On this day in history : 20th February 1472 – Orkney and Shetland are transferred to Scotland from Norway in lieu of a dowry payment for Margaret of Denmark….

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Queen Margaret of Scotland – Public domain

Thirteen-year-old Margaret was the daughter of King Kristian I of  Denmark, Norway and Sweden…. She was betrothed to King James III of Scotland as a long standing agreement in an aim to bring a feud over tax to an end…. Her dowry was set at 60,000 Guilders – 10,000 of which to be paid up front, the rest to be mortgaged against Orkney and Shetland…. The idea was that once the dowry had been paid in full the islands would be returned to Scandinavia….

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Kristian I of Denmark, Norway and Sweden – Public domain

King Kristian was strapped for cash; he could only raise 2,000 Guilders of the initial payment and so the remainder was added to the mortgage…. The wedding of King James III and Margaret went ahead in July 1469 at Holyrood Abbey and was overseen by Abbot Archibald Crawford…. By 1472 no money had been paid towards the outstanding dowry balance and so on the 20th of February Orkney and Shetland were officially annexed to the Scottish Crown through an Act of Parliament….

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James III and Margaret of Denmark – National Library of Scotland – Public domain

Margaret and James went on to have three sons, the eldest later to become James IV of Scotland…. James III was not a popular king, although Margaret was well liked as Queen…. When she died in July 1486 rumours circulated that her husband had poisoned her…. In 1488 a revolt against the King was supported by his 15-year-old son…. James III was killed in unexplained circumstances….

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The grave of King James III and Queen Margaret, Cambuskenneth Abbey – Stephen C Dickson – own work – CC BY-SA 4.0

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