A slight clarification of Shetland Islands history

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Your article on the Shetland Islands (“Scotland’s Tiny Islands Play Role in Vote,” Sept. 2) was interesting but slightly inaccurate. The islands were not actually given to James III of Scotland in 1469 by the king of Denmark and Norway, as the dowry of his daughter Margaret on her marriage to James. The Norwegian king was flat broke and pledged the islands to Scotland while he tried to round up the money he needed for the dowry. Neither he nor his successors ever paid up.

Sometime in the early 1970s, when oil was found under the North Sea, a member of the Norwegian parliament claimed to have calculated the value of the dowry in 1970s money, and suggested that the Norwegian government should pay it to the British, and get the Shetlands back (plus, of course, the oil). The proposal failed, partly because nobody had the slightest idea how to figure out the interest that would have accrued over the previous 500 years.

NICHOLAS LANE
Oakland

 


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