King David I ruler of Scotland from 1124 to 1153 founded Kelso Abbey. But who was David? And why did he found an Abbey here?
David I was the youngest of the six sons of King Malcolm III [Malcolm Canmore] and his deeply religious queen, St Margaret.
Margaret was an English princess who had taken refuge in Scotland after the Norman invasion of 1066. It must have seemed
unlikely that David would ever become King of Scotland, especially after his father’s death in battle in 1094. St Margaret died just
weeks after her husband, and Scotland was thrown into a power struggle between Malcolm III’s brother Donald Bane, Malcolm’s
son by an earlier marriage, and the elder surviving sons of Malcolm and Margaret. The younger members of the family fled to
England; David was only eight or nine years old at the time. At the Anglo-Norman court of William II and Henry I David grew to
manhood. His sister Matilda married King Henry I and David as “brother of the Queen of the English” became a leading member of
Henry’s court. David married the heiress Maud, daughter of Earl Waltheof of Northumbria, and became the Earl of Northampton
and Lord of the lands of Huntingdon - one of the greatest barons in England.
Meanwhile in Scotland, Edgar the fourth son of Malcolm and Margaret, overthrew King Donald Bane in 1097 with help from England and became King in his place. However, he died unmarried in 1107 and was succeeded by his brother Alexander. It was about this time that David returned to Scotland, becoming ruler of Southern Scotland for his older brother, with the title of Earl. As well as Tweeddale and Teviotdale, his rule extended to the south west and he is also referred to as Prince of Cumbria. In 1124 King Alexander also died leaving no legitimate heir and so David became King of Scotland. He had a long and successful reign, and before his death in 1153 he had played a major part in shaping the medieval kingdom of Scotland.
In 1113, while he was still Earl, David invited a group of monks from Tiron in France to Scotland and settled them at Selkirk. At this time there was a major religious revival taking place in Europe, marked by the reforming of monastic life and the creation of new monastic orders. One of those was founded by St. Bernard de Abbeville, who had broken away from his monastery to become a hermit. He was soon joined by others of a like mind and by the time of his death in 1116, his settlement at Tiron had been organised as a new monastic group committed to austerity and hard work. David had no doubt heard much about St Bernard, during his time at the court of Henry I. Henry was Duke of Normandy in France as well as King of England and David must often have traveled with him to France. Like his mother St Margaret, David was deeply interested in the reform of the church, hence his decision to bring the Tironensian monks to Scotland.
When David became King in 1124, he decided to move the monks from Selkirk to Kelso and in 1128 the new abbey was started. Why did he do this? Read more in David I and The Founding of Kelso.
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