Military Governors and Imperial Frontiers c. 1600-1800: A Study of Scotland and Empires

By A. Mackillop; Steve Murdoch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
SCOTSMEN ON THE DANISH-NORWEGIAN FRONTIERS
C. 1580–1680
Steve Murdoch

In the year 1652, Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty sat as a prisoner in the Tower of London writing his classic text, The Jewel. As part of his idiosyncratic view of the world, and the place of Scotsmen in it, he compiled one of the most comprehensive contemporary lists of Scots who had contributed to the development of civilisation as Urquhart saw it.1 In doing so he provided us with evidence that some Scots at least had knowledge of the station and achievement of their countrymen abroad. His text gives us a starting point from which to understand the role of Scotsmen on the Danish-Norwegian frontiers for in it he wrote that there were:

besides ten governors at least, all Scots, intrusted [sic] with the charge of the most especial strengths and holds of importance, that were within the confines of the Danish authority.2

What Urquhart did not tell us was how he defined a governor. In Denmark-Norway at this time there were several layers of governorship which differed considerably in various parts of the Oldenburg monarchy. In Norway for instance power was devolved to the statholder or viceroy, under whom there was an array of town governors, regional governors and military commandants. Elsewhere, such as in the three Danish regions east of the Sound, general-commissioners were employed who had power over all the town and county governors in their region, the equivalent, in fact, to the governor-general later employed in the British Empire. Before the introduction of

____________________
1
For an assessment of Urquhart's 'unclassifiable' work see D. Reid, 'Prose after Knox' in R.D.S. Jack, ed., The History of Scottish Literature, vol. 1; Origins to 1660 (Aberdeen: 1989), 194–5.
2
S.D. Stirling, ed., The Works of Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, Knight (Edinburgh: 1834), 215.

-1-

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