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The Guardians of Scotland

After the death of King Alexander of Scotland, Scotland was ruled by a council of nobles and bishops called the Guardians, who acted as regents for the young queen, the ‘maid of Norway’.  However, the maid died and the guardians were forced to choose which of two men should become the next Scottish king.  Concerned, they asked Edward I of England to arbitrate between the two parties.  Taking advantage of this opportunity, Edward convinced the Scottish lords to swear allegiance to him, before ruling in favour of one of the candidates.  This led Edward to believe that Scotland would become a satellite kingdom of England and, when the Scots objected to that idea, invaded, crushed resistance (which was sparse and uncoordinated) and annexed Scotland.  This led to the wars of Independence and the long and bloody history between England and Scotland.

The funny thing about at least part of Edward’s claim to overlordship was that they were based on a personal oath sworn by another king, Malcolm, to the then English king of personal allegiance.  It could be argued, and it was, that if Scotland had no king, Edward had no claim.  This, I feel, explains why Edward was willing to choose a king for Scotland, as it did not matter who the king was, in theory, they would be bound by the same oath.  Without a king, Scotland might split up or break into civil war, but Edward would have no pretext for intervention.  Legally, Edward had no choice, but to play kingmaker and hope.  It was ludicrously hopeful, but, by the standards of the time, it was reasonable and it worked.  However, he could not predict either Wallace or the desertation of Bruce. 

Therefore, without a king, Scotland faced no legal threat from England.  However, failing to come to a decision could lead to civil war between the two most powerful lords, which would weaken Scotland to the point where Edward (or the king of Norway) might decide to forget the rules.  Such a war would also destroy the power of most of the nobles, as a king would emerge by force, instead of by common consent or by a neutral arbiter.  The final opinion, however, is unprecedented.  The guardians could rule Scotland as a council, which would maintain the balance of power, and unite Scotland against an English threat. 

This requires some reason to keep the council in being.  The best, and standard use by our time, would be to have the council act as regents for the young Queen.  Therefore, our POD will be the survival of the Maid of Norway for an extra few years.  Now, this opens up two new cans of worms: Scotland has not had a female ruler, so the Scots might not accept her, while she has been betrothed to Edward’s son, the future Edward II, who’s nothing like his father.  Therefore, she’ll have to suffer an accident at some point. 

Meanwhile, the two main contestants have to be convinced, bribed or threatened into declaring their support for the council and not pursuing their own claims.  Until the guardians manage to raise an army, they could still plunge Scotland into civil war.  The guardians finally convince the two, through trickery, to pledge their support to the council, in exchange for later favours. 

After that, the guardians take over the running of the kingdom. Their structure is not democratic in our terms, but the will of the majority of the council rules in most cases and, after several years, they have developed a ‘modern’ army loyal to the council.  When Bruce, finally, gets tired of being sidelined, that army crushes him and he is exiled to England.  The death of the Maid of Norway, which is apparently from natural causes, is blamed on him, and Edward gives him a frosty reception, instead of backing a Bruce attempt to seize Scotland.  The other Scottish lords realise that there is no longer any choice, but to bow down to the Guardians and follow their leadership. 

The death of the maid, however it happened, ruins Edward’s plans for Scotland.  He decides to see how much steel lies in the council and sends an ultimation to the Scots.  Basically, Edward reaffirms his claims to overlordship of Scotland and demands that the Scots hand over several border forts, disband their new army and put forward a king ‘to rule Scotland under Edward’.  The guardians are divided at first, but then they rally and reply in uncompromising terms, the famed ‘declaration of Edinburgh’:

“We of Scotland, rulers in a group of our land, renounce now and forever, under God, the claims of overlordship professed by foreign rulers.  We have been driven by provenance to rule our land, without a king or a court.  We say, to your demands, before god, we want nothing, but peace, Yet if Edward should not give up what he has begun, and attempt to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

Edward is incensed by such denials of what he views as his rights, but he knows he has to move carefully.  The Scots have appealed to the Pope to support their case, and Edward wants the pope to support his claims to France, which means he should not offend the Pope.  Therefore, he needs to provoke the Scots into attacking him first, or give up.  He therefore moves a large part of the English army, under his son, to the borders, in hopes that the Scots will attack.  The guardians, however, expected that and gave strict orders not to attack England first or to cross the border.  The two probes launched by the English into Scotland are beaten back, while the Scots continue to fortify their nearby towns and villages.

Edward needs to get back to France and other important matters.  Muttering ‘its well to be rid of shit’, Edward agrees to recognise the guardians, although he does not officially drop his claim to be the overlord of any Scottish king, and the two sides sign the treaty of Berwick. 

Edward recognises Scottish independence under the guardians.  Scotland agrees to be neutral in any Franco-English war, or to support the English.  The rights of the nobles who hold land in the other side’s territories are confirmed. 

The three Edwards continue their attempt to conquer France and Ireland.  Edward wins battles, but his son, who takes over when he’s wounded in battle, can’t force the French to the negocating table. 

There is, however, one last problem for the Guardians.  There is another Monarch who believes he has the right to rule Scotland – the king of Norway.  (Eric or Haakon.  I’m not sure when Haakon took over, butterflies might have kept Eric around longer.)  The Norwegian king issues a statement to the guardians demanding their submission, while sending missionaries to the pope asking for his support and ambassadors to Edward, offering to split the lands.  Edward, occupied in France, refuses.  The Pope is distrusting of the guardians as a committee is less suscripable to papal pressure than a king and therefore backs Norway’s claim.  The guardians reply, denying the king’s claims and rejecting papal interference, while acting to limit that interference in Scotland.  Several churches are attacked by mobs, although the guardians attempt to prevent that sort of problem. 

