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Scotland (Gaelic: Alba) is a land that occupies the northern third of the island of Britain. It is bounded by England to the south, 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 addition to the mainland, Scotland has many islands, including the Northern Isles, the Hebrides, and the Orkneys. To the Order of Hermes, Scotland comprises the Loch Leglean Tribunal.


The main land of Scotland comprises the northern third of the island of Britain, which lies off the northwest coast of Continental Europe. Scotland's highest point is the summit of Beinn Nibheis, also the highest point in Britain, in Lochaber, while Scotland's longest river, the River Tatha, flows for a distance of 120 miles.

The country has three main sub-divisions; the Highlands, the Central Lowlands, and the Southern Uplands. There are numerous bodies of fresh water including Loch Lomond and Loch Ness. Some parts of the coastline consist of machair, a low lying dune pasture land.

The climate of Scotland is temperate and oceanic, and tends to be very changeable. It is warmed by the sea, and as such has milder winters but cooler, wetter summers. In general, the west of Scotland is usually warmer than the east, owing to the influence of the Atlantic the colder temperatures of the North Sea. Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides, is one of the sunniest places in the country. Rainfall varies widely across Scotland; the western highlands are the wettest place; much of lowland Scotland is significantly drier. Heavy snowfall is not common in the lowlands, but becomes more common with altitude.

Scotland's wildlife is typical of northwest Europe. The flora of the country is varied incorporating both deciduous and coniferous woodland and moorland and tundra species, including many ancient trees.


Scotland was occupied from the earliest times by the Picts, the indigenous inhabitants of Britain. These folk raised many cairns and megaliths, many of which still stand.

The only surviving pre-Roman account of Scotland originated with the Greek Pytheas of Massalia who circumnavigated the British islands (which he called Pretaniké) in 325 BC, but the record of his visit dates from much later.

The Roman invasion of Britain began in earnest in AD 43. Following a series of military successes in the south, forces led by Gnaeus Julius Agricola entered Scotland, the region called by the Romans Caledonia, in 79. The Romans met with fierce resistance from the local population. In 82 or 83 Agricola sent a fleet of galleys up round the coast of Scotland, as far as the Orkney Islands. In 84 Agricola defeated the Caledonian tribes at the Battle of Mons Graupius due to superior tactics and the use of professional troops.

Although the Romans failed to conquer Caledonia they attempted to maintain control through military outposts and built a few roads. For the next 300 years, Rome had some presence along the southern border; in 122 they began construction of what would be known as Hadrian's Wall, still considered the boundary between Scotland and the rest of Britain, and which would continue to be garrisoned by Roman troops until their withdrawl from Britain.


Starting in the 5th century waves of Irish invaders struck the west coast of Scotland, founding there the Kingdom of Dal Riata. In the 7th century Anglo-Saxons began encroaching on the southern borders.

The British Saint Ninian conducted the first Christian mission in Scotland. From his base, the Candida Casa on the Solway Firth, he spread the faith in the south and east of Scotland and in the north of England.

However, the Picts renounced Christianity and turned back to their elder gods in the century between Ninian's death in 432 and the arrival of Saint Columba in 563. The Gaels reintroduced Christianity into Pictish Scotland, gradually pushing out worship of the older Celtic gods. The most famous evangelist of that period, Saint Columba, came to Scotland in 563 and settled on the island of Iona having obtained permission from the Pictish king at his court in Inverness to settle on Iona and to spread Christianity. The conversion of the Pictish king Bridei was a key event in the Christianisation of Scotland.

The Kingdom of Alba[]

The death knell of the Pictish culture began in the late 700s, with increased encroachment by the Gaels into traditionally Pictish lands. The Gael Cináed mac Ailpín, brother of the King of Dal Riata, conquered the picts made made them subject to the Gaels some time in the first half of the ninth century. He is held today to be the first King of Scotland.

