A Legend of Montrose

A novel by Sir Walter Scott

pic pic

picThe story is set in Scotland during the turbulent times of the civil “wars of the three kingdoms” in the mid 1640s, as two different factions, the Royalists struggling to retain power against the increasingly popular presbyterian religious way of life and the “Covenanters” affiliating themselves with the Roundheads in England, favouring a parliamentary political system in a violent civil war. The situation is further complicated with a third protagonist group the ‘Children of the Mist’, a band of outlaws. The Royalists are led by the Earl of Montrose with an envious military record and reputation, aided by his kinsman the Earl of Menteith. The Covenanters are led by the Marquis of Argyle with a similar reputation, ably assisted by clan member Sir Duncan Campbell.
        Against a background of political intrigue and violent confrontation, murder and mayhem in the struggle for power involving the different feuding clans and groupings, runs a story of romance, noble virtue, courage and treachery, including a love triangle, a kidnapping and an intriguing case of mistaken identity reminiscent of Arline’s adventures in Michael Balfe’s opera “The Bohemian Girl”. The novel is a little bit slow at the start, the first half describing the characters and setting the scene as the tension builds towards the main action and a decisive confrontation at Inverlochy between the forces of Montrose and Argyle in the later chapters.

Main Characters
The Earl of Montrose, (James Graham) - Initially appearing as Anderson, Menteith’s servant.
The Earl of Menteith - Montrose’s number two.
Dugald Dalgetty, of Drumthwacket - An experienced soldier of fortune.
Angus MacAulay of Darnlinvarach Castle - Laird of Kintail
Allan - His rather unpredictable brother.
Annot Lyle - Mysterious musical domestic of the Macaulays.
The Children of the Mist - A band of outlaws.
The Marquis of Argyle - (Archibald Campbell) Head of the Clan Campbell and the Covenanters forces.
Sir Duncan Campbell, of Ardenvoh - Argyle’s second in command.
Lady Campbell - His wife.
Ranald MacEagh - A son of the Mist.
Kenneth - His grandson.

