Books, Characters, Highland Menage (16th century Scotland), Historical Reference, Research, Scotland

Research enhances characters and plot

Where Frasers and MacKenzies are buried

Beauly Priory, where Frasers and MacKenzies are buried

Checking genealogy can reveal more than basic facts. It provides clues on how the clans intermarried, leading to stronger connections, or feuds if the contracts were not honored. You may also find interesting facts to add to your characters.

Hands-on research, such as visiting the very places where the events occur, is priceless.

For instance, the 4th Lord Lovat and his wife were well educated. They speak clearly in the series, whereas Laird Grant and Laird Kenneth MacKenzie (both of whom needed a hand to guide them to sign their names) use more dialect. This makes it easier for readers to tell the characters apart.

Note to authors: ’tis best to keep track of who uses ‘ye’ compared to ‘you’ so ye dinna drive yer editor insane!

All names written in bold are historical figures who appear in the series.

You meet Laird Alexander Fraser, 4th Lord Lovat of Beauly, in Captive Love, Highland Ménage 2. He is a strong figure running through the Highland ménage series. His wife, Lady Janet Campbell was, along with her sisters, highly educated. She was the daughter of Sir John Campbell of Cawdor Castle.

As the MacDougalls [fictional MacDougals have one ‘l’] and Campbells had a centuries-long feud, this creates tension between them. Lady Janet’s education, somewhat unusual for the time, provides reasons why she behaves as she does in the series.

Cawdor Castle, seat of Campbels of Cawdor

Cawdor Castle, seat of Campbells of Cawdor

Alexander and Janet’s grandson Simon Fraser, Sheriff of Inverness, married the granddaughter of Laird Kenneth MacKenzie, 10th Lord of Kintail, who you meet in A Lady’s Seduction, book 3, at Castle Leod, which is still the seat of Clan MacKenzie. A chestnut tree, planted in 1556, still grows there, as does Scotland’s tallest redwood.

Laird Kenneth was known as Coinneach na Cuirc in Scottish Gaelic, or “Kenneth of the Whittle”, as he was an expert carver. I use this to show his character, as when he is furious chunks fly!

Laird MacKenzie’s son and heir Sir Colin Mackenzie of Kintail, marries Barbara, the daughter of John Grant of Grant and Freuchie. In reality (see below) he and Barbara married when they were both 15. They had ten children, about one per year, until Barbara died. He then remarried and had more!

He was known as Colin Cam, as he was blind in one eye. I explain this blindness as being caused by the villain William Sinclair of Braal, which gives the MacKenzies very good reasons to assist Lady Alana in A Lady’s Seduction, and A Lady’s Vengeance, books 3 and 4.

Kenneth MacKenzie's tomb at Beauly Priory

Kenneth MacKenzie’s tomb at Beauly Priory

Here’s an example of what can be found through the Internet:

“Mackenzie fought for Mary, Queen of Scots, at the Battle of Langside in the year 1568 where she was defeated and forced into exile. He subsequently became a favourite of her son King James. According to his descendant the Earl of Cromartie, “there was none in the North for whom the King hade a greater esteem than for this Colin. He made him one of his Privie Councillors, and oft tymes invited him to be nobilitate [ennobled]; but Colin always declined it, aiming rather to have his familie remarkable for power, as it were, above their qualitie than for titles that equalled their power.” ”

This explains why Kenneth MacKenzie has a sense of power to push back against Lady Alana Sinclair, daughter of the Earl of Caithness, in A Lady’s Vengeance, book 3. It also explains why the MacKenzie clan has interests in Cromarty (on the Black Isle), leading into An Eager Widow, book 5.

Reference sites for Fraser and MacKenzie — where I found the photo of Kenneth MacKenzie’s tomb

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