Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Finding the Facts by Katherine Pym


Sir David Kirke

Research is a powerful thing. It opens the eyes and expands the mind... that is, if you find sources that don't conflict with each other. For instance, when writing Pillars of Avalon, we found David Kirke was to be knighted by King Charles I in Scotland. David was an Englishman, not a Scotsman. He resided in London with his wife and family. If he were to be knighted in another country, would he be a knight of Scotland or England? This brought about a lot of digging through the annals of history. Deep faraway history.

King Charles I
King Charles I was in need of money. His kingdom in chaos, Parliament gave him fits when he wanted more taxes, so he dismissed Parliament. Since he was the sovereign and believed in the divine right of kings, he proclaimed to rule alone.

He still needed money, so he started knighting men. Once dubbed, the new knight would register their names (even as the register was notoriously in error), and pay their fees. Many refused to do so. As a result posterity lost sight they had been knighted, even as they signed their documents and letters as John Doe, Knight.

When in Scotland, new knights were mandated to register their names with the Lyon King in Edinburgh. Those knighted in England were to register with Herald's College in London. The fee was extensive, upwards to £108, and pretty hefty for that time.

Since the king was in Scotland, and he did not like David very much, he decided to knight him in a country that did not like the English, and the fact, if he registered his knighthood with the Lyon King, he would be considered a Scottish knight.

Digging into who was knighted and where, I found David's name as one who had been honored in Scotland. Then I found a list of who had been knighted alongside him, but the list did not include David's name.

The Kirke's family crest
This is when a historical story becomes fiction. I could not go to Scotland or England to search the archives, data that may have burned in London during the great fire of 1666. I had to work with what I found, sometimes going back several centuries, sometimes in conflict with other data. I could not verify this but if a reliable source mentioned David as being knighted in Scotland, I went with it. I had him defy the standing process and have his certificate registered in London so that he would be considered an English knight. Even if it did not appear in the register.

So, we have Sir David Kirke and Lady Sara Kirke. His knight bachelor did not extend to his sons, even as Lady Sara requested King Charles II to extend it, but from my records, there is no record of him acknowledging or honoring her request.

Many thanks to :

Shaw, William Arthur & Burthchaell, George Dames, The Knights of England, Volume 1, a complete record from the earliest time to the present day of the knights of all the orders of chivalry in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of knights bachelors. Printed and Published for the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, Lord Chamberlain’s Office, St. James’s Palace, Sherratt and Hughes, London 1906

And Wikicommons, Public Domain 


  1. That's why I love research, you always find -or almost- find these little gems in history. Great post.

  2. It's amazing what you can find out through research. But history only gives us the facts. I found out writing historical fiction that I had the most fun finding the motivations of historical characters and figures. History gives us the what, the where, and sometimes the how. Like a detective, I want to find out the WHY.

    1. Absolutely. It's the reason why I write historical fiction, too. The historical texts don't give the inner reasons, the soul on why these individuals did what they did. :D