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Erik Blodoxe, Harald Haarfager's son, was driven with his queen, the atrocious Gunhilde, from Norway, he fled to Orkney, whence he carried devastation far and wide. Subsequently he obtained a kingdom in Northumberland; but, after his fall, his sons again sought the Orkneys; where they remained till they succeeded in obtaining the kingly power in Norway. Snorre Sturleson states, that after the fall of this dominion, Gunhilde again fled to Orkney, where her daughter, Ragnhilde, had married a member of the Earl's family. Ragnhilde trod entirely in her mother's footsteps by occasioning dissension, and even murder, in the family of the Earl. Somewhat later the Orkneys were visited for a time by Kalf Arneson, so well known in the more ancient history of Norway, who, at the battle of Stiklestad in 1030, was one of the chief leaders of the peasant army against King Olaf, the saint. He came to the Orkneys just in time to take part in a severely-contested naval battle, fought in the year 1046, near Rodebjerg (RauSabjorg) in Pentland Firth, between the Jarls Thorfin and Ragnvald Bruseson. Kalf supported Thorfin with six long ships, and thus decided the victory in his favour.
The older history of the islands exhibits an almost uninterrupted series of bloody combats between members of the Norwegian Jarl's family. This, however, did not prevent them from making violent inroads on the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. Long after the Vikings' mode of life had ceased in the Scandinavian North, it continued to be preserved in these islands. This was not only owing to their remote situation, opposite hostile coasts, and to their characteristic independence, but also to the population having inherited the old Viking spirit, and carefully preserved the ancient Norwegian institutions. As long as Norwegian jarls ruled, Norwegian laws, customs, and habits, as well as the Norwegian language, were absolutely paramount in the islands. The connections which the jarls and other powerful leaders maintained with Scotch and Irish chiefs, and which often resulted in intermarriages between their families, do not seem to have had much effect on the Scandinavian national character of these island colonists. It was not till the beginning of the fourteenth century, when the male line of the old Norwegian jarls had become extinct, and when the Scotch Lord Saint Clair, who had married a daughter of Magnus, the last jarl, had obtained possession of the earldom, that the ancient liberties, customs, and manners of the inhabitants, began to be seriously threatened; nor did it suffice to protect the islands against the progress of Scottish influence, that they continued to be under the supreme authority of Norway. When, at length, the Danish-Norwegian king, Christian the First, on the occasion of the marriage between his daughter Margaret, and the Scotch king, James the Third, in the year 1469, pledged to Scotland the Orkneys and the Shetland Isles as part of Margaret's dowry, the last tie was severed that bound those countries to their Scandinavian friends. The Scottish kings and their successors, who also ascended the English throne, acknowledged indeed the right of the Danish-Norwegian kings to redeem the islands; but they continually found subterfuges to prevent its being exercised. The lawful claims of redemption, repeatedly urged by Denmark in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, were perfectly fruitless. The islands were too important, and far too conveniently situated with regard to Scotland, for Great Britain to give them up, without being compelled by the last necessity. The undoubted right of the Danish-Norwegian kings was forced to give way to the superior power and political influence of the British sovereigns.
The conduct observed towards the Norwegian population of these islands after their union with Scotland was quite as unjust as their separation from Norway and Denmark, and assuredly far more revolting to all proper feeling. A large part of the inhabitants had till then been in the free possession of their lands as freeholders, or " udallers" (Odelsmsend), and had likewise possessed their old Norwegian laws and privileges, which should of course have been respected when the islands were pledged to Scotland. But the Scotch nobles, who, partly as vassals, partly as royal lessees, obtained the government of the islands, took care to destroy all traces of the ancient liberties and Scandinavian characteristics of the people. The resistance of the islanders was fruitless. In the year 1530 they took up arms under the command of their governor, Sir James Sinclair, in order to oppose the appointment of a crown vassal over the islands. The Earl of Caithness himself, who had been dispatched against them, fell, with five hundred of his men, in a sanguinary action near the "Stones of Stennis." But though the islanders thus asserted their rights for a short period, the Scotch regents soon afterwards succeeded in establishing crownvassals in the islands.
