Kingdom of Scotland

Kingdom of Scotland

Flag of Scotland
Flag of Scotland (1542–2003).svg
Above: Royal Banner (13th cent.)
Below: Flag (16th cent.)
Location of Scotland in 1190 CE. (green) in Europe (green & grey)
Location of Scotland in 1190 CE. (green)

in Europe (green & grey)

CapitalEdinburgh (after c. 1452)
Common languages
Catholicism, Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism
• 843–858 (first)
Kenneth I
• 1702–1707 (last)
• United
9th century (traditionally 843)
• Lothian and Strathclyde incorporated
1124 (confirmed Treaty of York 1237)
• Galloway incorporated
• Hebrides, Isle of Man and Caithness incorporated
1266 (Treaty of Perth)
• Orkney and Shetland annexed
24 March 1603
1 May 1707
1482–170778,778 km2 (30,416 sq mi)
• 1500
• 1600
• 1700
CurrencyPound Scots
ISO 3166 codeGB-SCT
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Dál Riata
Earldom of Orkney
Great Britain
Today part of
^ The Pictish and [2] French was widely spoken in Scotland at the height of the [3] English began to have increased influence in Scotland from the mid-16th century.

The Kingdom of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Rìoghachd na h-Alba; Scots: Kinrick o Scotland) was a sovereign state in northwest Europe traditionally said to have been founded in 843. Its territories expanded and shrank, but it came to occupy the northern third of the island of Great Britain, sharing a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England. It suffered many invasions by the English, but under Robert I it fought a successful War of Independence and remained an independent state throughout the late Middle Ages. Following the annexation of the Northern Isles from the Kingdom of Norway in 1472 and the final capture of the Royal Burgh of Berwick by the Kingdom of England in 1482, the territory of the Kingdom of Scotland corresponded to that of modern-day Scotland, bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest. In 1603, James VI of Scotland became King of England, joining Scotland with England in a personal union. In 1707, the two kingdoms were united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain under the terms of the Acts of Union.

The Crown was the most important element of government. The Scottish monarchy in the Middle Ages was a largely itinerant institution, before Edinburgh developed as a capital city in the second half of the 15th century. The Crown remained at the centre of political life and in the 16th century emerged as a major centre of display and artistic patronage, until it was effectively dissolved with the Union of Crowns in 1603. The Scottish Crown adopted the conventional offices of western European monarchical states of the time and developed a Privy Council and great offices of state. Parliament also emerged as a major legal institution, gaining an oversight of taxation and policy, but was never as central to the national life. In the early period, the kings of the Scots depended on the great lords—the mormaers and toísechs—but from the reign of David I, sheriffdoms were introduced, which allowed more direct control and gradually limited the power of the major lordships. In the 17th century, the creation of Justices of Peace and Commissioners of Supply helped to increase the effectiveness of local government. The continued existence of courts baron and the introduction of kirk sessions helped consolidate the power of local lairds.

Scots law developed in the Middle Ages and was reformed and codified in the 16th and 17th centuries. Under James IV the legal functions of the council were rationalised, with Court of Session meeting daily in Edinburgh. In 1532, the College of Justice was founded, leading to the training and professionalisation of lawyers. David I is the first Scottish king known to have produced his own coinage. At the union of the Crowns in 1603 the Pound Scots was fixed at only one-twelfth the value of the English pound. The Bank of Scotland issued pound notes from 1704. Scottish currency was abolished by the Act of Union, however to the present day, Scotland retains unique banknotes.

Geographically, Scotland is divided between the Highlands and Islands and the Lowlands. The Highlands had a relatively short growing season, which was further shortened during the Little Ice Age. From Scotland's foundation to the inception of the Black Death, the population had grown to a million; following the plague, it then fell to half a million. It expanded in the first half of the 16th century, reaching roughly 1.2 million by the 1690s. Significant languages in the medieval kingdom included Gaelic, Old English, Norse and French; but by the early modern era Middle Scots had begun to dominate. Christianity was introduced into Scotland from the 6th century. In the Norman period the Scottish church underwent a series of changes that led to new monastic orders and organisation. During the 16th century, Scotland underwent a Protestant Reformation that created a predominately Calvinist national kirk. There were a series of religious controversies that resulted in divisions and persecutions. The Scottish Crown developed naval forces at various points in its history, but often relied on privateers and fought a guerre de course. Land forces centred around the large common army, but adopted European innovations from the 16th century; and many Scots took service as mercenaries and as soldiers for the English Crown.


