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Did Braveheart really wear a kilt?

July 22nd, 2019
Dear Dabneyites,

When I ever get accused of a historical inaccuracy in my stories my defense is always the same. Historicity. Well, first it's a glass of wine to fortify myself. Then it's historicity.

What's historicity mean? Well, the best way I can explain it is with an example. Braveheart. Don't get me wrong, I love that movie. It's filled with passion, gorgeous scenery, haunting music and a swoony early career Mel Gibson (before the scary beard period began) saving the day in a 100% authentic Scottish kilt. Hang on, back up. A kilt? In medieval Scotland?

Now, this isn't going to be a newsletter about the historical accuracy of the movie but more a philosophical question. What's more important? History or the feel of history? The answer lies inside the word. Historicity.

Let me explain. Everything in a movie is a conscious choice. From the positioning of the trees in the background to the clothes the characters wear, someone made a decision about it all. The makers of Braveheart chose to dress their Braveheart in a kilt...

(not worn until the 16th century)

And they covered his face with blue paint...

(not used by the Scots since the Roman invasion more than 1,000 years earlier)

So what would medieval Scots have worn?

Men and women in that time wore much the same thing across Europe. Tunics (a long loose shirt that reached the knees of men and the ankles of women). Men also wore an undertunic and women a kirtle (a simple underdress like a loose slip). Men sometimes wore braies (baggy shorts that reached the knees). Most men and women also wore hose (footless leggings that kept the legs warm).

Man on the left - hose. Man on the right - braies.

Most clothes were made of wool, plain not patterned and most often undyed. The earliest Scottish tartans were simple checks. What we think of today as clan tartans are an 18th century invention. Kilts were not a thing at that time.

What about the face paint? 

The Romans called those north of Hadrian's Wall 'Picts,' or painted ones though we don't know why. It's possible they painted themselves but by the 13th century (when the movie is set) face painting is definitely not a thing. So why do it? Well, who does enjoy painting their faces?

(Sports fans! Go team, score the points etc!)

The director painted Braveheart and gave his men kilts for the same reason he gave them wild hair, to create mass appeal to a modern audience.

So is Braveheart accurate or not?

It's likely the costume designer knew that kilts and face paint were inaccurate but he was overruled by the director. Why? Historicity. It's the same reason why Braveheart has wild untamed hair. It's all designed to help viewers feel a bond with Wallace as an alpha hero and hopefully make the movie a hit. For the few people grumbling about the historical errors, the vast majority are just enjoying the ride and then moving on with their day.

So what is historicity?

Historicity is the feel of what we expect from the period of a movie or book rather than the 100% historical accuracy. What will help us enjoy the story more? A strong hero who regularly bathes in steaming hot water? Or the stinking greasy haired gap toothed realistic hero? We want our medieval stories fun, right? But do we want all the mud? The rotten food? The high mortality rates?

Just how accurate do we want our historical stories? 100%? 90%?

What do you reckon?

Get in touch and give me your opinion over on the dedicated Facebook post for this edition of my newsletter. I'd love to hear your point of view. Just how accurate do you want your tales? Does historical inaccuracy spoil your enjoyment?

And most importantly, did a kilt on Mel Gibson ruin Braveheart for you?

Want to read more? This article goes into great detail about the historicity of Braveheart and entertainment in general.

With love until next time,

Blanche Dabney


The Key to Her Heart - Out Now!

The eagerly awaited third book in the Clan MacGregor series is now live!

Pick up a copy here.

My thanks to all of you who've read it so far. I've loved reading all your feedback! Be sure to let me know what you think if you haven't already!

Coming August 16th, 2019

Book 4 of the Clan MacGregor series has a blurb and release date!

It'll be out in August and the blurb is below. I'd love to know what you think so do get in touch and let me know...

A struggling historian sent back in time...

Single mother Martha MacKellan can’t believe her luck when she finds an actual castle to rent in the Scottish highlands. Sure, everyone says her new home is haunted by a long dead warrior but she doesn’t believe a word of it. Until he drags her back through time to the thirteenth century.

A brooding highlander out for revenge...

Wallace MacGregor waited seven hundred years for revenge on the rival clan that cursed him to remain bound in chains for all eternity. When Martha arrives at her new home, Wallace has one chance to snatch her and drag her back to take his place in the dungeon.

A dilemma like no other...

Wallace’s plan was simple enough. Bring back the last of the hated MacKellan line. Only then can he free himself from the curse by condemning her to an eternity of captivity. But there was one thing he never expected to happen. Falling for the raven-haired beauty who refuses to quietly accept her fate.

What will happen when time runs out? Will Wallace be able to ignore his feelings and lock Martha away forever? Or will he risk his own life and soul for the one thing more powerful than any curse? True love.

Add to your 'to read' list here.

Blanche Dabney Books


The Clan MacGregor Series

The Key in the Loch

Free bonus chapter mobi or epub


The Key in the Door

Free bonus chapter mobi or epub


The Key to Her Heart

Free bonus chapter mobi or epub

4 The Key to the Past - Coming Aug 16th, 2019



Highlander’s Time Trilogy

Held by the Highlander

Free bonus chapter mobi or epub


Promised to the Highlander

Outlaw Highlander

Free bonus chapter mobi or epub


Medieval Highlander Trilogy

Highlander’s Voyage

Highlander’s Revenge

Highlander’s Battle

Download the bonus chapters as a mobi file if you have a Kindle or the epub file if you have other e-readers. Right click and 'save as' to download.
Previous Newsletters

July 8th 2019 - Did a medieval monk once come back from the dead?

June 24th 2019 - How did medieval highlanders treat their pets?

June 10th 2019 - Want to see inside the home of the Lords of the Isles?

May 24th 2019 - Who and what were the clans of Scotland?

May 14th 2019 - What was marriage like in medieval Scotland?

April 19th 2019 - Easter Sale

March 26th 2019 - What is medieval marginalia?

March 11th 2019 - Why was a castle taken down stone by stone?

Feb 22nd 2019 - What links King Arthur and Jamie Fraser?

Feb 8th 2019 - How did an Earl steal an abbey?

Jan 25th 2019 - Happy Burns Night

Jan 15th 2019 - What happens in a Highland New Year?

Dec 20th 2018 - Ten things I love about Christmas

Nov 28th 2018 - Knights in armor could hardly move, right?

Nov 14th 2018 - Seen Outlaw King yet?
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