Newsletter – 28th June 99

Summer greeting from Edinburgh.

I hope you’ve all had a chance to look at the new-look Dunnett pages on the web site since the April newsletter and have enjoyed the new features. I’ve got a couple of new items to tell you about which have just been uploaded, more of which in a moment. Firstly let me deal with news that may well be very important to some of you.

Edinburgh Gathering 2000 Bookings

There is now an application form on the web site for the remaining places at the Edinburgh 2000 gathering. As most of you who are on one of the discussion groups or who receive the Whispering Gallery/Marzipan and Kisses magazines will know, announcement of booking details was made in the most recent issue, but the initial bookings were restricted to magazine subscribers. Any places left are open to everyone else from the 1st of July, and the organisers have asked me if I would make a copy of the booking form available to you all to be used for applications. I was happy to agree to this and the form is available on a pair of links from the main Dunnett page ( There is one version in Word6/95 format and one in plain text.
The form should be printed out and applications made by post with the relevant deposit.
I should stress that the inclusion of the form is purely in order to help everyone concerned and that neither I nor James Thin Ltd are involved in the organisation of the conference other than as the booksellers there, and I have no further information than what is presented here and on the form, so any booking enquiries should be made to Travel Scotland.

New DD Portrait on the main page

Dorothy recently supplied me with a copy of a fine new portrait which I believe was taken on her trip to Cyprus last year to promote the Italian editions of Niccolo. I plan to set up a gallery page with some of the older photos and some that have been sent to me by fans, so if you have any that you would like to have included do get in touch.

More “Answers from Dorothy”

To return to normal news matters I’ve added some more answers to the “Questions to Dorothy” page and also include them here below. They include the often discussed question of who was in the tent with Oonagh, and a couple more responses to Heike Meyer’s detailed questions about King Hereafter.
If you have any questions that haven’t already been covered (and don’t require the revelation of some key plot point in Niccolo), do drop me a message with them.

The Seraglio Chess Game

I’ve also put up a new feature in which I’ve reconstructed the first part of the Gabriel-Lymond chess game from Pawn in Frankincense. You really need to have some understanding of chess to get much out of it but I hope it may be interesting for those of you who do.

Still no word on the title of Niccolo 8 but it looks as if the March 2000 date for publication is likely to be correct. More news as soon as I get it.
For any of you who like to hear news of Scottish books and publishing events I should perhaps mention the new Scottish Books Newsletter and the associated “Capital Letters” feature on the website which I’ve recently started. If you’d like to be added to the list for this there is a subscription button on the Scottish Books page which works the same way as the Dunnett subscription button, or just drop me a message.

New answers uploaded June 99

Musical Preferences?

Q. Music features heavily in parts of both series – what are your favourite pieces and particularly do you have any favourite vocal pieces?

A “Haven’t yet allowed myself the luxury of classifying the period music. I need something knock on the head emotional as a writing accompaniment. Wagner, often.”

The Event in the Tent – who was it?

Q. Is it really Francis or Gabriel in the tent with Oonagh? In PF, who is the “Unbeliever” who visits Oonagh in her tent and makes love to her? Some of us believe, like Oonagh, that it is Francis. Others believe Dragut when he later tells Oonagh it could not have been Francis, and that therefore it was Gabriel. She seems to believe Dragut, and on this side of the argument, the author did tell us after their first love scene (in QP) that this was the first and last time Francis and Oonagh would make love. Some say this was an act uncharacteristic of Francis but very characteristic of Gabriel; others feel that had it been Gabriel, he would later have taunted Francis with this and he never does. How could Oonagh not know the difference between Francis and Gabriel – even in the dark – when they are physically so different? So who is right?

A “Advice: when you hit a puzzle, it often doesn’t work to analyse the scene in isolation. That way, you can probably find as many cogent arguments on one side as the other. What is ideal – and God forbid that I should expect you to re-read more than you want to – is to have the whole series fresh in your mind, including all the history of these characters, both on their own and in their relations with one another. These little episodes are ways of asking you to stop and think again about people in the light of the story’s overall themes, which have a lot to do with arrogance and responsibility, and very little to do with sentiment. Finally, an authorial voice is an authorial voice. Believe it.”

