Historical Fiction Book

Finding my 24th great-grandmother, Ada de Warenne

Here's the timeline I used in writing A Pawn for a King: https://www.sarahhinze.com/ada-timeline/

My journey to know Countess Ada de Warenne began several
years ago when my good friend Charlene, a professional genealogist, agreed
to my request and took my old box of family history to her home to put it into
some reasonable order. She returned several weeks later, having done extensive
research into my family line. With additional data she located on www.ancestory.com and other websites, she
turned my old box of notes into ten notebooks of family genealogy.

Thank you, Char Hobbs, here with me and my dog, Winnie. Char gave me the gift of my genealogy. Learning about my family history brings me joy. Simply stated and oh, so true.

With great wonder, I followed one of those direct lines from
myself down the centuries to my 24th great-grandmother, Ada De
Warenne. When I saw her name on the paper, I cried.  What reasonable
person cries at the name of an ancestor?  It was an emotion I could
not explain, but it was an instant love for her, as well as a deep longing to
learn everything about her life.

Those feelings propelled me to go on my first trip across the pond—accompanied by four of my daughters. Since then my husband Brent and I have visited many of the places Ada resided during her lifetime.

The Highlands. I asked Norman about this building we stopped to see. "Oh my goodness, it looks so old. And why is the roof off?" Norman, a librarian and very weill read in Scottish history, said, "If a roof was off of a building, they did not have to pay taxes. It's not very old. Maybe a thousand years old." That's how they say it there, folks!
Brent and I at the Battle of Hastings battleground. Ada's grandfather William de Warenne fought here alongside his commander, William the Conqueror. For his valiancy in battle, Warenne was given huge land grants in England, including much of Surrey.

The cab rounded the curve of Bridge Street and there it was! The Nungate Bridge.  I had heard that Countess Ada had built the bridge during her residence in the burgh in Haddington. I later learned that the current bridge was built in the 1300’s. That’s how it is over there. So many homes, buildings, statues, walls, etc. are very old and may I say, very beautiful.

Standing near the Nungate Bridge
A different angle of the Nungate Bridge.

From my journal: The trip to Haddington had been the main focus of my visit to Scotland, but traveling with four daughters was described best by our Edinburgh bed and breakfast owner as we noisily burst through his door for our three-day stay, “You are traveling with four daughters!  Is that kind of like herding cats?” he huffed.

Norman, Rachel, Krista, Becky and Anna. Unfortunately, this is one castle whose name I've forgotten. 🙂 Can anyone refresh my memory? 🙂
Anna and Becky with e in front of Edinburgh Castle. I cried the first time I saw it. I did not know then that my ancestors King David, his mother and father King Malcolm and Queen Margaret lived and served the people of Scotland here. Ada served as regent to her son King Malcolm IV here, along with signing charters here with her son King William the Lion. She signed her name on the charters, "Countess Ada, Mother to the King of the Scots".

“Yes,” I responded with frustration while shushing my
girls. “Exactly!”

We had missed the 1:10pm bus from Edinburgh to
Haddington, and at first, I thought all was lost. The trip to Haddington and
back to Edinburgh would be 100 pounds. “But who cares,” I quickly decided.  “I
am so close. I have to see Haddington, if only for an hour or two.”

We flagged down a cab, and we were on our way!

With Anna, exploring someone's garden.
Beautiful Scotland.


Dunfermline Abbey in Edinburgh, Scotland.
King David I was buried here, as mentioned in A Pawn for a King.
Hiking a trail in Scotland. Joy. Pure joy!
Beautiful Yester Castle in the hills outside of Haddington, Scotland - great folklore here and mystery. Many important scenes in Yester Castle in A Pawn for a King.

Within a five-minute walk is St. Mary’s Church. History
bears account that it is built on a site where a much smaller church was built
in 1139, the year of Ada’s marriage to Prince Henry. That early church was most
likely built by her father- in- law King David I.  St. Mary’s Church is an impressively large
stone structure with stained-glass windows, originally completed in 1486 , and
restored in the 1970’s.  Upon entering the west end of the church,
Brent and I gaze upon an imposing vista of the largest parish church in
Scotland. The Gothic style of the building is apparent. I attended services
both Sundays we were there, and both Brent and I were moved to tears during the
services.  The message and the music was

Beautiful Haddington, Scotland. I am at St. Mary's Pleasance Garden where some researchers have demonstrated that this was the loation of the Royal Palace built by King David I and later given to Countess Ada de Warenne after the death of Prince Henry.