King Eric assembles an invasion force and heads to Scotland, landing near Aberdeen.  The Scots engage the Norwegians and fight a viscous war over northern Scotland, although they are unable to defeat the Norwegians for several months.  Finally, Eric decides on a bold stroke and withdraws from Aberdeen, burning the town behind him and killing whatever remained of the population.  Reassembling his forces, Eric launches a direct strike at the base of the guardians – Edinburgh Castle.  However, the city is well defended (from the time it looked like Edward would invade) and Eric troops are defeated.  The King himself is captured, while the Scots also capture Eric’s ships and most of his supplies. 

Prince Haakon assumes the throne in Norway, stalling on negotiations over his father’s ransom, while assembling new forces to invade.  Realising this, the guardians launch raids on Norway and capture the Faeroes, Shetlands and (accidentally) Iceland.  Eric is finally returned to Norway after signing a peace treaty that abandoned the Norwegian claim and conceded the islands the Scots had taken. 

The guardians see a chance to spread their power, as well as prevent a future Norwegian king from ‘renegotiating’ the peace treaty.  They move a few thousand settlers to Iceland, mainly fisherman, and then to Greenland.  Without knowing it, they accidentally stumble onto Canada, as Scottish ships poke around in the area.  Soon, there is a going trade in furs with the locals, while some Scottish settlers arrive in Canada. 

Disaster hits in 1353.  The Black Death, a deadly disease, had spread across Europe, then reached England and Scotland, then spreads to Canada.  About a third of the Scottish settlers in the new lands die, while nearly 90% of the natives die.  Tribes we only know vaguely about in OTL are shattered, ruining complex timelines and chains of circumstances we know little of.  This TL will not see an Aztec or Inca empire.

Scotland staggers as about 20% of the population dies or is ill.  Fortunately, the rest of Europe is in a similar state, with Norway suffering the worst as civil war reduces the already primitive sanitarily conditions.   Contact between Scotland and its American colonies becomes very weak for a period, while the colonists end up uniting with the reminder of the native population, learning their skills in exchange for providing ‘protection’ from the plagues.  The guardians reassert control over Scotland in 1357, and soon put the colonies back into proper contact with the World, but there are other problems.

Europe is on the brink of a religious civil war.  The Pope’s authority has been severely tested, both by the Scottish refusal to bow to his demands (not to mention the attacks on churches in Scotland) and by the arrival of the Black Death.  Preachers have sprung up all over Europe, calling the Pope a degenerate and demanding that the Vatican renounce its powers.  To add insult to injury, many of the kings and princes of Europe see a chance to rid themselves of the Pope’s influence and actively encourage sedition within their nations.  Edward III does offer limited support to the Pope, but only if he convinces the French King to submit.  The Pope’s demand to the king flops badly, and his prestige is shattered.  Religious war explodes over Europe.

Scotland tries to stay out of the conflict.  They renounce the Pope’s power as soon as the war begins, but they don’t want to be involved in the general war.  However, refugees do flee to Scotland and then onwards to America, trying to find a safer home.  England also launches a formal colonising exhibition, which lands near Florida. 

The Guardian model is adopted in Norway after the civil war ends with a nobles revolt against the two candidates for the throne.  The Norwegian guardians try to send their own people to Canada, but soon discover that the more independently minded ‘Americans’ don’t like foreign lords.  The guardians of Scotland never had the power to enforce their law in America, so they developed independent streaks. 

Long-Term:  It appears that this TL will not see any formal colonisation of America, such as the European efforts that happened in OTL.  Rather, the settlers will intermarry with the Indians and be resentful of any interference from outside, the problems involved with maintaining contact between Europe and America will probably mean that all sorts of small nations will spring up in America, copying European technology and perhaps some of the Indian values.  Possibly, a situation will arise similar to the Boer republics, with ‘native’ states that don’t submit to European dominance in the wilds of America, possibly including religious refugees and attempts to found new nations.  This world may even see a new Hiajia. 

I don’t think that Spain will attain world power in this TL.  Not only is it still partly under the control of the almohad caliphate, but also its monopoly on the New World will never come into being.  Nor can Scotland afford the military necessary to keep others out of the New World.  On the other hand, there’s nothing really worthwhile in Canada (apart from the fur trade) and therefore the Scots and others will settle, rather than seeing it as a place to be exploited or raided.  When (if) the Europeans stumble across any equivalent of the Aztec and Inca empires, I suspect that whichever power discovers them will be challenged for the riches that such empires have by the other European powers, probably more than one. 

Socially, history could go two ways in Scotland and the feudal world.  Structures like the Guardians could either be seen as a movement towards democratic nations, or something equivalent to the agreements made between Al Capone and the other gangsters in Chicago to divide the city up between them, while maintaining a united front against federal pressure.  Many other nobles would see the idea of a council to hammer out disputes, while being very powerful in their own bailiwicks, and lacking a king to crush dissidents. 

I like to think that there would be a greater tendency towards democratic systems.  Wallace, one of Scotland’s heroes, came from a poorer background than Bruce or the others.  However, I suspect that the remaining kings of Europe (and the more powerful lords) would eventually attempt to destroy the guardians. That said, the English Peasant Revolt (1381) unleashed forces that could have bent the council into representing all the people of Scotland, assuming that the ideas spread to Scotland, which would introduce democraticy early. 

Regular explorers of this time (in CTT and others) will notice I’ve left out the Ottomans from this AH.  To be honest, I don’t know enough about them to suggest what might happen to them, if anything.  The Mexican gold did not aid Spain from forcing them out of Al-Anuladus, but the religious strife spreading across Europe would offer opportunity for further expansion into Europe. 
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