Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sir Walter Scott of Branxholme and Buccleuch

Though it would probably seem best to start off this blog with a long and detailed post about our hero, I thought I would start off with one of my favorite characters in this series, Sir Walter Scott of Branxholme and Buccleuch.
Actor Kieth Michell portraying Henry VIII in the 1970 series  Six Wives of Henry VIII. 

From Dunnett's descriptions of Sir Walter Scott, I started envisioning this towering hulk of a man with a prominent jaw and overall strong features and naturally, red hair. He certainly has a very strong persona in her books and to be honest, I think if historical accuracy had not tied her hands with this character, Dunnett might have kept old 'Wat' around for much, if not all, of the series. 

He is one of the many real life individuals woven into the series and lived during the tumultuous and bitter period of the Rough Wooing (Henry VIII's persuasion tactics to get the baby Mary Queen of Scots as a bride for his son Edward), seeing much of the action as his lands were located in that murky area of the Lower Marches. Quite a few times he found himself at the displeasure of the Scottish Crown, but Dunnett portrays him in her novels as a fierce Scottish supporter, though not always in line with those who might have been sitting on the throne. And in that I think she has the right of things. 

He comes across the pages as a wildly passionate man, with a hot temper, quick wit and rough tongue ready to lay his life down for love of his family and native land. She merges Wat into her story as an opponent of Lymond (who at this point has been branded and accepted as a traitor in all corners of Europe) as he tries to discover the loyalties of Lymond's elder brother Richard before the enmity between England and Scotland erupt in all out war. In one of my favorite quotes, Wat is haranguing brother Richard over Lymond returning to Scotland and the current mess of war declaring 'and in between raids every landowner between Berwick and Fife is courting England like a pregnant scullery maid. God knows, I don't blame them. I've taken English money myself...', which immediately goes to show his sense of humor, but also that he is a realistic man. He knows the struggles all men up who have lands marching up and down the border between the two nations will face in the times ahead and he fully comprehends the need to 'promise food and horses and do or don't lick their boots according to the thickness of your walls and the kind of conscience you have.' 

Very quickly, Dunnett sets Sir Wat up to be another hero in her story - maybe not a friend to our intended hero, but most certainly the kind of big, bluff and hardy hero Scotland sorely needed at that time. He is far-sighted, realistic and sharp. Having dealt with the English before, he therefore has knowledge Scotland could put to good use later on. Yes, Sir Walter Scott is one of my most favorite characters in this series and I think it might have been something Dunnett intended all along. 

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