|| || The Clan were becoming desperate, with there seeming to be no end to the harassment. Most of the lairds were resigned to having to fight for their livelihoods, and those of the families dependent on them. This would be a serious and costly path, for, although they could raise a thousand fierce fighting men, these same men were also required to grow food and raise stock, so this action would lead to a starvation winter. Memories of past starvation winters were part of their lives, with the very old and the very young dying first - a fearsome prospect.
Yet another war conference at Castle Dounie, with Simon saying,
‘We have no choice but to fight. We cannot bow to Atholl. It would just be a slow death rather than a quick one. We must send the fiery cross along the glens.’
The Reverend James managed to be there, although he was ill, both in his role as laird of Phopachy and as spiritual leader of the Beaufort family,
‘As you know I have made a study of our traditions, and those of other highland clans. There is another possibility, and that is that our acting chief should marry the widow of our previous chief. This would then make Simon the legal guardian of young Amelia with the power to select her husband. He may also be able to overturn the previous marriage contract.’
Neither Simon nor Lady Amelia had thought of this possibility. They liked each other as cousins well enough but there was no romance between them. Simon would have preferred a younger wife, preferably also a daughter of a chief of one of the neighbouring clans, to reinforce their interdependence. But Lady Amelia was still of child-bearing age, and only slightly his senior, so he looked to Amelia to see her reaction.
She saw a problem,
‘I would consider such a marriage for the sake of the Clan, but I cannot legally marry without my father’s consent. It is possible that he might agree out of consideration for me, but he might also deny the possibility, perhaps seeing it as a burden for me.’
The Reverend had already thought this through,
‘There is another custom for overcoming problems of consent, which is the forced marriage. If the Lady Amelia were to be married nominally against her will, then the normal practice would be for consent to then be given, as the marriage has already been consecrated in the eyes of the Church. To do otherwise is to commit both parties to disgrace.’
After some moments of consideration, Lady Amelia said,
‘That is worth further thought. I would expect that my father would put my interests first.’
Simon, as acting chief, looked around the room for comment from the Lairds. There was a general feeling that this would be better than the alternative of war, and that the Clan had little to lose by such a proposal, providing that the Lady Amelia, who was well respected, agreed.
Lady Amelia looked at Simon,
‘The sooner done the better. I will take my daughters to stay with Margaret in Beauly in the morning and then retire to my chambers. I will accidentally not bolt the door. When you have made the arrangements, you will have to come and force me from my room.’
So the next afternoon all was ready, except that the Reverend James had not arrived. Simon sent a clansman to investigate, who returned over an hour later to say that the Reverend was very ill and feverish and not able to leave his bed. So a messenger was despatched to Kilmorack, being the neighbouring parish to Kirkhill, to ask the minister there to officiate. It was late in the afternoon when the messenger returned to say that the minister was away and would not be back until Sunday.
One of the gathering mentioned that the minister for the parish of Abertaff was usually in Inverness during the week, so two men were sent to try and find him and bring him to Castle Dounie. They did find him, well into his cups, it being now late in the evening. So it was very late when they returned to Castle Dounie, where the marriage ceremony was performed, with Lady Amelia and Simon acting it out to make it look authentic as a forced marriage. Two clansmen respectfully held Lady Amelia’s arms to add to the show.
The celebration started with toasts and playing of the bagpipes. Then Lady Amelia was taken, again with gentleness and respect, to her chamber, with Simon following. He thanked the two men with a smile, and closed the door, drawing the bolts. He then turned to Lady Amelia with a quizzical look, one eyebrow slightly raised. She returned his gaze with a small mischievous smile,
‘Do you think that I should scream?’, she asked.
‘You would have to scream very loud to be heard over the pipes.’, he replied.
She took a very deep breath and started to scream. A soon as she started she pictured the little wasted bodies of her two dead sons and the scream turned in a wail of anguish and mourning, and tears rushed from her eyes. When she recovered herself, she found that Simon was supporting her, with a look of some understanding and compassion in his eyes.
