A Timeline of Scottish History

In order to put a jigsaw puzzle together, it is sometimes necessary to see the full picture before you can work out where each individual piece of the jigsaw fits.

As we trace our family history it becomes apparent that in order to fully understand the relationships and our ancestors, we need to know the context in which they lived and what shaped their lives and therefore our lives.

Scotland's Population

The history of Scotland is a long and complex story dating back thousands of years with turbulent periods in time, such as the roman and viking invasions in the early centuries AD, followed by the Wars of Independence in the 13th and 14th centuries.  The Reformation,  “Rough Wooing”, Restoration and Jacobite troubles of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Followed by the Highland clearances in the 18th an 19th century and mass emigration following the economic backdrop and highland potato famines in the 19th century. In addition there was a mass migration to more urban areas within Scotland and the UK due to the industrial revolution.

To really know what drove our ancestors to the paths we took, we need to at least know a little about the period in which they lived.

Now here is the downfall our own Scottish History has been effectively hidden from us and our schooling on history has been concentrated on the Tudor and Stuart reign as well as World War 1 & 2 with little regard for our own history prior. That is the real reason most of us are ignorant  to our own ancient past and identity, which has very much shaped Scotland as it is now and indeed is the reasons that millions of people worldwide can trace their ancestors back to a little country on the other side of the World.

I can not profess to having an in-depth knowledge of the Scottish History but to work out where things fit but I do know the background is needed to see the story therefore I have briefly summarised the main periods.

Scotland History Timeline

Stone Age / Neolithic 4000 – 2200 BC 

In Scotland recent archaeological finds have unearthed fascinating information relating to even earlier periods of Scottish History right back to the Mesolithic era nearly 10,000 years ago.

The standing stones / stones circles which are a familiar sight in Scotland are thought to be relics from this Neolithic era.

Bronze Age 2600-700 BC

From around 700 BC to 1066 AD Scotland and England had different periods due to the earlier conflicts/invasions etc. They went through various ages such as Iron Age, Roman Period, Early Medieval, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Norse Periods.  I know very little of the period except it ran from around 700 BC to around 1066 AD when the Medieval period commenced.

The first of the Pictish Kings recorded was in this era being Kenneth McAlpin I.  The House of McAlpin were the Monarch of the Kingdom of Alba throughout the bronze age where it the reign passed to the closely related House of Dunkeld.

The first King of the House of Dunkeld was Duncan I, grandson of Malcolm II, House of Alpin.

The next in line to the throne is a well-known name, Macbeth followed by his stepson Lulach and then Malcolm III whose reign ran into the Medieval period.

Shakespeare version with Macbeth is not the true version of events and was dramatised. Macbeth ruled from 1040 to 1057, followed by Lulach from 1057 to 1058 who was killed by his successor Malcolm III who reigned from 1058 to 1093.

A J Lawrence in the book, The Clan Bain with its ancestral related Scottish families claims that the Bain/Bayne/Bane family are descendant from Lulach. 

Scotlands Monarchs

The Medieval period ran from around 1066 AD to 1540 AD. 

It was during this period we had the Independence Wars (William Wallace & Robert the Bruce) of the 13th and 14th centuries and of course the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.

The Declaration of Arbroath is a declaration of Scottish Independence made in 1320. It is in the form of a letter in Latin submitted to the Pope, dated 6 April 1320, intended to confirm Scotland’s status as an Independent sovereign State and defending Scotland’s right to use military action when unjustly attacked.

The most commonly cited part of the declaration (English Translation) is the following passage;

…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.

The first Independence War began in 1296 following English invasion following disputes of claim to the Scottish throne.  This resulted in William Wallace being executed in 1297.

The House of Dunkeld were the ruling Scottish Monarch (1034-1086), however on death of the Alexander III, the throne passed to the House of Sverre (Margaret Maid of Norway) which resulted in the disputes before Robert the Bruce eventually claims the throne in 1306.

William Wallace was born in Elderslie, a village just outside Paisley, Scotland. 

The Declaration of Arbroath was signed in 1320, and was followed by the Treaty of Northampton signed by Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland 1328 which was ratified by the English Parliament in Northampton.

The House of Bruce were the ruling Monarchs of Scotland until 1371 when the first Stewart King took the throne.

The first Stewart King was Robert II, son of Walter Stewart 6th High Steward of Scotland and Marjorie Bruce.  He was born in Paisley in 1316 and reigned from 1371 until his death in 1390.

This is another interesting fact for our branch of the tree at least as our great granny Bain was a Stewart from the Paisley area.  Indeed like the first Stewart King of Scotland, Robert II, many of us in this branch were born in Paisley after our highland Bain line migrated here in the late 19th / early 20th century. 

I grew up in Paisley and as a child lived not far from the Marjorie Bruce memorial.  Apparently this is where she fell off her horse.  I didn’t realise at the time, Marjorie Brice was the mother of Robert II. 

The House of Stewart

The Stewart Monarchs ruled for the remainder of the Medieval period with the throne being passed from:

  • Robert II  (1371 – 1390)
  • Robert III (1390 – 1406)
  • James I (1406 -1437)
  • James II (1437 – 1460)
  • Jams III (1460 – 1488)
  • James IV (1488 -1513)
  • James V (1513-1542)

The Post-Medieval period ran from around 1540 – 1901 AD.

