Bishop's and Earl's Palace / Isle of Mainland **

Region: Orkney Islands

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Kirkwall with its distinctive medieval street plan is today the capital of Orkney but was for centuries the capital of the Nordreyjar – the ‘Northern Isles’. In 1472 James III of Scotland annexed the islands after his bride’s father, Christian I of Denmark and Norway, failed to pay her promised dowry.

The Bishop’s Palace, built in the early 1100's,  is one of the best-preserved buildings from this era and is the only episcopal palace ever built in Norse Scotland.

Haakon IV of Norway died here on 15 December 1263.  The king had just arrived from a failed expedition to the Firth of Clyde, which ended at the Battle of Largs when his forces were driven off. After the king died in his bedchamber, his body lay in state in the palace’s hall. He was the last Norwegian king to rule over the Sudreyjar – the ‘Southern Isles’ or Hebrides.

The ornate Earl’s Palace, "the finest example of French Renaissance architecture in Scotland" though was added much later, in the early 1600s. Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney, had the ambitious plan to make the Bishop’s Palace part of a splendid palace complex, ‘The Palace of the Yards’.

The earl ruled the Northern Isles from 1592 until his execution 23 years later. It was alleged at the trial of the authoritarian ruler that he had forced the Orcadians under his rule to work without pay and jailing, or torturing those who would not comply with his wishes.

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