Whitby Abbey 51
Photographer: Annan, Thomas (1829 - 1887)
Medium: Photographic print
“Still was false Marmion’s bridal stayed;
To Whitby’s convent fled the maid,
The hated match to shun.
‘Ho! shifts she thus?’ King Henry cried,
‘Sir Marmion, she shall be thy bride,
If she were sworn a nun.’
One way remained – the king’s command
Sent Marmion to the Scottish land:”
This view of the ruined abbey of Whitby in North Yorkshire illustrates an 1866 edition of Sir Walter Scott’s long narrative poem, ‘Marmion’. Clara de Clare, the heroine of the poem, flees to the abbey to become a novice in a desperate attempt to avoid becoming Lord Marmion’s bride. He does not love her but covets the great estates of land that she will inherit. Whitby Abbey was founded in the 7th century on the coast overlooking the North Sea. Its first abbess was Hild, an Anglo-Saxon, who presided over a community of men and women.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was the Scottish author of immensely popular historical novels and poems. Their epic combination of history, heroism, and romance was especially beloved by readers of the Victorian era. ‘Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field’, first published in 1808, tells the story of the noble but arrogant Lord Marmion, a fictional 16th-century English knight in the time of Henry VIII, and the fate of his two loves, Clara and Constance. The story is intertwined with the political antagonism of the time between England and Scotland. When Henry VIII attempted to invade France, James IV declared war on England and led an invading army south. The poem takes its title and inspiration from the Battle of Flodden Field in Northumberland in 1513, at which James killed with many of his Scottish nobles and thousands of his feudal army. This edition of the poem is illustrated with 15 photographs by the Glasgow-based photographer Thomas Annan of sites in Northumberland and Scotland that feature in the poem.