Kirkjuvagr To Kirkwall View larger

Kirkjuvagr To Kirkwall


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The Early History of a Danish/Norwegian and Scottish Royal Burgh, and a Study of its Royal Charters.

By Spencer J, Rosie.


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In 1486, King James III of Scotland gave Kirkwall the status of a royal burgh along with a grant of lands and special privileges consistent with this status. This royal grant was repeated in 1536 and 1661. While Kirkwall would eventually operate as a typical Scottsh burgh, there are some unique features associated with its charters making it worthy of study. Apart from being the most northerly royal burgh and the only one in the three archipelagos of Scotland, Kirkwall was the only royal burgh creation to have had equivalent status under a foreign power. In addition, the town was given St Magnus Cathedral, the gift of such a prestigious ecclesiastical building to a civil authority being unique in Scotland and rarely, if at all, replicated elsewhere.

Among the aims of this book is to provide an early history of Kirkwall, examine its royal charters, particularly the contents of James III's charter, and interpret the information they provide in order to answer some pertinent questions. Why were they needed? What status did Kirkwall previously enjoy? Why did it take James III so long to grant the first charter? How does Kirkwa;;'s charters compare with other burgh charters? Perhaps most intriguingly of all, why did the Church tolerate a situation where such an important building and its endowments were handed over to burgh authorities, and how was the king able to make such a gift?

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