From the ABE booksearch pages
Nigel Tranter, A Stake in the Kingdom, Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton, 1966 Price: US$ 368.00 Presented by Niel Proudlove Bookseller, Vernon, BC, Canada order options
While there is no doubt that some Tranter's are extremely scarce and will therefore command a high price it is sad to see quite ordinary titles going for high prices. There are many collectors prepared to pay 'over the odds' for Nigel's books and this will encourage the profiteering that we see above.
Anyway, putting all that aside for the moment, I thought I would share my copy of 'A Stake in the Kingdom' with you as thereby hangs an interesting tale.
I purchased it some three years ago from a bookseller in Edinburgh who said, on the telephone, that he would need to ask a higher price for it as it had a letter along with it obviously from Nigel to the original owner. Expecting to have to pay a high price I asked how much he was asking for it and was surprised when he said that he wanted £22.00 for the two items.
You can well imagine that I, casually, said that I would like him to keep them for me and I would come for them the very next day.
This I duly did and it was later signed by Nigel when he and Joan visited Helen and I on the 5th September 1999. I always remember the date because it was the last time we met before his death in January 2000
From Nigel Tranter
I agree that George Wishart is a problem. It would be a good idea for one of these bright young PhD seekers to do a thesis on the this historical problem - was Wishart the same man as was so long an agent in Henry's pay? It might be possible to ferret it out, given the time - probably all the details are there, in the English state papers.
As for writing a novel on the true John Knox (or at least, my interpretation therof) I don't know that I have the courage! If I knew that I was going to be safely dead before publication day, I might risk it.
With all the greetings of the season, and my hopes that your radio activities flourish like what I once believe was called a 'bay-rum tree'.
Sincerely Nigel Tranter
Nigel had no memory of the letter but was intrigued to read it after such a long time.
We went on to discuss the contents of the letter in more detail;
"David Beaton just couldn't have been so black as he was painted, and I felt that, here was an enigma worth going into."
As we spoke Nigel was very clear that Beaton was still one of his favourite characters in Scottish history and that he felt, in many ways, he did not fully deserve the 'bad press' that he has received down the years.Collin's 'Encyclopaedia of Scotland' sums Beaton up as follows; "His persecution of the Protestants, including George Wishart (burnt in 1546) contributed to his own assassination three months later, leaving several children by a mistress." A very different tale from the one that Nigel researched and recounted.
"Especially as practically every other castle we visited in Angus and the Mearns, for Volume Four of my series, was alleged to have been built for 'one of his mistresses' by Cardinal Beaton. "This reference is to the research that Nigel and May did for the fourth volume of 'The Fortified House in Scotland', Aberdeenshire, Angus and Kincardineshire. Published by Oliver and Boyd, 1966.
"I agree that George Wishart is a problem. It would be a good idea for one of these bright young PhD seekers to do a thesis on the this historical problem - was Wishart the same man as was so long an agent in Henry's pay? It might be possible to ferret it out, given the time - probably at all the details are there, in the English state papers."
Nigel felt that the whole Wishart story had never been fully researched and that it is possible that the popular view of the Protestant martyr falling foul of the harsh Cardinal is too simplified to be credible. Again turning to Collin's 'Encyclopaedia of Scotland' we can perceive just a hint of Nigel's comment when we read "It is unclear whether he was involved in proposals to murder Beaton supposedly made by a Scotsman to Henry VIII". aybe some PhD student will take up Nigel's long made observation. Who knows.
"As for writing a novel on the true John Knox (or at least, my interpretation therof) I don't know that I have the courage! If I knew that I was going to be safely dead before publication day, I might risk it. "
Not knowing, that Autumn day in 1999, that the opportunity would never present itself I asked Nigel if he felt he was nearly ready to tackle the story of John Knox. He thought that a great joke and declared ( here I paraphrase our discussion) that he would never really be ready for such a task that might divide his readers into those who were in agreement that Knox was the father of the Scottish Reformation, a fiery preacher and staunch Presbyterian and those who disapprovingly point to his association with England, his approval of the assassination of Beaton and the death of Rizzio and his marriage at age 50 to the 17 year old daughter of Lord Ochiltree aligning him to the Stewarts by marriage.
Truly Scots history is complex and, from this discussion it is clear that many differing points of view can be maintained. Nigel had the genius of being all too aware of this and of exploiting it to bring us the stories that we so enjoy. 'Stake in the Kingdom' is but one of them.
From all the above you can see why, apart from thoroughly enjoying the story, my copy of 'The Stake' is so important to my collection and holds such memories for me.