Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/David I

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DAVID I (1084–1153), King of Scotland 1124–53, youngest son of Malcolm Canmore and Margaret, sister of Edgar Atheling, was born in 1084. After his father's death near Alnwick in 1093, followed by that of his mother within a few days, the orphan princes Edgar, Alexander, and David, along with their sisters Matilda and Mary, were sent for safety to England, probably to Ramsey, where their aunt Christina was a nun. Seven years later Matilda, whose baptismal name, according to Ordericus Vitalis, was Eadgyth (Edith), was married to Henry I, and David passed his youth at the court of the scholar king and the good Queen Maud, who reproduced her mother's virtues. His manners were thus, says William of Malmesbury, polished from the rust of Scottish barbarity. In 1113 David married Matilda, widow of Simon de St. Liz, Norman earl of Northampton, and daughter of the Saxon Waltheof, earl of Northumbria. By this marriage David received the honour of Huntingdon, and thus became an English baron, probably holding also the ward of the earldom of Northampton during the minority of his stepson, the son of St. Liz. By the will of his brother Edgar, who died in 1107, David became Earl or Prince of Cumbria, the south-western district of the Scottish kingdom, which was separated from the rest by a policy whose cause is not easy to determine; perhaps this was deemed the best method of retaining that portion of the kingdom under a Scottish prince. Alexander I, who succeeded to the crown, was naturally averse to the dismemberment, but the Norman barons of Cumbria supported David, as they afterwards reminded him at the battle of the Standard, and he ruled it almost as an independent sovereign until his accession to the throne on his brother's death reunited it to Scotland.

The government of Cumbria was a valuable apprenticeship for the royal office. Originally peopled by Celts of the Cymric branch, from whom it derived its name, it had been separated from North Wales by the Northumbrian conquests in the seventh and first part of the eighth century. It had been granted by the English king Edmund in 945 to Malcolm MacDonald on condition that he should be ‘his fellow-worker by land and sea,’ and since that date remained a dependency of the Scottish crown, although the English monarchs claimed its suzerainty. It included the whole south-western portion of modern Scotland from the Firth of Clyde to the Solway, whence its inhabitants derived their name of Strathclyde Britons, and although it early received an infusion of Norse settlers on the coast, and, after the Norman conquest, of Norman barons, its population was still predominantly Celtic. It had been christianised, and the see of Glasgow founded in the time of Kentigern, but no settled government, either ecclesiastical or civil, had been established. Within its borders Celtic customs still contended with Saxon and Norman law for the mastery, and the language of the natives was still probably Celtic. It extended inland beyond the modern counties of Dumbarton, Renfrew, Ayr, Galloway, and part of Dumfries to an indeterminate border line which included the modern counties of Lanark and Peebles, where it met Lothian to the valley of the Nith, which separated it from the southern counties of Roxburgh and Selkirk, but even beyond these limits it preserved, ecclesiastically at least, certain places as subject to the jurisdiction of the see of Glasgow. Into this extensive portion of modern Scotland David introduced the feudal organisation both in church and state. The inquisition made in 1120 or 1121 into the lands belonging to the see of Glasgow by the elders and wise men of Cumbria by command of David, its earl, is a unique and valuable record of his method of procedure. Its preamble bears that disturbances had not only destroyed the church but laid waste the whole region, and that the tribes of different languages now inhabiting it had relapsed into a condition more resembling heathens than christians, and that God had now sent to them David, the brother of the king of Scotland, as their prince. It then recites that David through zeal for religion had ordered an inquest to be made of the possessions formerly belonging to the see of Glasgow that they might be restored to it. The names of the lands of the church thus restored are, as might be expected, chiefly Celtic, and formed, whether they had originally belonged to the see of Kentigern or not, the later diocese of Glasgow. The inquest concludes with the names of five witnesses who swore to it and a larger number who were present and heard it read. Their names, a strange medley of Celtic, Saxon, and Norman, afford a pregnant proof of the mixed population even among the class of landowners. Matilda the countess, David's wife, and her grandson William were parties to the inquest.

