Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Norman Conquest of the Scots

We were down in Ayrshire today. a place that is a bit like the Bermuda Triangle. If you go to live there you never see anyone from anywhere in Scotland ever again - unless they come to Ayrshire.
We had lunch at the Failford Inn which makes it's own beer, and exceptionally fine meat burgers ( NB that's a proper unformed beef burger) They do other things too, and being a nice day we were able to sit out. They have a huge midge eating machine, which is not longer necessary at this time of year, though something for the wasps would have been good. Everyone was bothered with them except myself. In fact insects generally don't bother me, and I put this down to having been stung so often as a child that they think I'm one of them now.
The talk was general, but my friend, the Retired Civil Engineer, was of the opinion that the Normans only came as far as Ayrshire as they came north, presumably along the coast ( that's the way most journeys used to be undertaken), found Ayrshire pretty OK and stayed there. They didn't bother going much further - cold and miserable, don't you know. Symington for example would appear to be from the Norman for Simon, and Robert The Bruce was a Norman.
The story is told that Robert's mother - Marjorie of Carrick - was in her castle someplace in Ayrshire, of Norman construction, standing on the battlements, and a group of knights and their retinues passed by.
One of the knights was especially good looking, strong, big and rode a magnificent charger.
Calling her own men at arms, she instructed them to capture this paragon, and bring him to her.
There was quite a barney, and after it, the other knights were driven off, and the Beauty was hustled into the castle.
Robert II - for it was he - was visited every day by Marjorie, who merely asked him one question - " Will you marry me?"
He refused each day for a fortnight, and on the fifteenth day agreed to marry her.
Robert III ( Robert the Bruce) was not a particularly good man, and known for pragmatic political maneuvering - but then at the time so was everyone else. But they were Normans, not Scottish as we think of them.
The thought does occur to me though - was Marjorie very ugly, or was Robert II just playing hard to get?

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