Rob Roy Versus Jamie Fraser: Who Wears the Kilt Best?

Jun 8, 2014 by

I thought I’d give my Facebook followers a little fun by positing this simple question: Who wears the look best–Rob Roy in a kilt or Jamie Fraser in a kilt? The comparison was between the two pictures below–Rob (Liam Neeson) first, and Jamie (Sam Heughan) in the second picture.

Well, hoo whee, did that stir up the hens!  Click HERE to read some of the comments.

 

Liam Neeson as Rob Roy MacGregor

Liam Neeson as Rob Roy MacGregor

 

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser

For those of you who have never heard of Jamie Fraser,  some background is required.  James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, a  Highland warrior,  is the lead character in Diana Gabaldon’s novel Outlander, an historical romance set in Scotland in 1745 and right after World War II–yes, there is time travel involved, with ancient standing stones (not a blue police booth) as the portal.  Diana added  several subsequent novels to the series, which is extremely well written and chock full of historical facts and allusions.

 

You can buy any or all of Diana’s novels (in all formats) on my Amazon list of  her novels by clicking here.    It will be a good investment of both your time and money because the premium cable channel Starz is premiering  the first season of Outlander, the TV adaptation of the novels ( filmed on location in beautiful Scotland)  at 9PM on August 9, 2014.  Starz has been given approval for a second season  of Outlander, as well.

 

outlander_starz

 

Think Game of Thrones, with a Scottish setting, and you’ll be close to visualizing the  upcoming series that has fans shivering with antici…pation.   Sam Heughan, a  Scottish actor, has been chosen to play the critical role of Jamie Fraser, earning him thousands of devoted–and I do mean DEVOTED–fans throughout the  social media universe.

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Fans Reaction to Sam Heughan Tweeting the Word “Sassenach”

 

To be fair, Sam Heughan does look a bit more scruffy in his photo, but Starz has been dribbling out official photos of Jamie/Sam, releasing only a few of him in a kilt.  Here’s one that was tweeted by a Starz employee–a cut out of Jamie in a kilt, looking like he just finished a battle:

 

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The fans are VERY clear , however, on what they want from Starz and Ron D. Moore, who’s adapting the series for TV (his wife is a die-hard Outlander fan):

 

 

Liam Neeson, from Northern Ireland, is a well-known actor, and is highly regarded for his portrayal of the famous Scottish figure,  Rob Roy MacGregor.  Liam also has a serious fan base and it’s easy (on the eyes) to see why:

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Liam in the 1995 Film Rob Roy

But, clearly, there’s a new Scot in town, with dashing good looks, red hair and a kilt–in whatever shape– set on winning over more Sassenach wenches to the Fraser clan.

And in this instance, I’m thinking fans don’t want Jamie/Sam to take his time about it, aye?

 

Jamie Fraser; image source

Jamie Fraser; image source ©SRusso

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Alexander the Fierce, King of the Scots

Jan 8, 2014 by

On January 8, 1107, Edgar I,  son of King Malcolm III and Margaret of Wessex, died in Edinburgh, Scotland.  At the time of his death, Edgar was unmarried and childless, therefore the crown of Scotland passed to his 29 year old brother, Alexander, who was crowned that same day as King Alexander I of Scotland.  Who was this young king, described by contemporaries as a bold and godly man?

Alexander I, King of Scotland 1107-1124 AD

Alexander I, King of Scotland 1107-1124 AD    image

Alexander (Medieval Gaelic: Alaxandair mac Maíl Coluim;Modern Scots Gaelic: Alasdair mac Mhaol Chaluim) was born in 1078, the fourth son of Malcolm III by his wife Margaret of Wessex, who would become Saint Margaret of Scotland in 1250. Upon the death of his older brother, Edgar I, Alexander became King of Scotland; in accordance with Edgar’s wishes, Alexander gave his younger brother, David, the lands of the former kingdom of Strathclyde, or Cumbria. David, the Prince of Cumbria as he was entitled, would go on to become King David I of Scotland after defeating Alexander’s illegitimate son, Malcolm, in battle.

Alexander was by all accounts a pious man, not surprising in light of his mother’s devotion to the Catholic Church. She was a devout Catholic and quite active in reforming the Celtic Church of Scotland along the lines of the continental Catholic Church.  Margaret practiced what she preached, so to speak, pursuing many activities on behalf of the poor and ill.  Alexander’s father, Malcolm III, was not nearly as religious, but indulged his wife in her daily prayers and devotionals and in her dedication to raising her sons to be just and holy rulers.  Alexander  may have been named in honor of Pope Alexander II, the leader of the Catholic Church, who had died just a few years earlier.

