From William “Braveheart” Wallace to Rob Roy MacGregor (Scotland’s own Robin Hood), this is a nation known for its charismatic folk heroes. Scotland’s freedom-fighting culture even dates to the start of recorded history, when Roman soldiers attempted to attack in the first century. Rather than conquer the land they called Caledonia, the Romans were forced to build a coast-to-coast retaining wall to repel a counter invasion by fierce northern warriors.

Scotland faced another test of its independence in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. With the last of the royal line dead, more than a dozen newcomers, including Edward I of England, fought for the right to name a new king. War quickly followed. Wallace, one of the rebellion’s most celebrated leaders, didn’t survive to its conclusion, but his successors forced England to recognize Scotland’s sovereignty in 1328.

There was little peace in the two and a half centuries that followed. Border clashes continued between English and Scottish forces, due in large part to Scotland’s “auld alliance” with England’s eternal enemy, France. But the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 left England without an heir, and royal lineage ushered James VI of Scotland into power. He became James I, King of England, while retaining his name and title in his homeland. His rule united the two nations, though Scotland kept its own parliamentary system.

The politics of royal succession continued to plague Scotland through the 18th century. Civil war in England put an end to the Stuarts’ claim to the throne, but many Scots remained loyal to the family. James III and his son, the “Bonnie Prince” Charlie, even rallied Scottish supporters for a war on their behalf, but it ended in 1746 at the Battle of Culloden. England devastated its northern neighbor, destroying entire Highland clans as the country sought to quash future rebellions.

Scotland remains a part of Great Britain, but the debate over independence lives on. The Scottish National Party formed a minority administration within parliament in 2007, and the most recent referendum on Scottish independence concluded that Scotland will remain a part of Great Britain.

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