The Kingdom of the Isles was tailor-made for turmoil. Spread across far-flung rugged islands, and founded by the notoriously cantankerous Viking raiders, it was relentlessly fissiparous, defeating any and every attempt at centralizing power. Man was the nearest thing to a constant, where the ‘kings’ holed out between forays for conquest and plunder. The Tynwald, the ‘oldest parliament in the world’ is of debatable provenance, and actually took the form of an exclusive and hereditary council, but it did extend representation as far as the Hebrides in the kingdom’s later days. By around 980, Olaf Sygtryggson had ventured from Man to conquer, and then lose, both Northumbria and Dublin on multiple occasions. By 1014, rule of the Isles was split between the Earl of Orkney and the King of Man, when both were slain at the battle of Clontarf against Brian Boru, High King of Ireland. In 1158, the warlord Somerled of Argyll launched a coup and laid claim to the kingship of the Isles.
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