by James E. Fargo, FSA Scot

King David I of Scotland was born about 1080 and was Prince of Cumbria from 1113 to 1124. He was the youngest son of Malcolm Canmore and Margaret. On the death of his brother Alexander I, he was crowned at Scone.

David received backing from his brother-in-law, King Henry I of England in his fights against King Alexander’s illegitimate son and then against his own nephew to keep the throne. In 1130, David’s nephew, Mael Coluim mac Alaxandair (Malcolm son of Alexander), and King Oengus of Moray rebelled and a battle was fought at Stracathro. Oengus was killed and in 1134, Mael Coluim was captured and imprisoned. To pacify Moray, David appointed another nephew, William fitz Duncan to control the area and incorporated it within the kingdom of Scots.

After the death of King Henry in December 1135, David supported the claims of Henry’s daughter and his own niece, Empress Matilda to rule England. This led to conflict with King Stephen of England. The Battle of the Standard, fought at Cowton Moor in Yorkshire in August 1138 against King Stephen’s forces was a serious defeat for the Scots. Among those fighting for the English against the Scots were ancestors of both Robert the Bruce and John Balliol.

About 1127, King David appointed a bishop and canons to the monastery at Dunkeld and the celtic churchman were removed. Earl Madach witnessed charters by King David to the Church of Dunfermline in 1124-1127, two charters to the monks of Coldingham in 1140 and another to Melrose Abbey in 1142.

David was instrumental in the foundation of royal burghs and regional markets to promote commerce; the foundation of new monasteries; and continued the ‘Normanization’ of the Scottish government by encouraging Norman nobles from England to become the leaders of a new feudal aristocracy.

In 1152, Earl Madach, the first celtic earl of Atholl died. King David bestowed the earldom on his cousin, Malcolm, grandson of Malcolm Canmore whose father was Malcolm, the second son from Canmore’s first marriage. This second Earl Malcolm witnessed a charter by King David to the monks of Deer before 1153.

That same year, David’s only son and heir Prince Henry died. David designated the eldest of his three grandsons Malcolm to be his successor. After his death in May 1153 and burial at Dunfermline Abbey, his oldest grandson became, King Malcolm IV.

Bingham, Caroline, "Kings and Queens of Scotland", New York, 1976, pp. 21-25,150.
Cowan, Samuel, "Three Celtic Earldoms", Edinburgh, 1909, 14-15.
Robertson, James A. "The Earldom of Atholl", privately printed, 1860, pp.15-16.