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Aberdeenshire – From rings of stones to coat of arms

Overview

A registration county, Aberdeenshire stretches from the Grampian Mountains, to the North Sea, which borders its east and north coast. Its land is washed by rivers such as Dee, Don, Ythan and Deveron, and its countryside is renowned for its numerous historic castles, and scenic fishing villages. Aberdeenshire’s most important cities include Banff, Stonehaven, Fraseburgh, and Peterhead, famous for being the biggest white fish port in all Europe.

Short history

Aberdeenshire history loses its trace in the midst of times. Once the land of hunters, foresters, farmers, and herdsmen, it still carries the memory of the people that lived, worked and died here. The oldest settlements date around 2000 BC, when the first rings of stones were also erected, to celebrate historical changes, like the discovery of pottery, and the appearance of metal working techniques into the culture.

The appearance of the first hill forts mark the transition to iron age, around 500 BC. Also, these times represent the beginning of a hierarchical society that changed very little for more than 1,500 years.

The tribal society living on the land of Aberdeenshire was named Pictish, and it was ruled by kings, and chiefs. During the 9th century, they were forced to move up north, by Viking raids, but the beginning of the new millenium still finds them living in the same area. It was during the 11th century, that the society moved towards a medieval form of organization, under the Canmore dynasty, which ruled for about 200 years. Other important families will rise later, during the 12th and 13th centuries, including the Freskins, which are the predecessors of the dukes of Sutherland.

The medieval Aberdeenshire history was marked by warfare, carried by different competitors for the throne. New families emerged during the dawn of the 15th century, such as the Gordons, and the house established by Sir Alexander Seton. Long wars for supremacy marred the land and the lives of the people, until the 16th century, when the Gordons increased their influence, by including, in their possessions, the Earldom of Sutherland.

Ecclesiastic conflicts had their role, as well. Protestantism’s influence appeared during the 15th century, but, for years, Catholics posed some form of resistance, until their main supporter, the Earl of Huntley, was defeated and killed in 1562. In the end, Aberdeenshire tipped the balance towards Episcopacy support, representing its strong pivot in Scotland. The Glorious Revolution – 1688 – would send episcopalism into the shadows, and King George I condemned it to become one with Jacobitism.

Years of revolt and social unrest continued until 1746, when Duke of Cumberland freed Aberdeen. The peaceful period that succeeded allowed the people to dedicate more to agriculture, industry, and general progress, transforming Aberdeenshire, into a prosperous county.

An Aberdeenshire constituency existed in the Parliament of Great Britain from 1708 to 1801, and then in the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1868. The lands were divided into burgh constituencies between east and west, then between north and south, and, in the end, in 1890, a county council was formed, to whom was also granted a coat of arms.