IN the second part of our interrupted two-part account of how Scottish links with Norway in the 13th century helped forge modern Scotland, we will be looking at one of the most famous names in this nation’s history, the Maid of Norway.

In the first part we showed how the long wars between the Scots and Norwegian Vikings for possession of much of the west coast of Scotland came to an end at Largs on October 1, 1263. King Haakon IV of Norway sent some of his mighty force ashore and a “battle” began as the Scots army pounced on them but Haakon never got his full formidable army ashore and he was forced to sail back to his Firth of Clyde base at Arran before heading north to winter on Orkney where he died in December.

We showed how his successor, Magnus VI, was broke and facing internal revolt. He had no wish to continue a war with Scotland over land that he knew to be too far from his country for proper control to be exerted. So he sent church messengers to King Alexander III and a meeting was set between the Scottish King and Magnus’s emissaries in Perth at Blackfriars Monastery in the summer of 1266.

Thus arose the Treaty of Perth in which the King of Norway ceded any claim to the Western Isles, the Isle of Man, and Kintyre and also disclaimed the overlordship of Caithness in return for a one-off payment of 4,000 merks of silver and an annual payment of 100 merks in perpetuity.

When Magnus’s envoys made it clear he wanted Orkney and Shetland kept as Norwegian territory, Alexander III was happy to cede them in order to establish his control over all the mainland of Scotland plus the Western Isles in their entirety.

The treaty brought peace to Scotland and a prosperous time ensued under Alexander, while Norway saw Magnus institute all kind of reforms so that he is known to history as Magnus the Law-giver or Law-mender.

The new found friendship between the Scottish King and his Norwegian counterpart was sealed by an arrangement that Alexander’s only daughter Margaret would marry Magnus’s son Erik, even though she was seven years older than the boy. That betrothal duly came about in 1281, the year after Magnus died with Erik already on the Norwegian throne as the second King of Norway of that name. With the boy just 12 when he ascended the throne, a royal council ruled in Erik’s name until he came of age.

King Alexander had wed his first wife, also Margaret, sister of England’s King Edward I – Longshanks, or the Hammer of the Scots we know him – in an arranged marriage that was supposed to ensure peace between England and Scotland. It allowed Edward to interfere in Scottish affairs, but not to the extent that he would do later.

Margaret died in 1275 leaving Alexander with an heir apparent, also called Alexander, and a much younger son named David, as well as Margaret, the future Queen of Norway.

Alexander III was in no haste to get married again, and the English chronicle of the time claimed “he would visit none too creditably nuns or matrons, virgins or widows as the fancy seized him, sometimes in disguise”.

The King was struck, however, by a succession of personal tragedies that led directly to the Wars of Independence. In June 1281, his younger son David died at Stirling Castle. The princeling was just eight years old.

The King attended the wedding of his daughter to Erik II of Norway just two months after David’s death, but then greater tragedy struck when Margaret herself died in childbirth at the age of just 22 in April, 1283. She had been Queen of Norway for less than two years. The small sickly child was called Margaret after her mother and grandmother, and she was raised in the royal court of Norway.

Everything now depended on the succession of Alexander, Crown Prince of Scotland, to his father’s throne whenever Alexander III died. But that did not happen because Prince Alexander, who had never enjoyed great health, took sick and died at Lindores Abbey in Fife on January 17, 1284. He was just four days short of his 20th birthday, and there were no children from his marriage of just a year to another Margaret, the daughter of the Count of Flanders.

Alexander now had no male heirs, and Scotland had never had a queen regnant, so it says much for his powers of persuasion and the respect that he was held in that the King was able to convince his royal council – basically the various earls of Scotland and other landowning barons, 37 in all – that young Margaret across the sea in Norway, his only granddaughter, should be his rightful heir, thus preserving the line that went back to Malcolm Canmore, husband of St Margaret.

The fact is that when the succession of Margaret, Maid of Norway, was settled at Scone in February, 1284, Alexander III was just 44 and no doubt all around him thought he would have time to produce a legitimate heir.

