The Tyrannical Earls of Orkney

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Highlighting the historical facts behind the fiction with Heather McCollum and her novel Highland Warrior.

My new Scottish historical romance, Highland Warrior, takes place on 16th century Orkney Isle, just north of the Scottish mainland. Kára Flett is a widow and leader of her native people on Orkney who are descended from Norsemen. She and her people are ruled over by a tyrant, Robert Stuart. He and his sons force the native inhabitants to work for them, building their grand castles, which he calls palaces. And that is where fiction and fact intertwine in my story.

True History:

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Sarah Charlesworth / Earl’s Palace, Birsay, Orkney

Lord Robert Stewart (1533 – 1593), Earl of Orkney, was considered a tyrant by the people of Orkney. He had nine legitimate children and several illegitimate children from several mistresses. His first son, Henry, died “mysteriously” when he was twenty-five, leaving the second son, Patrick, in line to gain the earldom. Even though Robert was imprisoned during his lifetime on suspicion of treason, he was released to the Earl’s Palace and died on Orkney, in his bed, in 1593. Of natural causes? Or from the handiwork of a vengeful mistress? The history books do not say.

In 1594, Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney, accused three of his brothers of trying to kill him when poison was found on one of his brother’s servants. The servant and “a witch”, who was thought to be an accomplice, were tortured and executed even though the brothers were later acquitted.

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Ruins of the Earl’s Palace, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

Using mostly forced labor, Patrick built his own Earl’s Palace at Kirkwall on Orkney, southeast of Birsay. He is considered one of the most tyrannical noblemen in Scotland’s history. Patrick ran up such high debts and was so brutal to his subjects on Orkney, that he was called before the Privy Council of Scotland in 1609 and imprisoned at Edinburgh Castle and then Dumbarton Castle. When imprisoned, Patrick had his illegitimate son, named Robert, rally a rebellion back on Orkney to take back both Earl’s Palaces. Robert succeeded, but then the Earl of Caithness, George Sinclair (named Cain Sinclair in my series), besieged the palace with the backing of the crown.

The Sinclairs won, and Robert was arrested. Robert was hung and Patrick was taken to Market Cross in Edinburgh and beheaded. After Patrick’s death, the palace at Birsay was rarely occupied, and the palace at Kirkwall was inhabited by the bishops of Orkney until 1688 when it became the property of the crown of Scotland.

About the Book

HIGHLAND WARRIOR: Sons of Sinclair series

Highland-Warrior-1600-1-200x300 Highlighting History Joshua Sinclair was once the fiercest and most notorious warrior of the mighty Sinclair clan of Northern Scotland. But now there’s nothing and no one that can make him take up arms again. Except a beautiful woman, it seems.

When Kára Flett, daughter of a fallen Norse chief, finds herself unexpectedly sheltering the strongest, most brutal warrior in the land, she throws together a risky and outrageous plan to bring him to her side. Threats of violence bounce right off him. Offers of gold seem to entice him even less. Desperate enough to use the pleas of the village children to sway him, she’s shocked when he’s completely unmoved. There’s only one tactic left for her: seduction.

Her hasty proposition falls completely by the wayside, though, as she and the Highlander come together in a carnal inferno. But bringing him into her life also brings his enemies to her clan’s doorstep—the very clan Kára is trying to protect. And as their feelings deepen, Joshua will have to decide between duty and love once and for all.   

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About the Author

Hold-my-sword-3-225x300 Highlighting History I am Heather McCollum, international, multi-published author of over twenty 16th and 17th century Scottish romances full of adventure and intrigue, sprinkled with humor, history, and spice. Brawny Highlanders and feisty heroines are my favorite characters!

I am also a mom of three kids (ages 14, 20, 22), dog-mom of one rescued geriatric golden retriever, and wife of one 6 foot 4 inch Highlander. When I’m not trying to help my kids make it through the day, baking things I see on The Great British Baking Show, or writing, I’m usually educating women on ovarian cancer (I’m a ten-year survivor). I love kilted heroes, chai lattes, and eating buttered air-popped popcorn for dinner on Friday nights (my dog loves this one too).



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A Very Short Excerpt:

When he’d stared into her eyes, his full mouth curving into a seductive smile over white teeth, heat had slid down through Kára, like honey warmed in the sun. Now that was a reaction to capture a woman’s notice, but her plan was still ridiculous. What the hell was she thinking, baiting him to chase after her? Her grandmother’s words rang in her ears. We need to find a warrior to lead us to victory against Robert Stuart. Joshua Sinclair was the largest, deadliest warrior on Orkney, and probably all of Scotland.

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Contact Info

Caroline Warfield, Author

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