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David I of Scotland

With the death of Alexander I. (April 25, 1124) and the accession of his brother, David I., the deliberate Royal policy of introducing into Scotland English law and English institutions, as modified by the Norman rulers, was fulfilled. David, before Alexander’s death, was Earl of the most English part of Lothian, the country held by Scottish kings, and Cumbria; and resided much at the court of his brother-in-law, Henry I. He associated, when Earl, with nobles of Anglo-Norman race and language, such as Moreville, Umfraville, Somerville, Gospatric, Bruce, Balliol, and others; men with a stake in both countries, England and Scotland. On coming to the throne, David endowed these men with charters of lands in Scotland. With him came a cadet of the great Anglo-Breton House of FitzAlan, who obtained the hereditary office of Seneschal or Steward of Scotland. His patronymic, FitzAlan, merged in Stewart (later Stuart), and the family cognizance, the fesse chequy in azure and argent, represents the Board of Exchequer. The earliest Stewart holdings of land were mainly in Renfrewshire; those of the Bruces were in Annandale. These two Anglo-Norman houses between them were to found the Stewart dynasty.

The wife of David, Matilda, widow of Simon de St Liz, was heiress of Waltheof, sometime the Conqueror’s Earl in Northumberland; and to gain, through that connection, Northumberland for himself was the chief aim of David’s foreign policy, an aim fertile in contentions.

We have not space to disentangle the intricacies of David’s first great domestic struggles; briefly, there was eternal dispeace caused by the Celts, headed by claimants to the throne, the MacHeths, representing the rights of Lulach, the ward of Macbeth. In 1130 the Celts were defeated, and their leader, Angus, Earl of Moray, fell in fight near the North Esk in Forfarshire. His brother, Malcolm, by aid of David’s Anglo-Norman friends, was taken and imprisoned in Roxburgh Castle. The result of this rising was that David declared the great and ancient Celtic Earldom of Moray, the home of his dynastic Celtic rivals, forfeit to the Crown. He planted the region with English, Anglo-Norman, and Lowland landholders, a great step in the anglicisation of his kingdom. Thereafter, for several centuries, the strength of the Celts lay in the west in Moidart, Knoydart, Morar, Mamore, Lochaber, and Kintyre, and in the western islands, which fell into the hands of “the sons of Somerled,” the Macdonalds.

In 1135-1136, on the death of Henry I., David, backing his own niece, Matilda, as Queen of England in opposition to Stephen, crossed the Border in arms, but was bought off. His son Henry received the Honour of Huntingdom, with the Castle of Carlisle, and a vague promise of consideration of his claim to Northumberland. In 1138, after a disturbed interval, David led the whole force of his realm, from Orkney to Galloway, into Yorkshire. His Anglo-Norman friends, the Balliols and Bruces, with the Archbishop of York, now opposed him and his son Prince Henry. On August 22, 1138, at Cowton Moor, near Northallerton, was fought the great battle, named from the huge English sacred banner, “The Battle of the Standard.”

In a military sense, the fact that here the men-at-arms and knights of England fought as dismounted infantry, their horses being held apart in reserve, is notable as preluding to the similar English tactics in their French wars of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Thus arrayed, the English received the impetuous charge of the wild Galloway men, not in armour, who claimed the right to form the van, and broke through the first line only to die beneath the spears of the second. But Prince David with his heavy cavalry scattered the force opposed to him, and stampeded the horses of the English that were held in reserve. This should have been fatal to the English, but Henry, like Rupert at Marston Moor, pursued too far, and the discipline of the Scots was broken by the cry that their King had fallen, and they fled. David fought his way to Carlisle in a series of rearguard actions, and at Carlisle was joined by Prince Henry with the remnant of his men-at-arms. It was no decisive victory for England.

In the following year (1139) David got what he wanted. His son Henry, by peaceful arrangement, received the Earldom of Northumberland, without the two strong places, Bamborough and Newcastle.

Through the anarchic weakness of Stephen’s reign, Scotland advanced in strength and civilisation despite a Celtic rising headed by a strange pretender to the rights of the MacHeths, a “brother Wimund”; but all went with the death of David’s son, Prince Henry, in 1152. Of the prince’s three sons, the eldest, Malcolm, was but ten years old; next came his brothers William (“the Lion”) and little David, Earl of Huntingdon. From this David’s daughters descended the chief claimants to the Scottish throne in 1292, namely, Balliol, Bruce, and Comyn: the last also was descended, in the female line, from King Donald Ban, son of Malcolm Canmore.

David had done all that man might do to settle the crown on his grandson Malcolm; his success meant that standing curse of Scotland, “Woe to the kingdom whose king is a child,” when, in a year, David died at Carlisle (May 24, 1153).

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