The War Chieftain and Claire


Written by: Anne Hawkinson

I’m still trying to figure out what made Dougal MacKenzie “tick” in his relationship with Claire. I’ve had my eye on him since that night in the cottage (Season One). He was handsome, capable, confident, had a no-nonsense approach to solving problems, and was used to getting what he wanted. I wondered what was going on behind those steely, blue eyes. What motivated this grizzled war chieftain, and why was he so contradictory? There must have been more to him than testosterone, and now that he's gone, we'll have to speculate.

When we first met Dougal, we find him fascinated with, and attracted to, the newly-rescued Claire Beauchamp. He doesn’t believe her story, but takes her back to Castle Leoch anyway. Why bother? Once the men depart, she wouldn’t be able to tell the British (Dougal suspects she’s a spy) which way they went (other than a wave in the general direction). Is she a trophy, a “gift” to lay at Laird Colum MacKenzie’s feet? A political feather in Dougal’s bonnet? A bargaining chip with the British?

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Dougal has her followed 24/7 and challenges her every chance he gets. Perhaps he’s not used to strong-willed women, but her strength fascinates Dougal, and with the right amount of whisky during the gathering, he’s more than willing to put their differences aside long enough for him to hoist her skirts. What he gets is a bench over the head.


Photo courtesy: cmhoughton.wordpress.com

It would be much easier to leave Claire behind when they leave Castle Leoch to collect the rents. Is the need for a healer on the road that great? They exchange snipes and glares, and I wonder what motivation Dougal has for his trouble. If he’s so sure she’s a spy, why does he allow her presence at the evening gatherings where everyone shares a wee dram? Even if Claire doesn’t understand Gaelic, she’d pick up the general theme of Dougal’s performance by tone, gesture, or an occasional word she could translate (which, she does). He doesn’t believe her continuous denial when accused of being a spy and confronts her again at the stream when they stop to camp.

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When the English troops appear on the scene, why doesn’t Dougal just hand Claire over? If she’s a spy, let the English deal with her - he could just deny anything she may say about what she’s witnessed. She’s a woman - of little consequence - and an unreliable witness to anything, right? It’d be so easy, she’d be out of his hair, and they could get on with their rent-collecting road trip. It would prove she’s not being held against her will.

Not only does he not hand Claire over willingly, he declares that “if she goes, I go” when Lieutenant Jeremy Foster decides she needs to come with him so that she can speak to his commander, Brigadier General Sir Oliver Lord Thomas. Is that a bit of loyalty I see? Affection? I’m starting to have feelings for this guy, crude and rude as he is. Am I making a huge mistake? 

They are escorted to the inn at Brockton, where things go from bad to worse for Claire. The cordial British leave to investigate an attack, Black Jack Randall assaults her, and it’s Dougal to the rescue!

Photo courtesy: drangedinaz.wordpress.com


They stop at a “truth” spring, where Dougal asks for the last time (and pulls his dirk in case he needs to kill her) if she’s a spy. Finally satisfied with her answer, he tells her that the only way to keep her out of British hands is for her to become a Scot, which means she’ll have to marry one. She’s a real thorn in his side, but he’s going to all of this trouble for one pain-in-the-ass Sassenach. Why? He could force her to marry him, which he admits, he’d enjoy (as he so eloquently offers that he wouldn't mind grinding her corn). But, he decides she should marry Jamie instead. He seems genuinely concerned for her welfare, and her future. At least on the surface. Could Dougal have a compassionate heart under that gruff exterior? It’s a lot of trouble to go through for one, insignificant woman they picked up on the road. There must be another, hidden agenda.

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And so, a hastily-prepared wedding takes place. Ned Gowan spells out the terms, which include consummation as soon as possible, with witnesses in the building, if not in the room itself. Claire leaves a love-exhausted Jamie upstairs and ventures down for a pitcher of something to drink. Dougal comes in, back from visiting Jack Randall and informing him of the happy news. Claire thanks him, and turns toward the stairs. What happened next told me that Dougal was not quite ready to let Claire go. He thanks her for marrying Jamie, but informs her that her marriage should not keep her from “sampling other pleasures.” Meaning him. So, does the term “loyalty” only apply to the crown and his clan? What about Jamie? Does Claire mean that much to him that he’s willing to betray his own nephew? Does he hope to use Claire to further his political agenda?

