HISTORICAL CONTEXT

(See also the Forfar and Scottish Historical Notes)

 

From the end of the last Ice Age different peoples arrived in Scotland from ‘Europe’ over many thousands of years to visit, rape & pillage, conquer, settle or subjugate.  As such the Scottish people are a melting pot of different ancient origins – as is true for much of western Europe.   The popular romantic image of a pure Celtic people overrun in later years by invaders from central Europe (created by 18th century historians) is pure fantasy or myth, and does not fit with any of the evidence that we know today.  

 

Scotland in medieval times was, to the north, a fiercely Celtic culture dominated for a long time by the warring Picts and Scots.  To the south, Scotland was influenced during medieval times by the arrival of Angles / Saxons (or “the English”).  The whole country was for a long time much disorganised, with weak or no central leadership, and at war with England for much of the 13th & 14th centuries.  It was also backward socially, artistically and culturally compared with its Dutch, French and English neighbors. 

 

The Norman Conquest of England in 1066 forced many Britons and English Saxons to flee the cruelty of the Normans into Scotland and Wales.  South of the Scottish highlands, this influx of different cultures had a considerable “civilizing” effect and anglicisation. This was also the time of Queen Margaret, a Saxon princess with a rich Hungarian upbringing.
 

After the death of her husband Malcolm III (Malcolm Canmore) in 1093, their son David I (with the Normans) began to spread much-needed and long-lasting church, social and cultural changes throughout the southern part of Scotland.  This was also when families like the Bruces, Balliols and Stewarts first arrived in Scotland – and became the future of Scotland.  The lowlands of Angus were clearly greatly impacted by these social and cultural changes.  

 

The Reformation (end of control by the Roman Catholic Church and introduction of Protestantism) led by John Knox griped Scotland from 1560 with strict church laws, even more strict civil laws and civil behavior to match.  The end-result of this major “religious debate” was only finally to be seen in 1690.

 

The period from the early 1600’s through to the late 1700’s was particularly turbulent in Scotland, with broad civil unrest and civil war linked to, among many issues:

  • Tenuous rule from a London-based royal court (after the Union of Crowns in 1603); 

  • English drive for dominance over Scottish affaires;

  • National Covenant and the Covenanters;  

  • Catholic v Protestant royal succession; 

  • Oliver Cromwell’s period in England;  

  • Presbyterian v Episcopalian struggle for control of the Reformation;

  • Highland massacres by the “English” and their Scottish supporters; 

  • Union of Parliaments (1707); 

  • 1708, 1715 & 1745 Jacobite risings. 

 

It was also a time when titles, power and wealth were made or lost - depending on which side of a major issue an individual, family or Burgh was (or was perceived to be by the ‘winners’).