David I

(c. 1085—1153) king of Scots

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B. c.1084, 6th s. of Malcolm III and Margaret; acc. 25 Apr. 1124; m. Matilda (Maud) de Senlis, da. of Waltheof, earl of Northumbria, and wid. of earl of Northampton and Huntingdon, c.1114; issue: Malcolm, Claricia, Hodierna, Henry; d. Carlisle, 24 May 1153; bur. Dunfermline.

As the youngest of Malcolm III's many sons, David might not have been expected, initially, to accede to the kingship. His early adult years were spent at the English court of Henry I, who had married his sister Edith (unpronounceable to the Normans, so usually called Matilda), and David served him as a justice. The lands gifted by his brother Edgar were achieved only by standing up to the next brother Alexander but, through marriage to Matilda de Senlis (a great-niece of William ‘the Conqueror’), he acquired the earldom of Huntingdon with extensive lands in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.

Ruling as ‘earl’ during Alexander's reign, David succeeded his childless brother in 1124, and continued his introduction of Anglo-Norman legal and administrative practices, integrating with rather than imposing upon Celtic patterns. The ‘Davidian revolution’ included grants of land throughout southern Scotland to noble Anglo-Norman incomers, whose dependants rapidly anglicized local society and culture; church reform resulted in the creation or renewal of several bishoprics, with a parochial system, and the personal founding of ten major monasteries, particularly for Augustinian canons and Cistercian monks; town development led to the formation of burghs, and a Scottish coinage system was established.

His grafting of new with old, native with newcomer, and the introduction of Normanesque feudalism, enabled David to call upon vast armies for territorial conquest. The ever-rebellious men of Moray were suppressed in 1130, and a string of castles between Aberdeen and Berwick controlled the north. Through his English title and lands, David had sworn to accept his niece, the empress Matilda, as successor to Henry I, she being his only surviving legitimate issue; when Stephen (husband of another niece, Matilda of Boulogne) challenged for the English crown, involving that kingdom in civil war, David did not remain neutral but supported the empress and invaded England on three occasions. Despite defeat at the battle of the Standard (1138) near Northallerton in Yorkshire, and an ignominious expulsion from London in 1141 (the intended coronation of empress Matilda), a Scottish peace reigned in Cumberland and Northumbria which markedly contrasted with the uncertainty further south.

David died at Carlisle in 1153, after a rule which had transformed the kingdom and strengthened the monarchy. His son, Henry, had died the previous year, leaving the succession to an inexperienced grandson, Malcolm.

Subjects: British History.

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