When David I of Scotland's brother Alexander I of Scotland died in 1124, David chose, with the backing of Henry I, to take the Kingdom of Scotland (Alba) for himself. He was forced to engage in warfare against his rival and nephew, Malcolm, Alexander I's son. Subduing the latter seems to have taken David ten years, a struggle that involved the destruction ofÓengus, Mormaer of Moray.
David's time as Prince of the Cumbrians and Earl marks the beginning of his life as a great territorial lord. His earldom probably began in 1113, when Henry I arranged David's marriage to Maud, 2nd Countess of Huntingdon (Matilda), who was the heiress to the Huntingdon–Northampton lordship. As her husband, David used the title of earl, and there was the prospect that David's children by her would inherit some of the honours borne by Matilda's father, such as the Honour of Huntingdon
After the death of his former patron Henry I, David supported the claims of Henry's daughter and his own niece, Empress Matilda, to the throne of England. In the process, he came into conflict with King Stephen and was able to expand his power in northern England, despite his defeat at the Battle of the Standard in 1138.
The term "Davidian Revolution" is used by many scholars to summarise the changes which took place in the Kingdom of Scotland during his reign. These included his foundation of burghs, implementation of the ideals of Gregorian Reform, foundation of monasteries, Normanisation of the Scottish government, and the introduction of feudalism through immigrant French and Anglo-French knights.
David was the independence-loving king trying to build a "Scoto-Northumbrian" realm by seizing the most northerly parts of the English kingdom. In this perspective, David's support for Matilda is used as a pretext for land-grabbing. David's maternal descent from the House of Wessex and his son Henry's maternal descent from the English Earls of Northumberland is thought to have further encouraged such a project, a project which came to an end only after Henry II ordered David's child successor Máel Coluim IV to hand over the most important of David's gains. It is clear that neither one of these interpretations can be taken without some weight being given to the other.
Battle of the Standard and Second Treaty of Durham
By later July, 1138, the two Scottish armies had reunited in "St Cuthbert's land", that is, in the lands controlled by the Bishop of Durham, on the far side of the river Tyne. Another English army had mustered to meet the Scots, this time led by William, Earl of Aumale. The victory at Clitheroe was probably what inspired David to risk battle. David's force, apparently 26,000 strong and several times larger than the English army, met the English on 22 August at Cowdon Moor near Northallerton, North Yorkshire.
The Battle of the Standard, as the encounter came to be called, was a defeat for the Scots. Afterwards, David and his surviving notables retired to Carlisle. Although the result was a defeat, it was not by any means decisive. David retained the bulk of his army and thus the power to go on the offensive again. The siege of Wark, for instance, which had been going on since January, continued until it was captured in November. David continued to occupy Cumberland as well as much of Northumberland
On 9 April, 1138 David and Stephen's wife Matilda of Boulogne met each other at Durham and agreed a settlement. David's son Henry was given the earldom of Northumberland and was restored to the earldom of Huntingdon and lordship of Doncaster; David himself was allowed to keep Carlisle and Cumberland. King Stephen was to retain possession of the strategically vital castles of Bamburgh and Newcastle. This effectively fulfilled all of David's war aims
The settlement with Stephen was not set to last long. The arrival in England of the Empress Matilda gave David an opportunity to renew the conflict with Stephen
This civil war, or "the Anarchy" as it was later called, enabled David to strengthen his own position in northern England. While David consolidated his hold on his own and his son's newly acquired lands, he also sought to expand his influence. The castles at Newcastle and Bamburgh were again brought under his control, and he attained dominion over all of England north-west of the river Ribble and Pennines, while holding the north-east as far south as the river Tyne, on the borders of the core territory of the bishopric of Durham. While his son brought all the senior barons of Northumberland into his entourage, David rebuilt the fortress of Carlisle. Carlisle quickly replaced Roxburgh as his favoured residence. David's acquisition of the mines at Alston on the South Tyne enabled him to begin minting the Kingdom of Scotland's first silver coinage.