Today, I’ll finish up my reading of Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. This is the second book in the Outlander series, and while it can be both considered a romance and science fiction by way of its use of time travel, Dragonfly in Amber is mainly historical fiction, imagining and relating the Jacobite uprising of 1745 by Bonnie Prince Charlie. In honor of today’s reading, I’d like to share some facts about Scotland that I find personally interesting and useful in my reading of Dragonfly in Amber. Enjoy!
Note: except where noted, these facts are directly taken from Eupedia.com, and sometimes expanded upon from Wikipedia.
- Scotland was an independent country until 1603. Then, the King of Scots, James VI, became King of England and Ireland as James I, beginning the Stuart monarchy in England. The two countries didn’t merge their governments until 1707, under Queen Anne’s Acts of Union, to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. One result of this merger was the end of the Stuart dynasty after Queen Anne, due to the surviving Stuarts’ Catholicism, and the eventual Jacobite uprising, which is the central historical focus of Dragonfly in Amber.
- Scotland is reputed for its whisky (different from “whiskey” made in the United States and Ireland), known outside Scotland as Scotch Whisky. Whisky is quite beloved and revered by Jamie Fraser, one of the two main protagonists in Dragonfly in Amber.
- Surprisingly, whisky, kilts, tartans, and bagpipes aren’t Scottish inventions. While kilts originated in Ireland, whisky, tartans and bagpipes have origins in Central Asia. Also, genetic studies are now pointing that the mutation for red hair, which now reaches a world maximum in Western Scotland and Northern Ireland, may have originated in Central Asia too. This means that Scottish people may be (partly) descended from Central Asia.
- Inverness-shire, where much of the Outlander series takes place, is Scotland’s largest county, and is home to Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis (1,343 m/ 4,406 ft), Britain’s deepest lake, Loch Morar (310 m/ 1,017 ft), and Britain’s second longest and second deepest lake, the famous Loch Ness.
- The Duke of Atholl commands the only legal private army in Europe, the Atholl Highlanders, whose headquarters are at Blair Castle, Perthshire. Blair Castle also has the distinction of being the last ever place in Britain to have been besieged, in 1746. The Jacobites laid siege to the castle, and only withdrew to fight the British at the Battle of Culloden (which is what I am dreading in my reading, as that is where Jamie is fated to die. )
- Scotland has three officially recognized languages: English, Scots (a relative of English), and Scottish Gaelic (a completely different language). When you’re in Scotland, you can still see road signs in both English and Gaelic*.
- Scottish surnames are divided in two main categories: Gaelic names (typically starting with “Mac-” or “Mc-”) and Germanic names (e.g. Barclay, Blair, Brown, Cumming, Stewart, …). Outlander‘s Jaime’s names are Gaelic (Mackenzie) and French (Fraser).
- About 5 million Americans reported Scottish ancestry. The highest concentration of people of Scottish descent are found in New England and the Northwest.
- In 2004, Edinburgh became the UNESCO’s first City of Literature.
- Scottish literature includes such names as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and J.K. Rowling.
- Scotland’s motto is “No one provokes me with impunity”.* This motto is surely lived by the many Scots in the Outlander series.
- As per the census conducted in 1909, the Scots were the tallest race in Europe.* Jamie Fraser is often noted for his great size in the Outlander series.
- Scotland’s national animal and symbol is The Unicorn of Scotland.* How cool is that?!
* This fact derives from The Scotland Blog.