Gateway to the Classics: Scotland's Story by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Scotland's Story by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall

David I., The Sore Saint—The Battle of the Standard

Like Edgar, Alexander i. had no children, so he was succeeded by another brother, David, the youngest son of Malcolm Canmore.

While Alexander was King, David had lived much in England with his sister Matilda, who had married Henry i. , the King of England. There he had married a rich and beautiful English lady, who, like his sister the Queen, was called Matilda.

This lady Matilda had a great deal of land and money both in Huntingdon and in Northumberland, so David was an English lord as well as King of Scotland, and was called the Earl of Huntingdon.

For some years after David came to the throne, he continued to live in England, leaving the affairs of his kingdom to the Constable of Scotland.

Having lived so long in England, David had many friends, both Norman and English, and although after the death of Malcolm Canmore the English had been driven out of Scotland, now both English and Norman knights came again and settled there. David gave these friends lands, so many had possessions in both countries.

About this time the King of England, who was called Henry i. , had a great grief. His son William, of whom he was very fond, was drowned crossing from Normandy. Henry had no other son, so he made all the nobles swear that when he was dead they would accept his daughter Matilda as Queen.

This is a third Matilda. There was Matilda, Queen of England; Matilda, her daughter, Princess of England; Matilda, Queen of Scotland, and there was yet a fourth Matilda, the wife of Stephen, who was afterwards King of England.

All the great nobles of England promised what King Henry asked, and King David of Scotland was the first to take the oath. He took the oath, not as King of Scotland, but as Earl of Huntingdon. For although within his own land of Scotland he could do as he liked, as Earl of Huntingdon he was bound to obey the King of England, just as on his part the King of England, as Duke of Normandy, was bound to obey the King of France.

But no sooner was Henry dead than the English lords forgot their promise, and instead of putting Matilda upon the throne, they chose Stephen, Henry's nephew, to be King.

But David was true to his promise, and he marched into England to fight for his niece Matilda. His wild troops ravaged and plundered in a fearful manner, the knighthood of England rose against them, and in 1138 a.d. a great battle was fought.

Stephen's army was small, but it was made up of English and Norman knights and soldiers, clad in steel, fully armed, and perfectly drilled.

The Scottish army was large, but many of the soldiers were half savage men from the far north, some were wild men of Galloway, only a few were well-drilled and well-armed like the Normans.

These last David wished to place in the centre, in the place of honour, where the fighting would be fiercest, for he knew that they could best resist the Norman knights.

But when the men of Galloway heard what the King meant to do, they were very angry, and demanded that they should be placed in the centre of the army. "Why do you put such trust in iron and steel?" cried one; "I wear no armour, but I dare swear I will go as far to-morrow with my bare breast as any clad in steel."

"You boast," sneered a Norman knight, "of what you dare not do."

"My arm shall prove my boast," came the fierce reply.

And so the quarrel grew until King David was forced to yield, and give the place of honour to the brave, but wild and untrained, men of Galloway.

But some of the Norman knights who were now on Stephen's side, had been David's friends and vassals. They had possessions both in England and in Scotland, and they did not wish to fight. So now, as a last hope, two Norman barons rode out from the English lines and went to beg David to make peace. These two knights were Robert de Bruce and Bernard de Baliol. These are names you must remember, for the descendants of these men had much to do with Scottish history in after times. It is interesting too, to remember that they were Norman.

Robert de Bruce was an old man and he was specially anxious to avoid a battle. "You are to blame," he said to David, "for all the wicked things your soldiers do. You have said that you are sorry for them. Prove that you really mean what you say, and take your wild soldiers back to your own land. It will be better for you, for although we are not many we are very resolute. Do not drive brave men to despair. My dearest master," he cried, at last bursting into tears, "you have been my friend and companion. I have been young with you and grown old in your service. It wrings my heart to think that you may be defeated, and that in an unjust war."

Tears came into King David's eyes as he listened to the words of his old friend, and he was ready to yield to his entreaties and turn back. But one of the fierce Galloway men who stood by exclaimed angrily, "Bruce, you are a false traitor. You have broken your oath to your King. Do not listen to him," he added, turning to David.

More bitter words passed, and Bruce, furious at being called a traitor, left the Scottish camp, swearing that he would never again be subject to the King of Scotland.

Nothing now could stop the fight.

The English were drawn up in close ranks round their standard. This standard was a ship's mast set upon a wagon. At the top of the mast was a large cross, and under the cross a silver box, containing holy relics. Round it were hung four splendid embroidered banners of four great saints.

A gallant old priest, too old to fight (for in those days priests often fought), blessed the standard and encouraged the soldiers with brave words, telling them that this was a holy war, and that God would reward everlastingly those who died in it.

Then the English lords grasped each other by the hand, and swore to fight for their holy standard, or die. "I swear that on this day I will overcome the Scots, or perish," cried one old knight.

"So swear we all," cried the others, and the air rang with their shouts.

The knights then resolved to fight on foot, and they dismounted and sent their horses away, so that none might be tempted to fly, but must conquer or die where they stood.