‘You know that I would rather that your husband or sons had lived. This is by necessity not by planning.’
There was a jug of claret on the chest at the foot of the bed and two cups. He poured wine for both of them and offered her the cup, with a toast,
‘To the future of the Clan.’
She repeated the toast and drank. Then to the business of consummation. She found that he was unexpectedly gentle and considerate, looking for ways to make the act a pleasure for her. Her first husband had not been a robust man, and she sometimes thought it a major triumph when they managed to conceive. Simon, on the other hand, was strong and healthy, so she felt some sense of being blessed. Simon for his part was less content. He was no stranger to the pleasures of the flesh, but this was the first time that he had bedded an older woman, let alone one who had birthed five children. However, duty called and there is no better way to keep warm on a winter’s night.
They both knew that the Clan would not feel secure until they had produced an heir, or preferably two or three just in case.
Tullibardine was enraged when he heard of the marriage, without the permission of her father, and immediately took steps to deny its status, claiming that it was rape and finding witnesses in support. He told his father, the Marquis, of the rape, who was understandably outraged that his favourite daughter had been so foully treated, and demanded that Beaufort be brought to justice and executed.
Tullibardine petitioned the Bishop, claiming that the marriage was false and should be annulled. The Bishop took the matter to the Church Council, who agreed to investigate the matter. Tullibardine then tried the law, but was not able to make a case without the testimony of the victim, Lady Amelia.
When it became obvious that the ploy to get her father’s approval had failed, Lady Amelia understood that the rape allegation was the key issue, so she went to visit the Reverend James at Kirkhill, anxious to ensure that the marriage was proper in the eyes of the Church. He was still bedridden with a severe lung infection, and recovering, but slowly.
In consideration of her question, he asked,
‘Did Reverend Munro have his parish record book with him?”
‘Not that I saw and he had no baggage at all.’
‘Was the marriage properly witnessed?’
‘Yes, by two senior lairds of the Clan.’
‘Do you think that the Reverend would remember all the details to add to his records?’
‘He was hardly able to perform the ceremony, and perhaps does not remember doing so. I would not expect that he would remember the names of the witnesses. He might even have difficulty remembering the full names of Simon and myself.’
‘We have then a marriage that was not solemnised in a church and we could expect that the marriage may not have been properly recorded at Abertarff, so it is then of doubtful validity. I would recommend that you seek a second marriage just in case. Unfortunately, I am not well enough to do this myself, but I will write a note for Reverend William at Kilmorack explaining my illness and asking him to officiate in my place.’
And so it was. A small group, with some armed clansmen, crossed the river and travelled the short distance to Kilmorack, where the marriage was duly solemnised and recorded in the parish register. Lady Amelia later returned to Kirkhill and asked Reverend James to draw up a deposition recording her willing status as wife of Simon of Beaufort, so that she could send it to her father, to make sure that he fully understood her determination.
The deposition was intercepted by Tullibardine and never seen by the Marquis, nor was he told of the second marriage. Tullibardine was convinced that Amelia was totally under the sway of the perfidious Beaufort, and that the deposition was organised by him, probably without even his sister’s knowledge. Tullibardine believed that Beaufort knew of the affection between the Marquis and his daughter, and was trying to use this in his own interests, so he felt fully justified in protecting his father from full knowledge of the situation.
The Church Council reported that while there was some irregularities with the first marriage, the second was properly conducted and there was no indication that the bride was unwilling, so there were no grounds for annulment. The Marquis saw that there was nothing to be done without the testimony of his daughter, so instructed two of his sons, Lords James and Mungo, to go to Castle Dounie and rescue her. When they got there the castle was empty as Simon and Lady Amelia had fled to Eileen Aigas, a small island in the River Beauty, west of Castle Dounie, and essentially impregnable without a fleet of boats.
Amelia was bereft at her father putting his interests in acquiring the estates of Lovat ahead of his affection for her. The plan with her marriage had been to win the Marquis over to her side. She now believed that this affection was all on her side and none on his, and was heartbroken. She was not aware of the extent that Tullibardine had manipulated events.