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Saturday, 14 February 2009

David I Dunfermline Fife Scotland

David I of Scotland was the man who, perhaps more than any, shaped the Scotland we live in today. Born in Dunfermline some time in the 1080s, David was the youngest son of Malcolm III and St Margaret, and spent his youth at the Court of his brother-in-law Henry I of England. He succeeded his brother Alexander as King of Scots in 1124, by which time he was in his mid-40s and famous for his piety. Indeed, he was later criticised as being too pious to make a successful monarch but in fact his generosity to the church, and his many abbeys including Holyrood, Melrose and Dryburgh, and establishment of bishops at Caithness, Dunblane and Aberdeen, had sound practical effects too, for the monks did much to improve the country's ecoonomy by engaging in sheep farming,coal working and salt making.

David issued the first Scottish coinage, which changed the economy in itself, but, more importantly, he also reorganised civil institutions and founded about 15 royal burghs, such as Stirling, Dunfermline, in effect, Scotland's first towns. Nothing he did would have more influence than this. He extended the feudal system into Scotland by granting land to Anglo-Normans in return for feudal services, and appointed them as royal officials such as sheriffs and justiciars.

In the 1130s, David met with resistance in Moray and the north, until then ruled by an independent dynasty, but he successfully annexed it to his kingdom and reorganized its governance. He also extended his kingdom south-wards. When Henry I of England died in 1135, David I invaded England, ostensibly on behalf of his niece Matilda. However, he was also taking advantage of the confusion resulting from the civil war in England, and using the opportunity to try to extend his kingdom southwards. Although he was defeated at the Battle of the Standard, in Yorkshire in 1138 he continued his campaign until the Treaty of Durham confirmed his possession of Northumberland.

David died at Carlisle, Cumberland, on May 24, 1153, aged about 73. He was buried in Dunfermline, where he had extended the church into an abbey in commemoration of his parents. Many scholars use the term Davidian Revolution to summarise the huge changes which took place in Scotland during his reign, Early assessments of David I held him to be a pious king, a reformer and a civilising influence on a barbarous nation, and by the 18th century was added 'state-builder' and maintainer of Scottish independence. It's a reputation which remains unsullied even by today's cynical historians, who stress his influence in shaping the nature and culture of the the institutions and methods of government and civil administration which would dominate Scotland's development for centuries to come.

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