Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britain: From the Picts to Alexander III

By Dauvit Broun | Go to book overview

4

The Church and the Beginning of
Scottish Independence

From the Council of Windsor and the Submission of Abernethy
(1072) to Cum universi and the Quitclaim of Canterbury (1189)

It is impossible to say whether there were many meetings between kings of England and kings of Scots prior to the submission of Mael Coluim III to William the Conqueror at Abernethy in 1072. Of course, the general shortage of sources for this period, particularly from Scotland, means that it cannot be demonstrated conclusively that a particular event or series of events did not happen, just because there is no reference to it in what survives. After 1072, however, it is known that every king of Scots before the conquest of Scotland in 1296, with the exception of Domnall Bán, met and formed some kind of relationship with the king of England. This relationship has often been seen in ‘feudal’ terms: in other words, to assume that what was at issue was whether the king of Scots was a vassal owing service in return not only for land held of the king of England, but for Scotland itself. According to this view, Mael Coluim's submission at Abernethy would have been seen by William as an act of ‘feudal subjection’.1 Likewise, it has been taken as read that the manifest subordination of Edgar and Alexander I to William Rufus and Henry I meant that they acknowledged the king of England to be their lord for Scotland.2 Indeed, a charter of Edgar, whose authenticity has recently been vindicated, could be read as showing that Edgar acknowledged that he held ‘the land of Lothian and the kingdom of Scotland’ not only by paternal inheritance but by the gift of his lord King William of England.3 Alexander I, for his part, fought in Henry I's campaign in Wales in 1114, an enterprise in which he could have had no personal interest beyond his relationship with the king of England. In contrast, it will be recalled that David I's refusal of homage to King Stephen (1135–54) has been interpreted as an assertion of Scotland's independence.4 The relationship thereafter between kings of Scots and kings of England has generally been presented as fluctuating from English feudal superiority to Scottish independence according to the relative strength

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