For six centuries the Orkney and Shetland Islands remained under Norwegian sovereignty, geographically central in a sea-faring Scandinavian civilisation which reached across the Atlantic.
The earldom of the islands was of great Norwegian importance. In the fifteenth century however, Norway had fallen under the control of Denmark, and the Danes held little interest in their acquisitions to the west.
Christian I was King of Denmark and Norway and in 1468 his daughter Margaret married Scotland’s James III. Her dowry was set at sixty thousand florins of the Rhine. Christian pledged his lands and rights in Orkney for the first fifty thousand florins due, and was to pay the remaining ten thousand in coins. He could only spare two thousand, and so pledged the Shetland islands to cover the remaining unpaid eight thousand in 1469.
The paperwork has never been completed for these transactions and so the lands pledged have not been formally transferred.
In 1667 this was questioned, with the conclusion that Scandinavia still had the right of redemption. Under Norse law, the man who worked a piece of land was the owner of that piece of land, but the new Scottish masters soon reduced the islanders’ lives to misery, using fraud and violence to strip them of their rights and develop a regime of extortion and slave labour.