Lords of Misrule

by Nigel Tranter

Reviewed by David Maclaine

For some of Scottish descent, Lords of Misrule might just as well be named Meet the Family. Though I'm not directly descended from everyone on Nigel Tranter's two-page list of characters or his genealogical charts of the Douglas and Stewart families, more than enough ancestors are present to create the feel of a major family get-together. If the vivid personalities who stride through this novel and are its great accomplishment matter more to me than to a reader without a similar thick mat of Scottish roots, I suspect that few will be unmoved by such striking characters as the fierce Alexander of Buchan, nicknamed "The Wolf of Badenoch;" the cold, scheming Robert, Earl of Fife and Menteith; or the king's youngest daughter, the lovely princess Gelis, whose natural joy turns to sadness after her husband's murder. Gelis is one of several Stewart women in the life of the novel's protagonist, young Jamie Douglas, bastard son of the lord of Dalkeith. Young Jamie is an aide to a more notable James, the second Earl of Douglas, whose death in battle at Otterburn, the theme of more than one famous ballad, here launches a quest for revenge in the service of his widow, Isabel, also a daughter of the king, as is the spirited bastard Mary, who takes a practical interest in Jamie unconstrained by the norms of a great lady served by a loyal knight.

Jamie's quest takes him on several journeys across the Scottish landscape which draw out Tranter's keen and loving powers of description. Along the way he gets a close view of Highland justice, witnesses the burning of a great cathedral, and meets the irrepressible young David, eventual heir to the throne if the enemies made by his honesty and impish humor do not intervene. His fate must wait for a later volume, which I anticipate with relish after the splendid start of Lords of Misrule. (1976, 384 pages)

More about Lords of Misrule at Amazon.com

Other novels in Nigel Tranter's Stewart trilogy:

#2: A Folly of Princes (1977). More info

#3: The Captive Crown (1977). More info

The Stewart Trilogy (omnibus edition). More info

Nonfiction about the rise of the Stewarts:

David II by Michael Penman (2004), about the eldest son of Robert the Bruce. More info

The Early Stewart Kings: Robert II and Robert III, 1371-1406 by Stephen Boardman (1996). More info

Dynasty: The Royal House of Stewart by D. Thomson et al. (1990), an account of the 300 years of the Stewart dynasty, illustrated with photographs of paintings and Stewart possessions from the collection of the National Museums of Scotland. More info


The House of Stewart, a brief introduction to Scotland's Stewart dynasty with links to biographical sketches of the individual monarchs

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