King David's Time
IT was a golden age for Scotland. The 12th century was an era when we finally became a nation, earned the respect of the rest of Europe - and learned how to live with the English instead of constantly fighting them.
The period after the death of the great king Malcolm Canmore and his wife St Margaret of Scotland in 1093 was one of the most important in our country's history. We started to trade internationally, to mint our own coins, and to build some of our very first towns and cities.
But it was also a dangerous period - because our new found friendship with England almost ended up with Scotland losing its identity and being absorbed into the auld enemy for good.
After centuries of fighting with the English, the Scots began to soften towards their historic foes when Malcolm's wife Margaret - a Hungarian princess who has been brought up in the English court - came north and brought many of her Anglo-Saxon customs with her.
When she and Malcolm died, Malcolm's brother Donald Bane took over the Scottish throne. He quickly tried to assert his authority, and his first act was to drive out all those who supported or served Malcolm who were either English or pro-English.
However, Donald didn't get very far - he was deposed after less than a year by Malcolm's son, Duncan II. Soon after, Duncan was killed and Donald was restored to the throne again. He was deposed again three years later by Edgar, Malcolm's eldest son, who got rid of him with the help and support of the Normans, who had first come to England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Edgar's rule over Scotland was the beginning of a remarkable period of peace between Scotland and England. This was a period of great change in Europe, and Kings and nobles finally started to realise how much they had in common with each other. For this reason, Scottish kings started to spend more and more time at the English court, to the point where some of them virtually started to accept English kings as their superiors.
It was the great Scottish king David I, who ruled between 1124 and 1153, who forged the strongest bond between Scotland and England. Alec Woolf, lecturer in Celtic and early Scottish history at the University of Edinburgh, explains: "David was the seventh son of Malcolm Canmore, and so may well have felt he had no chance of succeeding the Scottish throne.
"His sister Matilda became Queen to the English king Henry I, and David, who was about 15 at the time, went south to live with her. He could have decided that he had little future in Scotland and that he would make a career for himself at the English court."
Even after succeeding to the Scottish throne, David kept his interests in England. He retained the land and title he had been given as Earl of Huntingdon and spent a lot of his time down south. One of his most significant moves was to introduce the feudal system - the European organisation of society brought to England by the Normans - into Scotland.
Feudalism involved the King giving land and charters to Norman friends from England who in turn would have let the peasants work the soil. Now-famous Scottish families such as Frasers, Crichtons, Grants, Maxwells and Sinclairs came from England or France in this way.
The feudal system worked well in that it created a well ordered hierarchy which allied the nobles to the King and discouraged them from plotting behind his back. However, it also created a gulf between the monarch and ordinary people - particularly the Highlanders, whose chiefs were not prepared to give their rights away.
David might have been close to the English, but he wasn't by any means a soft touch. He fought hard to have the Scottish church freed from the control of the archdiocese of York and eventually succeeded, persuading the Pope that it should go its own way.
He also founded a diocese in Glasgow and built the first cathedral there. However, this meant that the bishops of Glasgow and St Andrews ended up struggling for supremacy of the Scottish church. The Pope decided to overcome this not by appointing one over the other as archbishop, but by making the Scottish bishops directly accountable to him.
It was during this period that Scotland finally started to pull together as a single, coherent nation. Galloway - at the time a remote area populated by wild tribes - was slowly assimilated into the rest of the country, although it was a slow and tough process getting the fiercely independent population of the region to fall in line.
Galloway folk had a tetchy relationship with the Scottish kings and regularly crossed the border to fight the English - in 1137, they fought a battle as far south as Clitheroe in present day Lancashire. In the 1180s, Galloway actually volunteered to become a part of England - though they proved so troublesome that after five years, the English threw them out again.
The other ancient and largely independent Scottish kingdom, Moray, was absorbed into the rest of Scotland after its own ruler, Angus, fought a battle in protest at David's feudal system at Strathcathro near Brechin in 1130. He lost, though David was compelled to get his English friends to help him put the rebellion down and to secure his new territory.
Interestingly, it was during David's rule that the ancestors of Scotland's two greatest ever patriots, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, arrived in Scotland - one from England and the other from Wales!
The King gave lands in Annandale to his friend Robert Bruce, the grandfather of the great Scots hero, who came up from his native Yorkshire to take them. David also gave Walter Fitz-Alan of Shropshire a chunk of present day Renfrewshire known as Strathgryffe and made him High Steward of Scotland - the forerunner of the Stewart kings.
Fitz-Alan brought a close colleague with him, Roger De Wallais (Roger of Wales) with him when he came north to take the title. De Wallais was the forerunner of the great Scottish hero William Wallace, believed to have been born in Elderslie in 1270.
Scottish kings and nobles were quite happy to cosy up to the English because the notions of Scottishness and Englishness weren't as clear cut as they are today. The aristocrats of the time would have felt more affinity with each other - Scottish or English - than with the common people, and many of them would have owned land on both sides of the border and travelled freely between their estates.
The English even provided the medieval equivalent of comfort stops on the journey to Scotland to make sure that travelling Scottish rulers and their courts didn't tire too much on the way.
Alec Woolf explains: "There were a series of small manor houses all the way up the Great North Road. It was as if they all had their own private Little Chefs. When they journeyed up and down, they'd spend time on these small estates."
The fact that Scotland and England got on well together during this period didn't stop the occasional military skirmish between the two countries. Both sides felt that if they had a grievance to air, the best way to do it was to march into each other's territory and commit a spot of wholesale slaughter.
"You have to remember that this wasn't total warfare between the two countries", says Woolf. "These incursions were just a way of making a point. It was a bit like the modern day equivalent of sending a gunboat to stand off someone else's coast. They seemed to be able to make friends together afterwards.
"They were also trying to sort out the question of the exact border between the two countries at this time, but they could never agree. Knights from both countries would meet at some disputed point to try and work things out. All that would happen is that they'd shout at each other a bit, realise they were getting nowhere, get drunk together and then go home."
David I's English background meant he spent a considerable amount of time down south and, by and large, he got away with it because he was a tough character whose friendship with the English didn't compromise Scotland's interests.
However, problems arose when David died and his grandson, Malcolm IV, succeeded him. In 1157 Henry II of England took back Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland - ceded by treaty to David. Malcolm did nothing about it and even went to fight for Henry in France in 1158 - an act taken by the Scots nobles as a sign of weakness and subordination.
Things became worse when William I - "the lion" - took the Scottish throne in 1165. He was forced by the Treaty of Falaise in 1174 to accept Henry II's overlordship of Scotland. The nobles were furious, but luckily the deal didn't last long.
William was able to get out of it in 1189 when Henry's successor in England, Richard the Lionheart, desperately needed to raise cash fast in order to go off and fight a crusade. He did a deal and sold Scotland back to the Scots for the then hefty sum of 10,000 marks - the currency of the time.
The nobles were almost certainly furious at having to spend cash in this way because of William's foolhardiness in giving it away to start with. But it was probably the best money Scotland has ever spent, because it pulled us from the grip of England and secured our future as an independent nation.
At least, until the bloody rule of Edward Longshanks and the heroic campaign by William Wallace to keep the country out of his grip?..
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