The church and the highlands

Download 1.31 Mb.
Size1.31 Mb.
1   ...   42   43   44   45   46   47   48   49   ...   61

1 Skene, vol. i., p. 437.

certainly not have been taken had the Queen lived to superintend the education of her children; and its transparent folly and shortsightedness point unmistakably to the dead Queen's brother as its author, even were there no direct evidence to connect him with it. The King and Queen, we may safely assume, would have been the last to entertain such an idea. Malcolm, whose throne was ever unstable, and who must have been well aware of the widespread prejudice existing in his dominions against foreigners, especially Normans and Saxons, and everything appertaining thereto, would cer­tainly have resisted such a course—had there been any one in his dominions imprudent enough to propose it to him—as well from motives of policy as from a principle of patriotism ; whilst the saintly Queen,1 whatever her personal opinions and pre­dilections might have been, would assuredly have loyally supported her husband in his instant re­jection of so impolitic and dangerous a notion. It would have been easy for the Queen, had she desired to educate her children in the English fashion, and on Norman principles, to accomplish her object at the Scottish Court, and without exposing herself and her husband to the odium and unpopularity to which they would certainly have been subjected had they lived to send their
1 It would appear that some readers of my paper in the Spring number of this Eeview were of opinion that my reference to Turgot's Life of the Saint as a "panegyric" implied some slight to that work. Nothing, of course, was, or could be, further from my intention than seemingly so to disparage it; and in so far only as the political acts ascribed to the Saint cannot be supported by independent testimony, to that extent alone is he, or any other chronicler, to be considered as untrustworthy.

222 Norman Davie

children to England in order to be educated. The action of Edgar Atheling, therefore, in hurriedly withdrawing the sons and daughters of Malcolm and Margaret from Scottish soil, immediately after the death of the Saint, must be considered not as part of a settled policy or as done in deliberate and pious fulfilment of their parents' wishes, but as the action of a man to whom rash and precipitate conduct was habitual, and flight, this way or that, a species of chronic necessity. At all events, the political consequences which followed the dis­appearance of the children of the dead King and Queen were in the nature of a foregone conclusion. The Gaelic inhabitants of Scotland flew to arms, and having expelled the foreign dependants of the late rulers, proceeded to endorse the so-called usur­pation of Donald Ban. It is true that the late King's brother was so prompt in the assertion of his undoubted right to the throne that the breath was scarcely out of the Saint's body before he in­vaded the kingdom at the head of a numerous army, and laid siege to Edinburgh Castle, where the corpse of the late Queen yet lay unburied. But making all due allowances for the nation's dislike and distrust of that principle of succession by virtue of which it was declared that a son, who was yet a minor, should nevertheless succeed at once to his father's throne ; for the danger and difficulty of successfully opposing so well-known and deeply-rooted a dislike; and for the state of alarm and perturbation into which the partisans of the children of Malcolm and Margaret must have been thrown in conse­quence of the suddenness of the demise of the King and Queen, and their knowledge of the repug­nance with which the Gaelic inhabitants of Scotland were likely to regard so novel and revolutionary


Norman Davie

a rule of succession;1 making all due allowances for these and other no doubt weighty considera­tions, I say, it will yet appear that the best and wisest thing which Edgar Atheling, the children's guardian, could possibly have done would have been to stand his ground, and if his party was not then strong enough to prevent it, to allow "the usurpation" of Donald to spend its force, as, indeed, it subsequently soon did. The flight of the children of Malcolm and Margaret, however, paved the way for a series of misfortunes, whose disastrous and far-reaching effects are plainly apparent throughout Scottish history. In the first place, its immediate effect was seriously to impair and jeopardise the prospects of the children's succession to the throne of Scotland; for with two formidable rivals2 already in the field against them, and with the sentiments of the majority of the nation totally estranged from them in consequence of their unseasonable flight, it is obvious that, humanly speaking, nothing but the folly and weaknesses of their enemies, some unex­pected stroke of good fortune, or their own reliance upon foreign arms, could possibly have restored them. That, in the event, the last of these agencies should have actually accomplished for them what evidently Providence did not otherwise design, is no tribute to the sagacity of Edgar Atheling, but is rather an additional proof, if any were needed, of his habitual want of foresight and discretion. The flight of Edgar with his

'This feeling was general in Scotland. " Woe to the realm that has too young a king," sang Sir David Lindsay, at a much later date.

