A King Goes to Scotland
By Vanessa Kelly, Author of The Highlander’s English Bride
In August 1822, King George IV (the notorious former Prince Regent of Regency fame) traveled to Edinburgh. This historic trip was intended to heal the wounds caused by centuries of warfare between England and Scotland, and the harsh repression of the Scottish national identity by the British. Since no English king had visited Scotland in two centuries, the stakes were high, especially for those planning the logistically complicated two-week sojourn.
Fortunately, the king had the perfect man for the job: the popular author and poet, Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter’s lifelong passion, reflected in both his novels and poetry, was to promote Scotland’s storied past, especially that of the Highlands. While not particularly accurate in their depiction of history, Sir Walter’s books triggered in readers a fascination with the colorful traditions of the Highlands, a fascination shared by King George. Encouraged by Sir Walter, George came to consider himself the rightful heir to the Stuart Dynasty—a notion that would have seemed ridiculous to the average Scotsman even a few years before.
As chairman of the Celtic Society of Edinburgh, dedicated to promoting traditional dress and customs, Sir Walter was well placed to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the visit. Intent on creating a splendid medieval pageant to impress both the king and his subjects, Sir Walter sought the advice of theatrical friends in designing the appropriate costumes and staging for balls, military reviews, and parades. A pamphlet was circulated to participants with strict guidelines on how to dress and behave during the king’s stay. One such instruction for a grand ball was this: “No Gentleman is to be allowed to appear in anything but the ancient Highland costume.”
These directions set off a mad scramble for Highland attire. Scottish textile manufacturers, inundated with orders, invented a whole series of tartans for various families and clans who had previously lacked one. One Edinburgh local dryly commented that “a tartan fit has come over the city.”
King George was also determined to dress according to Sir Walter’s colorful specifications. He ordered a specially made kilt and its accoutrements that were both historically inaccurate and wildly expensive. It included a Highland bonnet badge set with diamonds, pearls, rubies, and emeralds, a large dirk inlaid with gold, and matched ceremonial pistols, also gold-inlaid.
During the king’s visit, balls were held to put on a romantic display of Celtic myths and Highland traditions. At the Caledonian Hunt Ball, for instance, George himself decreed that no “foreign music” could be played, but only reels and Scottish country dances.
As Edinburgh decked itself in plaid, history was mostly set aside. The events portrayed Scotland as a land of cheerfully loyal Highland clans and a glorious past. Under Scott’s guiding hand, it was an extravaganza, with state processions, fancy-dress balls, and formal receptions designed to entertain the king and the locals—and reinvent a gritty past.
In many respects, it was all in rather bad taste. But by the time George sailed home to England, it was clear the visit was a resounding success. The monarch was royally pleased with his enthusiastic reception, and his Scottish subjects were impressed with his embrace of their traditions. Thanks to the king’s visit—and Sir Walter’s planning—Scotland soon became a favorite destination for the English traveler, who was eager to sample the beauty and myths of the Highlands.
About the Author
Vanessa Kelly is the award-winning and USA Today best-selling author of The Improper Princesses series, the Clan Kendrick, The Renegade Royals, and The Stanton Family series, in addition to other historical romances. Named by Booklist as one of the “Stars of Historical Romance,” her books have been translated into eleven languages and published internationally. In graduate school, Vanessa specialized in the study of eighteenth-century British fiction and is known for developing vibrant Regency settings, appealing characters, and witty story lines that captivate readers. She lives with her husband in Ottawa. Visit her at VanessaKellyAuthor.com and on the social media platform below.
About the Book
In this dazzling new novel from best-selling author Vanessa Kelly, the wildest member of Clan Kendrick has found his purpose as a government agent. Now he must also meet his match …
Lady Sabrina Bell has never been so embarrassed in her life. Not only did her new suitor fail to appear for their morning rendezvous in Hyde Park, but a thief pushed her into the Serpentine. Being rescued by a burly Highlander just adds to her humiliation. Nor is he content with rescuing her just once. Even when Sabrina travels to Edinburgh as part of King George’s entourage, Graeme Kendrick is there, interfering, exasperating, and so very tempting.
Once notorious for being the most unruly Kendrick brother, Graeme now runs dangerous missions for the king’s spymaster. Yet nothing has prepared him for Sabrina. The only child of a wealthy earl and the pampered goddaughter of the king himself, she is stubborn, impetuous, and far too good for him. He doesn’t deserve her, but he can protect her and then send her safely back home. But the bonny Sassenach has her own ideas—and a plan for seduction that no red-blooded Highlander could resist.