Alexander himself certainly thought so and he wasted no time in marrying Yolande De Dreux, the 21-year-old daughter of Robert, Count of Freux, and Beatrice, Countess of Montfort, and thus closely connected to the French Royal Family. It was a brave thing for Alexander to do as any link with France was a provocation to Edward of England.

Reports of the time say that after their marriage at Jedburgh Abbey in November, 1285, Alexander was quite besotted with his young wife. So much so that on the evening of March 19, 1286, the King enjoyed a meal and a drink with his council in Edinburgh but decided to take himself off to Kinghorn in Fife where Yolande was in residence.

The weather was foul and the boatman at Queensferry almost refused to carry the King across the Forth, but eventually he relented and the last anyone saw of Alexander III was him tearing off at full tilt on horseback to Kinghorn.

His body was found the following morning on the shore between Burntisland and Kinghorn Ness near to Pettycur. His neck had been broken in a fall from his horse at a steep cliffside known ever after as King’s Crag.

There is a plaque on the monument erected in 1886, the 600th anniversary of Alexander’s death, beside the spot on the A921 nearest to where the royal corpse was found. It states: “To the illustrious Alexander III the last of Scotland’s Celtic Kings who was accidentally killed near this spot on March XIX MCCLXXXVI erected on the sexcentenary of his death.”

The King was buried at Dunfermline Abbey 10 days after his death. Scotland was now in deep crisis, yet the remarkable thing is that Alexander’s earls, lords and barons came together at first, and after Yolande suffered a miscarriage, they acknowledged that little Margaret across the sea in Norway was their legitimate Queen at the age of just three. They also elected the Guardians of Scotland to maintain the monarchy until such times as Scotland’s first queen regnant came home to claim her throne. Two bishops and members of the Comyn and Balliol families were among them.

That was not at all to the liking of Robert Bruce, 5th Lord of Allandale, and his son the Earl of Carrick who felt they had a legitimate claim to the throne. They rebelled against the Guardians but eventually made peace.

Down south, Edward I was planning something audacious, helped in no small part by Erik II of Norway.

The latter king proposed that his daughter, by now Queen Margaret of Scotland, don’t forget, should marry Edward I’s son, the future Edward II of Bannockburn infamy. Longshanks was all for it, and eventually the Guardians, King Erik and Edward I agreed the Treaty of Birgham (also referred to as the Treaty of Salisbury) in July 1290 that Margaret and Edward, both still infants, should marry.

Scotland’s independence would be recognised and Margaret’s crown would pass to her legitimate heir. At the last minute Longshanks inserted a clause referring to himself as ‘lord king’...

There only remained the business of fetching the Fair Maid of Norway home. Edward wanted to send his best ship to get her, but Erik II insisted on sending her home in a Norwegian vessel.

There is a poem in Scots called the Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens which claims to show what happened next:

“The King sits in Dunfermline town,
Drinking the blood-red wine;
“O where shall I get a skeely skipper
To sail this ship or mine?”
Then up and spake an eldern knight,
Sat at the King’s right knee:
“Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That ever sailed the sea.”
The King has written a broad letter,
And sealed it with his hand,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the strand.
“To Noroway, to Noroway,
To Noroway o’er the foam;
The King’s daughter of Noroway,
‘Tis thou must fetch her home.”

Utter nonsense, of course, but a later verse was not far wrong in describing the storm-tossed voyage in September, 1290.

“The ankers brake and the top-masts lap,

It was such a deadly storm;

And the waves came o’er the broken ship

Till all her sides were torn.”

The reality is that Margaret took very ill on board the ship and it stopped hurriedly at Orkney only for the child to die there. The first Queen of Scots was just seven-years-old and had reigned for four-and-a-half years, never touching her kingdom as Orkney was still then Norwegian territory.

Some historians and genealogists dispute whether Margaret, Maid of Norway, should be called Queen as she was never crowned. But the fact is that she was accepted by most Scots and their leaders as rightful Queen, and that’s good enough for this writer.

With her death, Malcolm Canmore’s dynasty ended and there was no one of the immediate royal blood to succeed Margaret. In short order, no less than 13 claimants to the throne emerged. But that is an episode for another week.