The Royal Bride '“ Episode 1, a stranger causes quite a stir

Wilson's Tales of the Borders is a collection of almost 500 stories celebrating our region's history, legends and people. First serialised in the Berwick Advertiser from the 1830s, it became a best-selling series. The Wilson's Tales Project is re-telling these stories.

Friday, 26th October 2018, 4:37 pm
The Royal Bridal - illustration by Sheila Vickers.

In the summer of 1503, thousands gathered on Lamberton Moor for the arrival of young Princess Margaret of England and her marriage to King James IV of Scotland. This marriage to bond the nations drew all classes. Knights postured among the tents. Crowds drank as they watched athletes wrestle, jump, put the stone and throw the hammer.

But who could say if James was in the royal pavilion? Although the King was known by reputation as a generous and courageous playboy, few of his subjects knew him by sight.

The star of the games was Robin Meikle. Over 6ft tall and powerfully built, he could beat all at wrestling. Or almost all. Strong Andrew – a lean, tough Eyemouth fisherman – had beaten Robin several times.

Andrew was about to take the ring when a young man of middle size, dressed as a nobleman’s servant, beat him to it. As Robin tried a ‘Hawick hug’ hold, the young man, without even removing his hat, took him off balance and threw him. The spectators roared.

As a bachelor, Andrew had to peddle his own fish. But sales were good, and he was cheerful as he started for Eyemouth, passing on his way the stranger who had thrown Robin. “Is it you?” said Andrew, “I’ve done nothing but think of you since I saw you take the brag out of that big bullock.”

Andrew was keen to wrestle the stranger himself. But he hesitated: the stranger might disdain a peddler’s challenge. Sensing his dilemma, the man laughed and quoted an old saying: “Why, any stranger might be the King in disguise!”

They gripped and Andrew, beaten as easily as Robin, was flattened. “But it was a fair fall,” he cheerfully conceded.

They walked on to the tavern run by Nancy Hewitt and her daughter Janet. Andrew asked after Janet in a way that suggested more than friendly interest. When Janet came in, the stranger turned his attention to her with a flurry of compliments.

The shy young woman was embarrassed, but pleased by flattery that felt like a dagger to Andrew’s heart. The stranger asked for food and Andrew offered three haddock. “You’re a generous-hearted fellow,” said the stranger.

As they finished eating, Andrew’s pony broke loose and he raced after it. When he returned, he found Janet struggling in the stranger’s arms. Andrew hit hard and the stranger went down. As he clambered up, Nancy cried: “Andrew! I thought you had more sense.”

“Sense!” said Andrew. “If it had been the King himself laying a hand on my Janet I would have served him the same.”

“You brag largely and freely, neighbour,” said the stranger. “But we’ll meet again with no women to interfere.” And with that he was gone.

NEXT WEEK: The savage knight wants Andrew – dead or alive!

Retold by Fordyce Maxwell, adapted by Joe Lang and illustrated by Sheila Vickers.

Read the story and background in Volume 5 of Wilson’s Tales Revival Edition, £8.50, on sale at bookshops or at