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April 27, 2007


Francesca Simon

Did you spot that isolated, idyllic little cottage on the river bank in Berwick? Heading north it's on your left. I also love the London-Edinburgh train journey and always take it to the festival. The irony is that I used to be the cheap author because I took the train while everyone else flew. Now I'm the expensive author because I take the train....

dina rabinovitch

it is just gorgeous, and worth every penny, unlike air travel...

Isobel Mags Buchan

Funny you should mention Berwick, which is a lovely place to spend a few days, because Isobel Buchan nearly lost her life there. She was placed in a wooden cage on the ramparts of the castle, exposed to the elements for four years. She was eventually rescued by Robert of Bruce.

It is Isobel who is represented by the old symbol that women's groups used of a woman in a cage.

Forgive the history lesson but her bravery was one of the reasons I adopted her name as a tribute to a woman who is long forgotten by most.

Pleased that you enjoyed the journey. It is a lovely experience.

BTW, I have just finished reading your book. It was a present for my birthday last Saturday. Thank you for writing it and persevering with the publishing problem.

Dina rabinovitch

wow - why placed in a cage? what's the story?

Isobel Mags Buchan

Isobel was a feisty piece of work with no respect for a woman's place back then. She defied her father and husband to make history.

Old Edward I had stolen the Stone of Scone and taken it to England along with the Earl of Fife who had pledged loyalty to Edward. It was tradition that any new King of Scotland was crowned by the Earl of Fife. Robert of Bruce was the new King and Isobel was the Countess of Fife as well as Buchan. She decided it was her right in place of the Earl, to crown Robert. Unfortunately for Isobel she was delayed and the coronation went ahead without her so the next day they held another ceremony at Scone so that Isobel could place the crown on Robert's head. (In Edinburgh Castle there is a beautiful marble effigy of Isobel placing the crown on Robert's head.)

Thus Robert became the only King in Scottish history to be crowned twice.

She was later captured by the English. Edward I had named her an outlaw for her actions and not having followed her husbands orders. Her husband, nice man that he was, wanted Isobel executed but Edward wanted her made an example of and in full view of Scotland and so the cage was constructed and Isobel spent four years in there until Robert and the Scots recaptured Berwick. It was apparently a common punishment back then although uncommon for someone to survive for so long.

It was rumoured that Isobel and Robert were lovers but there is no hard evidence either way.

Dina rabinovitch

God - what a story! thanks Isobel...

Ann Coburn

Hello Dina - you passed through Berwick! Glad you liked the look of our hidden gem (most people, like you, only get a tantalising glimpse as they shoot through on the train to Scotland). It really is special up here. We have wide, white-sand beaches, the river Tweed, the moors and then the Cheviots beyond. I often walk past the river cottage Francesca loves to look out for from the train window. However, as Isobel points out, we have a violent past - the focal point of many border battles between England and Scotland, not to mention the Reiver bandit tradition. There's also that old chestnut about Berwick still being at war with Russia because we didn't sign the peace treaty after the Crimean War! Nice story but it has 'urban myth' written all over it.

I bought your book but my daughter nabbed it. Hoping to nab it back and read it very soon.

Wishing you all the best


Sarah Crown

Ah, Dina, B-on-T is my neck of the woods! Though actually my family live inland ... That train ride between Newcastle and Edinburgh is surely one of the most wonderful in the world, though - especially at this time of year. I'm yearning for it now!

And thanks for the story of Isobel Buchan - I've never heard it before ...


I found the book "Kingdom of Shadows" sitting in a corner of my shop the other day. Started reading and couldn't put it down.

The story of Isobel and her life (albeit in a book) fascinated me.

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