The Scots now rushed forward, and the sound of their war cry was like the roar of thunder. "Scotland! Scotland! Scotland for ever!" they shouted.

So fierce was their onslaught that for a moment the steel-clad English warriors seemed to waver. But it was only for a moment. Again and again the Scots threw themselves upon the enemy. But it was like the breaking of waves upon a rocky shore. The ranks of Normans and English stood firm.

Then Prince Henry, King David's young and daring son, galloped forward with his horsemen. Fiercely and swiftly they came dashing onward. Through the English ranks they charged, breaking them as if they had been cobwebs, scattering knights and soldiers, and chasing them for several miles from the field.

It seemed as if the victory was won. But suddenly an English soldier held up a head upon the point of his spear, crying, "Behold the King of Scots."

It was not really King David's head. He was not killed nor even wounded. But seized with sudden fear, the Scots broke and fled.

It was in vain that King David, taking off his helmet, rode up and down among them bare headed, to show that he was yet alive. All was panic and confusion. The day was lost.

And so, when Prince Henry returned from chasing the English he found the Scots flying from the field. "We have done what men may," he said to his men. We have conquered as much as we could. Now we must save ourselves if we can."

Then his men, throwing away their banners that they might not be known, mixed with the English soldiers and so passed through their ranks. At last, after three days, having had many adventures and escapes, they reached the Scottish camp. Great was King David's joy when his son returned, for he had begun to sorrow for him as lost.

Although the Scots had been defeated in the Battle of the Standard, as it was called from the famous English standard, they did not leave England. It was not until some months later that peace was made, and then the terms which the Scots made were so good that they seem to have lost little by this battle. But the cause of Matilda, Queen of England, appeared to be hopeless for the time at least, and although David helped her again, he was never able to win her kingdom for her.

King David was not always fighting. He did much besides, and was a good and wise King. The chief thing for which he is remembered is that he built many churches and monasteries. Indeed he spent so much money in this way, that a King who reigned long after him said that David was a "sore saint for the crown." By that, this King meant to say that David had spent so much money on churches that he made the country poor. And the kings who came after him were obliged to tax the people heavily in order to get money to pay for necessary things.

But we must remember that in those far-off days the monasteries were the only schools and hospitals, and the monks and nuns the only teachers, doctors, and nurses. So in building monasteries King David also built schools and hospitals.

King David was a just man, and he protected the poor and helpless. He never lost his temper. He was always kind and gentle. The poor knew that he would always listen to their sorrows and complaints, and deal justly with them. So they did not fear to go to the King whenever they were in distress.

It is told of him how one day he was going to hunt. His foot was already in the stirrup, when a poor man came to him with a tale of sorrow and injustice.

The King immediately sent away his horse, and returning to his palace, listened to what the poor man had to say and saw that justice was done to him.

But, although David was so kind to the poor and talked to them as if he were one of themselves, he ruled his lords and knights very sternly, and made them treat him with all the reverence and respect due to a King.

At length a great sorrow fell upon this wise and good King. He too, like Henry i. of England, lost his only son. Prince Henry, young, handsome, and brave, became ill and died, and there was great mourning and wailing in all Scotland, for he had been much loved.

King David was growing old, and he knew that he could not live much longer. So calling to him Duncan, Earl of Fife, he bade him take Prince Malcolm, Henry's eldest son, and travel with him through the land, showing him to the people as their future King.

Prince Malcolm was little more than ten years old, but for the love they had to his father the people welcomed him, and swore to be true to him as their King.

Soon after this, one day King David's servants found him kneeling as if in prayer. His head was bent, and his hands clasped upon his breast. He was dead.

King David died in 1153 a.d. , having reigned twenty-nine years. He was succeeded by his grandson Malcolm, who was only eleven years old. Malcolm was allowed to take possession of the crown quietly. But in those far-off times there was nearly always rebellion when a child came to the throne. So very soon a rebellion, headed by a powerful chief called Somerled, broke out. For three years there was war, but at last the rebels were subdued.

As King Malcolm was so young, some one must at first have ruled for him. But strange to say, we do not know who this was. Malcolm reigned for twelve years, but very little of importance to Scotland's Story happened during that time.

King David had possessed a great deal of land in England. The King who was now on the throne of England was very fond of power. He did not like to think that so much of his land was in the hands of the Scottish King, especially as that King was only a boy. So he sent to Scotland and asked Malcolm to come to England to visit him.

Malcolm went, and somehow or other Henry ii. , as this King was called, persuaded, or forced him, to give up his claim to all his English lands, except the earldom of Huntingdon. In spite of this, Malcolm seems to have been fond of King Henry. He spent much of his time with him, and even went with him to fight against the French.

This made the Scottish people very angry, for the Scots and the French had been friends for many years. It was perhaps for this reason that some of the people broke out in rebellion again.

Malcolm died in 1165 a.d. He was only twenty-four years old when he died, and he was called "The Maiden," because he had a beautiful face, and looked more like a girl than a man.

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