Scotland at the time of the death of James V

In 1542 Scotland had a population of approximately one million people. Over half the population lived in the countryside in fermtouns (farm towns) and paid rent to a local landowner.

There was also a growing number of burghs, areas with permission to hold markets. Burgesses, usually merchants and skilled craftsmen were responsible for organising and running the burghs.

The most important burghs were the Royal Burghs which had been granted the privilege of trading with overseas countries. The Royal Burghs, including Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth, were mostly situated on the east coast.

The Royal Family of Scotland was the Stewarts. The Crown (the King or Queen), controlled the country with the support of a Parliament made up of three main groups, the Three Estates:

  • Clerics - representing the Church.
  • Lay tenants-in-chief - representing the nobility
  • Burgh commissioners - representing the Royal Burghs

The Church and the nobility were particularly powerful and influential in the 16th century.