IN the past fortnight I have shown how international treaties validated Scotland’s existence as an independent nation-state from the ninth century to the Union of 1707.

My reasoning was simple – if we can show how Scotland had a long existence as an internationally recognised state, then we should be able to return to that status if the people of Scotland want to.

How we get to vote for the regaining of independence is the real problem, but when we do, we will have to appeal to the international community to approve our status, because the establishment in London will fight to retain the Union with every weapon they possess.

Scotland was never the biggest kingdom in Europe, but its status as a nation-state was confirmed not only by the treaties I have just written about, but by one of the oldest forms of diplomacy – marriages between the royal families of the countries where monarchy was the constitutional norm, and that was nearly all of the countries in Europe.

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It was in this week of the year 1251 that one of the most important arranged marriages involving a Scottish king took place. On December 26, 1251, Alexander III married Margaret, daughter of Henry III and his queen consort, Eleanor of Provence. Alexander was just 10 years old and his bride a year older, and the marriage was arranged by Henry working with the regent for the boy king, Alan Durward. Henry’s motivation was simple – he wanted his son-in-law to acknowledge him as overlord of Scotland, but to Alexander III’s eternal credit, he refused to do so.

He and Margaret had three children, one of whom was his daughter Margaret. In another arranged marriage to seal international relationships, Princess Margaret was married off to King Eric II of Norway, and their child – also called Margaret – became the heir presumptive to the throne of Scotland when all three of Alexander III’s children, including Princess Margaret, predeceased him.

As his only grandchild, Margaret – who came down to us as the Maid of Norway – was a very valuable resource for Alexander III, who in her early childhood arranged for her to marry Prince Edward, the equally young son of King Edward I of England.

Had Margaret lived, the wars of independence might never have happened, but her death at the age of seven during her voyage home from Norway to Scotland in 1290 triggered the Great Cause – the dispute as to who should be king of Scotland.

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Edward Longshanks used the Cause to appoint John Balliol to the Scottish throne, and eventually Edward I’s army came north and conquered Scotland. Had the Maid of Norway lived and married the boy who became King Edward II of England, our history would have been entirely different.

In previous generations, King Alexander I contracted a dynastic marriage with Sybilla of Normandy, daughter of King Henry I of England. Both monarchs were anxious to have peace between their two countries and Sybilla’s role as queen consort assured that would happen. The evidence is that they were devoted to each other but they were childless when Sybilla died young.

In the previous generation, Alexander II had also been involved in an arranged marriage, his bride being Joan of England, daughter of King John. She had been promised to Alexander by John himself, and despite international negotiations for her to marry French potentates, she married the Scottish king in 1221 – Alexander was in his mid-twenties, and Joan was just 11.

Unsurprisingly, the marriage did not last and though relations between Scotland and England were peaceful, she was given permission to go home and died in her father’s arms at the age of just 27.

An earlier royal marriage involved a woman born as Edith of Dunfermline around 1080, the daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and his wife Margaret of Wessex, who we know as St Margaret.

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For a change, Edith’s marriage to King Henry I of England in the year 1100 was not arranged – Henry had met her when she was being educated in England and seems to have fallen for her – but nevertheless was internationally important as the highly intelligent Edith adopted the name Matilda of Scotland and proved to be a formidable queen who acted as regent for her husband at times.

It wasn’t just England that provided international marriages for Scotland. Elizabeth de Burgh was the renowned spouse of Robert the Bruce, and she was the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Ulster.

In the 15th century, Scottish kings looked to the Continent for wives with royal connections. James II married Mary, daughter of the Duke of Guelders, who became regent of Scotland after James was killed by an exploding cannon. Their son James III married Princess Margaret of Denmark whose father ruled Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The arrangement was definitely not about a love match – when they were married, Scotland’s debts to Denmark were cancelled.

James V thought he had gained a massive acknowledgement of his status when he married Madeleine de Valois, daughter of King Francis I of France. Yet his bride took ill and died just a few months after their marriage. He re-married to Mary of Guise who became the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. James VI famously married Anne of Denmark and she joined him in London when he became James I of England.

In medieval times and for centuries afterwards, it was the fate of Scotland’s royal daughters to be traded in international diplomacy. Scottish kings also sought foreign princesses and while we now look back at all these arranged marriages and wonder why there were so many, by the standards of the time, they were seen as vital.

Most importantly, they certainly proved Scotland’s status as a nation-state in its own right. I am not suggesting for one instant that international marriages could regain Scotland’s independence as that would be absurd, but we will need to have treaties and relations with other countries. After all, that’s the normal thing that independent countries do.