Bonnie Bertha of Badlieu
Bertha lived in a shepherd’s house at Badlieu, and was known for her beauty. She was an only child and lived with her father, her mother having died in childbirth.
King Kenneth III “Kenneth the Grim” was a wise, good looking and charming man who ruled Scotland between 996 and 1004. He was a very popular King, and the “Grim” refers to his great strength.
A keen huntsman, he regularly came to Polmood Lodge in Tweedsmuir to hunt deer, wild boar and wild cattle within the dense Wood of Caledon.
One day while out on a hunt, Kenneth lost his way in a great mist, and found himself before a cottage at Badlieu, where the door was opened by the shepherd’s beautiful daughter, Bertha. Kenneth and Bertha fell in love, and Kenneth visited her often.
But Kenneth already had a wife, though his marriage to the Queen was a loveless one. Eventually Bertha moved to Polmood, and became the King’s mistress. She gave birth to his son, and Kenneth adored them both. Bertha and the king may have had more children, and she brought him much happiness.
However, heartbreak was to ensue. While Kenneth was at war, his jealous Queen had decided to rid herself of the King’s mistress, and had sent her men to murder Bertha, as well as her son and father. Kenneth was distraught on hearing the news. A peasant showed him where Bertha and his son were buried, and Kenneth took a spade to the grave to prove to himself that the story was true.
Not only was Kenneth’s heart broken, but he was a broken man. Several years later he led an army against the forces of his brother Malcolm, and was defeated.
It is not clear exactly what happened to Kenneth: some versions of the story say he was wounded in the head and his eyes burned out; some say he was deserted by his army on the battle field, taken captive and tortured; other accounts suggest he died fighting. In some versions of the story, he returned an invalid to Badlieu, to die in the Tweedsmuir hills.
Whatever the truth, it seems certain that Kenneth died in physical and mental anguish.