Battle of Largs

On this day in 1263/4, Norwegian ships that were part of an invasion force under Haakon IV were driven ashore by a storm at Largs; over the next three days they engaged in a military confrontation with a Scots force under Alexander III. The men of the western seaboard were divided; Angus Mòr, first chief of the Clan Donald, supported Haakon (either enthusiastically or reluctantly, depending on which history you read).

What actually happened is still debated. Earlier historians tended to view it as a major massed battle, but archaeological evidence does not support this. It was probably little more than a skirmish, and mostly fought at sea. Equally unclear is which side actually won: 800 years later, both Norway and Scotland still claim the victory.  What is known, though, is that Haakon died in Orkney less than two months later, and in 1266 his successor ceded the Western Isles to Scotland by the Treaty of Perth. Largs is thus seen by historians as a turning point in Scottish history. 

To the clans in the Isles, however, it probably made little difference whether their king was far away in Bergen or far away in Edinburgh. Angus Mòr submitted to Alexander, and his influence went unchecked; his descendants, the Lords of the Isles, would be the real power in the west for the next three centuries.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2011

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