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On This Day… The Northern Isles!

Written by: George Chittenden : 02 Jul 2019

It was on this day, 20th February, back in 1472 when Norway handed over the Orkney and Shetland Isles to Scotland, which up until that point had been Norwegian sovereign territory. Viking explorers had sailed across the North Sea around the eighth century and had settled on both island groups. In 875, King Harald the Fair of Norway laid claim to what were known as the Northern Isles in order to protect his maritime interests.

Years later in 1469, to settle tensions between Scotland and Denmark, King James III was betrothed to Margaret of Denmark. The islands were offered as protection in lieu of payment of the dowry by Margaret’s father Christian I, King of Denmark and Norway.

The dowry was never paid, and, on this day, the long-established title Norse Earl of Orkney was officially ceded to James III, with both Orkney and Shetland becoming official protectorates of the Scottish crown.


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