Saint Margaret of Scotland, as depicted in her chapel at Edinburgh Castle   image

Saint Margaret of Scotland, as depicted in her chapel at Edinburgh Castle image

Alexander established Augustinian priories at Scone and on Inchcolm Island, sometime between 1114 and 1124. He also appointed his mother’s chaplain and hagiographer, Thurgot, as Bishop of Saint Andrews (or Cell Rígmonaid) in 1107 and granted lands for a priory to be built there.

A king, however godly he may wish to be, must also be willing to raise his sword in defense of his kingdom, a royal duty Alexander understood and was more than willing to perform. In 1114, Alexander joined Henry I of England on his successful campaign against Gruffudd ap Cynan of Gwynedd, a powerful Celtic king of Wales. At some point during his reign, between 1107 and 1114, Alexander also married Henry’s illegitimate daughter, Sybillia de Normandy, a woman with both Viking and Cornish heritage. Henry was thus Alexander’s father-in-law, a distinction which may have influenced Alexander’s decision to fight on behalf of an English king.

Many Scottish chieftains had cause to despise Alexander, and there was no love lost between the Celtic Highlanders and the Anglo-Saxon influenced king.  Malcolm III, Alexander’s father, had wrested control of Scotland from King Mac Bethad mac Findlaích, better known by his Anglicized name, MacBeth–yes, THAT MacBeth,  title character in “the Scottish Play ” by Will Shakespeare.   MacBeth himself is a subject for another post, but let me quickly note that the play, while based on the historical MacBeth, is not an accurate account of either the man or his reign as the last Celtic King of Scotland.  That’s a good thing for Scottish history fans–trust me.

When men (not clearly identified in historical sources) from the Gaelic-speaking earldom of Moray (Moireabh in Scots Gaelic, pronounced Murray), in the northeastern Highlands of Scotland, attacked Alexander at his court in Invergowrie, he quickly pursued them north.  He was known for his fiery, energetic temper and  he ruthlessly quelled the nascent Celtic rebellion.  As a result of his actions against the Highlanders, he was nicknamed Alexander the Fierce, a fitting appellation for a warrior king of Scotland.

 

The reverse of the seal of Alexander I, enhanced as a 19th-century steel engraving.  Image

The reverse of the seal of Alexander I, enhanced as a 19th-century steel engraving.  Image

Alexander and Sybillia never had any children.   She died (the cause is unrecorded) in July 1122, on the tiny island of Eilean nam Ban (Eilean nan Bannoamh: “Isle of the female saints”) in Loch Tay, and Alexander founded a priory on the island in her memory.  She was buried in Dunfermline Abbey, Fife.  Alexander did not remarry.

Alexander did have an illegitmate son, Malcolm (Medieval Gaelic: Máel Coluim mac Alaxandair or Máel Coluim mac Alasdair) who challenged his uncle, David I, for the Scottish throne after Alexander’s death.  Malcolm is a relatively obscure figure, mostly due to the scarcity of source material, which appears only in pro-David,  English sources.   I could find no source that identified Malcolm’s mother or her connection to Alexander.

The end of Alexander’s seventeen year reign as King of Scotland came on April 27, 1124, when he died at Stirling.  He was 46 years old.

In addition to the continuation of his mother’s reforms of the Celtic Church in Scotland and his own devout support of the Church, Alexander is remembered for his reforms amongst the governing civil authorities of the day.  He continued the changes begun in his predecessor’s reign, bringing most of Scotland into conformity with the types of high offices used in England:

  “…the whole of Scotland, with the exception of what had formed the kingdom of Thorfinn (during the Norwegian conquest consisting of the Orkneys, the Hebrides, and a large portion of the Highlands), exhibited the exact counterpart of Saxon England, with its earls, thanes, and sheriffs, while the rest of the country remained in the possession of the Gaelic Maormors, who yielded so far to Saxon influence as to assume the Saxon title of earl.”

History of Highlanders, Their Origin, History and Antiquities, Vol I, p.128, by William F. Skene, 1837

 

 

Alexander also encouraged Scottish trade with other countries, even distant and exotic Asian lands.  His court, like that that of his father’s, was a far stretch from the “barbarous” courts of early Scottish kings and chieftains.   Alexander dressed in silks, jewels and finery from around the world, and members of the Scottish nobility followed suit.  More trading with foreign lands led to a need for more royal coinage. Some of the oldest Scottish coinage dates to Alexander’s reign, when commerce began to flourish along Scotland’s coasts and border areas. The silver pennies of Alexander I are some of the most ancient coins and are extremely rare.

