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The Maid of Norway
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Scotland in the Thirteenth Century
The Viking King, Hakon, died soon after, but unrelated to, the battle of Largs. Hakon's death provided the opportunity for Alexander' III's own territorial ambitions in the Hebrides. The Norsemen in the Orkneys sent an embassy to Scotland in the spring of 1264 to make overtures for peace, but these were unceremoniously rejected. Alexander could see that he had the upper hand and was not slow to press home his advantage.
Hakon's successor, King Magnus was not easily put off and in the autumn of 1264 he sent messengers again to Alexander. Eventually diplomacy won and on 2 July 1266, peace was made and sealed through the Treaty of Perth. In return for the cession of the Hebrides and the Isle of Man to the Scots, a lump sum payment of four thousand merks of refined silver in four annual installments, and an annual tribute of a hundred merks in perpetuity was to be paid. Norway's sovereignty over the Orkneys and Shetland was to be respected; indeed, the Northern Isles remained a Scandinavian preserve until the middle of the fifteenth century
Alexander's only daughter, Margaret, was betrothed to the grandson of Mon the Old of Norway in the spring of 1281, further enhancing the relationship between the two countries. The bride was nineteen years old, the bridegroom only fourteen; but he was the new king of Norway, Erik II, son of King Magnus the Law-Reformer.
The rest of his reign had other concerns now that Alexander III had consolidated land and possessions. He brought together the disparate regions of his realm into a cohesive nation with one Church, one law and a common language. The relationship with Scotland's closest neighbour also remained friendly with the marriage between the royal families and many of the leading nobles.
However, it was all to end in tragedy, not only for Scotland and Norway but most especially for Alexander III himself. His wife Margaret, sister of Edward I, had died in 1275. In June 1281 his younger son, David, fell ill and died at Stirling Castle aged eight years old. On 9 April 1283, not two years after the marriage, Queen Margaret died at Tonsberg in Norway, apparently in childbirth. She left a sickly infant daughter, also christened Margaret, the 'Maid of Norway' who would be Queen of Scots and complete the Norweigan connection for a brief time. The final blow to Alexander came on 17 January 1284 when Alexander's elder son, Alexander the Prince died leaving Scotland with no male heir to the crown.