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Significant Scots
David I


DAVID I., a celebrated Scottish monarch, was the youngest of the six sons of Malcolm III., who reigned between 1057, and 1093, and who must be familiar to every reader, as the overthrower of Macbeth, and also the first king of the Scots that was entitled to be considered as a civilized prince. The mother of king David was Margaret, the sister of Edgar Atheling, heir to the Saxon line of English princes, but displaced by William the Conqueror. The year of David’s birth is not known; but it is conjectured to have been not long antecedent to the death of his father, as all his elder brothers were then under age. It is conjectured that he must have received the name of David, from having been born at a time when his mother had no hope of more children, in reference to the youngest son of Jesse. Owing to the usurpations of Donald Bane, and Duncan, he spent his early years at the English court, under the protection of Henry I., who had married his sister Matilda or Maud, the celebrated founder of London bridge. There, according to an English historian, "his manners were polished from the rust of Scottish barbarity." Here also he took to wife, Matilda, the daughter of Waltheof, earl of Northumberland, and widow of Simon de St Liz, earl of Northampton. After the Scottish throne had been occupied successively by his elder brothers, Edgar and Alexander, he acceded to it on the 27th of April, 1124, when he must have been in the very prime of life. Soon before this time, namely, in 1113, he had manifested that zeal for the church, which distinguished him throughout his reign, by bringing a colony of Benedictine monks from Tyron, in France, whom he settled at Selkirk. These he subsequently translated to Roxburgh, and finally, 1128, to Kelso. In the latter year, besides founding the magnificent monastery of Kelso, he erected that of Holyrood at Edinburgh, which he endowed in the most liberal manner.

During the reign of Henry I., David maintained a good understanding with England, and seems to have spent a considerable part of his time in the court of his brother-in-law and sister. The following curious anecdote of one of his visits, is related in a volume entitled "Remaines concerning Britain," published in 1614. "Queen Maud was so devoutly religious, that she would go to church barefooted and always exercised herself in works of charity, insomuch, that when king David her brother came out of Scotland to visit her, he found her in her privy chamber with a towell about her middle, washing, wiping, and kissing poore people’s feete; which he disliking, said, ‘verily, if the king your husband knew this, you should never kisse his lippes!’ She replied, ‘that the feete of the king of heaven were to be preferred before the lippes of a king in earth!’" On the death of Henry, in 1135, his daughter Maud was displaced by the usurper Stephen, and, to enforce her right, David made a formidable incursion into England, taking possession of the country as far as Durham. Not being supported, however, by the barons, who had sworn to maintain his niece in her right, he was obliged, by the superior force of Stephen, to give up the country he had acquired, his son Henry, accepting at the same time, from the usurper, the honour of Huntingdon, with Doncaster, and the castle of Carlisle, for which he rendered homage. Next year, David made a new incursion, with better success. He is found in 1138 in full possession of the northern provinces, while Stephen was unable, from his engagements elsewhere, to present any force against him. The Scots ravaged the country with much cruelty, and particularly the domains of the church; nor was their pious monarch able to restrain them. The local clergy, under these circumstances, employed all their influence, temporal and spiritual, to collect an army, and they at length succeeded. On the 22nd of August, 1138, the two parties met on Cutton Moor, near Northallerton, and to increase the enthusiasm of the English, their clerical leaders had erected a standard upon a high carriage, mounted on wheels, exhibiting three consecrated banners, with a little casket at the top, containing a consecrated host. The ill-assorted army of the Scottish monarch gave way before the impetuosity of these men, who were literally defending their altars and hearths. This rencounter is known in history, as the battle of the Standard. Prince Henry escaped with great difficulty. Next year, David seems to have renounced all hopes of establishing his niece. He entered into a solemn treaty with Stephen, in virtue of which, the earldom of Northumberland was conceded to his son Henry. In 1140, when Stephen was overpowered by his subjects, and Maud experienced a temporary triumph, David repaired to London to give her the benefit of his counsel. But a counter insurrection surprised Maud; and David had great difficulty in escaping along with his niece. He was only saved by the kindness of a young Scotsman, named Oliphant, who served as a soldier under Stephen, and to whom David had been godfather. This person concealed the monarch from a very strict search, and conveyed him in safety to Scotland. David was so much offended at the manner in which he had been treated by Maud, that he never again interfered with her affairs in England, for which he had already sacrificed so much. He was even struck with remorse, for having endeavoured, by the use of so barbarous a people as the Scots, to control the destinies of the civilized English, to whom, it would thus appear, he bore more affection than he did to his own native subjects. At one time, he intended to abdicate the crown, and go into perpetual exile in the holy land, in order to expiate this imaginary guilt; but he afterwards contented himself with attempting to introduce civilization into his country. For this purpose, he encouraged many English gentlemen and barons to settle in Scotland, by giving them grants of land. In like manner, he brought many different kinds of foreign monks into the country, settling them in the various abbeys of Melrose, Newbottle, Cambuskenneth, Kinloss, Dryburgh, and Jedburgh, as well as the priory of Lesmahago, and the Cistercian convent of Berwick, all of which were founded and endowed by him. The effects which these comparatively enlightened bodies of men must have produced upon the country, ought to save David from all modern sneers as to his apparently extreme piety. Sanctimoniousness does not appear to have had any concern in the matter: he seems to have been governed alone by a desire of civilizing his kingdom, the rudeness of which must have been strikingly apparent to him, in consequence of his education and long residence in England. The progress made by the country, in the time of David, was accordingly very great. Public buildings were erected, towns established, agriculture, manufactures, and commerce promoted. Laws, moreover, appear to have been now promulgated for the first time. David was himself a truly just and benevolent man. He used to sit on certain days at the gate of his palace, to hear and decide the causes of the poor. When justice required a decision against the poor man, he took pains to explain the reason, so that he might not go away unsatisfied. Gardening was one of his amusements, and hunting his chief exercise; but, says a contemporary historian, I have seen him quit his horse, and dismiss his hunting equipage, when any, even the meanest of his subjects, required an audience. He commenced business at day break, and at sunset dismissed his attendants, and retired to meditate on his duty to God and the people. By his wife, Matilda, David had a son, Henry; who died before him, leaving Malcolm and William, who were successively kings of Scotland, David, earl of Huntingdon, from whom Bruce and Baliol are descended, and several daughters. David I. is said, by a monkish historian, to have had a son older than Henry, but who perished in childhood after a remarkable manner. A person in holy orders had murdered a priest at the altar, and was protected by ecclesiastical immunity from the punishment due to his offence. His eyes, however, were put out, and his hands and feet cut off. He procured crooked irons or hooks to supply the use of hands. Thus maimed, destitute, and abhorred, he attracted the attention of David, then residing in England as a private man. From him this outcast of society obtained food and raiment. David’s eldest child was then two years old; the ungrateful monster, under pretence of fondling the infant, crushed it to death in his iron fangs. For this crime, almost exceeding belief, he was torn to pieces by wild horses. On losing his son Henry in 1152, king David sent his son Malcolm on a solemn progress through the kingdom, in order that he might be acknowledged by the people as their future sovereign. He in like manner recommended his grandson William to the barons of Northumberland, as his successor in that part of his dominions. Having ultimately fixed his residence at Carlisle, the pious monarch breathed his last, May 24th, 1153; being found dead in a posture of devotion. David I., by the acknowledgment of Buchanan himself, was "a more perfect exemplar of a good king than is to be found in all the theories of the learned and ingenious."


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