Can we conclude that Alexander the Fierce was an important ruler of medieval Scotland, worthy of remembrance?  Scholars generally seem to view his reign favorably, especially the religious and secular changes he brought about in Scotland.   His granting of Scottish border lands in the south to his younger brother David, however, and Alexander’s swift and harsh reprisal against Highland challenge to his authority over the northern portion of Scotland should be noted.  The historic disjunction of these two parts of Scotland aided David’s relatively bloodless transition as successor,  but it further deepened the division between the Celtic, Gaelic-speaking Highlanders and the Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking Lowland Scots,who made up the majority of the noble rulers of Scotland.  Highland Scotland continued to resist  the degradation of their Celtic heritage, while the rest of the country continued on their course towards English allegiances, lifestyles and, ultimately, English rule.

So, Scottish history buffs, I say keep Alexander I in your to-be-studied pile, but remember that this medieval king is not on a level with truly famous Scotsmen such as William Wallace, Rob Roy or Robert the Bruce.  I give Alexander credit for fierceness, but he sadly lacks in heroic qualities–Hollywood won’t be making an epic based on this historical Scotsman.

Sources:

www.britroyals.com

The Scottish Nation: Alexander (ElectricScotland.com)

www.wikipedia.com

Story of Scotland, Chapter Five: Scotland Under MacBeth Successors, by Robert Gunn

 

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Scotland’s Red Haired Robin Hood

Dec 28, 2013 by

On December 28, 1734, the famous 18th century Scottish outlaw, Rob Roy MacGregor, died at his home in Inverlochlarig Beg, on the Braes of Balquhidder, Scotland.  Raibeart Ruadh MacGriogair, as Roy is known in Scots Gaelic, Ruadh being the Scots word for “red-haired”, was truly a legend in his own time, and is often called the Scottish Robin Hood.

 

Robert Roy MacGregor

Robert Roy MacGregor

Rob Roy was born at Glengyle, at the head of Loch Katrine, in 1671 and married Mary Helen MacGregor of Comar in 1693. Like many of his clansmen, Roy was a strong supporter of the Jacobite cause. At the age of 18, he fought alongside his father in the failed Jacobite uprising of 1689 led by Viscount Dundee, and was badly wounded at the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719, in which a British army of Scots and English defeated a Jacobite and Spanish expedition that aimed to restore the Stuart monarchy.

He spent most of his later life waging a feud against James Graham, 1st Duke of Montrose, who succeeded in entangling Roy in debt that ruined him. After defaulting on a loan for cattle, Roy was branded an outlaw, his lands were seized, his family evicted and his house was burned down. His blood feud with Montrose continued until 1722, when Roy was forced to surrender and then imprisoned. He was finally pardoned in 1727. There is an alternative argument that the MacGregor lands were not seized for non-payment of debts, but rather for Roy’s participation in the Jacobite Uprising of 1715. Under this version of events, Montrose then bought the MacGregor lands in 1720 from Crown agents. There may be some credence to this view because Rob Roy and the whole of the Clan Gregor were specifically excluded from the benefits of the Indemnity Act 1717,  which pardoned all others who took part in the Jacobite rising of 1715.

Beginning with the publication of The Highland Rogue in 1723, allegedly written by Daniel De Foe, the legend of Rob Roy has been spread through numerous stories, poems, books and films. Sir Walter Scott’s Rob Roy, published on Hogmanay in 1817, was a huge success with the public, becoming the equivalent of a New York Times bestseller.  Berlioz composed an overture based on Scott’s story of Rob Roy, Wordsworth wrote a poem about Roy and a whisky cocktail was created in Roy’s honor in 1894:

Of course, no hero is truly legend unless he has a Disney movie about his life, and the Mouse obliged in 1953 with the film Rob Roy: The Highland Rogue.  

The film most associated with Rob Roy, however, is the 1995 film starring Liam Neeson as Roy and Jessica Lange as his wife, Mary:

 

Tim Roth plays the evil Archibald Cunningham, Montrose’s henchman, who gets his comeuppance from Roy in what is widely considered to be one of the greatest sword fights ever filmed:

 

A skillful and fitting end to a Montrose enemy that would have made the real Rob Roy MacGregor proud.

 

Sources:

Oxford DNB.com

Wikipedia.com

 

 

 

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Mar 19, 2013 by

Rob Roy’s headstone— The words “MacGregor Despite Them” are chiseled defiantly on Rob Roy’s Grave. During Rob Roy’s lifetime, the name and clan of MacGregor were banned by the crown – not because of Rob Roy’s action, but because of an earlier dispute with the King in 1603. For a while, Rob Roy used Campbell, the name of his mother’s clan. But once he became an outlaw and bandit, he return to using the MacGregor name as a challenge to his enemies.

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