At first this new kingdom corresponded to Scotland north of the Rivers Forth and Clyde. Southwest Scotland remained under the control of the Strathclyde Britons. South-east Scotland was under the control from around 638 of the proto-English kingdom of Bernicia, then of the Northumbria. This portion of Scotland was contested from the reign of Constantine II (900 - 943) and finally fell into Scottish hands in 1018, when Máel Coluim II pushed the border as far south as the River Tweed. This remains the south-eastern border to this day.

Scotland completed its expansion by the gradual incorporation of the Britons' kingdom of Strathclyde into Alba. In 1034, Donnchad I inherited Alba from his maternal grandfather, Máel Coluim II. With the exception of Orkney, the Western Isles, Caithness and Sutherland, which remained under Norse rule, Scotland had assumed the shape it was to retain thereafter.

Macbeth, the Cenél Loairn candidate for the throne whose family had been suppressed by Máel Coluim II, defeated Donnchad in battle in 1040. Macbeth then ruled well for seventeen years before Donnchad's son Máel Coluim III overthrew him.

Norman Overlordship[]

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, Edgar, one of the claimants of the English throne opposing William the Conqueror, fled to Scotland. Máel Coluim married Edgar's sister Margaret, and thus came into opposition to William who had already disputed Scotland's southern borders. William invaded Scotland in 1072, riding through Lothian and past Stirling on to the Firth of Tay where he met his fleet of ships. Máel Coluim submitted, paid homage to William, and surrendered his son Donnchad as a hostage.

Margaret herself had a great influence on Scotland. She is said to have brought European cultivation to the warlike Scottish court. She had an English father and a Hungarian mother and had grown up in Hungary, recently pagan and largely untouched by the European culture of the period. However at this point the Church explicitly recognised the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) as its head and at her instigation, the Benedictine order founded a monastery at Dunfermline, and St. Andrews began to replace Iona as the centre of ecclesiastical leadership. The rites of the Scottish church became gradually re-integrated with mainstream Western Catholicism from that base.

When Malcolm died in 1093, his brother Domnall III succeeded him. However, William II of England backed Malcolm's son by his first marriage, Duncan, as a pretender to the throne. With the English behind him Duncan briefly seized power. His murder within a few months saw Domnall restored with Edmund as his heir. The two ruled Scotland until two of Edmund's younger brothers returned from exile in England with English military backing. Victorious, the younger brothers imprisoned Domnall and Edmund for life, and Edgar, the oldest of the three, became king in 1097. Shortly afterwards Edgar and the King of Norway, Magnus Bare Legs concluded a treaty recognizing Norwegian authority over the Western Isles. In practice Norse control of the Isles was of the loosest nature, with local chiefs enjoying a high degree of independence. The following century, Somerled, the greatest of these, became King of the Hebrides in his own right. His descendants, the Lords of the Isles, continued to enjoy a semi-independent status until the end of the fifteenth century.

Cambuskenneth Abbey, built around 1140, derived much of its importance from its proximity to sometime-capital StirlingWhen Edgar died in 1107, Margaret's third son Alexander became king, and when he in turn died in 1124, the crown passed to her fourth son David I. During David's reign Lowland Scots (known as Inglis then) began to grow in southeast Scotland, although Gaelic would continue to be spoken in many parts of what would become the Lowlands for centuries more.

The governmental and cultural innovations introduced by the Norman conquerors of England impressed David greatly, and he arranged for several notables to come north and take up places within the Scottish aristocracy. The Normans came into frequent conflict with the native nobility, especially in the north east and south west of the country.

In a mirror of the invitation of the Normans northwards, David received lands south of the border in fee from the English kings. This meant that the King of Scotland also functioned as Earl of Huntingdon, and that the Earls paid ceremonial homage to the English kings for the lands received. This homage proved problematic, however, as Malcolm Canmore as the King of Scotland had paid homage to the new Norman Kings of England twice after defeats during his various campaigns against the Normans in support of his Anglo-Saxon brother-in-law Edgar Atheling's claim to the English throne.

