by Scott Douglas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2003

Property PR experts help tell property agent’s success in selling acclaimed author’s home

Property PR photo of author Alison Weir, selling her Scottish property

A BESTSELLING author was given an unexpected lesson in descriptive writing by a leading estate agency, which helped sell her home after it had languished on the market for six months.

Respected historical writer Alison Weir spent two years researching and writing a book on Mary Queen of Scots and the murder of Lord Darnley, and moved to Scotland in January 2002 to be closer to her subject.

However, her move back to Carshalton, Surrey, where she is busy with research for her next work, was delayed by problems selling her £250,000 home in the Scottish Borders.

After six months on the market she had failed to find a buyer for the luxury, five-bedroom house in Eddleston, near Peebles, so she called in Edinburgh-based solicitor-estate agent, Hunters-psm.

The firm, based in Morningside, Edinburgh, responded by selling the property within two weeks.

Property PR photo of author Alison Weir, selling her Scottish property

Mother-of-two Alison, says: “A great deal of the success was down to the writing of the property description. Until now, I hadn’t fully realised what a difference a good estate agent could make.

“As a writer I know the importance of using language well. In their specialist field Hunters-psm seem to be the experts and give their written details a great deal of thought and care.

“However, it wasn’t just that Hunters-psm produced excellent property details that impressed me, it was their whole professional and positive approach. They were dynamic, hands-on and, after what I had suffered for the previous six months, they were like a breath of fresh air.

“I’m very grateful because now I can concentrate on my family and my work without something as stressful as a house sale hanging over me.

“We had high hopes of our move to Scotland, but the distance made it difficult for me to do my research and carry out promotional engagements. I love Scotland and I will definitely be back, but it’s not practical to live here because my work commitments mean that I am constantly travelling down to London.”

Alison and her husband Rankin, were so pleased with the house sale that they also asked Hunters-psm to take over the marketing of her late mother-in-law’s home in Liberton, Edinburgh. Again the firm sold it within two weeks despite four fruitless months on the market.

Gary Middlemass, Property manager with Hunters-psm added: “We were delighted to help and pride ourselves on going the extra distance to make sure we find the right buyer for a property. It paid off in this case because Alison was so pleased she also asked us to sell her mother-in-law’s home.

“In both cases we were able to do what other solicitors and estate agents hadn’t – find buyers very, very quickly. That is because we know people are extremely busy and realise the importance of allowing them to get on with other things in their lives.

“It is particularly gratifying to help a writer of Alison’s calibre and I think she was surprised and impressed by what we do. She seemed very pleased with the particulars we put together – but we’ll happily stick to property schedules and leave the creative writing to the experts.”

Property PR photo of author Alison Weir, selling her Scottish property

Alison has already written a string of acclaimed and comprehensively-researched books about some of Britain’s most colourful monarchs, including Elizabeth I and Henry VIII. Her most recent, Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, will be published in paperback by Pimlico in February.

The writer turned time detective during the two years she spent researching and writing about one of Scotland’s greatest unsolved murder mysteries. She has come up with some surprising answers to the historical whodunnit.

In fact the respected historical writer says she now believes Mary Queen of Scots was probably innocent of the murder of her husband. Darnley, Mary’s second spouse, was killed in 1567 at Kirk o’Fields, an Edinburgh house that was blown up while he slept there. He escaped the explosion, but was probably suffocated in the garden.

Although the finger of suspicion is often pointed at Mary, Alison says: “It has been a controversial subject for four centuries, but I think Mary was innocent of the Darnley murder. The evidence suggests that she was framed. There is not one shred of proof other than dubious circumstantial evidence or the propaganda of her enemies.”

The scandal rocked the royal court in Holyrood, Edinburgh and ultimately led Mary to her death at the hands of an executioner in 1587. Her story is the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster, with elements of sex, violence, incest and murder.

Property PR photo of author Alison Weir, selling her Scottish property

After painstaking research, the author says Mary, who was executed for her involvement in a plot to assassinate her cousin, Elizabeth I, went to her death innocent of Darnley’s murder.

She adds: “When you are looking at information about Mary Queen of Scots, you have to think, ‘Why are these people saying these things?’. Three quarters of the information about her comes from her enemies, who had at their command a formidable propaganda machine.”

Alison says: “While researching my first book about Elizabeth I, I came to some very strong conclusions about this subject, which were edited out by my publishers. I am very glad about that now, because I have since looked at Mary’s case in far more depth and come to a completely different conclusion.

“The important thing is to be as objective as possible, which is difficult because everything about Mary is so controversial. You have to decide at some point where you are going and even when I had completed my research I still didn’t really know which road I would go down, although I felt the circumstantial evidence suggested she was probably guilty. However, by the time I had written a third of the book and assessed the sources more closely I came around full circle to the opposite point of view.”

During the past 30 years Alison has repeatedly visited most of the places connected with Mary, including Linlithgow Palace and Edinburgh Castle.

She adds: “I always wanted to do a Scottish subject. My husband is from Edinburgh, so I know and love these places very well indeed.”

However, the writer, who has been described as having a “terrier-like tenacity for rooting out the truth”, says that even though the book is completed, it has been difficult to let go of her subject.

She adds: “I always get really involved with the people I write about, but after years spent researching and writing the book I still don’t feel that I know Mary particularly well.

“She is either depicted an adulteress and murderess, a romantic, tragic heroine or a Catholic martyr, but she was a very complex character and can’t really be summed up in one simple phrase. I think she made poor judgements, particularly in her choices of men. She liked to have a strong, powerful man to protect her, but she always chose the wrong one.

“I don’t think she had the political acumen to rule, but she was forced into this situation and as there was really no other option for her.

“She was a young, Catholic girl who was totally unprepared to take the reins of government in a land that was not only governed by power hungry nobles, but had also just undergone a hardline Protestant revolution.

“Even a very strong, experienced male ruler would have found it hard to establish his authority in such a situation. Poor Mary was therefore doomed to failure, but I think her own poor judgement was greatly to blame for her downfall.”

Alison has tapped into a lucrative market. Interest in historic monarchs has never been more topical. Recent TV adaptations have seen King Henry VIII portrayed by Cockney hardman Ray Winstone, while heartthrob Rufus Sewell set the small screen alight playing King Charles II in the BBC bodice-ripper, The Power and The Passion.

Alison admits she has reservations about some of the historical adaptations on the small screen because they too often deviate from historical facts.

Property PR photo of author Alison Weir, selling her Scottish property

She added: “There’s plenty of violence, sex and so on in history and that’s obviously what people want to hear about but the makers of these programmes could at least make it accurate. There’s so much to work with anyway, so I don’t understand why they have to change or exaggerate it.

“There are some things you can never be sure about: for example, we will never know exactly what went on in the bedroom between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, but by inference from the historical evidence, you could probably make an accurate assumption.”

The writer has two children, Katherine, named after Catherine of Aragon and John, namesake of John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, one of the most powerful men during the 14th Century

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    Scott Douglas, of public relations agency Holyrood PR in Scotland

    Scott Douglas

    Scott Douglas is the co-founder of the multi award-winning Holyrood PR, renowned public relations agency in Edinburgh, Scotland.
    As well as providing expert PR services in Scotland and the UK, the former journalist heads a team which offers a host of other professional media services.
    Those include crisis management PR, photography for business PR, affordable business video, social media campaigns and strategic content planning and delivery for businesses of all sizes.

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