Christian Days and Knights: The Religious Devotions and Court of David II of Scotland, 1329-71

Christian Days and Knights: The Religious Devotions and Court of David II of Scotland, 1329-71

By Michael Penman

Historical Research, Volume 75, Issue 189 (2002)

Abstract: This article surveys the development of the religious devotions and court life of David II of Scotland (1329- 71). Using contemporary government and chronicle sources it discusses David’s favour to a wide range of chivalric and pious causes, many with special personal resonance for the second Bruce king. This patronage attracted widespread support for his kingship after 1357. However, such interests also had political motivation for David, namely his agenda of securing a peace deal with Edward III of England and overawing his Scottish magnate opponents. His political circumstances meant that his legacy of chivalric and religious patronage were obscured after his early death.

Edward III (1327-77) was celebrated by late medieval writers as a king in the biblical style: as an exemplar of Christian virtue, a warrior and generous patron of the church, founder of several royal chapels and of the knights’ Order of St George. Similarly, Philip VI of France (1328-50) received praise for the time and energy he dedicated to attempting to organise a Pan-European crusade to recover the Holy Land, attracting hundreds of European knights, Counts, Princes and lesser kings to his realm in the 1330s. Meanwhile, Robert I of Scotland (1306-29) was lamented by his subjects after death as a ruler ‘as gentle as [St] Andrew…[with] the strength of Samson…the steadfast faith of Simon…’, as well as ‘like Hector in warfare…the rose of chivalry’ and a man who longed to make pilgrimage to the Holy Land as his grandfather had done; he could only do so posthumously.

In the illustrious company of such confident, almost fatherly, kings, it is perhaps little wonder that chroniclers of the period include, in their epitaphs for David II of Scotland (1329-71), only a few remarks upon the second Bruce king’s personal and public piety or his ecclesiastical and chivalric patronage. Yet relative to his resources, David’s favour to the Scottish church and to Christian works in general was arguably as extensive as that of his aforementioned royal peers and predecessors, men who besides had a profound influence upon David’s nonetheless very individual court style.

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