Among these vassals none has left behind him a more despised or hated name than Earl Patrick Stuart, who from 1595 to 1608, or about thirteen years, oppressed the islands in the most shameful manner. He violently deprived the holders of allodial farms of their right of possession, and converted almost all the freeholders into leaseholders. He arbitrarily changed the weights and measures, so that the taxes and imposts became intolerableLaw and justice were not to be procured, for the Earl's creatures everywhere occupied the judgment-seats. To appeal to Scotland was no easy matter, as Lord Patrick's soldiers guarded all the ferries. In the Orkneys the Earl compelled the people to build him a strong fortress at Kirkwall, and in Shetland another at Scalloway; from which places armed men ranged over the country, to punish and overawe the malcontents. The ruins of these castles form a still-existing memorial of "the wicked Earl Patrick," who, for his tyranny, was at length recalled to Scotland, accused of high treason, and beheaded.
The Scottish kings, it is true, now promised the islanders that they should have relief in their need, and that no vassal of the crown should be placed over them. But this promise was not kept; and so far from the islanders again recovering their lost freedom, the feudal system of England and Scotland continued to take firmer root in the islands. Oppression stalked on with regular and steady step until it arrived at such a pitch that not only did the Norwegian laws and liberties disappear, but the islands themselves, .with some few exceptions, became the private property of a few individuals. The successors of the mighty Vikings, descended from kings and jarls of Norway and the North, who in winter dwelt as chiefs, or at least as freemen, in roomy mansions, whilst in the summer they gained glory and booty in their long ships, are now in general obliged to content themselves with inhabiting as leaseholders, or rather as annual tenants, a poor cottage on a small piece of land, where, by hard labour, they are able to gain, at best, a very frugal subsistence. Their dwellings, particularly in Shetland, are of the most wretched description. The walls are formed of small unhewn stones, with turf and sea-weed thrust into the interstices, and, instead of a chimney, the smoke escapes by a hole in the roof. Within the house there are generally sleeping-places in the thick stone wall; but men and cattle live together in friendly harmony in the same apartment. The fire burns freely on the floor, and envelopes all in a dense smoke. If the people seek their living on the sea by fishing, it is usually in boats belonging to the proprietor of the estate, who consequently receives a large share of their profits. The condition of the common people in the Orkneys, and in the Shetland Isles, is certainly not at all enviable, even in comparison with that of their Scandinavian kinsmen on the poor and more remote Faroe Islands and Iceland; although commerce is still limited and oppressed there by a monopoly which was soon abolished in the Orkneys and Shetland Isles after their separation from the united Norwegian-Danish kingdoms. But in spite of all their calamities, the inhabitants of the Faroe Isles and Iceland have for the most part preserved to our times that freedom of landed property which they inherited from their forefathers.
Shetland.—The People.—Songs.—Sword Dance.—Language.—Names of Places.—Tingwall.—Burg of Mousa.—Tumuli.—Bauta Stones.*
If the present originally Norwegian population in the Orkneys and Shetland Islands possessed, on the whole, any strongly-marked Scandinavian characteristics, they would naturally occur most in the islands farthest towards the north. But the oppressions and political changes that have occurred there have done their work so thoroughly, that even the Shetlanders no longer bear in their character and natural disposition any strongly-marked feature of their Norwegian origin. The only ones remaining are, perhaps, their love of the sea, and their skill in contending with its dangers. Even their bodily frame has, through many years of want and debasement, lost much of its strength and nobleness. In the parish of Coningsburgh, in Mainland, precisely where the largest and strongestbuilt people are to be found, the Scandinavian population are said to have kept themselves most free from mixture. The inclination for disputes and fighting amongst the people of Coningsburgh is well known in Shetland. This trait is, at all events, more Scandinavian than moroseness and want of hospitality to strangers, which are almost unknown in the North, but which in the last century were alleged to be vices of these same men of Coningsburgh. It was said that they would not willingly give a traveller a night's lodging, and that directly at daybreak they awoke him, saying:—" Myrkin i livra; lutein i liunga; timin i guestin i geungna;" that is, "It is dark • Partly from S. Hibbert, P. A. Munch, and Chr. Ployen.