The Treaty of Perth

Our neighbours across the North Sea were not always friendly. Norse Vikings from Norway, as opposed to Vikings from Denmark –had raided Scotland relentlessly for several centuries, both Orkney and Shetland became Norwegian territory. Norway and Denmark often had one and the same monarch – such as Harald Bluetooth. It is easy to say, Danish raiders concentrated on England while the Norse Vikings raided Scotland and settled here. King Harald Fairhair and his sons Eric Bloodaxe and King Haakon I in the 11th century, had control over the Outer and Inner Hebrides, much of Kintyre, the islands in the Firth of Clyde including Bute and Arran and the Isle of Man, or Mann as it was known. King Edgar of Scotland, son of Malcolm Canmore, in 1098 in return for peace on the mainland, formally ceded the western islands and Kintyre to Norwegian King Magnus III. He was known as Magnus Barefoot or Barelegs, apparently so-called because he wore what was possibly an early kilt. The Kings of Norway allowed their Scottish dominions to be controlled by powerful earls.

Norse names; Jarlshof on Shetland – the name was given by Sir Walter Scott and means ‘Earl’s Mansion’ – which is the biggest archaeological site of Viking origin in Britain, and Orkney’s very own cathedral shows its Norse foundation, being named after St Magnus when it was founded in 1137 by Earl Rognvald, ceremonies like Up Helly Aa, and the New Year tradition that a first foot had to be “dark” because fair hair was so associated with Viking raiders. It narked Scots that part of their land was dominated by the Norse who had formed alliances with the Gaels to rule the Hebrides, with the Norse-Gael warrior Somerled and his dynasty taking the Lordship of the Isles – that is another story. By 1230, Norwegian King Haakon IV, decided to restate his control over the Western Isles and he launched a great longship raid on Bute and other islands which owed him taxes. Scotland’s King Alexander II began to seek control of the Hebrides for himself, and even offered Haakon cash for the islands. There was no deal, and Alexander decided to take at least the Inner Hebrides for himself in 1249, sadly dying as his battle fleet gathered near Oban (Maclean’s to the fore). His son Alexander III was only a boy, but in 1262, was a grown man. Haakon was having none of it and gathered the greatest war fleet in Norwegian history and mooring at a place that was named after him – Kyleakin on Skye, meaning ‘strait of Haakon.’ The Norwegian combined force of naval vessels carrying warrior “marines” sailed south in July 1263 to the Firth of Clyde where Haakon raided Bute and landed on Arran.

At Largs on October 1, 1263, Haakon sent some of his force ashore and “battle” began as the Scots army pounced on them. It is claimed the Scots won. Haakon’s successor, Magnus IV, had no wish to continue a war with Scotland so he sent church messengers to Alexander and a meeting was set between the Scottish king and Magnus’s emissaries in Perth at Blackfriars Monastery (now the site of my local pub by the way!) in the summer of 1266 (two hundred years after the Battle of Hastings, much is said about that, but little of Largs). 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, though Magnus’s envoys made it clear he wanted Orkney and Shetland kept as Norwegian. The importance of the Treaty of Perth in Scottish history cannot be forgotten. For the first time, all of the mainland and the islands off the West Coast plus the Isle of Man came under the sovereignty of the king of Scots rather than the king of Norway. Scotland and Norway were now friends and allies and those who lived on the West Coast of Scotland and on the islands were safe in the knowledge they need no longer fear invasion by the Norwegian Vikings. It would be another two centuries before Shetland and Orkney finally became Scottish, but the process that made modern Scotland had begun in the monastery at Perth.

Certificate, Paul, Knights Templar, Bannockburn 2006 he became a Knight.


