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Posted December 1, 2006
Sir Walter Scott THE BETROTHED (1825) Reviewed by Patrick Killough To read Walter Scott is to see that every landscape is layered with history. THE BETROTHED begins at Christmas 1187 on the borderland (marches) of England and Wales. It ends in 1191 on the same warlike frontier. We are reminded that Celts had once predominated there along with their religion of druids and sacred trees. Then came Romans, Germans, Vikings, Normans and latterly and locally a small settlement of Flemish artisans. Romans left some traces of their clothing among the warlike Flemings. Germans and Normans alike contributed to the infant English language. Toward novel's end we are briefly introduced to King Henry II, who reigned from 1154 - 1189, and his two sons Richard and John, who had appeared six years earlier in IVANHOE. *** There is a footnote by Scott that stays in my mind for his method as much for his imagination at work. In Chapter IX, the teen-age heroine Eveline Berenger and her young Flemish maid Rose Flammock are standing nighttime duty on the walls of their besieged castle Garde Doloreuse, hoping for relief by nearby Norman borderers from the Welsh besiegers who had just killed Eveline's father. First Eveline and then Rose hear faint sounds of approaching armed knights. Walter Scott's footnote makes us imagine, just as he must have done, how very loud that sound would have been compared with the much more lightly armed troop of dragoons in which he was a volunteer during the threatened invasion by Napoleon. Called 'Rattle of Armour,' the note's two sentences read: 'Even the sharp and angry clang made by the iron scabbards of modern cavalry ringing against the steel-tipped saddles and stirrup betrays their approach from a distance. The clash of the armour of knights, armed cap-a-pie, must have been much more discernible.' *** The story is about the chaste put passionate and widely misconstrued romance between Eveline Berenger (a Norman, but whose paternal grandmother was Saxon) and the 20 year old esquire, Damian de Lacy. Damian is nephew of 40-something Hugo de Lacy, Constable of Chester, who had been pledged to marry Eveline by her father. Hugo's troops break up the siege of Garde Doloreuse and in gratitude (reinforced by a vow to the Virgin), Eveline agrees to marry the older man. Hugo leaves Damian in charge while he goes on a three year crusade to Palestine, with the marriage to be performed on his return. Eveline falls victim to an old curse of the Saxon side of her family and only after many setbacks is finally given in marriage to Damian in the presence of King Henry II, who in reality was dead by then. *** At least one, possibly four Italian operas derive from THE BETROTHED. Most notable is Giovanni Pacini (1829 (Il Contestabile di Chester or I Fidanzati. Eighty-five operas are known to derive from the works of Sir Walter Scott. Many, like I Fidanzati, were performed during Scott's lifetime. -OOO-Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.