Origins: 400–943

From the 5th century AD, north Britain was divided into a series of petty kingdoms. Of these, the four most important were those of the Picts in the north-east, the Scots of Dál Riata in the west, the Britons of Strathclyde in the south-west and the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia (which united with Deira to form Northumbria in 653) in the south-east, stretching into modern northern England. In AD 793, ferocious Viking raids began on monasteries such as those at Iona and Lindisfarne, creating fear and confusion across the kingdoms of north Britain. Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles eventually fell to the Norsemen.[2] These threats may have speeded up a long-term process of gaelicisation of the Pictish kingdoms, which adopted Gaelic language and customs. There was also a merger of the Gaelic and Pictish kingdoms, although historians debate whether it was a Pictish takeover of Dál Riata, or the other way round. This culminated in the rise of Cínaed mac Ailpín (Kenneth MacAlpin) as "king of the Picts" in the 840s (traditionally dated to 843),[3] which brought to power the House of Alpin.[4] When he died as king of the combined kingdom in 900 one of his successors, Domnall II (Donald II), was the first man to be called rí Alban (King of Alba).[5] The term Scotia would increasingly be used to describe the heartland of these kings, north of the River Forth, and eventually the entire area controlled by its kings would be referred to as Scotland.[6] The long reign (900–942/3) of Donald's successor Causantín (Constantine II) is often regarded as the key to formation of the Kingdom of Alba/Scotland, and he was later credited with bringing Scottish Christianity into conformity with the Catholic Church.[7]

Expansion: 943–1513

Máel Coluim I (Malcolm I) (r c. 943–954) annexed Strathclyde, over which the kings of Alba had probably exercised some authority since the later 9th century.[8] The reign of David I has been characterised as a "Davidian Revolution",[9][10] in which he introduced a system of feudal land tenure, established the first royal burghs in Scotland and the first recorded Scottish coinage, and continued a process of religious and legal reforms.[11] Until the 13th century, the border with England was very fluid, with Northumbria being annexed to Scotland by David I, but lost under his grandson and successor Malcolm IV in 1157.[12] The Treaty of York (1237) fixed the boundaries with England close to the modern border.[13] By the reign of Alexander III, the Scots had annexed the remainder of the western seaboard after the stalemate of the Battle of Largs and the Treaty of Perth in 1266.[14] The Isle of Man fell under English control in the 14th century, despite several attempts to restore Scottish authority.[15] The English occupied most of Scotland under Edward I and annexed a large slice of the Lowlands under Edward III, but Scotland established its independence under figures including William Wallace in the late 13th century and Robert I and his successors in the 14th century in the Wars of Independence (1296–1357). This was helped by cooperation with the kings of France, under the terms of what became known as the Auld Alliance, which provided for mutual aid against the English. In the 15th and early 16th centuries, under the Stewart Dynasty, despite a turbulent political history, the Crown gained greater political control at the expense of independent lords and regained most of its lost territory to around the modern borders of the country.[16] The dowry of the Orkney and Shetland Islands in 1468 was the last great land acquisition for the kingdom.[17] In 1482, Berwick a border fortress and the largest port in medieval Scotland, fell to the English once again; this was the last time it changed hands.[16] The Auld Alliance with France led to the heavy defeat of a Scottish army at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513 and the death of the king James IV. A long period of political instability followed.[18]

Consolidation and union: 1513–1707

James VI, whose inheritance of the thrones of England and Ireland created a dynastic union in 1603

In the 16th century, under James V of Scotland and Mary, Queen of Scots, the Crown and court took on many of the attributes of the Renaissance and New Monarchy, despite long royal minorities, civil wars and interventions by the English and French.[19] In the mid-16th century, Scottish Reformation was strongly influenced by Calvinism, leading to widespread iconoclasm and the introduction of a Presbyterian system of organisation and discipline that would have a major impact on Scottish life.[20]

In the late 16th century, James VI emerged as a major intellectual figure with considerable authority over the kingdom.[21] In 1603 he inherited the thrones of England and Ireland, creating a Union of the Crowns that left the three states with their separate identities and institutions. He also moved the centre of royal patronage and power to London.[22]

When James' son Charles I attempted to impose elements of the English religious settlement on Scotland, the result was the Bishops' Wars (1637–40), which ended in defeat for the king and a virtually independent Presbyterian Covenanter state in Scotland.[23] It also helped precipitate the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, during which the Scots carried out major military interventions.

After Charles I's defeat, the Scots backed the king in the Second English Civil War; after his execution, they proclaimed his son Charles II of England king, resulting in the Third English Civil War against the emerging republican regime of Parliamentarians in England led by Oliver Cromwell. The results were a series of defeats and the short-lived incorporation of Scotland into the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland (1653–60).[24]

After the 1660 restoration of the monarchy, Scotland regained its separate status and institutions, while the centre of political power remained in London.[25] After the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89, in which James VII was deposed by his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange in England, Scotland accepted them under the Claim of Right Act 1689,[25] but the deposed main hereditary line of the Stuarts became a focus for political discontent known as Jacobitism, leading to a series of invasions and rebellions mainly focused on the Scottish Highlands.[26]

After severe economic dislocation in the 1690s, there were moves that led to political union with England as the Kingdom of Great Britain, which came into force on 1 May 1707. The English and Scottish parliaments were replaced by a combined Parliament of Great Britain, but it sat in Westminster and largely continued English traditions without interruption. Forty-five Scots were added to the 513 members of the House of Commons and 16 Scots to the 190 members of the House of Lords. It was also a full economic union, replacing the Scottish systems of currency, taxation and laws regulating trade.[27]