My Postcard as an Historical Artefact


Lady Dervorguilla, the devoted widow of Balliol (no copyright infrigement is intended).


John Balliol, the founder of Balliol College and the late husband of Lady Dervorguilla (no copyright infrigement is intended).

Balliol College Institution in Oxford (no copyright infrigement is intended).


This is a depiction of the Cistercian munks that resided in Sweetheart Abbey(no copyright infrigement is intended). 

This postcard was made for an older and more mature audience. I believe this because it is dull in colour, which is not something that a child would find interesting. It is also a site that I believe would be most popular for couples and/or newly-weds given it’s history. Sweetheart Abbey was built in 1273 under the command of Lady Dervorguilla. She had the abbey built as a memorial for her husband, John Balliol (Ron, 2019). Legend has it, Lady Dervorguilla was so devoted to her husband that after he died, she kept his embalmed heart on her at all times in a silver and ivory casket (Cistercians in Yorkshire, 2019). Her body was also laid to rest at Sweetheart Abbey. Therefore, this site would be very romantic to commemorate with a postcard. That being said, Scotland is often the place for “runaway” lovers to wed as their laws did not change after 1796. This allowed for anyone to wed after the age of 15 without parental consent, as long as they were not too closely related or in a relationship with someone else (Castelow, 2016). Perhaps that is the reason that Dorothy is writing to Mr. Peacock in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. Perhaps she has run off with her lover to wed in Scotland and is writing home to a family member. The audience of this postcard is implied to be mature adults, as the text is vague and does not specify. But this specific postcard’s audience is intended to be a ‘Mr. Peacock’. Interestingly, John Balliol was the founder of Balliol College. The records in which the story of how Balliol College was founded have long been destroyed (Beam, 2005). But historians have reason to believe that John Balliol was at a disagreement with the bishops of Durham, over having owed money to them. The men disputed from 1255-1260. Ultimately, in 1260, Balliol was submitted to Bishop Kirkham at the Durham Cathedral. This then formed what we recognize to be Balliol College. After Balliol’s passing, Lady Dervorguilla continued the institution (Cistercians in Yorkshire, 2019). These historical stories of Lady Dervorguilla and John Balliol are mentioned at the bottom of the postcard, on the front, which indicates that the postcard was intended to be a gateway to knowledge. That the recipient of the card would be interested enough in the history of the location to go and visit themselves. This promotes tourism in Scotland, and was most likely effective as Dorothy proclaimed to be having a grand time. Another interesting fact, Balliol and Lady Dervoguilla’s youngest son, John the Second, was to become the king of Scotland in 1292 after King Edward the First. But sadly, John did not suit the role and was dismissed by King Edward (Cistercians in Yorkshire, 2019). What many people do not know is that Sweetheart Abbey was the very last Cistercian abbey to be found in Scotland. A Cistercian is a member of the Roman Catholic monastic order that was originally founded in 1098 (Britannica, 2019). The Cistercian’s lived strict solitary lives within their abbeys. Due to the Cistercian’s adopting Sweetheart Abbey after 1200, Nun’s who were formerly excluded from the order, were able to live within the abbey. These Nuns were directed by the White Monks of the Cistercians (Britannica, 2019).The monks who came to own this abbey were the ones to coin it as “abbey dulce cor” or as we know it today, “Sweetheart Abbey” (Ron, 2019). The name was a tribute to Lady Dervorguilla’s love and loyalty to her late husband. Today, this postcard serves to be a memorable piece of history for some. The family of Dorothy and/or Mr. Peacock may value this piece of ephemera. It also shows a clear connection of Scottish tourism around the world as it has travelled such a long way. It is a valuable research tool to help us grasp what tourism was really like in the 18th century in Scotland.

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