2 Donald Ban and Duncan the son of Malcolm by his first wife Ingibiorg, who subsequently reigned six months.

charges was, indeed, a political blunder of tha first magnitude. Its immediate effect was t<3 plunge the country into anarchy and bloodshed; its more serious and lasting consequence was to] entail upon Scotland a race of kings who drew] all their inspirations, and derived all their govern! ing notions and principles, from abroad. The] first of these results was bad enough, but tha second was infinitely worse, inasmuch as it waa more enduring, and may safely be said to havei changed the whole course of Scottish history] which, from the moment that David ascended] the throne, began to deteriorate, until at last iu paid the inevitable penalty of its downward tendl ency, by ceasing to exist, save occasionally and; spasmodically, and in a completely subordinate and provincial sense and capacity.

When David I. ascended the throne of Scotland it was as a feudal monarch with a pronouncedi English and Norman bias that he proposed to govern a people who were mainly Gaelic. Hil "Scottish rust" had long been rubbed off hiril by " intercourse and familiarity with us," sayl William of Malmsbury,1 who wrote with all the] vulgar freedom and insolence of a Norman. When] he came to Scotland a crowd of Norman and] English adventurers accompanied him. His chosen] standard was not some Gaelic oriflamme, but the] dragon of Saxon Wessex. It is doubtful if he] understood a word of Gaelic, Norman-French] probably being the vehicle by means of which] he communicated, if he communicated at alls with his Gaelic subjects; just as, many hundred years later, an English sovereign, incapable of conversing in the language of that country, was obliged to have recourse to Latin as a channel between himself and his ministers. It is worthy of note, and highly significant of his attitude from the first, that David's charters were addressed to " all the good men of the whole land, Norman, English and Scots," the subordinate position assigned to the last-mentioned, who comprised [the vast majority of his subjects, being highly characteristic of that small measure of regard in which he evidently held them. David, indeed, would not appear to have troubled himself to disguise or conceal his foreign inclinations. As overlord of Galloway, Earl of Northamptonshire, ^and holder of the Huntingdon honour, he had addressed his charters to omnibus atnicis suis Francis et Anglis et Scotis, and when he mounted [the throne of Scotland the same supercilious style of superscription was systematically observed. Jlis charters, as Earl, are numerously witnessed by Norman and English dependants. "In his foundation charter of Selkirk," says Skene,1 "be­sides Bishop John of Glasgow, his countess Matilda, his son Henry, his nephew William, [and three chaplains, there are eleven Norman witnesses, nine Anglic, and a solitary Gillemichel to represent the Celtic race!" "From these deeds," says the same author, " we not only learn ithe extent of David's possessions, but we also see that he had attached to himself not only his Anglic vassals but a large following of Norman barons." "The reign of David I.," he continues, " is beyond doubt the true commencement of feudal Scotland, and the term of Celtic Scotland becomes

1Hist. Begum., B. v., § 400.
iVol. i., p. 457.


no longer appropriate to it as a kingdom. Under his auspices feudalism rapidly acquired predomin­ance in the country, and its social state and institutions became formally assimilated to Nor­man forms and ideas, whilst the old Celtic element in her constitutional history gradually retired into the background."

It is surely here unnecessary to further labour the point that David I. was the first feudal King of Scotland who reigned by virtue of his feudal bodyguard. The speech of Robert de Bruce and Bernard de Balliol1 to King David on the eve of the Battle of the Standard, even if apocry­phal, throws a lurid light upon the methods which the King had employed in order to enforce his claim upon the Scottish throne. And, as Skene justly observes, "it is well worth quoting" that part of Bruce's speech which discovers the means by which David had mounted the throne and governed his people. " Against whom," says the Norman to the King, "dost thou this day take up arms and lead this countless host? Is it not against the English and Normans? 0 King, are they not those from whom thou hast always obtained profitable counsel and prompt assistance? When, I ask thee, hast thòu ever found such fidelity in the Scots that thou canst so confidently dispense with the advice of the English and the assistance of the Normans, as if Scots sufficed thee even against Scots? . . . With what forces and by what aid did thy brother

1" Names singularly associated as the emissaries of an English army to a Scottish king," says Eobertson (vol. L, p. 203). Why so? Did not the descendants of both submit their claims to the Scottish throne to the decision of an English king?

