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names and phrases

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  • Sharla Hardy
    More from World Wide Words. A romantic story and an example of the mutability of names in the middle ages KATIE, BAR THE DOOR! A quick education in Scots
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31, 2002
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      More from World Wide Words. A romantic story and an example of the
      mutability of names in the middle ages>>

      KATIE, BAR THE DOOR! A quick education in Scots history followed
      my fumbling attempts last week to explain this saying. Many e-mails
      arrived pointing out the story of Catherine Douglas. King James I
      of Scotland, a cultured and firm ruler, was seen by some of his
      countrymen as a tyrant. Under attack by his enemies while staying
      at the Dominican chapter house in Perth on 20 February 1437, he was
      holed up in a room whose door had the usual metal staples for a
      wooden bar, but whose bar had been taken away. The legend is that
      Catherine Douglas, one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting, tried
      heroically to save James I by barring the door with her naked arm.
      Her attempt failed, her arm being broken in the process, and the
      King was murdered, but she was thereafter known as Catherine
      Barlass. Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote a poem about her in 1881,
      entitled "The King’s Tragedy", of which one stanza is:

      Like iron felt my arm, as through
      The staple I made it pass:—
      Alack! it was flesh and bone — no more!
      ’Twas Catherine Douglas sprang to the door,
      But I fell back Kate Barlass.

      Yllaria
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