Scottish Coat of Arms - ( History & Bibliography )
The long history of the lands of the northern third of Great Britain has
been violent and often tragic. The castles and ruins, the songs and
the legends tell Scotland’s tale. It is the harshness of its history and the
ruggedness of its land that have shaped the proud Scottish people. How this
country came to be, and evolved, has long taxed the minds of many historians.
Archeological records show that the earliest people (nomadic hunters and
gatherers) came to the area over 6,000 years ago, as the last remains of the ice
age crept northward. The first recorded history of Scotland was by the Roman
historian Tacitus in the first Century A.D., who called the people the Picts, and
referred to them as ‘savages,’ and ‘fierce enemies.’ The other founding peoples
of Scotland are considered to be the Vikings, the Boernicians, the Dalriadans,
the Strathclyde-Britons, and, later, the Normans. It was in order to fight the
Romans, that these warring clans began to unite. The Romans had conquered all
the rest of Britain, but were never able to subdue the (Caledonia) clansmen of
the north, and in the end, constructed Hadrian’s Wall, an imposing stone barrier
stretching from sea to sea to protect them from the marauding of the Picts.
Shortly after 400 A.D., the Romans left the British Isles, and Scotland began
to emerge out of the dark ages. There were four peoples inhabiting what was
then called Alban – the Picts, the Dalriadan Scots, the Britons, and the Angles –
when invasions by Norwegian Vikings began. By 843, Kenneth MacAlpin, king
of the Scots of Dalriada held all lands north of the river Forth, and renamed the
land Scotia. Duncan I (portrayed in Shakespeare’s Macbeth) added to this
kingdom what is now the rest of mainland Scotland. Although there followed a
period of peace with England, warring within Scotland and between Scotland
and Norway was constant.
King Edward I of England fought off a Scottish invasion by John Balliol,
and then rampaged through Scotland, eventually capturing the ancient stone of
destiny, the Stone of Scone, upon which Scottish kings had been crowned for
seven centuries. He placed the stone in Westminster Abbey, where it stayed until
it was ‘stolen’ by Scottish nationalists in 1950. The stone was formally returned
to Scotland November 15, 1996, and is now on display in Edinburgh Castle. For
his exploits, Edward I earned the nickname ‘Hammer of the Scots.’ The Scots
continued attempts to free themselves of England’s control. One of Scotland’s
greatest national heroes, Robert the Bruce had himself crowned at Scone in
1306. His uprising was defeated, but Bruce was not killed. He became a famed
outlaw who harassed the English armies using guerilla tactics and united Scottish
noblemen in his cause. By 1314, Bruce had driven the English out of every town
in Scotland, but Stirling.
In 1371, Robert Stewart became the Scottish king, the first in a long line of
Stewarts (later spelt Stuart). There had been several child kings and much strife
when James IV came to the throne at age fifteen. He managed to control lowland
rebellions and attempted to make peace with the Highland clan chiefs. In 1502,
James IV signed a treaty of perpetual peace with England, and married Margaret
Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII of England. Thus paving the way for the
eventual union of the crowns.
The Royal Stuart line was to come to an end with Mary Queen of Scots, one
of history’s most prominent women. Mary became Queen of Scotland when she
was just a week old. Henry the VIII arranged for Mary to marry his young son,
and so when Mary’s mother rejected this treaty of marriage, Henry responded
with a vengeful onslaught of bloodshed, burning and pillaging in Edinburgh and
the Border Country. Mary returned from France at age eighteen, widowed,
beautiful, strong-willed and Catholic. Her attempt to rule a Scotland was plagued
with difficulties, as Scottish nobles had renounced the Catholic Church in favor
of Protestantism in 1557. Eventually, Mary was forced to abdicate and her one-year-
old son James VI was placed on the throne. She fled to England, to her
cousin Queen Elizabeth I. Due to her claims to the English thrown, Mary was
imprisoned in the Tower of London, and then beheaded in 1587. The two queens
never met, and some historians suggest that Elizabeth was insanely jealous of
Mary’s beauty and charm.
The infant son of Mary, James VI, as he grew continually fought with the
Scottish his regents and other nobles to exercise his right to govern. To silence
this Catholic King, a Protestant group eventually kidnapped James. However, in
1583, James VI escaped from his kidnappers, and resumed the throne of Scotland.
When Elizabeth I died in 1603, James was her only heir; thus he became James
I of England, as well as James VI of Scotland. James’ most lasting legacy is the
King James Bible; an English translation still favored by many Protestants. The
union of the crowns did not however put an end to struggles in Scotland.
