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An Outline of the Relations between England and Scotland (500-1707)
Chapter I - Racial Distribution and Feudal Relations 500 - 1066


Since the beginning of the eighteenth century, it has been customary to speak of the Scottish Highlanders as "Celts". The name is singularly inappropriate. The word "Celt" was used by Caesar to describe the peoples of Middle Gaul, and it thence became almost synonymous with "Gallic". The ancient inhabitants of Gaul were far from being closely akin to the ancient inhabitants of Scotland, although they belong to the same general family. The latter were Picts and Goidels; the former, Brythonsor Britons, of the same race as those who settled in England and were driven by the Saxon conquerors into Wales, as their kinsmen were driveninto Brittany by successive conquests of Gaul. In the south of Scotland, Goidels and Brythons must at one period have met; but the result of the meeting was to drive the Goidels into the Highlands, where the Goidelic or Gaelic form of speech still remains different from the Welsh of the descendants of the Britons. Thus the only reason for calling the Scottish Highlanders "Celts" is that Caesar used that name to describe a race cognate with another race from which the Highlanders ought to be carefully distinguished. In none of our ancient records is the term "Celt" ever employed to describe the Highlanders of Scotland. They never called themselves Celtic; their neighbours never gave them such a name; nor would the term have possessed any significance, as applied to them, before the eighteenth century. In 1703, a French historian and Biblical antiquary, Paul Yves Pezron, wrote a book about the people of Brittany, entitled "Antiquite de la Nation et de la Langue des Celtes autrement appellez Gaulois". It was translated into English almost immediately, and philologists soon discovered that the language of Caesar's Celts was related to the Gaelic of the Scottish Highlanders. On this ground progressed the extension of the name, and the Highlanders became identified with, instead of being distinguished from, the Celts of Gaul. The word Celt was used to describe both the whole family (including Brythons and Goidels), and also the special branch of the family to which Caesar applied the term. It is as if the word "Teutonic" had been used to describe the whole Aryan Family, and had been specially employed in speaking of the Romance peoples. The word "Celtic" has, however, become a technical term as opposed to "Saxon" or "English", and it is impossible to avoid its use.

Besides the Goidels, or so-called Celts, and the Brythonic Celts or Britons, we find traces in Scotland of an earlier race who are known as "Picts", a few fragments of whose language survive. About the identity of these Picts another controversy has been waged. Some look upon the Pictish tongue as closely allied to Scottish Gaelic; others regard it as Brythonic rather than Goidelic; and Dr. Rhys surmises that it is really an older form of speech, neither Goidelic nor Brythonic, and probably not allied to either, although, in the form in which its fragments have come down to us, it has been deeply affected by Brythonic forms. Be all this as it may, it is important for us to remember that, at the dawn of history, modern Scotland was populated entirely by people now known as "Celts", of whom the Brythonic portion were the later to appear, driving the Goidels into the more mountainous districts. The Picts, whatever their origin, had become practically amalgamated with the "Celts", and the Roman historians do not distinguish between different kinds of northern barbarians.

In the end of the fifth century and the beginning of the sixth, a new settlement of Goidels was made. These were the Scots, who founded the kingdom of Dalriada, corresponding roughly to the Modern Argyllshire. Some fifty years later (_c._ 547) came the Angles under Ida, and established a dominion along the coast from Tweed to Forth, covering the modern counties of Roxburgh, Berwick, Haddington, and Midlothian. Its outlying fort was the castle of Edinburgh, the name of which, in theform in which we have it, has certainly been influenced by association with the Northumbrian king, Edwin.[30] This district remained a portion of the kingdom of Northumbria till the tenth century, and it is of this district alone that the word "English" can fairly be used. Even here, however, there must have been a considerable infusion of Celtic blood, and such Celtic place-names as "Dunbar" still remain even in the counties where English place-names predominate. A distinguished Celtic scholar tells us: "In all our ancient literature, the inhabitants of ancient Lothian are known as Saix-Brit, "i.e." Saxo-Britons, because they were a Cymric people, governed by the Saxons of Northumbria".[31] A further non-Celtic influence was that of the Norse invaders, who attacked the country from the ninth to the eighteenth century, and profoundly modified the racial character of the population on the south and west coasts, in the islands, and along the east coast as far south as the Moray Firth.

Such, then, was the racial distribution of Scotland. Picts, Goidelic Celts, Brythonic Celts, Scots, and Anglo-Saxons were in possession of the country. In the year 844, Kenneth MacAlpine, King of the Scots of Dalriada, united under his rule the ancient kingdoms of the Picts and Scots, including the whole of Scotland from the Pentland Firth to the Forth. In 908, a brother of the King of Scots became King of the Britons of Strathclyde, while Lothian, with the rest of Northumbria, passed under the overlordship of the House of Wessex. We have now arrived at the commencement of the long dispute about the "overlordship". We shall attempt to state the main outlines as clearly as possible.

