Celts (pronounced "kelts") were the ancient inhabitants of Northern
Europe. Julius Caesar had battled them during his conquest of Gaul.
The Romans eventually took most of Britain and Spain from them as
well. At the end of the ancient Roman Empire, the Celts occupied only
parts of northwest France, Ireland, Wales, and parts of Scotland.
During the course of the Middle Ages, they strengthened their hold
on Scotland and made several attempts to take more of England.
The Irish remained small bands during the early Middle Ages. By 800 the four
provinces of Leinster, Munster, Connaught, and Ulster had risen to power under
'high kings.' Viking raids began in 795 and then Viking settlements were established
in the middle 9th century. The most important of these was at Dublin. Brian
Boru became the first high king of all Ireland around 1000. In 1014 the Irish
defeated the Danes of Dublin at Clontarf, although Brian Boru was killed.
An Irish tribe called the Scotti invaded what is now southern Scotland
during the early Middle Ages, settling permanently and giving the
land its name. They pushed back and absorbed the native Picts that
had harassed the Romans to the south. The Scottish kingdom took
its present shape during the 11th century, but attracted English
interference. The Scots responded with the "auld (old) alliance"
with France that was the foundation of their diplomacy for centuries
to come. Edward I of England ("longshanks" or the "Hammer of the
Scots") annexed Scotland in 1296.
William Wallace (Braveheart) led a revolt of Scotland, winning
virtual independence at the battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. Defeated
the next year at Falkirk, Wallace waged a guerrilla war until he
was betrayed, captured, and executed in 1305. Robert the Bruce declared
himself king of Scotland after murdering his main rival. He drove
out the English, winning the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Edward
III of England recognized Scotland's independence in 1328, but war
between the Scots and English carried on for several centuries.
The crowns of the two countries were united in 1603, long after
the Middle Ages were over.
No prince in Wales proved strong enough to unite the country. In
the late 13th century, Edward I took over the government of Gwynedd,
one of the strongest Welsh principalities in Wales. He proceeded
to build five great castles in Wales that effectively placed the
country under English rule.