In the later Middle Ages, Scotland suffered from weak kings and powerful nobles. For two centuries there was a constant struggle between the Crown and the barons. Border clashes with England also continued. James IV of Scotland married Margaret, daughter of Henry VII of England, in 1503. When Henry VIII went to war with France in 1512, however, James IV invaded England. He fell, "riddled with arrows," at Flodden Field in the last great border battle (1513).
James V died brokenhearted after his army had been slaughtered at Solway Moss (1542). The throne went to his infant daughter, Mary Stuart.
Meanwhile the Protestant Reformation had swept across Europe and into England. Scotland was still a Roman Catholic country. Its young queen, Mary Stuart, was in France when John Knox returned home to Scotland from Geneva, Switzerland. Knox was a follower of John Calvin, one of the leaders of the Reformation. With fiery eloquence he spread Calvin's Protestant doctrine. Knox and others drove Mary out. In 1560 Scotland's parliament adopted a confession of faith drawn up by Knox and established the Church of Scotland on a Presbyterian basis.
When Mary returned to Scotland in 1561, she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate her throne. She escaped, however, and fled to England. Queen Elizabeth I made her a prisoner and finally had her executed.
Mary Stuart's son, James VI, was brought up as a Presbyterian. When Queen Elizabeth of England died in 1603, James inherited the throne of England. This is an important point missed by many historians - it was the Scottish king who took over the English throne, not the reverse. In England he was called James I. The two nations were thus united under a single king, but Scotland remained a separate state with its own parliament and government.
England tried repeatedly to impose the Anglicans' episcopal form of worship and church government on the Scottish kirk. The Scots took up arms against Charles I. When civil war broke out in England, they aided the Puritans against the king. After Oliver Cromwell executed Charles I without consulting the Scots, however, the Scots welcomed Charles's son as Charles II. Cromwell then marched into Scotland and imposed his rule. When Charles II was restored to the throne, persecution of Presbyterians continued.
Finally, after James II had been driven from the throne, Presbyterianism was firmly established as Scotland's national church. The Highlanders long remained loyal to the exiled Stuarts. In 1715 they attempted to restore the house of Stuart to the throne; James Stuart, known as the Old Pretender, was proclaimed James III. In 1745 they supported his son, Charles Edward, known as the Young Pretender and Bonnie Prince Charlie. The Young Pretender's quest for the throne ended in 1746 at the battle Culloden when the Highland forces were defeated by the English.
The age-old rivalry between Scotland and England ended formally in 1707 when the parliaments of both nations agreed to the Act of Union. This act merged the parliaments of the two nations and established the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Scotland now had free trade with England and the colonies. As Britain's empire expanded the Scots played a great part in its development. They also shared in the inventions that brought about the Industrial Revolution and in the wealth that flowed into Britain from it.
The end of the 18th century has been called Scotland's most creative period. David Hume won world fame in philosophy and history, Adam Smith in political economy, and Robert Burns in poetry. In the next generation Sir Walter Scott made the land and history of Scotland known throughout the world. During this period the Scots were also pre-eminent in establishing the fledgling colonies in America, Canada and Australia.
From that time on, the history of Scotland merges with that of the rest of the United Kingdom but Scots continued to play a part in world affairs far greater than their numbers might suggest. Legal and education systems did remain separate (and superior) and in the second half of the 20th century many Scots began to demand a greater say in other areas of government. Eventually a new Scottish parliament was established in Edinburgh and it is currently making its mark.
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Tour Scotland with Scottish Tours. Discover the highlights of Scotland on a tour to Loch Ness, The Scottish Highlands, Skye and Loch Lomond.