We’ve all heard the stories, we know their names like minor gods in some romantic pantheon. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Arthur and Guinevere, Wesley and Buttercup, Elizabeth and Darcy, and, of course, Belle her Beast.

Whether or not you want an epic love story for yourself or just want to read one, they have a certain magic to them.

We all want a taste of that magic somehow, whether it is a romance to keep us warm or a tale to keep us entertained. That larger-than-life love, passionate and pure seems like sunlight – nourishing whatever and whomever it touches. It’s the tales of tragic romance which burn up their ignitors with a fierce fire.

In doing my own genealogy, I found a love story which sparked my imagination like nothing else. I could copy the boring text from Wikipedia… or I could paint you a picture. I’m a writer and an artist. Seriously. What did you think I was going to do?

The Crusades were bloody, sandy, and hellish, and by the time the ninth one rolled around, the reasons behind it seemed less and less compelling. When our hero of the story, Robert, finally crossed clear blue of the Mediterranean to return from that sandy mess, it was not to deliver a good message. It was to inform a woman that her husband had fallen in battle at Acre in 1270. He trekked through the green hills of Scotland to find Marjorie of Carrick.


I can’t begin to imagine the weight on his chest when he rode up to the gates of Turnberry Castle. No doubt he was happy to be back home in Scotland, the air clear of the sand and chaos of the ninth crusade, but that couldn’t help too much given his mission. Did he expect that she would weep? Did he fear that she would rage? I’m sure he rehearsed it a thousand times in his mind’s eye.

The legend goes that this messenger caught Marjorie’s eye. More than caught. I don’t know if it was his looks, grace, charisma, or maybe because he was a broad shoulder to cry on, but the legend goes that she was so taken with him, she wouldn’t let Robert leave until he agreed to marry her.

Tragedy born of war and blasted with sand, and it became a love story.

The Return of the Crusader, 1835 (oil on canvas)

The human spirit never ceases to amaze me. If the story ended there, it would still be remarkable… but it didn’t. Their decisions, their love, and their legacy had lasting consequences – not only for their homeland of Scotland but also for the royalty of several countries.

They had 11 children. One became the legendary Robert the Brus who fought alongside Braveheart for the liberation of Scotland from English tyranny. One married the King of Norway. One was crowned the King of Ireland. Two were hanged, drawn, and quartered. One became my 22-generations back great-grandmother.

All that born of one love story – Marjorie of Carrick and Robert the Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale.