A mural showing St. Margaret, Malcolm III, MacBeth and
Grauch(L to R).
MacBeth was one of the last of the Kings of ancient Scotland. He was Gaelic
speaking as were his predecessors. They represented the old Pictish and
Scottish Kingdom of Kenneth MacAlpin, their ancestor. It has been said that
they were 'Chief of Chief's' in the Clan system. Until the end of his reign,
MacBeth's Kingdom was not involved with English arms and influence. As
mentioned at the end of chapter three, MacBeth, had he not been defeated by
Malcolm III (with English money and arms) , Scotland almost certainly would
have remained a separate nation and gone in a totally different direction
than the way it did under the new monarch Malcolm III Canmore (big or great
head). However, it was Malcolm III who triumphed, and now Scotland would
have the "English Party" forever, deeply placed in Lowland beliefs and
politics. Scottish, mainly Lowland Scotland's, ties to England would grow
deeper and deeper with every passing generation of Lowland Scot's, and it
was from the Lowlands, that the Scots Kings would rule.
Malcolm III Canmore (big head) was the first in a succession of kings of
Scotland, who were under heavy English pressure or favor. Malcolm III took
Scotland from MacBeth with English help, and it was the beginning of a
process whereby Scottish Lords were "bought" or bribed with money and/or
gifts (titles & lands) to promote English causes in Scotland. As previously
mentioned, Malcolm III grew up in exile in England and spoke English as his
primary tongue. He also visited Normandy, made friends there, and was also
under their influence. The English looked upon Malcolm favorably, not for
his sake, but because it was established English policy to get Scots to
recognise the English as their Overlords by influencing the Kings of
Scotland, and their counselors -- or if that failed, by force. Once Malcolm
was 'firm' on the throne, he forgot many of his "obligations" to England,
and instead made a treaty with Thorfinn the Mighty, leader of the Northern
Vikings in Scotland, in 1059. This, of course, upset English plans greatly.
Now Malcolm III had a powerful ally to the north.
Malcom was not a wise or consistent leader though, and the treaty dissolved
in time. Instead, he married Margaret, an English Princess who had taken
refuge in Scotland along with her brother Edgar the Aetheling, after the
Norman conquest of England begun in 1066. Most of all Anglo-Saxon (English)
Nobility fled to the Lowlands of Scotland as safe haven from the Norman
invaders. This is the beginning of the separation of Lowland Scotland and
the Highlands and the Isles of Scotland. But, I'm getting ahead of
The Norman Invasion and its Effect on Scotland
The Norman invasion of England was almost as important for Scotland as it
was for England. Henceforth, England and her rulers (now Normans) were in
one way or another to play an even greater part in Scottish affairs.
Saxons, Angles from England, sought safe haven from the Normans in Lowland
Scotland. Lowland Scotland, already a mix of Scots, Britons, what was left
of Pictish culture, and now Anglo-Saxons collectively went on to be known as
Scots, but never again the same as the Highland and Isles Scots. The Lowland
and Highland gap, already there, was getting wider with every generation.
English and Norman influences were to make themselves increasingly felt in
Under Malcolm III 'big or great head', and his successors, the foundations
of feudalism were laid, at any rate, in southern Scotland. Malcolm's English
wife Margaret, a saintly and very determined young woman, set herself to
introduce to her husband's court English fashions and customs. She took the
Scottish clergy in hand, much to their dismay, sought to impose the
religious practises prevalent in England, (Anglo-Saxon England), celibacy,
poverty, and so on. Scot's clergy prior to this had been allowed to marry.
Due directly to Margaret Canmore's influences , Scottish court life assumed
a decidely English tinge, while in the church a system of regular diocesan
episcopacy gradually took shape. Malcolm, being educated and raised since
the age of nine in England, was inclined to share his wife's views and
during his reign shifted the cultural center of his Kingdom southwards into
what had been Anglo-Saxon territory (Lothian area) , only recently
absorbed as a Scottish region, thereby seriously offending the Celtic north
Malcolm III, eyeing selfishly his southern neighbours lands in north
England, conducted a series of border raids into Northumberland and
Cumberland. This, of course, provoked a retaliatory response on the part of
the Normans, led by William the Conqueror himself in 1071. William I invaded
Scotland and forced the foolish Malcolm to pay homage to him. This did quell
Malcolm's raids on England........for a while. In 1093 an attack on
Northumberland (again) , by Malcolm, was repulsed and Malcolm III was killed
by one of his Norman friends named Morel. Queen Margaret, for her part, died
three days later, piously uttering a prayer of thanks that "...such sadness
should have been sent, to purify my final moments." She was in due course
Over the next three decades, Scotland was in turmiol, ruled over by a
succession of weak, insecure kings. During this pitiful succession of
inadequate kings, the Normans found themselves more and more easy Overlords
of any and all Scots Kings. Normans began to take lands in Lowland Scotland
much as they did in Ireland.
Another weak king took over after the death of King Donald Ban or Bane. This
new king was named Alexander, son of Malcolm III and Margaret. His sister
married the English King, Henry the first, while Alexander I had himself
married to Henry I's daughter, Sibylla. Finally, after an uneventful reign,
Alexander I died and in 1124 his brother David became King of Scots and had
an eventful 30 year reign. David I had received a Norman education and grew
to love Normans and Anglo-Norman culture. He may have thought they were his
friends, but a quote from Anglo-Norman noble William of Malmesbury, reveals
much; "His manners were polished from the rust of Scottish barbarity".
On David I's return to Scotland as king he proceeded to distribute large
estates there amongst his Anglo-Norman friends, such as the de Brus (the
Bruce family), Walter Fitz-Alan, a Breton who became his high Steward (the
ancestor of the Stewart Clan), de Bailleul (the Balliol family), de Comines
(the Comyn family) and many others who thus became landholders on both sides
of the border.
David I also introduced into the Lowlands a fuedal system of ownership,
founded on a new, French speaking Anglo-Norman aristocracy. Although they
intermarried and eventually merged with the old and rapidly disappearing,
Celtic aristocracy, these new Scots remained for a time partially Gaelic,
save for the south and east of Scotland which now spoke a primitive form of
English, (Lothian English) .
Meanwhile, in the Highlands of Scotland, a different more patriarchal system
prevailed (based on the ancient clan system), and the King of Scots writ
counted for very little, while in the Isles of western Scotland and parts of
the west mainland, whose Norse-Scot clans, paid no attention to the King of
Scotland, if anyone it was to the king of Norway.
A Brief Summary of David I's Reign
When David I came to the throne in 1124, Scotland had been a rather
primitive country, with only small towns and little industry. Also,
depending on where you were in the Lowlands in 1124 , you could have to
speak Latin, French, English or a number of Gaelic dialects just in the
south of Scotland. The Scottish church with only three Bishops, had little
influence. When David I died in 1153 much had changed. In many areas of the
Lowlands, what remained of the old Celtic way of life had been swept away
and a new Anglo-Norman order of things were established in it's place.
While David did little to help the old Celtic ways, he modernized a backward
Scotland -- and Scots benefitted from David I's administrative work.
Especially future kings of Scotland.