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Blood and Honour

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 04 March 2013

Programme 1. Blood and Honour

Billy Kay explores the role of aristocratic male honour in the history of murder in Scotland from the blood feud vendettas of the 1590's to the lethal duels of the 18th century. There will be stories galore of blood being spilled, but mainly, in the company of leading historians, Billy will reveal what violent crime tells us about society at different stages of development. There is one constant - men commit up to 90% of murders and comprise 70% of its victims. Other than that, the past is a very different country. In A History of Murder Pieter Spierenburg writes, "Medieval patricians and aristocrats alike considered violence to be their special prerogative." We explore this concept of male honour which links knife-wielding gangs in our cities today with the noblemen of the past. Think of the feud between Capulets and Montagues in Romeo and Juliet and the words of Bishop Leslie in Scotland. "Great families they feud, and that perpetually." King James VI waxed more lyrical in this description of his subjects. "An for anie displeisure that they apprehend to be done unto them by their neighbours (they) tak up a plain feud against him, and (without respect to God, King or Commonweal) bang it out bravely, he and all his kinne, against him and all his." Billy speaks to Keith Brown, author of Bloodfeud in Scotland 1573 - 1625, and discovers that there were over 390 murderous feuds raging across Scotland .Lindsays and Ogilvies in the 1440's, Cunninghames and Montgomeries in the 1520's, McDonalds and Mcleans almost in perpetuity, and the Moray/Huntly feud of the 1590's which at least left us the legacy of a great song which has lasted well - The Bonnie Earl o' Moray.


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