Early life of David I

Early life of David I

The early life of David I refers to the life of David I of Scotland before he became a territorial ruler. These years are the most obscure in his life. Before he became a great political magnate in his own right by the year 1113, the only way to understand David's early career is with reference to the great political figures around him.

Childhood and flight to England

David was born at some point between 1083 and 1085, [Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", p. 49.] probably the eighth son of King Máel Coluim III, and the sixth and youngest produced by Máel Coluim's second marriage to Queen Margaret. [Máel Coluim had at seems to have had two sons before he married Margaret, presumably by Ingibiorg Finnsdottir. King Donnchad II was one, and there was another called Domnall who died in 1085, see "Annals of Ulster", s.a. 1085.2, [http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/G100001A/text656.html here] ; see also Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", p. 23; and Duncan, "The Kingship of the Scots", p. 55; the possibility that Máel Coluim had another son, also named Máel Coluim, is open, G. W. S. Barrow, "Malcolm III (d. 1093)".] In 1093 David lost his father, his mother and his eldest full brother. King Máel Coluim, along with David's brother Edward (Édubard), were killed on or near the river Aln on November 13 during an invasion of Northumberland. [Duncan, "Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom", p. 121.] David and his brothers Alexander (Alaxandair) and Edgar (Étgar) were probably in the presence of their mother when she too died, allegedly after hearing the news of the family deaths. [See A.O. Anderson, "Scottish Annals", p. 114, n. 1.]

According to later medieval tradition, the three brothers were in the citadel at Edinburgh, when within a short time they were besieged by their uncle, Domnall Bán. [E.g. John Fordun, "Chronica gentis Scotorum", II. 209.] It is likely that Domnall had travelled down to Edinburgh to prevent Margaret initiating a claim to the throne on behalf of one of her surviving sons, and it is probable that Domnall himself had been crowned king at Scone already. [Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", p. 40.] We cannot be certain what happened next, but an insertion in the "Chronicle of Melrose" claims that Domnall forced his three nephews into exile. [A.O. Anderson, "Early Sources", vol. ii, p. 89.] John of Fordun claimed that an escort was arranged for them by their maternal uncle Edgar Ætheling, who brought them into England. [John Fordun, "Chronica gentis Scotorum", II. 209-10.]

Intervention of William Rufus in Scottish succession

William Rufus, King of the English, opposed Domnall's accession to the northerly kingdom. He sent Donnchad, David's half-brother and the eldest son of King Máel Coluim, into Scotland with an army at his disposal. Donnchad had been hostage in England, perhaps since William I's invasion of Máel Coluim's territory in 1072, and certainly since 1087. [The "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" says that Máel Coluim gave hostages to William in 1072, but does not specify who these were. The "Chronicle" of Florence of Worcester, s.a. 1087, states that William II "freed from imprisonment Ulf, son of Harald, and Donnchad, son of Máel Coluim"; see A.O. Anderson, "Scottish Annals", pp. 95, 104.] Donnchad paid homage to William, and sometime in 1094 marched into Scotland. The result of the invasion was at first indecisive, but after a few months the English and French soldiers given to Donnchad by King William were massacred, and by the end of the year Donnchad himself was slain by Domnall's ally, Máel Petair, mormaer of Mearns. ["Anglo-Saxon Chronicle", MS. E, s.a. 1094; A.O. Anderson, "Scottish Annals", p. 118; see also A.O. Anderson, "Early Sources", vol. ii, pp. 90-1.]

Despite the setback, William Rufus did not give up, and in 1097 he sent Donnchad's half-brother Edgar into Scotland. The latter was more successful, and was crowned King of Scotland by the end of 1097. ["Anglo-Saxon Chronicle", MS. E, s.a. 1097; A.O. Anderson, "Scottish Annals", p. 119.] Edgar was David's full brother, and his establishment on the throne with English royal patronage would be a sign of things to come, but in 1097 the Kingdom of Scotland was an unrealistic prospect for Prince David. King Edgar was a young man, only a few years older than David, and another of David's older brothers, Alexander, was alive and well and closer to the throne than David. David was in fact so far away from becoming king that Ethelred, his older brother and superior in line to the succession, had given himself up to a career in the church. [Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", p. 29.]

David in England

During the power struggle of 1093-97, David was enjoying his first years in England. In 1093, David may have been no older than 9 years. [Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", p. 49.] He would spend more than a decade there. Until late 1100, David was a peripheral figure in England, on the edges of the English royal court with an uncertain future. On the other hand, it is likely that when King Edgar visited William Rufus in May 1099, Edgar bequeathed to David the extensive lands to the south of the river Forth. Edgar had already designated Alexander as "tánaiste ríg" (heir of the king), so William Rufus may have demanded this bequest of Edgar as a condition of accepting Edgar's will, with the aim of creating some long-term use for David. [Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", pp. 59-60; it is of course possible that this inheritance was a fabrication by David's party in order to justify seizure of southern Scotland from his elder brother.]

Moreover, when William Rufus was killed and Henry Beauclerc seized power, David's fortunes got even better. Soon after Henry was crowned, in November 1100, Henry was married to David's sister, Matilda (or Edith). Although he remained for some time a princely hanger-on, the marriage made David the brother-in-law of the ruler of England. Although still a youth, from that point onwards David was a more important figure at court, with a much brighter future than he previously had. [For David's upbringing and transformation of fortune at the Anglo-Norman court, see Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", pp. 59-72.] Despite his Gaelic background and childhood, by the end of his stay in England, David was a fully fledged Normanised prince. William of Malmesbury wrote that in this period of time David "had rubbed off all tarnish of Scottish barbarity through being polished by intercourse and friendship with us". [William of Malmesbury, "Gesta Regum Anglorum", W. Stubbs (ed.), "Rolls Series", no. 90, vol. ii, p. 476; trans. A.O. Anderson, "Scottish Annals", (1908), p. 157.]



* Anderson, Alan Orr (ed.), "Early Sources of Scottish History: AD 500-1286", 2 Vols, (Edinburgh, 1922)
* Anderson, Alan Orr (ed.), "Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers: AD 500-1286", (London, 1908), republished, Marjorie Anderson (ed.) (Stamford, 1991)
* Barrow, G. W. S., "David I (c.1085–1153)", in the "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/7208 , accessed 11 Feb 2007]
* Barrow, G. W. S., "David I of Scotland: The Balance of New and Old", in G. W. S. Barrow (ed.), "Scotland and Its Neighbours in the Middle Ages", (London, 1992), pp. 45-65, originally published as the 1984 Stenton Lecture, (Reading, 1985)
* Lawrie, Sir Archibald (ed.), "Early Scottish Charters Prior to A.D. 1153", (Glasgow, 1905)
* Lynch, Michael, "Scotland: A New History", (Edinburgh, 1991)
* Oram, Richard, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", (Gloucestershire, 2004)
* Skene, Felix J. H. (tr.) & Skene, William F. (ed.), "John of Fordun's Chronicle of the Scottish Nation", (Edinburgh, 1872)

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