To the see of Glasgow he procured the appointment of his tutor John in 1115. He also enriched the see with the gift of his kain or tribute from Strathgrife, Cunningham, Kyle, and Carrick, and the eighth penny of the fines of court of all Cumbria, and erected the cathedral of Glasgow in 1136. David, while still prince of Cumbria, also showed his zeal for the church by founding in 1113 a Benedictine abbey at Selkirk (afterwards moved to Kelso) and a monastery of canons of Augustine at Jedburgh in 1118.

On the death of Alexander I in 1124 David became king of Scotland. The commencement of his reign was occupied with a dispute as to the consecration of the bishop of St. Andrews, over which see York claimed supremacy. A council at Roxburgh in 1125, held by Cardinal John of Crema as legate of Pope Honorius II, failed to settle the dispute, and three years later Thurstan, archbishop of York, consented to consecrate Robert, bishop of St. Andrews, ‘for the love of God and of King David,’ under a reservation of the claim of York and of the rights of St. Andrews, without receiving the usual promise of obedience from a suffragan to his metropolitan. In 1127, the only son of Henry I having been drowned in the Blanche Nef, that monarch procured the recognition by his barons of the right of succession of his daughter Matilda, widow of the Emperor Henry V and wife of Geoffrey, count of Anjou. Among those who attended the English court and took the oath of homage to Matilda were David in his capacity as English baron and Stephen, count of Blois and earl of Mortaine, the son of Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror. On the death of Henry in 1135 Stephen broke his oath and seized the throne of England. David at once declared in favour of the right of his niece, and Matilda had no more active supporter. He invaded Northumberland and obtained from its barons an acknowledgment of her right, but Stephen advancing to meet him with a large force he was compelled to give up the territory he had conquered on condition that his son Henry should be confirmed in the honour of Huntingdon, to which Doncaster and Carlisle were added and a promise given by Stephen that no grant of the earldom of Northumberland should be made until Henry's claim to it as prince of Scotland was considered. In return for these grants and promises Henry did homage to Stephen, thus saving his father's oath. The peace of Durham was not kept, and during the next three years David carried on war in Northumberland, with great barbarity according to the English chroniclers, although they attribute this to his troops, especially the Galwegians, rather than to the king. The war in the north was brought to a close by the signal defeat of David at the battle of the Standard at Cowton Moor near Northallerton on 22 Aug. 1138. Of this famous engagement, a landmark in the history of the two kingdoms which finally decided that the northern counties were to be English and not Scotch territory, Ailred of Rievaulx has left a picturesque account. It was won by the Norman barons, led by Walter L'Espec and encouraged by the blessing of the archbishop, who placed at their head a standard composed of the banners of St. Peter of York, St. John of Beverley, and St. Wilfrid of Ripon, attached to a mast at whose point the consecrated host was fixed in a small casket. The headstrong vanity of the men of Galloway, who insisted on leading the van of the Scottish army, though unfit to cope with the mail-clad Norman knights, contributed to the defeat. The victory was certainly on the English side, but David was able to withdraw the remnant of his forces to Carlisle, where terms of peace were negotiated by the cardinal of Ostia, supported by Matilda, Stephen's queen. ‘The glory of victory,’ says Mr. Freeman, ‘fell to England, but the substantial gain to Scotland.’ The earldom of Northumbria was ceded to Prince Henry, who held it, however, as an English fief, and allowed Stephen to retain the castles of Bamborough and Newcastle. The laws of Henry I were guaranteed to the Northumbrians, and David gave as hostages for his good behaviour the sons of five of his nobles. Only two years later he was again in arms, and his niece Matilda having entered London, he joined her there, a pregnant proof of Stephen's uncertain tenure of the English crown. But Matilda was unable to hold what she had won, and was obliged to fly to Winchester. David accompanied her, and narrowly escaped capture when they were surrounded by Stephen's forces, owing his deliverance, it was said, to his godson, David Oliphant, then serving under Stephen, who concealed him and enabled him to reach Scotland in safety in 1141. For the rest of his reign, with the exception of a brief raid into England in 1149, he remained within his own boundaries, and to this period belong the great ecclesiastical and political reforms which make his reign one of the most important in the history of Scotland. The former were devoted to the establishment of the independence of the Scottish church under an organised diocesan episcopacy, and the introduction and endowment of the new regular orders of the monastic clergy. Before the twelfth century Scotland had only one bishop, called at first bishop of Alban or Scotia and more recently of St. Andrews, the primary see. Alexander I added two dioceses, Dunkeld and Moray. David, while prince of Cumbria, restored the see of Glasgow, and after he became king founded the sees of Brechin, Dunblane, Caithness, Ross, and Aberdeen. On less certain evidence he is said to have revived at Candida Casa, or Whithorn, the bishopric of Galloway. These dioceses now embraced all modern Scotland except the islands of Orkney and Shetland, the Hebrides, and Argyll. The isles both of the north and west still nominally belonged to the Norse bishops of Orkney and of the Isle of Man, subject to the metropolitancy of Drontheim, though this was disputed by York. The Scottish see of Argyll was not founded till 1200. This diocesan division was the first uniform territorial settlement of Scotland, though the civil division into counties or shires, constituted by the possessions of the chief lords, some of whom traced their descent from the Celtic Mormaer, began to be fixed in the reign of David. David's monastic foundations also permeated the country and improved the cultivation of the soil and the education of the people. In Lothian the religious houses of Holyrood, the Isle of May, Newbottle, Kelso, Melrose, Berwick; in Scotland proper, north of the Forth or Scottish sea, St. Andrews, Cambuskenneth, Stirling; in Moray, Urquhart and Kinloss; and in Scottish Cumbria, Selkirk, Jedburgh, and Glasgow, have been certainly traced to David. Probably there were others, and the leading nobles imitated his example. His son Henry founded Holme-Cultram in Cumberland, his grandson David, earl of Huntingdon, Lindores in Fife. Hugh de Morvilla endowed Dryburgh and Kilwinning, Earl Cospatrick the priory of Eccles, and Fergus of Galloway the new abbey of Whithorn.

