Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1472, the Orkney and Shetland Islands became part of the British Isles. 

The Orkneys and Shetlands were, at one time, part of Norway.  The original inhabitants of the island were Picts as is evidenced by archaeological remains of weems (underground houses), stone circles and standing stones. The islands underwent successive Viking invasions starting from the seventh century and were colonised by Norwegians.  Modern scientific studies of the population’s ‘Y’ chromosomes, suggest that over half the Shetlanders and nearly half the Orcadians are of Norse lineage.

In 1450, the Kingdom of Norway fell into the possession of King Christian I of Denmark, a monarch who aspired to combining the three Scandinavian thrones, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, with himself as king. He attempted to gain control of Sweden by a combination of alliances and military menaces but this policy took time and required patience. By 1468, Christian was on the verge of making an all out attack on the occupant of the Swedish throne but thought that he would make just one more alliance, the young king of Scots, James III. 

He offered James his daughter in marriage and promised a generous dowry, which he would pay at a later date. James accepted gladly. He was now at peace with the English who were busy fighting amongst themselves. Edward IV of England was too involved with keeping his throne secure to interfere with the Scots. James had an appetite for money. He was known as a Renaissance king, one under whom the arts flourish, but this was expensive to maintain. To ensure that the dowry would be paid in due course, he accepted the Norwegian territories of Shetland and Orkneys, as security for the debt.  

King Christian mounted an attack on Sweden but was defeated. He spent all that he had on armies and had nothing remaining to pay his debts. James now realised that he would never get his money and so formally annexed the Northern Isles by Act of Parliament on 20th February 1472. The islands have been considered part of Scotland ever since. During the Second World War, the resistance movement of the Kingdom of Norway, under enemy occupation, was kept supplied by British transport runs from the Shetlands.

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