History behind Outlander

We’ve talked about some of the old phrases and legends, but we haven’t delved a ton into the history. So let’s chat about the real life figures and topics that Diana Gabaldon brought into her Outlander Series. But, don’t worry, this will only talk about some of the historical facts surrounding the first two seasons on Starz, so no spoilers this week!

Jacobite

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Now, we all heard the term used many times in the series so far, but what are the Jacobites, truly? Let’s go back to the infamous Henry VIII, ya know, the one who wanted to tap Anne Boleyn so bad that he enforced a country wide religion? Anyways, Catholicism was still believed to be the one true religion by many. So when Catholic Charlies Stuart (AKA Bonny Prince Charlie) decided to take the throne, the Scots were all about bringing that sweet Catholicism back. And where did the term “Jacobite” come from? It comes from the Laitin name for James, “Jacobus”. James II of England was the last Catholic monarch of England before being tossed out in 1688.

Bonny Charlie…

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…wasn’t so bonny. I mean, look at him. Just look at that weak chinned little biotch. No wonder he left poor Jamie to rally the troops. I’d follow the hell out of our favorite Fraser, but I can’t take that fancy boy seriously. And, in real life, Charlie was also an alcoholic who cheated on his wife with many women when he wasn’t busy beating her. Yikes.

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Jealous of that hand?

Geillis Duncan

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That’s right, ol’ Geillis has a basis in history, mainly the North Berwick Witch Trials with the name Gillis Duncan. You see, in 1590, Gillis was a lowly maid who’s employer saw her sneaking out at night and thought she had a knack for healing people. Instead of thinking she was just meeting a boyfriend and happened to have a nice bedside manner, she was obviously a witch. Under torture, she “confessed” and “outed” several other people for conspiring with the devil. Not that great for her.

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unfortunately, yes.

Comte de St. Germain

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This is full of fun facts. We read/watched him as a total asshat who got what he deserved when he sipped some hidden poison. In reality, he is still bathed in mystery, but is known as a musician, philosopher, scientist, and someone who dabbled in the occult. No one knows for certain where he came from, but he asserted that he was a lost prince of Transylvania and even that he was upwards of 500 years old…perhaps a real life time traveler? Well, he is registered as dying at 88 years of age, but strangely, he left little behind, as if all his gemstones and money had vanished…

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How curious

The Kilted Horseback Riding

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When one thinks of Outlander, one imagines Jamie riding horseback in his kilt, looking resplendent. But what’s up with the kilt? And, more importantly, how the hell did they ride with nothing beneath it? As someone who rode horses competitively for years, all I can say is ow! Riding for hours a day in riding pants was tough enough on the thighs sometimes, but I can’t imagine going at it with no protection at all. The truth of the matter is, while kilts give us romance and embody the Scot, Scottish men rarely wore kilts while riding. Instead, they wore tartan trews, which were much more practical. Rough, I know.

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Louise de Rohan

Her real name was Marie Louise de La Tour d’Auvergne and, unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a valid portrait of what she looked like. If you have seen one, please, let me know. Anyways, as in the show, she was married to a guy who was off with the French army and Louise was gettin’ bonny with Charles Stuart. When she got pregnant, she also banged her husband so she could try to hide who the child’s father really was. Generally, affairs were pretty commonplace in nobility, so Louise’s husband didn’t really care who was up her petticoats. But, her affair with Charles had to come to an end, and after their love child died in infancy, she began shying away from court life. A far cry from the vivacious woman Claire meets in France. No word on the state of her public hair, either.

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ouch.

French…Dildos?

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While it was a hilarious scene on the show, these array of fake penises wasn’t just a ploy for some comic relief. Dildos have been around for at least 30,000 years. Crazy, right? Well, the first ones were made out of wood, rocks, and basically anything else that even resembled a cock and balls. Considering the potential splintering that could occur in the early years, Charlie’s glee on seeing a fancy French one is a little more understandable.

Louis XV of France

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We know the king as a lofty gentleman who has a great interest in the occult and banged Claire for like 5 seconds in order to secure Jamie’s freedom. In real life, he’s been credited as lowering the bar for French royals and sparking the initial stirrings of the French revolution. While there’s no proof that he participated in magic, there are rumors that he had a bit of an interest, due to the fact that he survived a childhood illness and a later assassination attempt. Some scholars support this, as he was unusually nonreligious, but I suppose we’ll never know. PS. it actually was common to watch the King do literally everything, even take a shit. Being in the king’s “private” chambers was actually coveted. If you got to hold the royal stockings or have a front row seat to toilet time, you would be the envy of all your peers!

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Ya got around the block, so I’ll pass

The Destruction of the Highlanders

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After the Jacobite revolution, which failed, England was in a hurry to destroy the clan system that rose up with Charlie. So, they outlawed the tartan kilts and bearing of arms of the Scottish people, basically spoiling a large part of Highland culture. This went on for about 50 years, until some regiments of the British army took on tartan as a symbol and later in the 1820s when kilts and tartans were used as a fashion statement by the British elite. But, by then, the common Scottish people stopped wearing the kilt, as they had been forced to abandon it for several generations. The fact that clans, tartans, and the traditional Highland way of life had been tampered with, weakened the overall population and the Highland identity. Mix that with the diaspora that followed the great famine, and you see the end of the Highanders as we know them. Of course, there were always some that kept the old ways, but it was a dangerous thing to do.

Handfasting

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Let’s end this on a positive note; handfasting. Handfasting was practiced in many areas in the ancient world from the Celts to the Norse. The practice varied greatly, but would be done as an act of betrothal until a “proper” church marriage could be conduction. It often also stood in for a common law marriage, which would grant both parties full liberties as a husband a wife. The couple would have their clasped hands bound with a rope, ribbon, or strip of tartan while proclaiming their union. It’s actually where we get the modern phrase, “tie the knot”. The pair would then be given a year and a day to decide if they would stay married, ensuring that any children conceived during this time would be legitimate, but also giving both parties an out, if things didn’t work. Although that varied by area and time period. Another fun fact is that handfasting is seen as a legal marriage in Scotland, today!

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That’s it for Outlander Saturday! Come back neck week for fun facts, book recommendations, gift guides, and more! If there’s anything in the Outlander world you’d like to know more about, let us know in the comments and maybe we’ll talk about it in another article.

Sarah and I both have books out now, so if you like our posts, you’ll probably love our books! First Semester is a thrilling college romance that you can get HERE. Queen of Emeralds is a historic romance set in the highlands that you can get HERE.

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2 thoughts on “History behind Outlander

  1. Beth Ely says:

    Loved this but then I love history. I looked the Comet up on my own. He is very mysterious but he was a good friend of the King. Thank you for sharing and doing so much work.

    Liked by 1 person

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