A Tale of Old Scotland

August 4, 2015

"The Flowers of the Field" is a historical novel, written by Elizabeth Byrd in 1962, and set primarily in Edinburgh, Scotland in the year 1513. The book has two protagonists, first Dame Bess Dart, a common prostitute; and second, the historical Queen Margaret Stuart, the English-born queen of Scotland.

Bess is shown first as a prostitute, and then her background reveals her as an innocent country girl who, when she falls in love with the nephew of a local squire, follows him to Edinburgh. Rejected, she learns to survive on her wits and her body until she meets a man who genuinely loves her, Hugh Dart.

In her section of the novel, Queen Margaret is portrayed as ambitious and vainglorious, and desperate for the love of her husband, King James IV. She hopes to broker peace between James and her brother, King Henry VIII of England.

The dual stories both culminate in the Battle of Flodden Field.

The title, "The Flowers of the Field", refers to the fallen combatants of Flodden and to the ballad of the same name. Byrd offers one theory for the result of that battle.

A very interesting aspect of this little-known novel is Byrd’s use of simile to describe feeling. She will describe a sunset or a breeze but she is really talking about the character and her thoughts and feelings. I was impressed.

Elizabeth Byrd also wrote “Immortal Queen”, a novel about Mary, Queen of Scots, who was Queen Margaret’s granddaughter.

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