Guide to Scotland
   Gateway to the British Isles since 1996
A Brief History of Scotland

Presented by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.

Chapter 2: The Kingdom of Scotland

It was under the rule of David I, the ninth son of Malcolm III that Norman influence began to percolate through much of southern Scotland. David, King of Scotland, was also Prince of Cumbria and through marriage Earl of Northampton and Huntingdon. Brother-in-law to the King of England, he was raised and educated in England by Normans who "polished his manners from the rust of Scottish barbarity." In Scotland, he distributed large estates to his Anglo-Norman cronies who also took over important positions in the Church. Into the Lowlands he introduced a feudal system of land ownership, founded on a new, French-speaking Anglo-Norman aristocracy that remained aloof from the majority of the Gaelic-speaking Celtic population.

Though this element, mainly inhabiting the Highlands and the Western Isles, remained mainly aloof, it is to David that Scotland's future as an independent kingdom can be traced. He put a national system of justice and administration under the monarch's control. Using the lessons he had learned as a youth in England, he selected a central governing body to advise him, to carry out his orders and to deal with administrative and judicial problems. He appointed a number of justiciars and sheriffs, granted borough status to a number of towns and encouraged foreign trade. He also founded bishoprics, built and endowed churches and monasteries and succeeded in retaining a certain amount of autonomy from Rome for the Scottish Church.

When conflict arose between the new (and weak) English King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, David took the opportunity to reassert old territorial claims to the borderlands, including Cumbria. At the Treaty of Durham in 1136, he retained Carlisle (which he had earlier seized). His invasion of England took him into Yorkshire, where he was defeated in the "Battle of the Standard." However, due mainly to Stephen's troubles, the Scottish king was able to gain practically all of Northumbria at a second treaty of Durham in 1139.

When David died in 1153, the kingdom of Scotland had been extended to include the Modern English counties of Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmoreland, territories that were in future to be held by the kings of Scotland. Alas, the accession of Henry II to the English throne in 1154 changed everything.

David had been succeeded by his grandson, Malcolm IV an eleven-year old boy. He was no match for the powerful new King of England. At the Treaty of Chester, 1157 Henry's strength, "the authority of his might," forced Malcolm to give up the northern counties solely for the confirmation of his rights as Earl of Huntingdon. The Scottish border was considerably shifted northwards. And there it remained until the rash adventures of William, Malcolm's brother and successor, got him captured at Alnwich, imprisoned at Falaise in Normandy, and forced to acknowledge Henry's feudal superiority over himself and his Scottish kingdom. In addition, to add insult to injury, the strategic castles of Edinburgh, Stirling, Roxburgh, Jedburgh and Berwick were to be held by England with English garrisons at Scottish expense.

Henry II's successor was Richard I, whose main concern was the Third Crusade. Desperately needing money to finance his overseas adventures, Richard freed William from all "compacts" extorted by Henry and restored the castles of Berwick and Roxburgh for a sum of 1,000 marks of silver. Thus, the humiliation of the Falaise agreement was canceled. Richard showed little interest in running his English kingdom, less interest in Scotland and departed for the crusade in 1189. Once again, Scotland was a free and independent country.

Much work remained to be done in order to bring those parts of Scotland under Scandinavian control into the kingdom. In a series of campaigns lasting until 1202, William "The Lion" took control of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross. However, in the Western Isles, the hold of the Norwegians had been strengthened by military expeditions led by Magnus Barefoot. An alliance forged between Magnus and Scottish King Edgar in 1098 had left Magnus in control of all the islands to the west of Scotland "between which and the mainland he could go in a ship with the rudder in its place." Fifty years later, the Scandinavians were driven out of Argyll by Somerled the Viking who then defeated Godfrey the Norwegian king of the Western Isles and the Isle of Man. In 1184, Somerled, who overestimated his strength, was killed in battle by Malcolm IV of Scotland near Renfrew.

Further successes against the Norwegian's hold on the Western Isles came from Alexander II who subdued Argyll. His successor Alexander III defeated the Hakon, King of Norway at Largs, greatly aided by the destruction of the Norwegian fleet by a fierce storm. The disaster at Largs caused Magnus king of Man to submit to Alexander and Hakon's son Magnus IV convinced the Norwegian Assembly that the Western Isles were too troublesome to defend. At the Treaty of Perth, 1266, the Western Isles and the Isle of Man were ceded to Scotland (though they long enjoyed a virtually independent authority under their clan chiefs).

Orkney and Shetland remained under the control of the Norwegians until 1468 when James II of Scotland married Margaret, daughter of Christian I of Denmark. Orkney and Shetland were part of the dowry. Further, in 1470, the Earl of Orkney resigned his territories in exchange for lands in Fife, thus giving James II all the lands and rights in the northern isles. These were then annexed to the Scottish crown by Parliament in 1472. The much more vexing problems of the border with England were not settled until the time of Robert the Bruce.

Chapter 3: An Independent Scotland