The Earldom of Orkney and Caithnes was thereafter, in 1232, granted to Magnus, the second son of Gilbride, Earl Of Angus, by King Alexander II of Scotland, which grant was thereafter confirmed by the King of Norway. Earl Magnus died in 1239, amd was succeeded by his brother Gilbride, father of Gilbride, third Earl of this line, whose son Magnus, fourth Earl, died in 1284, and was succeeded by his brother John, fifth Earl, on the death of whose son, Magnus 6th Earl, leaving two daughters, the succession passed into the line of Malise, Earl of Stratherne, his son in law.
Malise, Earl of Stratherne, fell at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, and was succeeded by his son Malise, Earl of Stratherne, Caithness and Orkney, who had no male issue. He had, however, five daughters, of whom Elizabeth married Henry St. Clair (afterwards created Earl of Orkney in 1379) a son of William St. Clair of Roslin.
Henry, Earl of Orkney, was succeeded by his son Henry, upon whose death about the year 1418, the honours were inherited by his son William, the last Earl of Orkney under the sway of the Kings of Norway. Three years later, in 1471, the islands of Orkney and Zetlad having become part of the patrimony of the Scottish King (James III) through his marriage with Margaret, daughter of Christian I, King of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, by being wadsetted in security of 58,000 florins, part of the dowry of that princess remaining unpaid, William St Clair was induced by the King to renounce his right to the Crown of Scotland in exchange for the more lucrative lands of the Castle of Ravenscraig, near Dysart in Fife.
William, last Earl of Orkney, married (first) Lady Margaret, daughter of Archibald, fourth Earl of Douglas, and had issue:
The title remained dormant until the year 1567, when the notorious James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, was created Duke of Orkney by Queen Mary, but upon his death, in 1577, it again reverted to the Crown.
The lands of the Earldom had, however, previously, on 25th May 1565, been conferred on Sir Robert Stewart of Strathdon, a natural son of King James V, who, by patent, dated 28th October 1581, was created Earl of Orkney and Lord of Zetland.
The oppressions of this Earl upon the unfortunate inhabitants of Shetland form one of the darkest pictures in the history of the islands. Earl Robert married Lady Jean Kennedy, daughter of Gilbert, fourth Earl of Cassilis, died in 1592, and was succeeded by his eldest son Patrick.
Earl Patrick Stewart was confirmed in the Lordship of Zetland by charter under the Great Seal dated 15th May 1600. By the enforced labour and oppression of the islanders he built the Castle of Scalloway in the year 1600. After living a life of great disorder and turbulence he at length was captured in his own Castle of Scalloway and conveyed to Edinburgh, where, having been tried and found guilty of high treason, he was condemned and beheaded on 6th February 1614, when the lands again returned to the Crown.
By Charles II, the Earldom of Orkney and Lordship of Zetland were leased for five years to Sir John Buchanan of Scotscraig, Knight, with entry at Whitsunday, 1627, but this grant appears to have been immediately canceled, for on 19th May 1627, the same subjects are leased for five years to Sir Archibald Napier (afterwards Lord Napier of Merchiston), Treasurer Depute of Scotland. Sir Archibald sub-let his rights for an augmented rental of 7000 merks, to Sir William Dick of Braid, merchants, burgess, and afterwards provost of Edinburgh, and in 1629, he resigned his lease in the hands of the King, together with his sub-tack, to Dick, which the King conferred upon John Murray, Earl of Annandale, for the period of eight years, from Whitsunday, 1629.
Upon the expiry of this lease, in 1637, Sir William Dick obtained a direct tack from the sovereign for six years, at an annual rent of £35,733 6s 8d Scots.
As early as 13th January 1632, William [Douglas], Earl of Morton, obtained from the King a liferent tack of the Earldom of Orkney and Lordship of Zetland, which, however, was not to come into effect until the expiry of the lease granted to Sir William Dick in 1629, and was in security only of a pension of 52,000 merks Scots. By charter under the Great Seal, dated 15th June 1643, a wadset of the Earldom and Lordship to the Earl of Morton and his heirs male, for the sum of £30,000 sterling, by the Crown, was confirmed.
William, seventh Earl of Morton, died in Orkney on 7th August 1648, and was succeeded by his son, Robert, eighth Earl, who did not long survive his father, dying on 12th November 1649. He was succeeded by his son William, ninth Earl, from whom the wadset of the Lordship was set aside, and annexed to the Commonwealth in 1657. On the Restoration he was again confirmed in his title, which confirmation was ratified by Parliament in 1661. He died without issue in 1681, when the estates fell to his uncle Sir James Douglas of Smithfield, who became tenth Earl of Morton, and died in 1686, succeeded by his son James, eleventh Earl, who obtained, in 1707, a ratification of the Lordship and Earldom from Parliament, and died unmarried in 1715, when the succession opened to his brother Robert.
Robert, twelfth Earl of Morton, died unmarried in 1730, when the honours and estates devolved upon his brother George, whose son James, fourteenth Earl of Morton, obtained an irredeemable right to the Earldom of Orkney and Lordship of Shetland in 1742. On the abolition of Heritable Jurisdictions in 1748, he was awarded £7147 as compensation for the loss of his office as Steward and Justiciar of Orkney and Zetland. In 1766 he disponed his whale rights in Orkney and Zetland to Sir Laurence Dundas, Bart. of Kerse, in the County of Stirling, for £63,000. Sir Laurence Dundas was descended from the ancient family of Dundas of Fingask, cadets of Dundas of that ilk. He died 21st September 1781, leaving an only son, Sir Thomas Dundas, who was created Baron Dundas on 13th August 1794, and died 14th June 1820, succeeded by his son. Laurence, second Baron Dundas, born 10th April 1766, was advanced to the dignity of Earl of Zetland, 2nd July 1838. He died 19th February 1839, having married 21st April 1794, Harriet, daughter of General John Hale, who died 18th April 1834, and had issue:
LAURENCE, THIRD EARL OF ZETLAND, born 16th August 1844, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1889-92, was raised to the dignity of Marquis of Zetland and Earl of Ronaldsway on 22nd September 1892. He married 3rd August 1871, Lady Lilian Elizabeth Selena Lumley, third daughter of Richard, ninth Earl of Scarborough, and has issue:
Unst 289 merks 0 ures Fetlar 155 merks 2 ures North Yell 49 merks 4 ures Mid and South Yell 24 merks 0 ures Nesting 11 merks 4 ures Sandsting and Aithsting 36 merks 0 ures Tingwall, Whiteness and Weisdale 220 merks 0 ures Lerwick and Gulberwick 31 merks 4 ures Quarff 78 merks 4 ures _______________________ 895 merks 2 uresbesides certain skat, umboth, feu, and other duties, exigible from various lands throughout the islands. The lands of the Earldom in Orkney are of considerable extent.