In a nutshell: ‘The Curse of Scotland’

I’m introducing a new style of occasional feature:  called ‘In a nutshell’, they are little bites of interest in 100 words or so!  The hazel nut was believed by ancient cultures to contain a wealth of wisdom, and this is where the phrase ‘in a nutshell‘ comes from;  to find out more, take a look Under the Hazel Tree.

A romantic glen, a tale of betrayal and murder, and the Nine of Diamonds…

Glen Coe (1)In 1692, soldiers belonging to Clan Campbell were billeted on the MacDonalds of Glencoe.  But the 12th Chief of Glencoe, Alastair Maclean, had been two days late in swearing an oath of allegiance to William of Orange.  A military order came through, commanding the troops to kill their hosts in retaliation;  it was drafted by John Dalrymple, 1st Earl of Stair and Secretary of State for Scotland.

Dalrymple’s coat of arms was thought to resemble the Nine of Diamonds in a pack of cards, and after the infamous Glencoe massacre that card became known as ‘The Curse of Scotland’.

This is only one of many stories that attempt to explain why the Nine of Diamonds has such a bad name;  but most historians agree that it’s the most convincing!


Photo copyright © Colin Woolf


  1. Love the feature!.

  2. Another piece of history I would like to study but it will have to wait until I’ve finished with St.Columba! Thanks Jo.

  3. Well there’s plenty to keep you going 🙂

  4. Lovely photo and great idea for a feature. I had no idea that the nine of diamonds was so doom-laden.

    • Thank you, Lorna! 🙂 Yes, I love that photo – Colin took that on his way up to Mallaig last summer. No, nor did I know anything about this – it was an eye-opener to me too! I just came across the information at random. There are many other explanations as well, some relating to Mary Queen of Scots. It’s all very mysterious!

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