Scotland from the Earliest Times to 1603

By William Croft Dickinson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
Feudal Scotland -- I

DAVID I, the youngest son of Malcolm III and Margaret, succeeded to the Scottish throne in 1124 when he was about forty-four years old. Much of his youth had been spent at the English court, and in 1113 he had married Matilda, the widow of Simon de Senlis, through whom he held the earldom of Northampton and the honour of Huntingdon.1 Thus he had seen much of the central government of England under Henry I, and he had had experience of local government on his wife's vast estates. This new king at once strove to 'improve' his kingdom by establishing and developing the Anglo-Norman institutions and the Anglo-Norman system of central and local government which he had learned in England and had come to admire.

Before long, Normans whom he had brought with him to Scotland (many of them from his Northamptonshire estates), or whom he subsequently invited to come north, were holding most of the important offices in church and state. To them, and to other Normans, the king gave large extents of Scottish lands, for, under the Anglo- Norman organisation of society (and therewith, also, the system of government), rights and duties, jurisdiction and administration, military service and agricultural organisation all rested, not upon a personal relationship, but upon a territorial one, a relationship between 'lord' of the land and the 'tenant' who 'held of him'.

The new unit of society was now a unit of land. With a grant of land there went authority over every aspect of the lives of those living on the land. So, gradually, many men in the south, in the midland valley and in the eastern coastal plain found themselves bound to serve new lords to whom their relationship was solely that of the 'tenure' of land. Indeed, under David I and his immediate successors, something very like a peaceful 'Norman conquest' of Scotland took place.2 A French-speaking aristocracy was established which administered a new, precise and orderly rule, and the greater part of Scotland was gradually

____________________
1
See supra, p. 77, n. 1.
2
Under David I we find feudal tenures mainly in the south; but in the reigns of Malcolm IV and William there appears to have been an intensive feudalisation of ' Scotland', north of the Forth and Clyde.

-83-

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