The History of Leith

June 22, 2006

The marriage contract

The marriage contract between Eric, King of Norway and Margaret, daughter of Alexander III, of Scots (RH5/6).


Drawn up in July 1281, it was to play a vital part in the subsequent history of Scotland. The contract said that if Alexander were to die without a male heir, the Scottish throne would pass to his daughter and any child that she might have with the Norwegian King.

In 1286 Alexander did in fact die, as the result of a riding accident, without a son to succeed him and as his daughter Margaret had pre-deceased him his granddaughter in Norway, also called Margaret but now more commonly known as ‘The Maid of Norway’, inherited the throne by the terms of this document.

However, seven-year-old Margaret fell ill with a fever on her sea journey to Scotland and died in the Orkney Islands without being crowned. As she had no direct heirs, and as the marriage contract made no further provision for the succession, a jostling for the Scottish throne began. The struggle to fill the vacuum, which included competing claims from the Bruce and Balliol families, and the intervention of Edward I of England, would lead to the beginning of the so-called ‘wars of independence’.

Edward, who initially involved himself in the Scottish question as an arbiter, moved many of the earliest records of Scotland to London. This was apparently to enable a full legal analysis of the competing claims.

By the Treaty of Northampton (1328) it was ‘agreed that all writings, obligations, instruments and other monuments relating to the subjection of the people and country of Scotland to the King of England … be given up and restored to the aforesaid King of Scotland as soon as they really can, according as they are found’. The marriage contract featured on this page was one of those documents and was returned to the Scottish Record Office (now the National Archives of Scotland) from London in 1937.

Source-Scottish Executive

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