The older monasteries chiefly followed the rule of St. Benedict. Those which now sprang up were for the most part Cistercian, or of the rule of Augustine of Hippo. Whenever a new bishopric was created, the rich foundations of the Celtic Culdees were transferred to canons regular, who became the chapter of the bishop. The Cistercians were more attached to country places, the tilling of the ground, and the cultivation of orchards. Though not free from rivalry, both the new bishops and the new monasteries were united in obedience to the papal see, and Scotland became subject to the subtle influences which we describe by the words Latin christianity. David, like his mother, was a devout child of the church.

The civil government of David was distinguished by the introduction of Norman feudal law, both in its principles and details, throughout almost the whole of Scotland. This had commenced in the time of his father, and had been carried on by his brothers; but the longer reign of David, and his legal instincts trained by education at the court of Henry Beauclerc, gave the opportunity for the development and consolidation of the feudal system. Indeed, its rapid completion, and the thorough acceptance of its principles, led Scottish lawyers, at a time when accurate history was forgotten, to antedate its origin to the reign of Malcolm Mackenneth. But the charter, followed by the act of taking possession, at once the symbol and the record of feudal land tenure and its services, was unknown to the Celt. Scotland had no proper Saxon period during which, as in England, its germs were planted. The few brief charters of Malcolm Canmore, Edgar, and Alexander, to the church, were succeeded in the reign of David by the issue of a number of such documents, still chiefly in favour of the ecclesiastics, the only scribes, and the only lawyers, but introducing also the military or knight's tenure of the barons and the burgage tenure of the chief towns. William the Lion rather than David is reckoned the chief founder of the Scottish burghs; but at least Edinburgh, Berwick, Roxburgh, Stirling, and perhaps Perth, date from his reign. The laws of the four burghs were copied by him from the customs of Newcastle, and their court, a sort of burghal parliament, which, after many changes, still exists in the convention of burghs, also belongs to his time. In like manner the feudal customs which regulated the baronage were transferred from England, and though at a somewhat later date were embodied in the treatises called ‘Regiam Majestatem,’ a copy of the work of Glanville, the justiciar of Henry II, and the ‘Quoniam Attachiamenta.’ The authentic records of David's legislation are contained in the assizes, as his laws are called, which were enacted by the king and the council of his chief nobles and clergy with the tacit assent of the people. The feudal court was also organised by David and the great officers—the justiciar, who administered justice at the eyres (itinera) or circuits in the king's name; the seneschal or steward, who regulated the king's household; and the chamberlain, who collected the royal revenues, and held a circuit for the burghs—though probably known earlier, now became distinct and important personages. The first chancellor whose name is on record, Hubert, abbot of Kelso, appears in this reign, and while he never, as in England, became the head of a rival jurisdiction in equity, his office of the chancery was the source from which the most important judicial writs, as well as the royal charters, were issued, and thus established uniformity in procedure. Another Norman institution, the inquest or jury for the ascertainment of rights to land, was also introduced, of which the Glasgow inquest before noticed is a conspicuous example. Although the lords still retained a large jurisdiction in their counties, the vicecomes, or sheriff, as a royal officer now first assumes importance. While delegating much of the judicial business to these various officers, David, like all the early feudal monarchs, took personal part in the administration of justice. Ailred of Rievaulx records that he had seen him take his foot from the stirrups and forego a day's hunting in order to hear the suit of a humble petitioner.

