Page 6. " of high family, as any need be, in Devon - Carews, and Bouchiers, and Bastards "

Bastard is a famous English surname of 11th century Norman-French origin. William the Conqueror, the former Duke of Normandy, was known as William the Bastard, and the original Bastards may well have been closely associated with him. Initially, and for several centuries, "bastard" was not considered a term of abuse; rather it marked the status of a natural off-spring within a noble family. The surname has been carried by the Bastard family of Kitley House, Devon, for at least seven centuries. The first known record of the surname anywhere in the world is thought to be for Robert Bastard of Devon in the Domesday Book in 1086.

Bouchier is a surname of early French origins, introduced to England by the Normans after the 1066 Conquest.  The first recorded spelling of the family name is Ailwardus le Bochere, in 1184, in the Pipe Rolls of London. 

Page 17. " those bloody Doones of Bagworthy, the awe of all Devon and Somerset, outlaws, traitors, murderers "
James Stuart First Earl of Moray
Public DomainJames Stuart First Earl of Moray - Credit: Hans Eworth

The Doone family in the novel is based on a real family of outlaws and murderers that lived on Exmoor at the time.  A detailed account of the origins of the Doones has been provided by Ms Ida M. Browne, who is apparently a descendant of the Doones of Exmoor. 

In 1580 Elizabeth, Countess of Moray, married Sir James Stuart of Doune.  Sir James had a twin brother, Ensor. Constant friction existed between the brothers as to the legal ownership of the title and estates of Doune Castle, situated near Stirling in Perthshire.

In 1602, Sir James was murdered by his hereditary enemy, the Earl of Huntley. The Earl was a friend of Ensor, and it was commonly supposed that Ensor had paid the impoverished Huntley to assassinate his brother. James, 2nd Earl of Moray, succeeded his murdered father.

In 1618, Ensor’s son Ensor James Stuart assumed the surname of Doune. This was viewed by his cousin, the 2nd Earl of Moray, as a claim on Doune Castle. The Earl gave Sir Ensor and his wife the choice of exile or imprisonment.  They left Scotland and travelled to London, where they sought an audience with the King, which they never received. Subsequently, they made their way to Exmoor, where they raised their sons as robbers and murderers.  For 73 years they terrorized the area.  In 1699, a new Earl of Moray invited them to return to Scotland, which they did. 

There is some dispute as to the validity of this account, although many historians have accepted the truth of Ms Browne's version.  Whatever the precise details, there is strong support for the theory that the Doones were a real family of outlaws, of Scottish origin, living in the Exmoor area during this time. 

Ida Browne’s full account of their history can be read here.

Page 25. " In or about the year of our Lord 1640, when all the troubles of England were swelling to an outburst "
King Charles I of England, 1630w
Public DomainKing Charles I of England, 1630w - Credit: Sir Anthony van Dyck

King Charles I, who ruled England from 1625 to 1649, was a firm believer in the divine right of kings and absolute monarchy, and he clashed frequently with Parliament as a result.  Between 1629 and 1640 he dissolved Parliament altogether and ruled as absolute monarch, a period known as the Eleven Years’ Tyranny.  He made himself very unpopular, levying a range of taxes and fines to raise money for the crown, and attempting to move the Church of England toward a more ceremonial form of High Anglicanism, which was perceived by Protestant objectors – and Puritans in particular – as a stealthy return to Catholicism.  Charles’ need to raise revenue to fight off a Scottish invasion in the north led him to reconstitute Parliament in 1640.  This "Long Parliament" made a number of legislative changes to strengthen the power of Parliament against the King.   The Remonstrance of 1641 called for substantial curtailment of royal authority in favour of Parliament, and sweeping changes in church and state.  This alienated moderates who opposed absolutism but nonetheless remained royalists and Anglicans. 

In January 1642, Charles attempted to arrest five members of the House of Commons on a charge of treason. Parliament refused to hand them over, asserting the authority of Parliament over the King.  Over the course of the year, Parliament and King became increasingly polarised, and cities and towns began to declare their sympathies for one faction or the other. By August 1642, civil war had divided England, pitting the Royalists, or Cavaliers, against supporters of the Long Parliament, the Roundheads.


The Battle of Marston Moor, 1644
Public DomainThe Battle of Marston Moor, 1644 - Credit: John Barker