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This article is about the historical kingdom. For the country in its current form, see Scotland.

The Kingdom of Scotland (Scots: Kinrick o Scotland; Scottish Gaelic: Rìoghachd na h-Alba) was a state in north-west Europe traditionally said to have been founded in 843, which joined with the Kingdom of England to form a unified Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. Its territories expanded and shrank, but it came to occupy the northern third of the island of Great Britain, sharing a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England. It suffered many invasions by the English, but under Robert I it fought a successful war of independence and remained a distinct state in the late Middle Ages. In 1603, James VI of Scotland became King of England, joining Scotland with England in a personal union. In 1707, the two kingdoms were united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain under the terms of the Acts of Union. From the final capture of the Royal Burgh of Berwick by the Kingdom of England in 1482 (following the annexation of the Northern Isles from the Kingdom of Norway in 1472) the territory of the Kingdom of Scotland corresponded to that of modern-day Scotland, bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest.

The crown was the most important element of government. The Scottish monarchy in the Middle Ages was a largely itinerant institution, before Edinburgh developed as a capital in the second half of the fifteenth century. The court remained at the centre of political life and in the sixteenth century emerged as a major centre of display and artistic patronage, until it was effectively dissolved with the Union of Crowns in 1603. The Scottish crown adopted the conventional offices of western European courts, and developed a Privy Council and great offices of state. Parliament also emerged as a major legal institution, gaining an oversight of taxation and policy, but never achieved the centrality to the national life of its counterpart in England. In the early period the kings of the Scots depended on the great lords of the mormaers and Toísechs, but from the reign of David I, sheriffdoms were introduced, which allowed more direct control and gradually limited the power of the major lordships. In the seventeenth century the creation of Justices of Peace and Commissioners of Supply helped to increase the effectiveness of local government. The continued existence of courts baron and introduction of kirk sessions helped consolidate the power of local lairds.

Scots law developed into a distinctive system in the Middle Ages and was reformed and codified in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Under James IV the legal functions of the council were rationalised, with a royal Court of Session meeting daily in Edinburgh. In 1532 the Royal College of Justice was founded, leading to the training and professionalisation of lawyers. David I is the first Scottish king known to have produced his own coinage. Early Scottish coins were virtually identical in silver content to English ones, but from about 1300 the silver content began to depreciate more rapidly than English. At the union of the crowns in 1603 the Scottish pound was fixed at only one-twelfth that of the English pound. The Bank of Scotland issued pound notes from 1704. Scottish currency was abolished at the Act of Union.

Scotland is half the size of England and Wales in area, but has roughly the same amount of coastline, with a geography of Scotland divided between the Highlands and Islands and the Lowlands. The Highlands had a relatively short growing season which was further shortened by the impact of the Little Ice Age. From its foundation to the Black Death the population had grown from perhaps half a million to a million, then fell to half a million. It probably expanded in the first half of the sixteenth century, reaching approximately 1.2 million by the 1690s. Significant languages in the Medieval kingdom included Gaelic, Old English, Norse and French but by the early modern era Middle Scots had begun to dominate. Christianity was introduced into Scotland from the sixth century. In the Norman period the Scottish church underwent a series of changes that led to new monastic orders and organisation. During the sixteenth century, Scotland underwent a Protestant Reformation that created a predominately Calvinist national kirk. There were a series of religious controversies that resulted in divisions and persecutions. The Scottish crown developed naval forces at various points in its history, but often relied on privateers and fought a guerre de course. Land forces centred around the large common army, but adopted European innovations from the sixteenth century and many Scots took service as mercenaries and as soldiers for the English crown. Scottish flags included the Lion rampant and the Saltire, the latter being incorporated into the Union Flag from 1603.


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