It was the norm in Europe that rulers did not keep an active army. It was far too expensive. When war loomed on the horizon they would hire mercenaries instead. Here, opportunity awaited the able-bodied man. Scottish mercenaries were said to be poor monetarily, but rich in courage. They were hardy and would fight for almost any cause.
In the seventeenth century about one fifth of the male population left Scotland to seek fortune and fame as a soldier-for-hire. Many would die before realizing their dream, some of them from malnutrition, rather than the sword or musket. Others would benefit in plunder off the bodies of the slain. A few privileged would earn titles.