, half a mile later, I reached the courtyard of my rented flat. From the courtyard it was two flights of stairs up to the building’s doorway. I tugged my suitcase and laptop along, keyed in my door code, and tumbled into the corridor.
The journey didn’t end there. The flat waited four flights above. Stiff upper lip, I thought, and hauled my gear along.
What I found was worth it – a snug living room, a tiny but well-appointed kitchen, a bathroom with stacks of fresh towels, and a bedroom furnished with neat furniture of a recognizably Ikean stamp. I was now four stories above the streets of Edinburgh. Across the courtyard, I caught sight of a turreted building marked with a plaque reading “Edinburgh Writers’ Museum.” A sign if there ever was one.
The grey spires of Old Town rose above me as I made my way through the streets for groceries, and later, as I made daily pilgrimages over the bridge to the National Records of Scotland to pore over Katherine Cochrane’s correspondence.
It was easy to be in Edinburgh. The National Records building practically cajoles passerby to pop in with a welcoming sign – imagine finding that kind of invitation at the British Library! – and on my second day, I must have looked native enough, because a Brit stopped and asked me for directions. Even being assaulted with bagpipe music (both real and recorded) incessantly throughout the Royal Mile became an amusement rather than a nuisance. I learned to ignore the Braveheartposters everywhere; everyone else did.
By days, I read Kate’s letters. By night, I explored for Thai food, availed myself to the flat’s extensive DVD collection, and even, in a fit of creative fury, hauled self, boots, bag, laptop, and notes to one of the loveliest Starbucks in the English-speaking world for a pumpkin spice latte and a session hashing out the next stage of Kate’s adventures.
There are places where the creative spark flows, and where it withers. In Edinburgh, I found only sparks.
|Quotes from Scottish writers line the street leading to the Scottish Parliament Building. I got snapshot happy!|
|Hanover Lodge, Regent’s Park, London, 1827. Villa designed by architect John Nash.|
|Regent’s Park Canal. Regent’s Park, London.|
In my previous post, I introduced Katherine (aka Kate) Barnes Cochrane, intrepid traveler and mother of five, whose remarkable adventures are, in my humble opinion, enough to make her a candidate for inclusion on Badass of the Week. But tracking Kate across the pages of history requires luck, patience, and a good bit of metaphorical digging. To my knowledge, no biography has ever been written about her. To get to know this woman – to unearth the “facts” of her life, to discover her voice – I turned to her paper trail.
|Portman Square, London, 1813.|
|Headstone of Katherine Cochrane, Countess of Dundonald. St. Mary the Virgin, Speldhurst, Kent.|
|Portrait of Katherine Cochrane, Countess of Dundonald, and her daughter Elizabeth.|