Duncan overthrow the army of Donald and recover the kingdom which the tyrant had usurped? Who restored Edgar thy brother, nay more than brother, to the kingdom? Was it not our army? Thou, too, 0 King, when thou didst demand that part of the kingdom which that same brother bequeathed to thee at his death from thy brother Alexander, was it not from dread of us that thou receivedst it without bloodshed? Recollect, last year when thou didst entreat the aid of the English in opposing Malcolm,1 the heir of a father's hate and persecution, how keenly, how promptly, wi,th what alacrity, Walter Espec and many other English nobles met thee at Carlisle; how many ships they prepared, the armaments they equipped them with, the youths they manned them with; how they struck terror into thy foes till at length they took the traitor Malcolm himself prisoner, and delivered him bound to thee. Thus the fear of us did not only bind his limbs, but still more daunted the spirit of the Scots, and suppressed their tendency to revolt by depriving it of all hope of success. Whatever hatred, therefore, whatever enmity, the Scots have to­wards us is because of thee and thine, for whom we have so often fought against them, deprived them of all hope in rebelling, and altogether subdued them to thee and to thy will." The King, we are told, was so far affected by these representations that he was on the point of giving way to them—a course which must necessarily have involved the withdrawal of his army from English soil—when William Fitz Duncan angrily
'Wymund, who impersonated a son of the Mòrmhaor of Moray. He took the name of Malcolm Mac Aodh.

interposed, and by his expostulations and entreaties so far obliged the King to play the part of a Scottish sovereign that he reluctantly led on his army to Cotton Moor, where, in spite of his Norman bodyguard, he sustained a serious check, if not a positive defeat.

^he best description of the battle is by Ailred, David's friend and panegyrist. Wynton says "the Scotties ware dis-comfyt, and mony ... in depe lowchys drownyd was". Fordun, Major and Buchanan state that whilst the Scots gained the day at Northallerton, they received a check on Cotton Moor. Boece claims a complete victory for the Scots at the Battle of the Standard—a statement which is on a par with many others indulged in by that frequently romancing historian. It was just before this battle that the historic scene in which Malise, Earl of Strathearn, figures somewhat prominently is said to have occurred. " Why trust you to these Normans ?" cried the Earl, when David was vacillating whether to go forward at the head of his real subjects, the Scots, or beat an ignominious retreat in company with his Normans. " Unpro­tected as I am, none shall be more forward in the fight," from which the historians have been at pains to conclude that Malise was little better than a painted savage, and totally unacquainted with defensive body armour, which, as a barbarian, he is picturesquely supposed to have despised. The speech which Ailred here puts into the mouth of the Earl is probably apocry­phal, and is certainly biassed. Defensive armour was known to the Gaels and used by them in battle many years before the fight on Cotton Moor (1153). See Introduction to O'Curry, p. cccclxxv. Coats of mail were worn by chiefs and chieftains in the Highlands and Isles at a very early period. As to the excesses committed by the men of Galloway before the Battle of the Standard, regrettable and grievous, no doubt, they were; but I have yet to learn that the manners of the so-called " polished Normans " were anything better, if as good. It was the custom of the Normans to burn everything they could neither eat, sell nor carry off; whilst all that they could not drink in their orgies they either spilled, or used to wash their horses' feet. " Quae vero in patresfamilias crudelia, quae in uxores et filias indecentia fecerint, reminisci pudet." "Hence the approach of the Court [note to p. 152, vol. i, Bobertson's Scotland under her Early Kings] was the signal for the wretched

The poKcy and conduct of David throughout his reign show that his governing principles, so far from being the fruit of fortuitous or unforeseen circumstances, were carefully planned, and executed with deliberation. It is evident that he came to Scotland prepared and determined to play the part of a feudal monarch, and where he appeared to spare existing political institutions, it was not sentiment, but policy, that was at the root of his seeming moderation.1

1 No doubt the seed which he sowed did not, in many cases, immedi­ately strike root, and an interesting article might

Download 1.31 Mb.

Share with your friends:
1   ...   42   43   44   45   46   47   48   49   ...   61

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page