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The Scottish-Norwegian War was a conflict from 1262–1266.[1] The conflict arose because of the disagreement over the ownership of the Hebrides. The only major battle in this small war was the Battle of Largs, an indecisive battle.

Contents

Background

The Norwegian suzerainty over the Hebrides had been contested since the 1240s, when the Scottish king Alexander II began asking the king of Norway, Haakon Haakonsson (also spelled Håkon), if he could purchase the islands from him. For almost a decade these attempts were unsuccessful, and the negotiations ceased for thirteen years when Alexander II died. When his son Alexander III came to power in 1262, by obtaining majority support among the clansmen, he sent Haakon a final request saying that if Haakon did not sell them the Islands they would take them by force.

The war (1262–1263)

Haakon responded to this request by gathering a fleet, of over 120 leidang warships, and setting out, in July 1263 to defend the Western Isles. Haakon stopped at the Isle of Arran where negotiations were started. Alexander III stalled during the negotiations until the autumn storms, but Haakon realized his plan and attacked ahead of schedule. Unfortunately for Haakon the autumn storms came early that year and most of his ships were ravaged or badly damaged. Haakon retreated for a short time in order to repair his ships, but attacked again at the Largs in October 1263. The Norwegians were attacked by Scottish bowmen as they landed on the beaches, but they pressed forward and Alexander III’s forces charged forward, throughout the day the battle continued and because of the continuous assault by the archers and a growing storm, Haakon’s forces found it difficult to get reinforcements to the front lines. At the end of the day the Norwegians retreated, and Haakon asked for a temporary truce to collect the dead, Alexander agreed. The following morning Haakon’s forces sailed back to Orkney, where he died in December. Haakon’s successor finally ceded the Isle of Man and the Hebrides to Alexander III in 1266,[2] in the Treaty of Perth.

Resolution

Although the war was not really decided while Haakon was king he was a major player in the events leading up to the conflict. Alexander the III actually captured the Hebrides in 1264, and then made another formal claim to the Islands which were bought from Norway for a sum of 4,000 marks, and 100 every year after.

Impact

Although the tensions between the Norwegians and the Scottish did not immediately evaporate over time they did become culturally mixed on the islands. Both cultures celebrate with a large festival at Largs where the most prominent battle was fought.

Notes/References

  1. ^ Tour Scotland: Scottish Battles
  2. ^ Derry Catherine Boyd's family Genealogy site: The Battle of Largs - 1263
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