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Parliament of the Estates of Scotland and Norway, 28 April 1286

From: Niven Sinclair <>
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 11:19:22 +0100

John Sinclair Quarterman in his steady catalogue of "Sinclair Dates" reminds us that the Scottish Parliament met at Scone on April 28th, 1286 to elect 'guardians' but this Parliament was a Parliament of the Estates of Scotland and Norway where it was decided that, in the event of Alexander III of Scotland dying without male issue, the throne of Scotland would go to the "Maid of Norway". During her minority the country would be governed by a Regent.

Robert 'the Bruce' was the nearest male relative to Alexander III.

In 1290 Princess Margaret, the "Maid of Norway", (then only seven years old) was despatched to Scotland but died at sea off the Orkney Isles. It is said that he body was returned to Norway but others maintain that she was buried at Harold's Tower in Caithness which you will eventually be able to see on one of the three films which we are making for the Sinclair Millennium Gathering.

There is a mournful couplet about the death of the "Maid of Norway" which reads:

"The north wind sobs where Margaret sleeps
And still in tears of blood her memory Scotland steeps"

In order to understand why the "Maid of Norway" should have been considered as the heir to the Scottish throne, she was the daughter of the daughter of Alexander !!! (another Margaret) who had married King Eric of Norway.

With the "Maid of Norway" dead there was no heir so Robert 'the Bruce', in order to strengthen his position, married his sister, Isabella, to King Eric when King Eric's first wife died in 1293.

The purpose of the above information is to demonstrate how closely linked the Scots and the Norwegians were through their principal families and how the idea of a Northern Commonwealth as ultimately envisaged between Queen Margrette of Norway (1380 -1412) and her premier Earl, Prince Henry Sinclair, made sense - given the political and economic pressures at the time.

The Norse Northern Commonwealth would have included:

  • Norway, Sweden and Denmark (which had been united by the Treaty of Kalmar 1397)
  • Scotland plus Prince Henry Sinclair's 'jarldom' of Orkney, Shetland and the Faeroes
  • Greenland and Iceland - then part of the Norwegian realm.
  • Markland (Newfoundland), Helluland (Labrador) and Vinland (New England)

This was essentially a power bloc to combat the growing influence of the Germanic Hanseatic League which was stretching its tentacles out into the North Atlantic which was already being referred to as Oceanus Germanicus.

Henry Sinclair's voyage to the New World in 1398 was an attempt to cement the concept of a Northern Commonwealth which collapsed with his death and that of Queen Margrette because, her adopted nephew, King Eric, was unable to hold the Scandinavian alliance together. It was at this time that Earl William Sinclair, the grandson of Prince Henry, was being seriously considered as a contender for the throne of Norway because the Sinclairs, by belonging to the House of More, in Norway, wwere seen as the premier 'jarls' of that country.

The reception given to the Earl of Caithness during his recent visit to that country also served to illustrate the abiding affection and affiliation which the Norwegians feel for the Sinclair family.

Niven Sinclair

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