Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/David (d.1176)

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DAVID (d. 1176), bishop of St. David's, called David the Second to distinguish him from the founder of the see, was the son of Gerald of Windsor, castellan of Pembroke, by his Welsh wife, Nesta, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, king of South Wales. His sister Angharad was the wife of William de Barry, lord of Manorbier, and the mother of Giraldus Cambrensis. His brother Maurice and his half-brother Robert FitzStephen were also famous among the Norman marcher lords of South Wales, even before they obtained fresh renown as the conquerors of Ireland. With such powerful connections David easily became archdeacon of Cardigan and canon of St. David's. On the death of Bernard, the first French bishop of St. David's, a disputed election to that see took place. The Welsh canons, still a majority despite Bernard's reforms, had insisted on a pure Welshman, while the English and French settlers were equally anxious for one of their own class, and voted for Archdeacon David. At last the question went by way of appeal to Archbishop Theobald, who, ignoring the voice of the majority, appointed David, after exacting an oath that he would not revive the claim of St. David's to metropolitical rank which Bishop Bernard had recently advanced. David was accordingly consecrated, after profession of canonical obedience to his archbishop, by Theobald on 19 Dec. 1148 at Canterbury.

During the twenty-seven years that David ruled over his see a constant struggle between the Welsh natives and Norman and English settlers raged throughout his diocese. His principal part in it was a series of contests with his chapter, in which the latter posed as the defenders of the privileges of the see neglected by the intruding bishop. Though described by his nephew as modest, simple, and contented with his lot, and so fearful of burdening his poor clergy that he rarely ever solicited their hospitality, and only once asked them for a pecuniary aid, the canon of St. David's who has written his biography speaks of him as a greedy despoiler of his bishopric. The chapter offered a strenuous resistance, but only to its own cost, and the theft of their common seal by the bishop deprived them of their constitutional means of opposing his alienations. His best energies were spent on strengthening his family connections. He squandered away the little that Bernard had left in shamelessly endowing his sons and nephews, and in providing rich portions for his daughters on their marriages to noble Norman settlers. Even Giraldus admits his malversation of church property, but contends that he was more sparing and less barefaced than his predecessors and successors. He was specially lavish to his brother Maurice, whom he made seneschal of all his lands, and to whom he transferred the possession or the overlordship of large episcopal estates. His liberality to his brilliant nephew, Giraldus Cambrensis, whose education he had superintended, was more pardonable. A few livings and the archdeaconry of Brecon were but inadequate rewards for the Parisian scholar who had compelled unruly Welshmen and Flemings to pay their tithe of wool and cheese, and had so energetically attacked ‘concubinary priests.’ But nothing could excuse his closing the cathedral for the greater part of his episcopate.

In 1162 David assisted at the consecration of Archbishop Thomas, though he was probably not the Welsh bishop who claimed by virtue of seniority to act as consecrator (Gervase of Canterbury, i. 171). In 1163 he attended the council of Alexander III at Tours, levying an aid for the purpose. His mediation with Prince Rhys rescued his half-brother, Robert FitzStephen, from a Welsh prison and enabled him to make a successful beginning of Irish conquest (Giraldus, Expug. Hib. in Opera, v. 229). In 1175 he completed the transference of the church of Llanbadarnvawr to the abbey of St. Peter's, Gloucester—that is from Welsh to English owners (Haddan and Stubbs, i. 381; Cart. S. Peter Glouc. Rolls Ser. ii. 76). If it be true, as he states, that his chapter unanimously approved of the grant, he must have won a complete ascendency over his old opponents. He was also engaged in disputes about boundaries with the bishop of Llandaff (ib. i. 358). He suffered a severe persecution from the fierce Mahel, lord of Brecon, who made him ‘non præsul sed exul’ in that region (Giraldus, Op. vi. 31).

In 1175 the canons of St. David's prepared a series of twenty-seven articles of accusation against their bishop, which they appointed a deputation to present to Archbishop Richard at the council of 1175. But David anticipated condemnation by a timely and abject submission. Despite their acknowledgment by this act of Canterbury's supremacy, the persistent canons in the very next year aimed another blow at their bishop by reviving the claims of metropolitical independence of St. David's which David had sworn never to raise. A quarrel between the archbishops of Canterbury and York, however, broke up the legatine council of Cardinal Hugh in 1176 at which the question should have been raised. Soon after David was carried off by a sudden fever, without even having time to make his will. His servants plundered his property, but crown officials soon seized his secret hoards, and nothing was rescued for the church of St. David's. During his episcopate the Cistercian movement, introduced by his predecessor, took deep root in the diocese. Among the foundations was the famous abbey of Strata Florida.

[Vita Davidis II, auctore, ut videtur, Canonico Menevensi coetaneo, printed in Anglia Sacra, ii. 652-3, and in the Rolls edition of Giraldus Cambrensis's works, vol. iii. Append, ii.; very curiously Mr. Brewer seems inclined to ascribe its authorship to Giraldus himself (preface p. xlvii), whose avowed picture of his uncle in his treatise De Jure et Statu Menevensis Ecclesiæ (Opera, iii. 154-5) is pitched in a very eulogistic strain, in striking contrast to the black picture drawn by the canon. See also Giraldus, De Rebus a se Gestis in Opera, i. especially pp. 40, 41; Haddan and Stubbs's Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents, i.; Jones and Freeman's Hist. of St. David's, p. 279.]

T. F. T.