In 1263 Scotland and Norway fought the Battle of Largs for control over the Western Isles. Although the battle was little more than a series of indecisive skirmishes, it did at least prove that the distant kings of Norway could not continue to control the Isles. This was recognized soon after when the Norwegian king Magnus VI of Norway signed the Treaty of Perth in 1266, acknowledging Scottish suzerainty over the islands. Bit by bit, the Island chiefs were politically integrated into the Scottish state. In 1284 all of the descendants of Somerled attended a parliament called by Alexander III to acknowledge his granddaughter, Margaret, as heir to the throne. The subsequent dynastic crisis caused by the death of Margaret and the onset of the Wars of Independence reversed this process. By the middle of the fourteenth century the MacDonald Lords of the Isles were once again loosening their ties to the crown.

The Wars of Independence[]

A series of deaths in the line of succession in the 1280s, followed by King Alexander III's death in 1286 left the Scottish crown in disarray. His granddaughter Margaret, the "Maid of Norway", a four-year old girl, was the heir.

Edward I of England, as Margaret's great-uncle, suggested that his son (also a child) and Margaret should marry, stabilising the Scottish line of succession. In 1290 Margaret's guardians agreed to this, but Margaret herself died in Orkney on her voyage from Norway to Scotland before either her coronation or her marriage could take place.

John Balliol, the man with the strongest claim to the throne, became king on November 30, 1292. Robert Bruce of Annandale, the next strongest claimant, accepted this outcome with reluctance (his grandson and namesake later ascended the throne as Robert I).

Over the next few years Edward I used the concessions he had gained to systematically undermine both the authority of King John and the liberty of Scotland. In 1295 John, on the urgings of his chief councillors, entered into an alliance with France. This was the beginning of the Auld Alliance.

In 1296 Edward invaded Scotland, deposing King John. The following year William Wallace and Andrew de Moray raised the southern and northern parts of the country to resist the occupation. Under their joint leadership an English army was defeated at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. For a short time Wallace ruled Scotland in the name of John Balliol as Guardian of the realm.

Edward came north in person and defeated Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. Wallace escaped but resigned as Guardian of Scotland. John Comyn and Robert the Bruce were appointed in his place. In 1305 Wallace fell into the hands of the English, who executed him for treason despite the fact that he owed no allegiance to England.

In February 1306 Robert Bruce, the grandson of the Claimant, participated in the murder of John Comyn, a leading rival. Bruce went on to seize the crown, but Edward's forces overran the country after defeating Bruce's small army at the Battle of Methven. Despite the excommunication of Bruce and his followers by Pope Clement V his support slowly strengthened; and by 1314 with the help of leading nobles such as Sir James Douglas and the Earl of Moray only the castles at Bothwell and Stirling remained under English control. Edward I had died in 1307. His heir Edward II moved an army north to break the siege of Stirling Castle and reassert control. Robert defeated that army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, securing de facto independence.

The Kingdom of Scotland[]

In 1320 a remonstrance to the Pope from the nobles of Scotland (the Declaration of Arbroath) went part of the way towards convincing Pope John XXII to overturn the earlier excommunication and nullify the various acts of submission by Scottish kings to English ones so that Scotland's sovereignty could be recognised by the major European dynasties.

In 1326, the first full Parliament of Scotland met. The parliament had evolved from an earlier council of nobility and clergy, the colloquium, constituted around 1235, but in 1326 representatives of the burghs joined them to form the Three Estates.

In 1328, Edward III signed the Treaty of Northampton acknowledging Scottish independence under the rule of Robert the Bruce. Four years after Robert's death in 1329, however, England once more invaded on the pretext of restoring the "Rightful King" — Edward Balliol, son of John Balliol — to the Scottish throne, thus starting the Second War of Independence. In the face of tough Scottish resistance, led by Sir Andrew Murray, the son of Wallace's comrade in arms, successive attempts to secure Balliol on the throne failed. Edward III lost interest in the fate of his protege after the outbreak of the Hundred Years' War with France. In 1341 David II, King Robert's son and heir, was able to return from temporary exile in France. Balliol finally resigned his vacant claim to the throne to Edward in 1356, before retiring to Yorkshire, where he died in 1364.