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Back at Castle Leogh, Dougal finds himself in a bit of hot water. It seems the fiscal’s wife is carrying his child. So, did Dougal think he could have a thing going with both Claire and Geillis Duncan? I know he’s a hunky Highlander, but isn’t there a limit? He’s already fathered a child for Colum (justified, in their eyes, to keep the bloodline going), and now there’s a child on the way with Geillis. Is sex a benefit that comes with political ambition? But… he says he loves her! Why? Because she’s pregnant with his baby? 

I can’t figure this guy out. I don’t think Dougal equates love with fathering children. He has an eye for the lasses, and proudly admits to bedding them. Claire dodged a bullet, but she doesn’t escape the fallout. Dougal is banished, and good riddance! Trouble is, Jamie has to go along to babysit, and for how long, no one knows.

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So, Dougal is out of the picture, right? Not so fast. Claire and Jamie return to Lallybroch, hoping to put the pain of Crainsmuir behind them and lead a quiet, unassuming life, blessed with lots of beautiful children. But Jamie is captured by the British and Claire and Murtagh go on the road as a pair of traveling minstrels, hoping that their presence will draw Jamie to them, and they can spirit him away to safety. After weeks of disappointment, they receive a bit of good news that leads them to a cave where they assume Jamie is hiding. Except it's not Jamie, it's Dougal, with a proposal of his own for Claire.



If Claire wants Dougal's help (actually, the help of his men), she must agree to marry him if Jamie does not survive his imprisonment at Wentworth Prison. Of course, Claire will do anything for Jamie, so she agrees. Claire can't do much to further Dougal's political cause, so Dougal's motivation has got to be Claire herself. He wants her for his own, and he'll get her any way he can, even if comes to betraying his own nephew. Thankfully, Jamie is rescued, and Claire is out of Dougal's clutches. For now.

Fast-forward to Season Two, where Dougal and Claire meet again. “It wouldn’t be Scotland without you, Dougal,” Claire says with a cool edge as he makes his grand entrance. Dougal has arrived to help Jamie train the men that will fight for Prince Charles Stuart, but his primary purpose is to secure a seat at the Prince’s table and find favor with him. Jamie is tolerant of his uncle, but after the disruptive Highland Charge, Jamie makes it clear that he is the leader of Clan Fraser and things will be done his way. If Dougal doesn’t like it, he can hit the highway. Dougal agrees to Jamie’s face, then seeks out Claire to see if she’ll intercede on his behalf.

He asks Claire if she told Jamie about the bargain they struck in the cave before Jamie's rescue from Wentworth. He seems surprised when Claire tells him Jamie knows - they share everything. Seems Dougal is not a fan of transparency. Not only does Claire not intercede on his behalf, she proceeds to put him in his place and tell him from a place of equality what she really thinks of him.

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"Well, then,” he says to Claire. Does he finally get it? Does he realize that he has no hold over her, and therefore, no power or influence on his behalf with Jamie or the Prince? Are we finally done with Dougal and his underhanded ways? Not yet. He plays the part of subordinate to Jamie's Fraser fighters, but tries at every turn to move to a position of authority over Jamie. He's not used to answering to anyone, especially Jamie and Claire, who Dougal just can't seem to get a hold of, physically or otherwise. And, it doesn't end well for Dougal. He forces Jamie's hand, and Claire lends hers to end it, once and for all.


What do you think Claire's hold on Dougal was all about?
Did he have his fate coming to him from the get go? 

4 comments

  1. The answers are in the books. Some things are lost in translation.

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  2. As far as Dougal and Claire go, the show doesn't exactly play along with the books.

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  3. Dougal said to Claire "you are a most singular woman" and I think that's it in a nutshell. He's somewhere between being captivated by her and failing to acknowledge his usual charm with the ladies doesn't work on Claire. Her strong will and 20th century independence plays on both ends of his feeling for her. He's used to getting his way and Claire both enchants him and infuriates him at the same time. As an 18th century Highlander war chief, he is an alpha chauvinist and I think he does the things he does with Claire because his ego won't let him admit defeat. It's probably too simplistic to put it this way, but as a guy I will say it's a "guy thing".

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  4. I agree with EbonyRaptor's points and add that in the cave in both the show and books that Dougal sees Jamie as good as dead when he is imprisoned at Wentworth and if Dougal marries Claire, he gets Lallybroch since Claire would inherited it from Jamie. Apparently Lallybroch holds a passage between mountains that the clans may know but not the British. Yes, Dougal is physically attracted to Claire, but he wants Lallybroch-probably more and knows he could father children on Claire. Undoubtedly Dougal has many bastards or possibility of many from claiming war chief rights or "gentle persuasion" with many lasses besides his wife Maura.

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