The European Sun: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Scottish Language and Literature, University of Strathclyde, 1993

By Graham Caie; Roderick J. Lyall et al. | Go to book overview

THOMAS RIIS


6. Soldiers and Divines: Scottish-Danish Relations,
1589–1707

The marriage of Anne of Denmark to James VI in 1589 ushered in a new era in the relations between Scotland and Denmark. Although the collaboration of the two countries had been rather close around 1500, relations between them had been allowed to dwindle under James V, Mary and the minority of James VI. Relations had never cooled, but the two countries did not need each other any more. Skippers and merchants continued to visit the other country on the basis of the treaty of 1492 which gave to Scots in Denmark – Norway and to Danes and Norwegians in Scotland the same trading rights as those belonging to the natives, provided that duties were paid. Moreover, Scottish mercenaries were allowed to fight for the Kings of Denmark – Norway in their wars against Sweden and the Hanseatic towns. Scottish soldiers and mariners served King John at the beginning of the sixteenth century, they took part in Christian II’s conquest of Sweden in 1520, and in greater numbers under Frederik II fought against Sweden in the Seven Years’ War, 1563–70.

Finally, the question of the Northern Isles had never been properly solved. Pledged as they were to Scotland in 1468–9 as security for the payment of Queen Margaret’s dowry, these Norwegian islands had never been redeemed. Every time the Danish-Norwegian government offered to pay, the Scots procrastinated, arguing that such an important decision could not be taken during the minority or absence of their sovereign or that the introduction in 1548–9 of the ad valorem duty in the Sound was against the treaty of 1492. For the last time the issue was discussed in the 1660s,1 and it was left to time to find a solution.


II

Most spectacular among the Scots working in seventeenth century Denmark were the mercenaries fighting in the King of Denmark’s wars. Wearing leggings and plaiding, but sometimes even bare-foot and armed with bows, muskets and long knives, they formed a contrast to mercenaries of other nationalities. Their frugal needs made them enduring soldiers capable of guerrilla warfare, where their silent weapons (bow and knife) would not reveal their presence until it was too late.2

Some Scots did take part in the War of Kalmar of 1611–13 between Sweden and Denmark-Norway, but the most famous event was the slaughter by the

1 See Gordon Donaldson, ‘Problems of Sovereignty and Law in Orkney and Shetland’, Miscellany Two, ed. D. Sellar, Stair Society 35 (Edinburgh, 1984), pp 13–40.

2 Rigsarkivet, Copenhagen (henceforth RA). TKIA A95 III fasc. ‘Skotske Høvedsmænd’. Memorandum by Capt. John Cullen, undated, but probably Autumn 1565.

-62-

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