Sweetheart Abbey

The story is that the Lady Dervogilla of Galloway was so distraught at the death of her husband, John Balliol, that she had his heart embalmed and placed in an ivory casket which she carried everywhere.  There must have been practical difficulties with this extreme act of bereavement – this was 1268 when organ transportation methods were, at best, crude….anything to declare Madam?  Monty Python would have had a field day.

Nevertheless, much good was to come from this strange obsession.  The good Lady undertook many charitable acts in his memory which included the founding of the Cistercian Abbey of Dulce Cor in 1273. When she died in 1289, she was laid to rest in front of the abbey church’s high altar, clutching her husband’s heart – history does not record the state of his vital organ.

Anyone who had a heart……

Sweetheart Abbey Sweetheart Abbey Sweetheart Abbey Sweetheart Abbey Sweetheart Abbey Sweetheart-Abbey-6 copy Sweetheart Abbey Sweetheart Abbey Sweetheart Abbey


  1. tinasrabbithole · March 19, 2014

    Wow. that’s gotta be true love..

  2. LaVagabonde · March 19, 2014

    Awesome photos, as usual. That’s a rather gruesome way to grieve.

    • northumbrianlight · March 19, 2014

      Thanks Julie. The initial reaction is ‘how romantic’ but then you think about it and carrying hubby’s body parts around in your handbag seems a tad perverse 🙂

  3. Tish Farrell · March 19, 2014

    As we are of similar vintage I wondered if you watched Armand and Michaela Denis on the TV in your youth. She was still alive when we were in Nairobi, and still as glamorous. In an interview with a Kenyan journalist she revealed that she kept the ashes of both Armand and some Count who succeeded him in the marital bed in her wardrobe. Not quite as gruesome as saving bodily parts, but almost.

    • northumbrianlight · March 19, 2014

      I am and I did 😉 ….and McDonald Hobley and Sylvia Peters. I wonder what Armand and the Count thought about being confined together in a wardrobe 🙂

      • Tish Farrell · March 20, 2014

        Yes, it has the makings of a rather dark comedy. Michaela was in her 80’s when she was interviewed and sporting bright red lipstick with long matching nails. What a hoot. Michaela, in her books, often claimed to be psychic, which adds a further angle…

  4. suej · March 19, 2014


  5. Sarah Longes - Mirador Design · March 19, 2014

    That’s quite a story and for some reason made me think of this song by Tom Lehrer

  6. Malin H · March 20, 2014

    What a touching story…
    Beautiful images, Robin!

  7. Photography Journal Blog · March 20, 2014

    That fourth photo down is my favorite, it is just very striking.

    • northumbrianlight · March 20, 2014

      Many thanks – I was quite taken by that figure – as far as I am aware it has no connection with Lady Dervogilla but it seems to capture the spirit of the story.

  8. littledogslaughed · March 20, 2014

    What intense grief that must have been-I cannot imagine-but I can imagine a bit by Monty Python indeed-the 8th image of the hands is superb!

    • northumbrianlight · March 21, 2014

      Thanks Meg – I can’t make out what she is supposed to be holding in her hands – the figure is not connected with Lady Dervogilla so I think it is a flower, not a bodypart 🙂

  9. restlessjo · March 21, 2014

    You are awful- but I like you! 🙂
    And the photos are superb. I have nice memories of Sweetheart Abbey.

    • northumbrianlight · March 21, 2014

      Its a lovely place Jo, despite my somewhat irreverent take on it 🙂 Unfortunately a significant part of the interior is currently cordoned off because of falling masonry.

  10. greenmackenzie · March 27, 2014

    Wonderful images….love the creative angles….and the colours are beautiful….red sandstone and lush green grass, beautiful 🙂
    It’s such a strange story to modern ears right…but we had a king who commanded his heart be carried to Jerusalem ( the Roslin fortune stemmed from them carrying out his wishes!) so perhaps their embalming techniques were not too basic…..after all there was a wonderful fortune to be made in relics, body parts, back in the day !

    • northumbrianlight · March 28, 2014

      Many thanks Seonaid – I must try to rein in my schoolboy ‘humour’ 😉 I will make the effort to know more about Roslin. All the best, R

      • greenmackenzie · March 28, 2014

        Oh please don’t rein in anything…..I love your humorous take on life and history. You always get me thinkng….and this time it was about the roaring trade in dried body parts….thanks I think 🙂

      • northumbrianlight · March 28, 2014

        Oh, I see…..’dried’, that’s a shame – I was thinking more Sam Peckinpah 🙂

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