King Hereafter – Lulach’s utterances

Two more in the series of King Hereafter questions from Heike Meyer

Q. In p 1, ch. 18 Lulach says: ‘There was a king who got a child on the miller’s daughter of Forteviot.’ And after Sulien asks‚ ‘the same king?’, he answers ‘His name was Henry’. Is this a reference to some story mentioned by Henry of Huntingdon? Or to a poem or ballad concerning two standard characters of folk-lore, the king and the miller’s daughter? We discovered quite a few ballads, but none connected with Forteviot.

A. “The King of Alba who ‘murdered his uncle and married his uncle’s widow’ was Macbeth, according to a history written 400 years after Macbeth’s time by Andrew of Wyntoun, who professed to think that Macbeth was King Duncan’s nephew. (According to my theory, the king who married his slaughtered uncle’s widow was Malcolm). Wyntoun was also the sole source of the miller’s daughter story, which had King Duncan (who had two lawful sons), begetting a bastard on the miller’s daughter of Forteviot. This son supposedly grew up to be King Malcolm III, founding a line of Kings and even a Pope (named by Wintoun) ‘all descended from this one humble miller’. A dangerous premise for a court historian, you would think, except that in early times, a man of illegitimate descent could become a King (or a Pope), whereas, by the time Wyntoun was writing, a King born of nephew/aunt incest was a big no-no. So the miller’s story could have been necessary because Wyntoun knew that Malcolm married Macbeth’s widow. All subsequent historians ignored the miller.
The reference to Henry and another variety of miller relates I think to King Henry I and his mistress, a real situation which might have coloured Wyntoun’s little scenario. “

Q. In p. 3, ch.13, Thorfinn and Alfgar discuss Robert le Bourguignon. And T. adds: ‘Lulach says that because of a nephew and a great-grandson of Robert the Burgundian there sprang a new line of kings for England and Scotia, and some love songs.[…] Because of Robert’s great-nephew, the seats of Lulach’s descendants were occupied by Jerusalem, although against the monks of Loch Leven, even Jerusalem failed.’

Now we’ve been searching our heads off for suitable relatives of Robert’s, who e.g. supported the Anjou-Plantagenets in their struggle for power. The poet and crusader Maurice de Craon, the supporter of King Henry II, could be the great-grandson, and some members of the Nevers and Semur families provide the nephew and great-nephew, but which of them are meant? Someone suggested that Robert the Burgundian is no reference to Robert de Nevers, surnamed‚ Le Bourguignon, but to his uncle Robert, Duke of Burgundy (which would make William the Conqueror his nephew by marriage and Guillaume d’Aquitaine his great-grandson). Can you help us?

And what is meant by the Jerusalem reference? A religious order like the Templars or the Hospitallers, which had its roots in the Holy Land? We discovered that the Culdees of Loch Leven were still there when the Culdee movement as a whole had already vanished (actually we found this in an article about medieval cheese-making – obviously they payed their taxes to the king partly with cheeses!), but in the 14th century St. Serf’s seems to have been also a Augustine priory. But we couldn’t find anything to connect the Augustines with Jerusalem. Or is it a reference to the growing influence of the English (and one of the Plantagenet’s ancestors was king of Jerusalem, at least)?

A. “I seem to remember infinite numbers of Robert le Bourguignons, all of them a pest. They do, however, constitute a wonderful invisible link to Scotland.. The charters for these families are good and only have to be analysed (in their hundreds). If I’ve mixed up the Roberts, let me know next year (!), but in this instance, it doesn’t affect the point Lulach was making. As you suggest, the poet Maurice de Craon was the song-maker. The first R de B I’m concerned with, went to the Holy Land and died, 1098. His son, Robert le B de Sable, died by 1110. A surviving son, Rainald le B, swapped Sable for Craon. Rainald’s son, R le B of Craon (Palestine 1138/48) was Grand Master of the Order of Knights Templar, (founded just before David became King of Scotland, and later replaced by the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem). About 1128 the monks of the monastery of St Serfs in what is now Fife, Scotland, successfully lodged a complaint against R le B, seigneur de Sable who had taken a bit of their land of Kirkness. This was formerly royal land, and Lulach’s heritage, (as were Mar and Moray, in which the Templars would also hold land). In 1145 King David gave St Serfs into the keeping of the canons of St Andrews.
And lastly, R de B of Sable (d by 1110) was a cousin by marriage of Alan FitzFlaald (Fleance), whose family formed the link between the Archbishopric of Dol and their stewards who came from Brittany to Scotland, and by marrying into the Bruces, gave rise to the Stewart kings of Scotland and England.”


That’s all for now
Best wishes to you all


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