However it was just past the medieval period on the death of King James V when the Scottish throne passed to Mary I (Mary Queen of Scotland) which coincided with the protestant reformation, that the troubled history starts beginning with the “rough wooing by Henry VIII” and eventually ended with the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

During the post medieval there were various time frames names after the ruling Monarchs such as;

Mary I, Queen of Scotland (1542 – 1567)

Mary Queen of Scotland reigned from 1542 to 1567 when she was force to abdicate the throne to her toddler son, King James VI.

As well as the rough wooing by Henry VIII of England, the Reformation headed by John Knox around 1560 aided to Mary’s woes due to her religious beliefs and she was eventually force to abdicate the throne.

As James VI was a minor when he inherited the Scottish throne, his protectors ruled for him until 1581.

Elizabethan (1558 – 1603)

Queen Elizabeth I of England was the one that placed the order to execute her sister,  Mary Queen of Scotland.

The background of which is religious and stems from the rise of protestation in the 16th century and in particular Henry VIII fall out with the Pope in respect of his divorce and the preceding reformation of England to the protestant faith.

Jacobean (1603 – 1625)

In 1603, King James VI of Scotland inherited the Crown of England hence the Union of Crowns.

It was in King James VI of Scotland / King James I of England that we see the first charter for colonies with Virgina being the first in 1606. 

On James VI death in 1625 the throne passed to Charles I.  Charles religious views provoked the religious tension and he was executed in 1649.  During his reign from around 1638 rise of the Covenanters and the years following were turbulent culminating with the National Covenant in 1650. 

It was not until after the era of Cromwell and the Covenentars that we begin to see the first wave of prisoners sent to the colonies, first of all in Virgina followed by other American colonies and the colonies in the West Indies. 

About 10 years after the National Covenant, in 1660 that we see Charles II, of the House of Stewart restored to the throne (the Restoration).

However the religious tensions during these years never settled and it was a very turbulent time.

When the throne passed from Charles II, to James VII in 1685 his catholic religious views led to the revolution and his protestant daughter Mary II and her husband William of Orange taking the throne in 1689.

The first of the Jacobite uprisings in support of the deposed King James VII was in 1689. 

Queen Anne was the last Stewart Monarch (1702 – 1714) before it passed to the current House of Hanover.

The next Jacobite uprising in support of King James VII and his successors was in 1715. King James and his successors were effectively cut out as Monarchs due to their religious faith.His supporters the Jacobites, were fighting in support of him regaining the Scottish Crown. 

The final Jacobite uprising culminated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. 

During each of the three risings, there were numerous prisoners transported overseas. During this time most of the ships went to the American or West Indies Colonies.  

If your ancestors emigrated from Scotland between 1650 and 1750 the likely reason is due to the religious / political beliefs. 

People were transported to the American Colonies from 1606 to the American Independence began in 1775.  

From 1778 to 1868, prisoners were transported to Australia.  

Outwith these time periods and to Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere means your ancestors are likely to have migrated for economic reasons. 

Of course up until the union of crowns in 1603 when James VI of Scotland inherited the Crown of England and became James I of England, Scotland had its own Monarch, after which and particularly after the Treaty of Union in 1707, the UK had one Monarch.

  • Georgian (1714 – 1830)
  • Victorian (1837 – 1901)
  • Edwardian (1901 – 1910)

A lot of the historical troubles were either in relation to the Monarch or Religious/Political and most can be drawn back to the period between 1542 to 1746, which is also roughly the same period of interest to us as the Bain/Bayne/Bane family can be traced back to 1432 and therefore our own history begins just before this turbulent historical era.

The 20th Century follows ranging from 1901 to 2000. 

During the 20th Century we have seen two world wars and numerous technological advancements.

As most of us will be aware of the recent history, I will leave this section relatively bare.

The population of Scotland has remained relatively small and is currently less than 5.5 million.


Scotland has had a long and complex history, however the period between the mid 16th century and mid 19th century is of particular interest due to the conflicts, religious and political events and their effect on emigration.

In the 16th century we see the beginning of the protestant reformation led by John Knox.  This coincides with the Catholic Mary Queen of Scotland inheriting the Scottish Crown and the rough wooing by Henry VIII (the now protestant King of England) and her subsequent abdication and execution.

We see issues settling for a bit before being re-ignited at the start of the 17th century by Charles I religious beliefs and the ensuing turbulence in respect of the Covenanters and the National Covenant.

Towards the late 17th century we see the Stewart Monarchs restored, but trouble flares late in the 17th century when James VII becomes Catholic.  This results in the revolution of 1688 and the Jacobite uprisings of 1689, 1715 and 1746.

During the periods of religious upheaval many prisoners were transported to the colonies in America and the West Indies.

In 1762 there was land reform in Scotland which resulted in the Highland Clearances and mass eviction of tenants by the lairds.  Thousands of people emigrated from the Highlands of Scotland to America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia in search for a better life on one of the emigration ships.  This continues until around the mid 19th century.

After the Highland Potato famine of 1846-1856 and the economic depression of the time, many more emigrated from Scotland in search for a better life and this continued into the early 20th century, hence why there are so many Bain’s around the World.

This is intended to be a brief outline of Scottish history.  Many of these subjects have been extensively written about and you should be able to find much more about any period of interest quite easily.






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