        Despite his rather lowly status compared with the nobles in charge of the various factions, responsible for recruitment, policy and strategic decisions, and providing the funding and resources for their respective cause, the author has chosen to unfold the story by following the exploits of Captain Dugald Dalgetty, an experienced mercenary soldier. This rather remarkable character is very courageous and rather a stickler for the rules of warfare and chivalrous standards, but can be quite amusing in the distinctive way he speaks. His favourite pastime is wallowing in nostalgia, reminiscing and relating, ad nauseam, his past experiences in the 30 years war in Europe with Gustavus Adolphus the King of Sweden, to anyone who will listen. Indeed he has named his beloved war horse Gustavus. He has been recruited to the Royalist army by the Earl of Menteith in a chance meeting on the road, on more generous and agreeable terms compared to his previous experience in the service of the parsimonious Gustavus Adolphus.
        The author is not explicit about the reasons, although it could be that having reached a low point in fortunes, with a need for regrouping and to play for time until the promised reinforcements of troops from Ireland arrive, but the royalists decide to send an envoy to the Covenanters to engage in discussions about a truce and Dalgetty is perceived to be the ideal person for the task. The mission is to be undertaken under the auspices of, and accompanied by Sir Duncan Campbell, Argyle’s number two and Dugald is dispatched to Ardenvoh Campbell’s residence to begin negotiations.
       Captain Dalgetty arrives at Ardenvoh on the eve of the anniversary of an attack on the castle by the children of the mist, in which the four children of the family were kidnapped and disappeared feared dead, and it is the tradition of the parents to commemorate this dreadful event with a day of fasting and mourning. In consequence the Royalist envoy is accompanied to Inveraray Castle, the home of Argyle by a couple of guides, Sir Duncan to join him on the following day. The Marquis is very suspicious of his visitor despite a letter of introduction from his second in command and Dalgetty finds his welcome less than hospitable, he is treated as a spy and thrown into a dungeon. In the gloom of the windowless cell the Captain discovers a fellow captive in the form of the wasted Ranald Maceagh a member of the outlaw tribe the children of the mist. In conversation amongst other things, he learns that one of the Campbell’s children survived the assault on their home and now is an accomplished harpist and lives as a domestic servant with the Macauley family. Her name is Annot Lyle. This family, Angus and Allan, support the Royalist cause and are friends and associates of Montrose and Menteith and often discuss the war and its progress. Allan, the younger brother is a rather moody and complicated character with a mysterious past and a jealously guarded affection of Annot. The young Menteith also has feelings for Annot Lyle but in accordance with the custom and practice within the nobility and her lowly birth, he knows marriage is impossible and doesn’t declare them.
       During the night, at Inverary a mysterious figure appears in the darkened prisoner’s cell, later identified as the Marquis of Argyle, who has entered via a secret passage from his apartment. Realising that he is to be interrogated and hung as a spy Dugald overpowers Argyle and puts him under restraint, escaping with Ranald using the secret passage to the Marquis’s apartment and the chapel, deceiving the chaplain with plausible reasons for their sudden appearance and asking for guidance, in his own inimitable style. Calmly persuading the guards to open the gates at the entrance, in the most audacious and business-like manner. Ranald guides the pair over the pass towards the outlaw camp but they are pursued using dogs and in a battle, with other members of the outlaw band coming to their aid, they fight off the pursuers and escape to take refuge with the children of the mist at their camp. Dalgetty, severely wounded, remains for several months with the women of the camp to recover. Argyle, meanwhile withdraws from the Covenanters cause to concern himself with his own estate and more domestic matters, but the scene is now set for a decisive change of fortune.
       By now Montrose is reinforced and with Dugald Dalgetty and Ranald Maceagh back in harness is anxious to further his plans, wondering whether it is more advantageous to march on and take Edinburgh or to defeat Argyle on his own patch at Inveraray. He eventually chooses the latter and attacks Inveraray Castle with the help of ‘the children of the mist’ to guide his army over the mountain passes. Argyle’s fortress is taken by surprise and overwhelmed by the onslaught, the Marquis escaping by taking flight across the water. This offensive action by Montrose forces the Marquis back into action, and he re-joins the army of his fellow covenanters with his followers. Dividing their forces into three, two of which head off to confront Montrose, Argyle himself decides to get behind and follow Montrose’s army hoping to surprise him with an attack from front and rear. Montrose receives intelligence from friendly clansmen in the area that Argyle has been spotted behind them, and having received assurances of support from the Camerons and others in the area, Montrose does an about turn to take advantage of the better intelligence and superior position. The battle which ensues is related in the most vivid and eloquent fashion by the author which ends with a resounding victory for the Royalists but at the expense of great loss of life, which includes Gustavus the beloved horse of Dugald Dalgetty being shot from under his gallant master, a very poignant moment indeed for the doughty warrior. In this moment of triumph, celebrations are rather short lived as old family and clan animosities re-emerge as the true identities of Annot Lyle and Ranald Maceagh become widely known amongst followers of Montrose. Annot Lyle has been identified as the abducted daughter of Sir Duncan Campbell and only survivor of his children, at which point both Allan Macauley and the Earl of Menteith declare their feelings for her. There always has been mutual attraction between the maiden and Menteith, which has flourished over a period of time and conversely Annot has become increasingly intimidated by Allan Macauley’s moods and erratic behaviour to the extent of being scared of him. The book ends in a dramatic fashion with Menteith declaring his intention to marry Annot, Montrose and Angus Macauley, aware of the provocation this would be to Allan, are fearful of the consequences and advise against it, to no avail. As has been predicted in earlier chapters, violent confrontation erupts between the two love rivals and Allan stabs Menteith and rushes from the scene, swimming the river and disappearing into obscurity, never to be heard of again.
       Please read this fascinating novel to discover the outcome. Would the victim Menteith survive? Would Annot be reconciled with her true family, the Campbells? Would a marriage between families with opposing loyalties, both religious and political be accepted? Have fun enjoying a good read and finding out the answers to these questions.

Palfreyman - June 2022


Farthingale Publications: ..... is a Lancastrian hobby website of curiosities and nonsense, other reading material is accessible via the home page and the menu at the head of the page.