This weekend, Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 August, join us for our biggest event of the year – Celebration of the Centuries at Fort George near Inverness.
To whet your appetite for the coming festivities we gathered for you a quick overview on some of the fascinating facts about the periods of our history we’ll be featuring at the event.
• The great Roman victory in Scotland was at Mons Graupius in AD 83 or 84.
• The location of this battle is unknown, though the Grampian Mounth and the Gask Ridge in Perthshire are strong candidates.
• The only account of the battle was written by the chronicler Tacitus, who was Agricola’s son-in-law – and therefore perhaps a touch biased.
• The Picts were given their name by a Roman orator, Eumenius, all the way back in AD 297.
• The word Pictis is usually translated as ‘Painted people’, leading some people to believe the Picts wore tattoos.
• The Hibernis were Scots or Gaels, originating from the west and Ireland, which the Romans called Hibernia.
• The Vikings came to our shores toward the end of the 8th century.
• Initially they were ruthless pillagers, but later they settled.
• The Orkneyinga Saga,compiled in the 12th century, includes this account: ‘This was how Svein used to live. Winter he would spend at home on Gairsay, where he entertained some 80 men at his own expense. His drinking hall was so big there was nothing in Orkney to compare with it.’
• Bannockburn was an important and morale-boosting victory for the Scots during the Wars of Independence with England.
• King Edward II initially sought refuge in Stirling Castle, but found the gate barred and was forced to flee south.
• The author of The Life of Edward II, who witnessed the events, wrote: ‘I think it was God’s doing that the king of England did not enter the castle, for if he had been admitted then he would never have escaped capture.’
• The Renaissance was a revolution in art and ideas, said to have originated in Florence in the 14th century, its influence spread, partly via the new medium of the printing press.
• It was embraced in Scotland by the late 15th century, notably by King James IV and his son James V, who built or extended their palaces in the Renaissance mode.
• One effect was that Scotland’s education system began to boom.
• Illiteracy was virtually unknown among the male nobility after the Education Act of 1496. Of course the lower classes were to remain largely illiterate for centuries to come.
• The Covenanting wars grew out of the National Covenant, a document signed in Edinburgh in 1638.
• It called on King Charles I to stop trying to impose an episcopal (bishop-governed) church in Scotland.
• Since 1560, Scotland had been officially Protestant, and many people believed the king had fallen under Catholic influences.
• Both Edinburgh Castle and the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth were used as prisons for Covenanters.
• For more than 50 years between 1689 and 1746 the Jacobites launched several armed uprisings, aiming to restore the Catholic Stuarts to the throne.
• Prince James Francis Edward Stuart was the only legitimate son of King James VII but his Catholic father was deposed and his Protestant sister Mary was crowned jointly with her Dutch husband William of Orange.
• One of the most surprising battles waged in the name of the Stuarts was the Hispano–Scottish Invasion of 1719. Several hundred Spanish soldiers and some Jacobites stormed and took Eilean Donan Castle!
• Scotland has suffered its share of brigandry on the high seas. There is even a Gaelic name for pirate: spuinneadair-mara.
• Several of the most infamous pirates were in fact Scots like William Kidd, born in Greenock in 1645. He eventually became the most wanted man in Britain.
• Alexander Selkirk’s (born in Fife in 1676) crewmates put him ashore on a desert island, stranded for 4 years, he became the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.
• John Paul Jones (born in Kirkcudbright in 1747) moved to America, was recruited into battle and eventually became the founder of the United States Navy. To the Americans he was a flamboyant hero while in his native Britain he was a feared and ruthless pirate.