Amazing Historical and Contemporary Facts From Your Favorite Authors
THE AMAZING SCOTTISH TARTAN
Offered by Mary Spencer who also writes as Susan Spencer Paul
The Scottish tartan is one of the most important historical and cultural elements claimed solely by the Scots. Its history walks hand in hand with the very identity of the Scots themselves, and it has been said that a Scotsman's residence can be told simply by looking at "his plaid." In his excellent book, IDENTIFYING TARTANS, Blair Urquhart says: "A charter granted to Hector MacLean of Duart in 1587 for lands in Islay details a feu duty payable in the form of 60 ells cloth of white, black and green colours (the colours of Hunting MacLean of Duart tartan), and an eyewitness account of the Battle of Killecrankie in 1689 describes "McDonells men in their triple stripe".
It is reasonable to assume that any tight knit community would wear the cloth produced by the local weaver in quantities that would limit the variety of patterns, (or "setts"), and that when they went to war, many would be dressed in the same material. The tartan of a Highland clan is determined by the clan chief. The clansmen and followers (blood relations and families taking protection from the clan) wear the tartan of the chief.
In most cases the sett (pattern) has been acknowledged for generations and is well known to chief and clansmen alike. So important was the tartan to Scottish war tradition that following the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite Rebellion in the mid-1700's, the English made the wearing of the tartan a crime. In 1782, however, this law was rescinded.
The tartan is worn in a variety of ways, but is most famously worn as a kilt. Originally, a kilt was created from a large, unpleated swath of tartan, approximately two yards in width by four to six yards in length. With the use of a belt, this length of cloth would be folded and pleated into a skirt which covered a man down to his knees, with enough cloth left over to wrap about the shoulder and waist. It was both warm and waterproof, being so tightly woven, and provided ease of movement for war and hunting. The tartan also doubled as a pillow or blanket, making it an ideal garment for life in the Highlands.
Mary Spencer, who also writes as Susan Spencer Paul, is the author of fourteen historical romance novels. Her first published book as Mary Spencer, was a medieval novel titled THE VOW, followed by two Western Americana novels. She then returned to one of her favorite time periods, writing as Susan Spencer Paul and penned the seven volume "Bride Series" for Harlequin Historicals. But other eras proved to be equally enticing, and Mary also dabbled in the Victorian and Regency eras, producing novels set in both. Her talent for writing rich prose with dark heroes gave us the Wager Trilogy, including DARK WAGER, LADY'S WAGER, and DEVIL'S WAGER written as Mary Spencer. Coming in December 2001, look for the final installment in the Bride Series - THE PRISONER BRIDE, written under the name Susan Spencer Paul, and the upcoming Welsh Trilogy, which will combine the beauty, mystery and magic of historical Wales.