The same author gives many personal details, interesting as illustrations of David's character and the manners of the times. The king bestowed special care on gardens and orchards, and set the fashion of cultivation of fruit by grafting. He improved the dress and the domestic customs of his rude subjects, following in this his mother's example. He enforced the sanctity of the marriage bond, to which, unlike many other kings, he was himself faithful. He reformed the morals and repressed the quarrels of the clergy.

He had only one fault, according to his panegyrist, the monk of Rievaulx, that he did not sufficiently control the license of his forces when engaged in war.

His zeal for the church swelled the fame of David in an age when churchmen were the only historians. But no contrary voice has been raised in after ages to dispute his claim to the title of ‘the good king,’ which even Buchanan allows him, or of ‘the saint,’ which he secured by the popular verdict, though he did not, like his mother, obtain a place in the calendar. The jest of his successor, James VI, that he was ‘a sair saint for the crown,’ alluding to the large extent of his ecclesiastical foundations, was really an encomium on a monarch who lived when the church was still the chief civilising element in society, and he cannot be fairly blamed for its subsequent corruption. Apart from the defeat of an isolated rising by Angus, the Mormaer of Moray, at Strathcathro in Forfarshire in 1130, and some desultory incursions under an impostor, Wymund, bishop of Man, who pretended to be a son of the Mormaer of Moray, aided by Somerled, lord of the isles, which were finally suppressed by Wymund's capture in 1137, David maintained peace within his own kingdom, and his political reforms appear to have been completely successful.

In 1149 David knighted Henry of Anjou, the son of Matilda, at Carlisle, and the Earl of Chester having promised his support, David and Henry invaded England as far as Lancaster, but Chester having failed to join them, and Stephen having come north with a large force, David was compelled to retreat.

His only son Henry died the year before his father, on 12 June 1152, leaving by his wife Ada two sons, afterwards Kings Malcolm and William the Lion, as well as David, earl of Huntingdon, from whom the competitors in the disputed succession at the death of Alexander III traced their descent, and three daughters, of whom Ada married the Count of Holland, Margaret the Duke of Brittany, and Matilda died unmarried. David died at Carlisle on 24 May 1153, with such tranquillity, says Ailred, that after his death he seemed still living, and with such devotion that his hands were found on his breast crossed and turned towards heaven. He was succeeded by his grandson, Malcolm IV.

[The Scottish authorities for David's reign are Wyntoun and Fordun; the English more nearly contemporary Ailred of Rievaulx, Ordericus Vitalis, William of Newburgh, and William of Malmesbury. Of modern historians Lord Hailes's Annals; Robertson's Scotland under her Early Kings; Skene's Celtic Scotland; and Munck's Notes to the Chronicle of Man are the most instructive.]

Æ. M.