[MR] Wikipedia: Norway Pawns Sheltand and Orkney
Garth Groff and Sally Sanford
mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Wed Feb 20 03:47:23 PST 2019
Noble Friends, Especially Fellow Scots:
Those of you who took my class "Scottish Clothing: More Than Just Kilts" at
UofA 100 may recall that I mentioned the Orkney and Shetland Island groups
became Scottish territory in 1469, though I didn't explain why. (The class
was about clothing, after all, though the reason was briefly mentioned in
my handout). Today is the anniversary of the islands' formal annexation by
Scotland, and the circumstances make a pretty good tale.
The Orkney Islands were Scottish until about 875, or more properly Pictish,
since the nation of Scotland wasn't even a concept yet. That year is the
usual date for their conquest by Vikings. It isn't clear to me if Picts
also lived in the Shetlands, but those islands already had close trade and
cultural connections to what would someday become Norway. They were overrun
by Vikings in the 8th-9th centuries.
Fast forward a few centuries to the 1400s, when Norway was now an
established country and Vikings were just colorful history. In 1469 King
Christian I, ruler of both Denmark and Norway, married off his daughter
Margaret to King of Scots James III. Being perpetually short of cash,
Christian pledged the Orkneys and Shetlands as security for the unpaid
dowry. Depending on how you look at things, the islands passed to Scotland
in 1468 when the marriage contract was apparently negotiated, 1469 when the
marriage took place, or 1470, when James booted the reigning Earl/Jarl of
Orkney William Sinclair (with dual loyalty to both Scotland and Norway) off
the islands. Sinclair was given other lands in Scotland, and both island
groups became crown territory. One could also argue the official annexation
didn't happen until 1472 when the Scottish Parliament ratified the
transfer, which is what happened on this day in history.
Those of you who took my class can look at the map in the handout showing
the the Highland-Lowland division, or you can call up the map on Wikipedia
The Orkneys are shown as part of the Highlands (the Shetlands are off the
map). This is a modern grouping. After 1470 both island groups were crown
territory, and would have had more in common administratively with the
Lowlands. That said, the language was mostly Norse, as was the culture, so
the islands really didn't fit with either the Highlands or the Lowlands.
You could say the marriage treaty was really a giant pawn ticket.
If you enjoy delving into the lives of these people, start with Queen
Margaret (a remarkable woman!) at
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_of_Denmark,_Queen_of_Scotland . Her
husband, the rather inept King James III, is found at
Now for a shameless plug. Subject to approval, I plan to offer an improved
version of the Scottish Clothing class again at UofA 101 in June, since
this will be different draw area for students. Based on class attendance at
the last University (and smaller classrooms at the June site), I plan a
limit of 20 students.
Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge 🦆
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