Highland Lion by Celeste Barclay
Welcome to The Clan Sinclair Legacy, a spinoff from my The Clan Sinclair series. As you join the second generation of this remarkable family, you may recognize heroes and heroines from the first series. For some of you, it may be a chance to become reacquainted with old friends. For those who haven’t read The Clan Sinclair, take heart: all of my books can be read as standalones, so you don’t have to read the earlier series to enjoy this one. Many readers of the original books wondered what would become of the couples from my The Highland Ladies series. Fear not. The children of several of those couples will have their chance to find love with the younger Sinclairs and their Sutherland relatives over the course of my next twenty books.
The Clan Sinclair Legacytakes place roughly twenty years after The Clan Sinclair and about ten years after the final installment of The Highland Ladies. In my first series, I never explicitly stated who ruled Scotland at the time; however, King Robert the Bruce and Queen Elizabeth de Burgh appear throughout The Highland Ladies. By the time this new series would take place, the Bruce is dead, and his son, David II, is on the throne. You will discover more about King David’s complicated reign in later books in this new series.
Highland Lionbegins this new adventure with the oldest grandchild of Laird Liam Sinclair. “Wee” Liam Mackay is the son of Laird Tristan Mackay and Lady Mairghread Sinclair, the only daughter among four brothers (His Highland Lass). I’ve found the Clan Sinclair history fascinating and complicated since I began research for my very first series. As with my other books, these stories are fiction. The characters and plots are products of my imagination, but they’re based on accurate history that I spend countless hours studying. In some cases, I condense events for the sake of the storyline. That is the case in this book.
Orkney is an archipelago in the Northern Isles of the North Sea and are near Scotland’s northeastern coast. It lies only ten miles from the Caithness coast, and modern-day ferries make the crossing frequently. In this story, I include birlinns, West Highland and Hebridean boats that followed the Norse longboat style but were smaller. For lack of a better option, I have my Highlanders use these vessels, even though they hail from the eastern Highlands.
During the peak of the Viking Age, the eighth and ninth century AD, Norwegian settlers made their homes on Orkney and its neighbor, Shetland. The Norwegian king annexed the islands and officially made them part of Norway in 875 AD. From about 1100 onward, the Norse jarls, who governed locally through their holdings as Earls of Caithness (Earls of Orkney in some sources), pledged their allegiance to both the Norwegian and the Scottish crowns. In 1231, the Earldom of Caithness, the region in which Castle Dunbeath was built and includes both Orkney and Shetland, was granted to the son of the Earl of Angus by the Norwegian king, Haakon Haakonsson. The earldom passed to the Sinclairs in 1379, who were barons of Roslin, near Edinburgh. Since this story takes place in roughly 1336, I took creative license with the transfer of governance to the Sinclairs.
The islands didn’t come under Scottish rule until 1468, roughly one hundred and twelve years after this novel takes place during the reign of King David II. This is another historical event with which I used creative license for the dates. At the time of the transfer of ownership, Christian I of Denmark and Norway used the islands as a collateral of sorts against the dowry he owed James III of Scotland when the latter was to marry Christian’s daughter, Princess Margaret. The dowry was never paid, and King Christian forfeited his claim to the islands.
I use these events as the catalyst for the story. Our hero, Liam Mackay, travels to Orkney during the transfer of governance. He represents his grandfather, Laird Liam Sinclair, the Earl of Sinclair, as I also make him the Earl of Orkney. I have Laird Liam Sinclair adopt the title of the Earl of Caithness to follow earlier tradition. While traveling to the island of Rousay, our hero encounters a Norse trader. After the decline of the Viking Age and the adoption of Christianity, thralldom—Viking slavery—became far less prevalent. For the sake of this plot and our villain, I rely on the fact the practice was rare, but still possible.
Discovering the Norse history in Orkney presented some interesting challenges. Several sites on different islands bear the same name. For example, the village of Skaill on Rousay, which I reference, is a site where archeological remains have been found and studied. However, that village name appears on other Orcadian islands. It also doesn’t correlate to where the Bay of Skaill is located. Thank heavens for maps, because it was confusing. All of the locations I include in this story are real, with documented connections to the Norse settlers. The Orcadian names were drawn from census data from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. I chose the surname Isbister because I liked the sound. I later discovered that there is a village of Isbister on the island called Mainland. That worked well for my plot, since surnames were frequently derived from the homesteads upon which families built their lives.
I think one of the best parts of authorhood is the adventure I take whenever I set out to research new events and places. I fall down rabbit holes and travel back in time. I hope you enjoy the artifacts of these journeys, and I hope this preface gives you historical perspective to better enjoy this tale.