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David I (king of Scotland)

David I, 1084–1153, king of Scotland (1124–53), youngest son of Malcolm III and St. Margaret of Scotland. During the reign of his brother Alexander I, whom he succeeded, David was earl of Cumbria, ruling S of the Clyde and Forth rivers. By his marriage to the heiress of the earl of Northumbria he also became earl of Huntingdon and acquired a claim to Northumbria. In the long struggle for the English crown between Matilda (his niece) and Stephen, David fought for Matilda, but his main object was to secure Northumbria for himself. Although he was defeated by Stephen in the Battle of the Standard (1138), Stephen conceded him the earldom. David's internal rule was wise and momentous for Scotland. He made land grants to many Anglo-Norman families, thus providing the kingdom with a new feudal aristocracy. He also encouraged the commercial development of the Scottish burghs and strengthened the church by new foundations and endowments. He was succeeded by his grandson, Malcolm IV.

See study by A. M. Mackenzie (1954).

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David I

David I (c.1084–1153) King of Scotland (1124–53), son of Malcolm III. He strengthened the monarchy by granting land to the aristocracy and developing the burghs. In 1136, David invaded England in support of his niece Matilda's claim to the throne. He was defeated at the Battle of the Standard (1138). In 1141, David gained control of Northumberland.

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David I

David I (c.1085–1153), king of Scots (1124–53). An outstanding monarch who ‘became a legend in his own lifetime’, he was the youngest son of Malcolm Canmore and Queen (later St) Margaret, and succeeded his brother Alexander I. His early career brought him firmly within the English orbit: he was educated at Henry I's court and became earl of Huntingdon in 1113 through his marriage to Matilda, a great-niece of William the Conqueror. But, once king, he asserted his independence as a sovereign ruler, and drew on his experience of the Anglo-Norman world to bring the Scots kingdom within the mainstream of European development, though recent studies also highlight how far he depended on the strengths and practices of his Celtic inheritance. The ‘Davidian revolution’ involved the settlement in Scotland of Anglo-Norman nobles, who established powerful local lordships defended with castles and supplied knights to the king's army. The monarchy was also strengthened by the restructuring of law and administration along Anglo-Norman lines, and by an extensive programme of church reform. Thus David created or revived several bishoprics and personally founded ten major monasteries, especially for Cistercian monks ( Melrose, Newbattle, Kinloss) and Augustinian canons ( Jedburgh, Holyrood, Cambuskenneth). He also developed the economic basis of the kingdom by founding burghs (notably Berwick, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen) and by introducing the first Scottish coinage.

In all these respects, ‘Normanization’ followed a very different path from that taken in the rest of the ‘Celtic fringe’, where both Wales and Ireland experienced Anglo-Norman conquests. In Scotland, by contrast, David's predecessors had already established a sufficiently powerful and unitary monarchy to ensure that change operated on behalf of Scottish interests, not against them. Quintessentially, however, David was as much a conventional Celtic ruler as a new- style ‘feudal’ monarch. Though he acted decisively to crush the rebellion of the mormaer (provincial ruler) of Moray in 1130, he preferred to work with traditional power structures wherever practicable. He continued to use the ancient centres of royal authority; loyal native lords kept their lands and their prominence as members of the governing élite alongside the Anglo-Norman incomers (all the earls and most of the bishops were native Scots); the existing pattern of administrative offices coexisted with the sheriffs, justiciars, and other new officers; the taxation system remained based on the old levies of cain and conveth (‘tribute and hospitality’); and customary methods of military recruitment retained fundamental importance. So, while change was a leading motif, David's reign also exhibited considerable degrees of continuity; indeed, the key to his greatness as a state-builder was the ability to integrate old and new. His Scottish power base was confined largely to the Lowlands; but the reality of growing royal might was firmly demonstrated when he led vast armies (including 200 knights, but mainly comprising native troops from many parts of Scotland) in wars of territorial conquest against the embattled King Stephen, and from 1141 he ruled the ‘English’ north to the rivers Ribble and Tees as an integral part of an enlarged Scoto-Northumbrian realm. His successes as a war leader help to explain why his modernizing policies were not more strenuously challenged by Celtic lords outside the royal circle. Anglo-Norman adventurers flocked to his court in increasing numbers; and control of the rich silver-mines near Carlisle gave a major boost to the Scottish economy. But in 1152 David's only surviving son Henry predeceased him. When David himself died, he was therefore succeeded not by a mature and experienced heir, but by a boy-king, his grandson Malcolm IV; and in 1157, at Henry II's insistence, the Scots were obliged to withdraw from the north. Yet by 1153 the traditional kingdom of Scots was well on the way to becoming a self-confident, European-style state, and David's reign was arguably the most formative period in medieval Scottish history.

Keith J. Stringer

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David I

David I

David I (1084-1153) reigned as king of Scotland from 1124 to 1153. He is noted for his introduction of Norman institutions into Scotland.

David I came to the Scottish throne when his brother King Alexander I died in 1124 without an heir. David's two wars with England failed to bring northern English lands into his realm. He first marched south on the pretext of protecting the interests of his niece Matilda, daughter of Henry I, against Stephen, who had claimed the English throne. The Scottish army was routed at the Battle of the Standard, fought at Cutton Moor in 1138. David, however, was able to secure recognition of his son, Henry, as holder of Northumberland and Huntingdon, to which David's wife had been heiress. When a second invasion of England in 1140 proved as futile as the first, David gave up his program of expansion and devoted himself to internal Scottish affairs.

David brought a number of Norman nobles and churchmen with him when he traveled from England to take the Scottish crown. Norman nobles displaced Celtic leaders in the north, and their castles began to rise to symbolize the shift of political power. Landholdings based on Scottish customary rights were made subject to Norman charters, and Norman practices in law and administration were introduced. For the man in the field, however, it was a quiet revolution; no one was displaced, and the new system was grafted onto the old in a peaceful way.

Norman influences were especially apparent in the Church. David increased the number of dioceses from four to nine and named Normans as bishops of the new ones. He also founded 10 monasteries, welcoming to Scotland new orders that were popular south of the border, the Cistercians and the Augustinian canons regular. His active patronage of the Church won for David an enduring reputation for piety.

David was truly the father of the city, or burgh, in Scotland. He himself chartered only four or five burghs, but he allowed the development of private burghs under the aegis of his ecclesiastical and lay nobles. The rise of cities was related to a developing commerce, and to help the growing trade David broke new ground by issuing a silver penny, the first Scottish coinage. Within the cities a new class developed, the townsmen.

For Scotland, David was a constructive revolutionary: the language and customs of the Scots gave way to English speech and manners; the Church was organized on patterns akin to those of England and Rome; and the rise of burghs saw the emergence of the Scottish middle class.

Further Reading

David's Normanizing work is covered in R. L. Graeme Ritchie, The Normans in Scotland (1954). A judicious appraisal of David's contributions is in A New History of Scotland, vol. 4: Scotland from the Earliest Times to 1603, written by William Croft Dickinson and George S. Pryde (1962; rev. ed. 1965). An interesting summary of the epoch is provided by Eric Linklater, The Survival of Scotland: A New History of Scotland from Roman Times to the Present Day (1968). □

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