The foundation of the whole controversy lies in a statement, "in the honest English of the Winchester Chronicle", that, in 924, "was Eadward king chosen to father and to lord of the Scots king and of the Scots ,and of Regnold king, and of all the Northumbrians", and also of the Strathclyde, Brythons or Welsh. Mr. E.W. Robertson has argued that noreal weight can be given to this statement, for (1) "Regnold king" had died in 921; (2) in 924, Edward the Elder was striving to suppress the Danes south of the Humber, and had no claims to overlordship of any kind over the Northumbrian Danes and English; and (3) the place assigned, Bakewell, in Derbyshire, is improbable, and the recorded building of a fort there is irrelevant. The reassertion of this homage, under Aethelstan, in 926, which occurs in one MS. of the Chronicle, is open to the objection that it describes the King of Scots as giving up idolatry, more than three hundred and fifty years after the conversion of the country; but as the entry under the year 924 is probably in a contemporary hand, considerable weight must be attached to the double statement. In the reign of Edmund the Magnificent, an event occurred which has given fresh occasion for dispute. A famous passage in the "Chronicle" (945 A.D.) tells how Edmund and Malcolm I of Scotland conquered Cumbria, which the English king gave to Malcolm on condition that Malcolm should be his "midwyrtha" or fellow-worker by sea and land. Mr. Freeman interpreted this as a feudal grant, reading the sense of "fealty" into "midwyrtha", and regarded the district described as "Cumbria" as including the whole of Strathclyde. It is somewhat difficult to justify this position, especially as we have no reason for supposing that Edmund did invade Strathclyde, and since, in point of fact, Strathclyde remained hostile to the kingdom of Scotland long after this date. In 946 the statement of the Chronicle is reasserted in connection with the accession of Eadred, and in somewhat stronger words:--"the Scots gave him oaths, that they would all that he would". Such are the main facts relating to the first two divisions of the threefold claim to overlordship, and their value will probably continue to be estimated in accordance with the personal feelings of the reader. It is scarcely possible to claim that they are in any way decisive. Nor can any further light be gained from the story of what Mr. Lang has happily termed the apocryphal eight which the King of Scots stroked on the Dee in the reign of Edgar. In connection with this "Great Commendation" of 973, the Chronicle mentions only six kings as rowing Edgar at Chester, and it wisely names no names. The number eight, andthe mention of Kenneth, King of Scots, as one of the oarsmen, have been transferred to Mr. Freeman's pages from those of the twelfth-century chronicler, Florence of Worcester.

We pass now to the third section of the supremacy argument. The district to which we have referred as Lothian was, unquestionably, largely inhabited by men of English race, and it formed part of the Northumbrian kingdom. Within the first quarter of the eleventh century it had passed under the dominion of the Celtic kings of Scotland. When and how this happened is a mystery. The tract _De Northynbrorum Comitibus_ which used to be attributed to Simeon of Durham, asserts that it was ceded by Edgar to Kenneth and that Kenneth did homage, and this story, elaborated by John of Wallingford, has been frequently given as the historical explanation. But Simeon of Durham in his "History"[32] asserts that Malcolm II, about 1016, wrested Lothian from the Earl of Northumbria, and there is internal evidence that the story of Edgar and Kenneth has been constructed out of the known facts of Malcolm's reign. It is, at all events, certain that the Scottish kings in no sense governed Lothian till after the battle of Carham in 1018, when Malcolm and the Strathclyde monarch Owen, defeated the Earl of Northumbria and added Lothian to his dominions. This conquest was confirmed by Canute in 1031, and, in connection with the confirmation, the Chronicle again speaks of a doubtful homage which the Scots king "not long held", and, again, the Chronicle, or one version of it, adds an impossible statement--this time about Macbeth, who had not yet appeared on the stage of history. The year 1018 is also marked by the succession of Malcolm's grandson, Duncan, to the throne of his kinsman, Owen of Strathclyde, and on Malcolm's death in 1034 the whole of Scotland was nominally united under Duncan I.[33] The consolidation of the kingdom was as yet in the future, but from the end of the reign of Malcolm II there was but one Kingdom of Scotland. From this united kingdom we must exclude the islands, which were largely inhabited by Norsemen. Both the Hebrides and the islands of Orkney and Shetland were outside the realm of Scotland.

The names of Macbeth and "the gentle Duncan" suggest the great drama which the genius of Shakespeare constructed from the magic tale of Hector Boece; but our path does not lie by the moor near Forres, nor past Birnam Wood or Dunsinane. Nor does the historian of the relations between England and Scotland have anything to tell about the English expedition to restore Malcolm. All such tales emanate from Florence of Worcester, and we know only that Siward of Northumbria made a fruitless invasion of Scotland, and that Macbeth reigned for three years afterwards.

We have now traced, in outline, the connections between the northern and the southern portions of this island up to the date of the Norman Conquest of England. We have found in Scotland a population composed of Pict, Scot, Goidel, Brython, Dane, and Angle, and we have seen how the country came to be, in some sense, united under a single monarch. It is not possible to speak dogmatically of either of the two great problems of the period--the racial distribution of the country, and the Edwardian claims to overlordship. But it is clear that no portion of Scotland was, in 1066, in any sense English, except the Lothians, of which Angles and Danes had taken possession. From the Lothians, the English influences must have spread slightly into Strathclyde; but the fact that the Celtic Kings of Scotland were strong enough to annex and rule the Lothians as part of a Celtic kingdom implies a limit to English colonization. As to the feudal supremacy, it may be fairly said that there is no portion of the English claim that cannot be reasonably doubted, and whatever force it retains must be of the nature of a cumulative argument. It must, of course, be recollected that Anglo-Norman chroniclers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, like English historians of a later date, regarded themselves as holding a brief for the English claim, while, on the other hand, Scottish writers would be the last to assert, in their own case, a complete absence of bias.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 30: Johnston: _Place-Names of Scotland_, p. 102.]

[Footnote 31: Rev. Duncan MacGregor in _Scottish Church Society Conferences_. Second Series, Vol. II, p. 23.]

[Footnote 32: _Hist. Dun._ Rolls Series, i. 218.]

[Footnote 33: Duncan was the grandson of Malcolm, and, by Pictish custom, should not have succeeded. The "rightful" heir, an un-named cousin of Malcolm, was murdered, and his sister, Gruoch, who married the Mormaor of Moray, left a son, Lulach, who thus represented a rival line, whose claims may be connected with some of the Highland risings against the descendants of Duncan.]


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