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Death of David I of Scots: May 24th, 1153. (Months Past).

THE PRINCIPAL architect of the medieval kingdom of Scotland has been described as dragging his backward country by the scruff of its neck into mainstream Europe. David I was the sixth and youngest son of Malcolm III Canmore (Big Head) and his strong-minded wife Margaret, of the English royal house. A granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, celebrated for her piety, she was canonised long afterwards in 1250. Her ferocious husband went in some awe of her and she gave four of their sons names from the royal lineage of Wessex: Edward, Edgar, Edmund and Ethelred. The other two were Alexander and David. Significantly, none of the names came from the old Celtic Scots tradition.

Margaret, Malcolm and their eldest son Edward died within a few days of each other in 1093, when young David was about nine, and he and his sister Matilda were sent south to the court of Henry I of England for safety. David spent his entire adolescence there, high in the favour of Henry I, who presently married Matilda. His years at the English court gave David a sound practical education in running a country and he became effectively Henry's viceroy in northern England. He followed his brothers onto the Scottish throne in 1124, when he was about forty. Shrewd, determined and ruthless, in a reign of thirty years he re-organised the royal administration on the Anglo-Norman model, founded monasteries and bishoprics as civilising influences and outposts of royal power and persuaded Norman families he knew in England to move north to Scottish lordships. The newcomers included both the Bruces and the Stewarts, who would play major roles in Scots history.

The border between Scotland and England was not finally settled and David exploited the civil war in England after Henry I's death to push it to the south. While ostentatiously supporting his niece, Henry I's daughter Matilda, against her rival, Stephen, he seized control of Northumbria and Cumbria. Invading England in 1136 and again with appalling savagery in 1138, he took over northern England to the Tees and the Ribble, and Carlisle became his capital and favourite home. In 1149 he knighted the future Henry II of England there in return for an acceptance of his position in northern England.

As it turned out, however, David's only son, another Henry, died in 1152 and when David himself died at Carlisle the following year he was succeeded by his eldest grandson as Malcolm IV. The accession of a boy of eleven immediately caused troubles with ambitious Scottish nobles and Henry II demanded the northern counties back. To this at a conference with King Henry in 1157 young Malcolm, who was known as `the Maiden', prudently consented.

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Author:Cavendish, Richard
Publication:History Today
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:May 1, 2003
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