THE STEEL BONNETS by George MacDonald Fraser


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The creator of the rowdy Flashman sagas takes a respectable if not altogether sober turn at scholarship involving the ways of the Scots -- English Border reivers (raiders) of the 16th century. Before embarking on the rise and how-comes of the Scots dans, Frazer has a mickel of fun with those ""two excellent specimens of. . . common border types,"" Presidents Nixon and Johns(t)on, notorious surnames which turn up frequently (the Johnstons fought the Maxwells, and ""Fingerless Will"" Nixon was one of the notables). After Scotland's War of Independence in the 13th century, the border country became a no man's land where tribes fought for survival. Fraser introduces the leading reiver families, their power struggles, amusements, political leverage and exploitation, methods of terrorism, loyalties and relationships to the governing Warders. He also surveys the shifting tides in the century 15031603, when James IV came to the English throne after years of Tudor mistakes. Tough, wild, and prone to vendettas, the border reivers were excommunicated in 1525 by the Archbishop of Glasgow in a ""splendid tirade"" of cursing (gleefully included in the appendix) but it ""probably did nothing to Fingerless Will and the Armstrongs."" An immensely entertaining and informative portrait of the guerrillas in steel bonnets.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1971
Publisher: Knopf