Duke of Buccleuch to discuss family connections to fugitive king at Borders festival

Richard Scott, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch.
Richard Scott, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch.

The Duke of Buccleuch would have a very different tale to tell if Charles II had not regained his throne in 1660, he has revealed.

The 10th Duke of Buccleuch, Richard Scott, is a long-time supporter and sponsor of the Borders Book Festival, and this year he will be at the heart of the event, interviewing his friend Charles Spencer about his recent biography of Charles II, To Catch a King, on the opening day of this week’s event.

Charles Spencer.

Charles Spencer.

The duke and Earl Spencer are both descendants of the 17th century monarch, and their lives are interlinked in other ways, as he explained: “I suspect we will share on the stage aspects of our own families’ links with Charles II.

“For my family, he was absolutely crucial. It was his son James, once Charles had been restored to the throne, who became the first duke of Buccleuch,” said the 64-year-old.

“My family’s story would have been very different indeed if it had not been for that fact that Charles survived the Battle of Worcester, escaped, and then, when restored to the throne, established James as the duke of Monmouth, who was also the first duke of Buccleuch.

“Most certainly it does give myself and Charles Spencer a common bond. Coincidentally, we’re also neighbours in Northamptonshire because my family has an English side to them, so we share the same county in England.”

“This link through Charles II is a really intriguing one, and, of course, it makes us dependent on the story Charles Spencer has told.

“It is one of the great what-ifs of history. If Charles had been caught, undoubtedly he would have been executed.

“As to how the history of England and Scotland would have evolved, that’s one question I’m looking forward to asking Charles at the Borders Book Festival.”

The duke believes the festival is a “real asset” to the Borders and the region’s cultural life.

For almost a decade, he has sponsored its Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction in a bid to keep the famous Scottish writer’s light burning bright.

He said: “I think it is so important for the Borders to celebrate Sir Walter Scott. He was the first international best-selling author.

“Myself and my wife’s involvement with the festival goes back to the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. It’s our eighth or ninth year of sponsoring that.

“Sir Walter was, of course, the man who effectively created the new genre of historical fiction back in the early 19th century

“Sir Walter knew and loved the Borders, and I’m just so happy that the festival, through our support, is able to have this link with this very great writer.

“What really cheers me is that so many people I meet, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to travel throughout the country for other reasons, have heard of the festival.

“There are a great number of book festivals now, but it seems to stand particularly high in the world of book festivals for the quality of the people it attracts and by the way they are welcomed by the audiences and the book festival team.

“It does the Borders great credit, and for many they are coming to see the most beautiful part of Scotland at a wonderful time of the year.”

The duke intends to attend all four days of the festival and is particularly interested in catching comedian and ventriloquist Nina Conti, adding: “I’ve missed her in the past but don’t intend to miss her this year. I hear she’s incredible.”

Tickets for Earl Spencer’s appearance at the Baillie Gifford-sponsored book festival in conversation with the duke at 6pm on June 14 cost £15, £13 for concessions.

To Catch a King is published by Harper Collins.

The festival takes place in Melrose’s Harmony Garden from Thursday, June 14, to Sunday, June 17.

Tickets are available at www.bordersbookfestival.org or at 0131 473 2000.