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Earls of Orkney and Shetland

Here's an overview of the territories under discussion:


I trust those wiser and more versed in such history will correct
any misstatements I may make in the below summary of a summary.

It's worth remembering that in the days of the first Norwegian Jarl of
Orkney, Rognewald the Mighty (871-890), the Jarl of Orkney also controlled
the Western Isles, Faroe, Shetland, Caithness, and Sutherland, and was
on the sea routes between Norway, Scotland, Ireland, and (later) Iceland.

At some point (1156?), the Western Isles became ruled separately
by the Lords of the Isles, at least nominally under the overlordship
of Norway until the Battle of Largs, then under Scotland.

By the Treaty of Perth in 1266, Norway ceded to Scotland all its Scottish
Island possessions except Orkney and Shetland (the Faroes were apparently
not included).  The Jarls of Orkney were still also Earls of Caithness,
although on behalf of the Scottish King.

In 1472 James III annexed Orkney and Shetland to the Scottish crown,
due to lack of payment of the dowry of his wife, Princess Margaret,
daughter of King Christian I of Norway and Denmark. the first Nordic
king of the House of Oldenberg.

A few years earlier, the king had had Earl William Sinclair (builder
of Rosslyn Chapel) resign that earldom in exchange for various other

As near as I can tell, the first Stewart Earl of Orkney was Robert,
son of King James V, i.e., a royal prince.

Whether Orkney being security for the dowry of a princess and later
being ruled by a royal prince may have implications for the princely
status of Orkney or lack thereof, I cannot say.

John S. Quarterman <jsq@quarterman.org>
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