  1. 1266. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

That the certainty of foreknowing may give true and clear remembrance of the past, it is forever to be known that in the year of grace 1266, on the day of Venus, next after the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, this composition and final agreement was entered into and proclaimed in the church of the brothers at Perth, concerning the contentions, quarrels, losses, injuries, and discords of the Islands of Mann and the Sodors, and set at rest by the same authorities and the assistance of divine providence between the magnificent and illustrious Princes, lord Magnus the IV., by the grace of God illustrious King of Norway, through his appointed ministers, lords Askatinus his chancellor, and Andreas son of Nicholas, baron, his principal men, whom he specially sent and lawfully constituted to appear there, on the one part, and Lord Alexander III. by the same grace King of Scotland, with the greater part of the nobility and clergy of his kingdom personally appeared there on the other, in this manner, namely, that the said Lord Magnus, the King of Norway, as the friend of peace and the cultivator of justice, to the reverencing of God, and the diligent conforming to the mutual agreement and observance of peace, warding off the dangers to life and shunning the slaughter of men, came at the instance and honor of the aforesaid lord Alexander, the King of Scotland, for Mann, with the other islands of the Sodors and all the ether islands of the south and west part of the great Haffue, with every right that he and his forefathers had in them in time past, or that he and his heirs might have in fnture, through the aforesaid discreet men his lords, Aschetinus Chancellor of Magnus the King of Norway, and Andreas the son of Nicholas, baron, having from the King himself full authority to settle and agree concerning these, amicably and socially, conceding, resigning, and quitting claim for himself and his heirs, either as suitors or possessors forever, to be held and possessed by the said lord Alexander III. the King of the Scotch, and his heirs, with the lord-ships, homages, rents, services, and all rights belonging to the said islands, without any drawback, together with the right of patronage of the Bishopric of Mann freely, legal jurisdiction and liberty of the Church of Nidrosien, and all and every other right that he holds of the Bishops and Church of Mann, but excepting the Islands of Orcadia [Orkneys] and Hethland, which the said King of Norway, with the lordships, homages, rents, services, and all rights belonging to them, or relating to the same, he has therefore specially reserved to his own dominion, so that all the inhabitants of the said islands which are conceded, resigned, and quitted claim of, to the aforesaid lord, the King of Scotland, both great and small, may be subject to the laws and customs of the kingdom of Scotland, and governed and judged according to these from this time henceforth. But on account of these persons whose future acts, or the injuries and damages which they may do to this day, whilst adhering to the aforesaid lord the King of Norway, and that none may be punished nor complain concerning their inheritances in these islands, but peaceably remain in the same, under the dominion of the lord the King of Scotland, as freely as the other subjects and lieges of the said lord the King of Scotland, and who should be distinguished for their delight in the free administration of justice, unless some act to the contrary, on which account they ought to be strictly punished, according to the laws, usages, and approval of the kingdom of Scotland. But if in the said islands under the dominion of the said lord the King of Scotland they wish to remain, they may stay in the land freely and in peace, and if they wish to leave they may depart with their goods freely and in complete peace, consequently they are neither to be compelled to remain nor to depart, contrary to their own free will, and the laws and usages of the kingdom of Scotland. Therefore the before-mentioned lord Alexander, the King of Scotland, zealous of the truth, and a lover of harmony and peace, for himself and his heirs, has conceded, resigned, and quitted claim to these perpetually, but chiefly for the sake of peace and the lessening of troubles and labours, has given and granted perpetually, namely, to the said lord the King of Norway and his heirs, and assigned to them forever, within eight days of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, in Orcadia, that is to say, the land of the lord the King of Norway, in the church of Saint Magnus, into the hands of the Bishop of Orchadia or of the bailiff of the lord the King of Norway specially deputed by him for this purpose, or they may be deposited in the same church for the use of the lord the King of Norway, in the custody of the canons of the said church, if the Bishop or bailiff be not present in the same, who must give their letters of acknowledgment for the payment of one hundred marks of good and lawful sterling silver money, according to the order and practice of the Court of Rome, and the Kingdoms of France, England, and Scotland, to be paid annually, and likewise four thousand marks sterling, to be paid in the said manner within the next four years, at a place to be defined and known beforehand, to wit one thousand one hundred marks of the foresaid pension, within eight days of the nativity of Saint John the Baptist, in the year of grace 1267. In the year of grace 1268 at the said place before defined one thousand one hundred marks of the said pension. In the year of grace 1269 at the same appointed place, one thousand one hundred marks of the aforesaid pension. And lastly in the year of grace 1270 at the same place, one thousand one hundred marks of the said pension, and afterwards at the same appointed place only one hundred marks of the aforesaid pension, to be paid in the same manner annually and forever. And all and each of the before mentioned to be faithfully and firmly observed by the said Asketinus Chancellor, and Andreas Baron, for their lord Magnus illustrious King of Norway, and his heirs and assigns, who being in the confidence of the King and acquainted with his wishes, in proper manner made oath publicly on the Holy Evangelists, in the church of the aforesaid brothers at Perth. And the said lord Alexander the King of Scotland, through his noblemen Adam Earl of Carrick, and Robert de Meyners, who in his confidence and knowing his mind, has for himself and his heirs in the same manner, solemnly made oath in the presence of these ministers.