Civil war in England in 1642 pitted the cavaliers fighting for King Charles I
against the Roundheads of Oliver Cromwell’s parliament. When the victorious
Cromwell forced the execution of Charles I, the Scottish proclaimed Charles’
son as their king. Cromwell, incensed, invaded Scotland, uniting the two countries
under a strong, central, civil government. Upon Cromwell’s death, the English
Monarchy was restored to the throne. Many Scots felt they had lost their
independence, setting the stage for uprisings.
The Jacobites wanted the return to a Stuart king for Scotland, and periodically
took up arms to this end. By 1707, the English line of succession had passed to
Queen Sophia of the German Hannover family, and a majority of the Scottish
Parliament agreed to a union of parliaments and Hanoverian succession, in return
for commercial equality, use of their own legal system and the Presbyterian
religion. The Jacobite rebellion grew as did opposition to the union of the
parliaments. In 1715, James Edward rallied the Scottish clans around him, and
was proclaimed king of Scotland. However, the great families of Scotland were
not united, and the uprising was defeated.
Despite attempts by the English to disarm the clansmen and ship Jacobites to
plantations in America, the Jacobites rose again. Bonnie Prince Charlie, a
handsome and charming man, gradually drew support until he led 3,000 clansmen
to Edinburgh to reinstate his father, James Edward, as king of Scotland. After
winning several battles in Scotland, Charles crossed the border and pushed
southward toward London. Only a few hundred kilometers from London, a fatal
decision was made to withdraw to the highlands in order to raise more troops.
Yet Scotland was as divided as ever; many clans supported the Honoverian side.
Finally, on Culloden Moor in 1746, Charles’ ragged and hungry Highlanders
were slaughtered by the English cavalry. Charles escaped by rowboat to the Isle
of Skye, disguised as a maidservant, and even though the English put a price on
his head of 30,000 pounds (an incredibly vast sum of money for the time); no one
ever betrayed him.
The English response to these uprisings was vengeful and cruel: whole villages
were burned and clansmen were slaughtered or shipped to the plantations. As
lowlanders and Englishmen became the landlords, and the clan chiefs became no
different from other land holders, the allotted amount of land for sheep pasture
increased dramatically, causing what is know as the Highland Clearances. People
were literally cleared off the land to make way for more profitable farming. This
turned the trickle of migration out of Scotland into a great wave of settlers, who
then pioneered the colonies in North America and Australia.
In fact, the English tried to destroy the clan system with the Disarming Act of
1746: no Scot was allowed to bear arms, and the wearing of clan tartans and
even the playing of bagpipes were banned. The penalty for wearing ‘any part
whatsoever’ of the Highland dress was six months in jail, for a first offence.
Miraculously, many of the Scottish traditions survived this period of persecution
and have flourished as the restrictions were gradually dropped. Today, the clan
tartan is one of the world’s most powerful symbols of kinship.
To really make history come alive, one should walk through the heather and the hills of Scotland, imagining where the clansmen of the past lived and died; read the inscriptions left by our
ancestors on ancient, crumbling castle walls and monuments, and see the original documents with their fragile old parchment leaves and 800 year old writings. The next best thing to such
a trip to the ‘old country’ may be a trip to your library, to add to and enrich your . Here is a selected list of titles:
An Ordinary of Arms, Scotland
Fairbairn’s Book of Crests
Surnames of Scotland (Black)
History of Scotland. vols. I-VIII (Browne)
Calendarium Inquisitionum Post Mortem
Catholic Directory for Scotland.
Clans Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands
Curia Regis Roll
Key to Parochial Registers of Scotland.
Highland Clans(Moncreiffe & Hicks)
Scotch-Irish vols. I&II
Scots Kith and Kin
Scottish Clan and Family Names
Scottish Family Histories
Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland.
The Clans and Tartans of Scotland (Bain)
The High Kings
Landed Gentry (J.B. Burke)
Peerage and Baronage (J.B. Burke)
The General Armoury (J.B. Burke)
The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, and Ireland
Debrett’s Peerage and Titles of Courtesy
Armorial Families (Fox-Davies A.C.)
Surnames of the U. K. (Henry Harrison)
Hundred (Hundredorum) Rolls
Regesta Regum Scottorum
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
The Pictish Chronicle
The Wace Poem
Canadian Almanac and Directory
Families of the South of Bonne Bay
Loyalists in Ontario (Reid)
Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland (Seary)
The Scottish Tradition in Canada.
United Empire Loyalists Lists.
Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before
Roll of the Battel Abbey
Brights of Suffolk
Elvin’s Mottoes Revised.
English Historical Facts: 1603-1688
Kennedy’s Book of Arms
Knights of England
Papworth’s Ordinary of British Armorials
Annals of Ulster, 431-1541. Dublin: 1887
Book of Ulster Surnames
An Heraldic Alphabet.
Americans of Royal Descent.
Ancestral Roots of 60 Colonists.
Report of Distribution of Surnames in the Social Security