Essays on the Nobility of Medieval Scotland

By K. J. Stringer | Go to book overview

4
THE CHARTERS OF DAVID, EARL OF HUNTINGDON
AND LORD OF GARIOCH: A STUDY IN ANGLO-
SCOTTISH DIPLOMATIC

Keith Stringer

The present study arises out of researches on the fifth Scottish earl of Huntingdon.1 Earl David (1152–1219), a grandson of King David I and the younger brother of Kings Malcolm IV and William I, lived in an age when the two leading themes in the development of earlier medieval Scotland can be clearly perceived: the consolidation of the territorial kingdom through innovations on the Anglo-Norman model, and the largely successful struggle to secure de facto independence of the stronger English monarchy. His main importance as a Scottish baron lies in his role as a mighty landowner in remote districts where the crown was anxious to underpin and extend its authority. In 1174 he assumed charge of the earldom of Lennox and held it in the king's name until the 1180s or '90s. By 1182 he had gained imposing estates on Tayside and in mid-Aberdeenshire, where he controlled the vast compact fief of Garioch, his principal Scottish power base. He later acquired Ecclesgreig (St Cyrus) and Inverbervie in the Mearns, and — it is most probable — sizeable assets in the ancient episcopal centre of Brechin. This great lordship in eastern Scotland guaranteed Earl David's status as one of the foremost nobles of the kingdom; and just as he buttressed his local influence through administrative changes and his patronage of the Church and lay dependants, so he contributed decisively to the burgeoning strength of the crown.

But Scotland was not the whole of Earl David's world. Improvements in political exchanges between the Scottish and English kingdoms account for his acquisition in 1185 of the honour and earldom of Huntingdon, to which the Scots royal house had maintained rights or claims since the days of King David I. For more than thirty years the earl entered fully into the life of the two countries and was a weighty 'contact man' between them. He retained his positions of trust in Scotland at the centre and in the provinces; but as a prominent magnate of the English realm, he also gave general aid to the Angevin kings in England, and crossed and re-crossed the Channel on their service to Normandy, Maine and Anjou. He was a major focus for the reception of Anglo-Norman social and legal influence in Scotland; he forged 'cross-Border' property ties that in smaller ways reflected his own; and he was conspicuous in Anglo-Scottish diplomacy. He thus contributed in good measure to that peace between the governments enduring almost without interruption in his lifetime and, indeed, long thereafter, which was as vital to the rights and dignity of the Scots crown as was the firmer basis of political power upon which they had begun to rest.

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