“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!” These often-quoted words are from Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion, published in 1806. It told of the romantic entanglements of lords and ladies before the Battle of Flodden in 1513: a clash between English armies and invading Scottish forces. It was beloved by readers. A few years later, Scott turned his hand to novels, beginning with the immensely popular Waverley. His skillful treatment of Scotland, romance and history helped him forge a romantic image of Scottish identity which endures to this day.
Scott’s devotion to his home country was clear throughout his works, and his words helped to make Scotland the country it is today: he made wearing tartan popular, for one thing, and romanticised the wild landscapes of the Highlands.
Back from the brink: Scotland stays in the UK
The 307-year-old union between Scotland and the UK survived this morning. 55% of voters said ‘No’ to independence. But politics will never be the same again in Britain.
Queen’s remark on Scotland shocks politicians
After months of silence on the Scottish referendum, the Queen has entered the fray by hinting she would prefer a No vote. But does the monarchy have any future in an independent Scotland?
Haggis, kilts and reels for a very Scottish night
Tonight, Scots all over the world will raise a dram to national poet Robert Burns. The night is a celebration of Scottish culture but how important is this party to national identity?
By creating fictional characters and placing them in lively, colourful stories of the past, Scott became known as the “father of the historical novel”. He would mimic the speech, customs and spirit of an age. How do we relate to history 200 years after his death?
‘Evil’ king laid to rest 530 years after death
Thousands gathered to watch King Richard III’s reburial ceremony, but his reputation as a tyrant lives on through centuries-old propaganda. Can we ever really know historical figures?
200 years since Waterloo’s ‘nearest run thing’
Commemorations in Belgium will today mark two centuries since Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. But should we really remember bloody battles as the defining moments in history?
Many of Scott’s historical novels told stories of clashes between cultures: Christians and Muslims in The Talisman, Normans and Saxons in Ivanhoe — and, of course, the ancient rivalries between England and Scotland. In the complex and interconnected world of the 21st Century, the theme feels more relevant than ever.
Cameron: immigration policy ‘hasn’t worked’
Top Conservatives suggest that ‘too much’ immigration makes a ‘cohesive society impossible’. But fans of the Great British Bake Off take a rather different view as the finale arrives.
Islamic State aims to spark all-out war
The terrorist attacks that flared across Paris on Friday night were the first major, complex strike by Islamic State inside the EU. What do they want? And how should we respond?
Rowling under fire over Native American magic
Harry Potter author JK Rowling has been denounced for ‘cultural appropriation’ in a new series of stories. So what exactly is this misdeed? Is it new? And is JK Rowling in the wrong?
Scott was unfailingly generous to his characters. From struggling peasants, to Highland rebels, to wealthy kings, everyone was given a thoughtful and sympathetic portrayal. He was relentlessly tolerant. Has the rest of society followed in his footsteps?
The best and worst of times for gay rights
The change in attitudes to homosexuality is one of the wonders of the modern world. But have its speed and the very visible recognition of gay rights provoked a backlash in some countries?
Refugees arrive to intense cultural debate
Around 100 Syrian refugees have arrived in Scotland days after the Paris attacks. As they begin building new lives, should they become more British or retain their cultural identity?
Intrigue and infidelity topples top US generals
Washington reels as revelations of a love affair now threaten not one but two senior military careers. Is America right to disapprove so strongly of flawed leaders?
The beautiful portrayal of Scotland’s incredible natural beauty in Scott’s novels helped to give the country a special place in Europe’s romantic imagination. How do we understand nature today?
‘Frozen Planet’ brings nature to urban living rooms
The final episode of David Attenborough’s acclaimed new series about life in Earth’s polar regions airs tomorrow. But is even the best TV a good substitute for the real thing?
New rules threaten ancient woods with the chop
Conservationists are up in arms over government proposals that could allow centuries-old woodlands to be cut down. But do trees really matter when human needs are at stake?
Britain’s greatest living painter turns to landscape
Yesterday, tickets went on sale for a huge new David Hockney exhibition. The world famous painter is revitalising landscape art. Why are we so fascinated by nature?