And for greater security in these matters, both parties bind themselves in the penalty of 10,000 marks sterling, to be fully paid and judicially levied from the party wishing to recede from the observance of this composition and final agreement, the composition and final agreement nevertheless to remain in full force forever. Moreover Lord Magnus, the King of Norway, through his above-mentioned ministers, for himself, his heirs, and successors, and lord Alexander, the King of Scotland, for himself and his heirs, submit in this matter to the jurisdiction of the seat of the Apostles (the Pope), that through the single command of the foregoing, by means of sentences of excommunication against either party, neither to be excepted or interdicted in the kingdom without judicial trial, and some trial and some recognised cause should compel the party withdrawing from the composition and final agreement aforesaid, to pay to the party observing the composition and final agreement the said penalty of 10,000 marks, wholly and in full, nevertheless this composition and final agreement is to be observed in all and every particular confirmed and forever held valid. Thus on the part of both is renounced by this deed all intention of fraud, deceit, actions at law, and the pleading of privileges wholly, and all letters between the said kings and their ancestors hitherto obtained and held, whatever orders existed to the contrary, and all letters and apostolic indulgences obtained by request, and all remedy of canonical and civil law, by which the aforesaid concession, resignations quit-claim, composition and final agreement may be impeded, deferred, and finally overthrown, or in any manner weakened. Also it is added to this agreement, and by common assent ordained between the kings, and the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland, that all transgressions and offences between them and their ancestors and their people perpetrated to this day on both sides are wholly remitted, as long as the churches as well as the kingdoms receive no injury through the continuance of a lingering feeling of anger or revenge, and that the hostages of the said islands, taken from thence and detained, be restored to complete liberty. And if any enemy of these kings, namely, of Scotland and Norway, should take refuge with the other in his kingdom or dominion to his grievance, he is not to receive him, unless by chance for a time, or till he shall have obtained forgiveness if he merit it, and should he not obtain pardon of his Lord for his offence he is not to fail at the end of a year to remove him from his dominiens. Moreover if any of the people belonging to the King of Norway that niay be absent in the kingdom or dominion of the King of Scotland should suffer shipwreck or fonnder, they shall be permitted freely and quietly to collect, sell, and dispose of their broken or injured vessels, together with any other of their things, either for themselves or for others, fiee from all blame, so long as they rhall not have abandoned them. And should any act contrary to the resolutions of this state agreement concerning vessels or things in this manner imperilled, and should steal anything by fraud or violence, he shall be convicted respecting this as a robber and violator of the peace, according to his demerits, and punished accordingly, anything to the contrary being of no avail. But if any person has been found and convicted of disturbing the peace and final agreement made between the aforesaid kings and kingdoms and their inhabitants, and held and confirmed by the king in whose dominion he has been found, such shall be severely punished as an example and warning to others. And in testimony of these things, that part of this writing remaining in the possession of the said Lord the illustrious King of Norway shall be executed in manuscript, and having opposite the seal of the said lord the King of Scotland, together with the seals of the venerable Fathers Gamaliel of St. Androws and John of Glasgow, by the grace of God Bishops, and the noble Lords Alexander Cumin of Buchan, Patrick of Dunbar, William of Marr, Ady of Carrick, Earls, and Robert do Meyners, Baron. And to the other part of the said writing executed in manuscript and remaining in the posses-sion of the said lord the King of Scotland, the seal of His Excellency the said Lord the King of Norway, together with the seals of the venerable Fathers foter of Bergen and Thorgilson Stavangrensis by the grace of God, Bishops, and the noble men Gautus do Mole, Buccolinus son of John, Finnus son of Gautus, Andreas son of Nicolas, and Asketinus, Chancellor of the said lord the King of Norway is appended.

MCLEANSCOTLAND are based in Perth, Scotland. Paul McLean lives there, has done so for over 25 years, after residing also during his days in Wales, England and Ireland. Perth was the capital of Scotland, until the king was murdered here – in what is now Paul’s local pub!  Liz lives in the golfing haven of Carnoustie. Paul; into Scottish/Irish history in a big way, he has written, sourced many historic documents in his time, writes blogs on history and whisky and Scotland in general. No expert by a mile, but if enthusiasm counted, he would be up there with the best of them. A Knights Templar, Paul is what many would call (inc Liz) a history freak.