2nd July 1266

The Western Isles become part of Scotland

Many of the islands surrounding Scotland were once Norwegian, including the Hebrides, Shetland, Orkney, and the Isle of Man. Their ownership was disputed by Scotland, and, in some cases, the disagreement was settled by the Treaty of Perth, signed at Blackfriars monastery, on 2 July 1266, between Alexander III of Scotland and Magnus Hakonsson of Norway.

Battle of Largs

Control of the Hebrides and Isle of Man had passed to Norway when they were signed over by Edgar of Scotland, who was king from 1097 until 1107. Disagreement in the intervening centuries had resulted in military conflict between the two countries which, in 1263, had led to the Battle of Largs. This confrontation had come about when Norwegian ships in the Firth of Clyde had been grounded in bad weather and their crews, which outnumbered the Scottish troops, suffered a heavy defeat and were forced to retreat. The Norwegian king at the Battle of Largs had been Hakon but, following his defeat, he retreated to Orkney, where he died.

Magnus IV forced to negotiate

Hakon was succeeded by Magnus IV. While Magnus was finding his feet, Alexander went on the offensive, and was successful in gaining the support of many potential rivals through intimidation. This weakened Magnus’ ability to claim continued authority over the islands, and thus a negotiation seemed the only possible next step.

The Treaty, signed three years after the Battle of Largs, effectively split the disputed territories, formally establishing Norwegian dominance of Shetland and Orkney, but assigning the Hebrides and Isle of Man to Scotland. In return, Scotland paid a lump sum to the Norwegian crown, plus an annual 100 merks annuity – effectively rent – on a perpetual basis.

Looking back on Norse rule

The Treaty was debated in the Scottish Parliament on 9 June 2016, as the 750th anniversary of its signing approached. In his speech, Scottish National Party MSP Kenneth Gibson said that “the treaty of Perth between Norway and Scotland returned the Hebrides and the Isle of Man to Scotland, and the islands of Arran and Cumbrae, in my constituency, were at last freed from Norse rule. Given Norway’s high standard of living today, that could be a mixed blessing. The treaty came just 29 years after the signing of the treaty of York, which delineated the border between Scotland and England and was thus another vital cog in the creation of modern Scotland as we recognise it today.”



Other events that occured in July

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