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Saint and King: David I of Scotland

I love to lose myself in royal history. The rulers of Scotland (Alba,) Wales and Ireland pre "Great Britain" are often sadly overlooked.

King David I of Scotland as shown at Kelso Abbey.

King David I of Scotland as shown at Kelso Abbey.

The House of Dunkeld

King David I of Scotland, notable for his piety, was born between 1080 and 1084. He was the youngest of the six sons and two daughters of King Malcolm III Canmore (c.1031-1093) of the House of Dunkeld and his second wife the virtuous “Pearl of Scotland,” Margaret of Wessex (c.1045-1093.) The Scotland that we recognise today was not yet created. The area that was Scotland was called Alba.

King Malcolm III was the son of King Duncan I (1001-1040,) Macbeth’s murder victim in the play by William Shakespeare. Duncan died on the battlefield and not in his bed as Shakespeare wrote it. Malcolm and his army took Macbeth’s life in battle in 1057 before disposing of his heir and stepson Lulach “the Unfortunate” (c.1033-1058.)

In 1093, Malcolm and his eldest son Edward were slain when they invaded Northumbria. David’s uncle, Donald (1032-1099) made a successful attempt to seize control of the throne. Margaret, Malcolm’s queen, died three days after her husband and son. Donald III swiftly sent his nephews into exile in England, except for Edmund (c.1070- after 1097, unknown) who had taken Duncan’s side. He was later imprisoned in Somerset, England after Uncle Donald lost his throne.

A map showing Alba and the Principality of the Cumbrians. The English/Scottish boundaries are not yet fixed as we know them: Glasgow is in Cumbria.

A map showing Alba and the Principality of the Cumbrians. The English/Scottish boundaries are not yet fixed as we know them: Glasgow is in Cumbria.

This 1190 map shows how the boundaries had shifted between England and Scotland.

This 1190 map shows how the boundaries had shifted between England and Scotland.

Guided By Henry I of England

David’s sister Matilda, christened Edith (1080-1118,) was married to Henry I of England (1068-1135) in 1100. Henry I directed David to marry Matilda, the sole heir of the Earl of Huntingdon. This meant that he would gain magnificent wealth and lands after the death of the earl. David and Matilda’s second son, born in 1114, was named Henry in honour of the king. Three other children, Malcolm, Claricia and Hodierna did not survive childhood.

David was hugely influenced by English customs so by the time he became King of Scotland in April 1124 he had to relearn how to be truly Scottish. His greatest problem was Alexander’s illegitimate son Malcolm, (Mael Coluim mac Alexandair) who was the main rival for the throne.

David’s claim to the Scottish throne was doubtful. He was the youngest son of the king from four reigns before and although the rule of primogeniture was not in incontestable use in Scotland, the son of the last king, even an illegitimate one, was viewed by some Scots to have the greater claim. However, Malcolm did not have the military support or approval of Henry I to reinforce his claim. David I was crowned at Scone.

Matilda (Edith) of Scotland married Henry I of England in 1100.

Matilda (Edith) of Scotland married Henry I of England in 1100.

Civil War Plagues David's Realm

In 1126 and 1127 he travelled to England to see Henry I and Matilda but at all other times he remained in his Scottish strongholds south of the River Forth. David’s wife Matilda passed away in 1130.

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Also in 1130, Malcolm, Alexander I's son, raised the Scottish against their absent king, who was again in England. He was strengthened by the support of David’s supposedly loyal subject, Oengnus of Moray, a grandson of Lulach, killed by David’s father decades before. David’s army rose to the challenge. The fighting delivered several thousand deaths, including Oengnus of Moray’s. Malcolm survived and civil war plagued Scotland for four more years.

Henry I sent Norman knights to fight for David. Malcolm was captured in 1134 and imprisoned in Roxburghe Castle. He disappeared from the records at this point; presumably, he was executed.

David installed loyal lords in key positions, many were from leading Norman families, and he commanded marriages that would broker lasting peace. For example, he placed his nephew through his late brother Duncan, William FitzDuncan, in Moray and married him to Oengnus of Moray’s daughter. David knew that William needed to be kept happy and faithful; he could have challenged him for the throne as a grandson of Malcolm III Canmore.

Davidian Revolution and Independence

The Davidian Revolution is the term used to convey the changes made during David I's reign. He introduced numerous monasteries, encouraged change in Christian worship, founded coinage and initiated the role of sheriff. He created royal burghs and market towns, oversaw the rise of French and Anglo-Norman influences and rule via feudalism.

When Henry I died in December 1135 David supported the claim of his ousted niece Matilda (1102-1167) to rule England, not her rival Stephen of Blois’ (c.1092-1153.) The kings eventually met in battle. Negotiated peace with King Stephen I was short-lived. David invaded the north of England three times in as many years. At the Battle of Clitheroe on 10th June 1138, the Scottish won and a new treaty stating Scottish independence from Stephen’s rule was agreed. Stephen headed south to learn that Matilda had returned from exile with every intention of seizing the throne of England. Showing Matilda his loyalty garnered David a greater share of the land in the north of England. David I travelled south to witness her coronation at Westminster Abbey but this event did not take place.

He did not always get what we wanted. As he extended his kingdom, David was unable to secure the archbishopric of York and the bishopric of Durham that he coveted. He continued to seek control of the far north of Scotland and the islands but the Norwegian rulers laid claim to Orkney and refused to submit.

David's Tragic Last Year

David I’s only surviving son and heir, Henry of Scotland, Earl of Northumberland, died in July 1152. This was a severe blow; he named Malcom IV, his eleven-year-old grandson, as his heir but he was a minor so David appointed a regent for him, Donald, Mormaer of Fife. David passed away at Carlisle Castle on 24th May 1153. He was buried at Dunfermline Castle.

Although never formally canonized he was to become Saint David I of Scotland. His feast day is held on the 24th May each year. His mother Queen Margaret was canonized as a saint in 1250: Saint Margaret of Scotland. She has also been honoured by the Anglican church. Her feast day is the 16th November although some people honour her on the 10th June.

David I founded Melrose Abbey. The painting of the ruined abbey was produced by J.M.W.Turner (1775-1851) in 1822.

David I founded Melrose Abbey. The painting of the ruined abbey was produced by J.M.W.Turner (1775-1851) in 1822.

Sources

© 2021 Joanne Hayle

Comments

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on July 08, 2021:

Joanne, another detailed article of royalty and full of history. Loved it and thank you so much. I never tire of UK history.

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