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The savage murder of Antoine de la Bastie

Updated: May 17

Antoine de la Bastie, the real-life diplomat who inspired The Trail of Blood, was murdered on 17th September 1517. There’s no doubt that David Hume of Wedderburn was behind the attack, along with his men. Or that the murder commenced when de la Bastie went to Langton, to stop Wedderburn and his gang besieging the castle there. Where stories differ is whether the siege was always a ruse, designed to lure the Warden out.

Either way, the scene turned ugly and de la Bastie escaped along Dunse’s Preston Road (where I grew up), hoping to reach his stronghold in Dunbar. Unfortunately, his horse got stuck in marshy land, while trying to cross the Whiteadder River at Broomhouse. His pursuers then fell on him and hacked him to death, before chopping off his head and taking it back to the town’s mercat cross and subsequently to Wedderburn Castle.

When planning The Trail of Blood, I decided to tweak Antoine’s identity, so that I wouldn’t be constrained by his real-life death (he was only in office for a year, which wouldn’t make much of a series!). But I gave little nods to the historical events. For instance, I pitted my Antoine against Wedderburn and the Humes; had him escape to Dunbar; and even had his horse get stuck in a mire.

I like to feel the original Antoine would approve of this alternative history, as I reckon he deserves a happier ending than the old ballad that describes his headless corpse being "put into a grave, on Broomhouse banks without a mass or prayer his soul to save."

Woodcut of medieval man being murdered by group

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