Arguably, David I of Scotland’s invasion of England in 1138 was a legitimate attempt to keep England English, after the Kings of the House of Wessex were usurped in the Norman invasion of 1066. David certainly argued it that way, but his rabble of an army had less lofty goals in mind.
ON the death of Henry I in 1135, his daughter Matilda was pushed aside by her more popular cousin Stephen, Duke of Normandy, and Matilda’s uncle, King David of Scotland, leapt to her defence.
David and Matilda were both descended, through David’s grandfather Edward the Exile, from King Edmund ‘Ironside’ of England.* Aware of Northumbria’s particularly bitter sufferings during William the Conqueror’s ‘Harrying of the North’, David spun his campaign as a long overdue revolt against the Normans, and marched under the ancient White Dragon of Wessex.*
His scheme was frustrated, however, by shaggy Scots warriors from the Highlands and Galloway. They preferred to treat David’s campaign in Northumberland as a joyous slave hunt, skewering the new-born, the old and the sick on their spears, then roping together miserable herds of able-bodied men and women as trophies. The English Church, which had just managed to extinguish slavery in England, easily united the free people of the north, Norman and English alike, in a common defence.
* David was actually quite an English Scot. His mother was Margaret of Wessex, daughter of Edward the Exile and granddaughter of Edmund Ironside; his sister Matilda was Henry I’s wife; his late father-in-law was Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria, executed by William in 1076. One intriguing theory makes David’s grandmother Agatha, whom Edward the Exile married in Hungary, a daughter of Kievan Prince Yaroslav the Wise and his wife, Ingigerd of Sweden. See also Gytha and Vladimir.
* Wessex was the kingdom of southwest England which Alfred the Great and his successors had turned into the Kingdom of England by 927.