Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
THERE were no Earls in Scotland
until the twelfth century. The people were in the earlier periods
organised under the tribal form of government. But from the eighth century
to the close of the eleventh, society in Scotland was in a progressive and
In the year
844 Kenneth M’Alpin mounted the Coronation
Stone at Scone, and became the real founder of the historic Kingdom of
Scotland. This important event has to be interpreted as the result of the
long struggle of the chief tribes. The accumulating force of circumstances
and the necessities of life; and the new influence of a common religion,
all naturally tended to a greater concentration of power under some one of
the leading tribes. The foundation of the monarchy marked two distinct
steps of advance:- (1) It concentrated
more power in the original centre, Scone, whence the historic kingdom was
gradually extended outward to the north-east, the west, and the south; (2)it supplied a continuous
influence, which operated effectively, though slowly, in developing the
loose elements of separate tribal communities into a nationality.
Prior to the twelfth century the
Mormaers were the rulers of districts or territorial divisions in
Scotland. The Mormaer’s power over the inhabitants of the district was
vested in the tribe of the land, and the succession to the Mormaership
seems to have been limited to the descendants of the founder of the tribe.
Thus the Mormaer was the ruler of all the people within the territory of
the tribe. In early fragments of Chronicles and in the Book of Deer
notices of the Mormaers of Athole, Angus, Moray, Mar, Buchan, and other
districts occur. The official called the Toshach seems to have had
military functions, but in early times the powers of the Mormaers and all
officials were limited by usage and custom. Before the end of the eleventh
century, the central Government had obtained some control over the
Mormaers and local tribes between the Forth and the Spey.
After the eleventh century the title
of Mormaer began to fluctuate, and was shortly superseded by the title of
Comes or Earl. In the twelfth century charters were introduced, and feudal
tenor, under which direct grants of territory were given by the King. In
this way great changes were effected in connection with the land.
There were four periods in which
remarkable changes took place in the ownership and possession of the land
of the country :—(1) From the early part of the twelfth century to about
1265; (2)during the War of Independence a large portion of the
land passed into the hands of new owners, and new names and families came
into influence and power; (3) in the sixteenth century considerable tracts
of the best land in the country passed into the possession of new owners;
(4) from the middle of the seventeenth century to about 1750 many changes
were effected in territorial possessions, mainly caused by the Civil War,
the Revolution of 1688, and the risings of 1715 and 1745.
The rise and vicissitude of great
families are associated with many important historic events and touching
incidents; and the utmost effort will be made to render this series
instructive and interesting.
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