Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Norway vs. Scotland

If you look at the top of the globe, you realize how seafarers from Norway could easily dip south to Scotland on their way to colonize Iceland. In fact, Scotland was a frequently harassed target of Vikings from Norway in the Middle Ages. By the 9th century there was a Scandinavian settlement on the western shores of Scotland and in several of their island chains. This long-standing presence was one of the reasons that Harald Hardrada felt he had a claim to England after the death of Edward the Confessor.

Various groups of islands around Scotland paid allegiance to the kings of Norway up through the 13th century. In 1249, King Alexander II of Scotland tried to gain back some territory; he offered to buy Argyll and the Hebrides from King Hakon Hakonarson; being rebuffed, Alexander launched a military campaign to take them, but died before he could fulfill his purpose. His son, Alexander III, was not even 10 years old, and so his attempt to free Scottish lands from Norwegian occupation would not come until much later.

It came in 1262: Alexander tried (unsuccessfully) purchasing the Hebrides again, and then attacked Skye. Hakon responded with what the Icelandic Annals considered the largest force to set sail from Norway. When he reached Scotland, the Norwegian locals were not exactly happy to see him: self-rule had been the norm for years. There was a failed attempt to negotiate between the two nations over possession of some islands, after which Hakon split his fleet up to harass different parts of Scotland.

What happened next will be a subject for tomorrow.

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