Reigate, Surrey, England: Ada de Warenne's Birthplace

There is nothing left
of the castle in Reigate, Surrey, England, that was the birthplace of Ada de
Warenne (cir. 1120.) But now a beautiful garden and memorial marks the spot.

The medieval village's
original name was Churchefelle, the castle being Reigate, but today the town
claims the castle's name. Beautiful modern-day Reigate is rated among the
highest real estate values in the UK.

Ada's father, William de Warenne II, was the Earl of Surrey until his death in 1138, and his son, William, inherited the earldom. The castle stood on a hill, and looked over the village below. There are no ruins, but a memorial stands, and gardens now fills the space--an inviting spot to come and reminisce as times gone past.

Stairs to the right of Boots Pharmacy in downtown Reigate.

To get to the castle yard, find the stairs to the right of Boots Pharmacy in downtown Reigate. They will take you to this delightful memorial arch built in 1777 by Richard Barnes.

Memorial arch built in 1777 by Richard Barnes

The plaque reads:
"To save the memory of William Earl Warren "who in old days dwelt here, and was a loyal champion of our liberties from perishing like his own castle by the ravages of time."

The gardens at the top are as peaceful as one would imagine the Garden of Eden
There is also a cave beneath where the castle stood, known as Baron's Cave, and is open on certain days to the public. Here is the website telling the details.


Crail, Fife, Scotland, UK - Once Home to Ada de Warenne

The medieval royal family of Scotland never had a shortage of castles. Crail, in County Fife, was proclaimed a royal burgh by William the Lion and once was the setting of a castle believed to be often visited by Ada de Warenne. Today there is no castle, only a privately owned tower on the spot where it is thought it stood.

Hill thought to be where the castle stood

Crail is distinctive with its stone wall that creates a safe harbor. A beautiful town, quaint and clean.

Since my picture of the harbor did not turn out, I borrowed this one of a great jigsaw puzzle of Crail.
Looking down from the top of the approx. 10 foot high harbor wall
Looking across the harbor
Cobblestone streets near the harbor

Historical 17th and 18th century buildings are homes and shops of all
kinds, including restaurants, ice cream and souvenir shops, and lobster stands.

The cobblestone streets are well maintained.

Eads Hall, Whitfield, Scotland

In A Pawn for a King, Ada de Warenne, Eads Hall is Ada de Warenne's first home after she married Henry, Prince of Scotland. The Hall is  in Whitfield, Northumberland.

The mansion was originally a hunting lodge, and when Waltheof, the Prince's maternal grandfather, bought it, he fortified it and added more buildings, making it a proper palace. Waltheof had a sad ending, suffering beheading at the command of William the Conquerer for his part in the Revolt of the Earls.

Chapel of St. John
Looking across the field to the brook

Prince Henry, who inherited the Earldom of Huntington, took over Eads Hall in the late 1130s. The nearby medieval church,  Chapel of St. John, served Eads Hall in those days, and still stands across the brook from where the mansion was located.

After Henry's death, Ada de Warenne made her home in Haddington, Scotland, and gave the Hall to her chaplain, Robert.

She also gave her land in Whitfield to the nuns at Hexham Abbey.
The chaplain and his family took on the name of Whitfield, and it is said that those who go by the surname today are his descendants.

There is nothing left of Eads Hall today, only the field where once it stood. The trees on the right in the photo line the brook, and St. John's church stands just beyond them, surrounded by its impressive old graveyard.

Door to Chapel of St. John

The area known as Whitfield is a very small village now. Just an elementary school and scattered homes through the valley.

It is a beautiful drive to the spot, through the moors from the south, and a lovely walk through the church cemetery. But beware of the pretty, Scottish thistles. A serene place to remember Ada de Warenne and her love, Henry, Prince of Scotland.

Thistles line path to chapel
Highway A69 runs between Carlisle and New Castle. Whitfield is shown almost centerpoint on the map, above.

Have you driven through this area of England/Northumbria? What were your impressions of it?

Edinburg in Medievel Times

Edinburgh in the
1400s, 300 years after Ada's time, and then it was still only a village with a
castle-- a fraction of what the city is today.

Where is your favorite
place to visit in Edinburgh?