Viking Scotland 1104–1469


Map Code: Ax02995

In 1104 the Hebrides and Isle of Man were under the control of the kingdom of Man, while the far north was under the control of the earldom of Orkney. To the east of these lands, the kingdom of Scotland was expanding under the rule of the Canmore dynasty, which reached its apogee with the rule of King David I (r. 1124–53). At the same time a charismatic warlord, Somerled, the son of a Gaelic nobleman and Norse mother, had emerged as Lord of Argyll, Kintyre and Lorne. His rise had been fuelled by his fury at the Norse appropriations of his father’s lands and his desire to restore these lost estates. In 1156 Somerled attacked Godred of Man off the island of Islay; within two years Somerled eradicated the Manx fleet, creating an empire that stretched from the Lewis to Man. But when Somerled was killed while raiding in Scotland in 1164 the Norse attacked the Isles and took back control, granting the islands of Argyll to Somerled’s successors, the MacDonalds and MacDougalls. By 1200 authority in the Hebrides had shifted to Scotland, and a succession of attacks against the Norse rulers were launched in the 1250s and 1260s. By the Treaty of Perth in 1266 Norway relinquished all claim to the Hebrides. Shetland and Orkney remained under the rule of the Scottish Earls of Orkney, who held their lands as vassals to the Norwegian crown. In 1468 the Danish king, who had acquired Orkney and Shetland when Norway and Denmark were unified under one crown in 1397, pawned these territories to pay his daughter’s dowry prior to her marriage to James III of Scotland. These lands were formally ceded to Scotland in 1472.

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