In the days when Britain was almost entirely Christian and went to church regularly, the commonest King David spoken of was the great hero-king of Israel in Old Testament times. In the British monarchy, there have also been two King Davids of Scotland. The patron saint of Wales, Saint David (died around 600), is named after the biblical David, and it remains a popular forename in Wales, as David, or its Welsh forms Dafydd and Dewi.There have been at least three princes of Gwynedd (in Wales) with the name Daffydd: Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd (d. 1203); Dafydd ap Llywelyn (c.1215-1246); and Dafydd ap Gruffudd (d. 1283).
King David of Israel
Historical evidence (e.g. the Tel Dan Stele, discussed in McKenzie, Steven L. King David: A Biography, OUP) suggests that a real King David ruled Israel around 1000 BCE. The Bible says that he married Michal, daughter of Saul, succeeded Saul and was succeeded by Solomon.
- David, son of Jesse and ancestor of Mary the mother of Jesus, was anointed King of Israel by the prophet Samuel, and succeeded Saul, the first king of Israel. He began as a heroic shepherd-boy who killed the giant Philistine Goliath in single combat. (This is the David of whom Michelangelo carved the famous statue in Florence, which shows a perfect type of male beauty, and Donatello made a famous bronze. The sculptor Bernini carved another representation (now in Rome), showing the shepherd crouched low ready to throw the sling-shot upward.) David's playing on the harp soothed Saul's madness; but the King was jealous of his popular warrior and son-in-law (for David had married Saul's daughter Michal). He led a varied life. He swore undying friendship with Saul's son Jonathan, instead of whom he becomes king: his lament over Saul and Jonathan, slain together at the battle of Gilboa, (2 Sam. I, 19-27) is a fine poetic expression of grief. He was outlawed by Saul, who tried to kill him: but twice he spared Saul's life. He was the Lord's anointed, but he committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, whom he ordered to the front line. After Uriah's consequent death, David married Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan preached the parable of the poor man's one ewe-lamb against David; Bathsheba's and David's first child died, as a punishment. Their second child is Solomon, the great king - and last of a united Israel in biblical times. Of his many wives (up to 18 have been claimed, including "Abishag, the Shunnamite woman"), David had many children, of whom the eldest, Tamar, having committed incest, was killed by his half-brother Absalom; and Absalom and Adonijah rebelled. David is perhaps most famous as the musician and poet credited with the Book of Psalms: he is often depicted playing a harp, and referred to as The Psalmist, although it is certain that he did not write all of the Old Testament psalms, and it cannot be conclusively proved that he wrote any. (The phrase 'of David' in the titles of some can also be translated as 'for David' or 'about David'.)
Kings of Scotland
Born c.1085; married Maud [Matilda] (d. 1131), daughter of Waltheof, earl of Northumbria as her second husband, in 1113, inheriting her land as Earl of Huntingdon; succeeded his brother, Alexander I in 1124; died 1153. Succeeded by his grandson Malcolm IV.
- David I ('The Saint', probably from his furthering the interests of the monks who wrote the chronicles), king of Scots, was the sixth and youngest son of Malcolm III. From soon after the death of Malcolm III in 1093 until his taking possession of his Scots inheritance, as Prince of Cumbria, and his wife's territory, in 1113, he was largely brought up in the Norman court of Henry II and his wife, David's sister Matilda of Scotland (baptized Edith). This is probably the source of his insistence, as king, on improving the administration of Scotland (increasing the record-keeping and making the feudal system work better) and developing the church, particularly the monasteries. He worked to improve the system of justice in the kingdom, and to maintain its independence from England.
Born 1324; married 1) Joan 'of the Tower' (1321-1362), second daughter of Edward II of England in 1328, and, after her death, 2) Margaret (née Drummond), widow of Sir John Logie (d. in or after 1374) in 1363 - divorced in 1369; succeeded his father Robert I in 1329; died 1371. David II had no children; he was succeeded by his nephew, Robert II, the first of the Stewart kings.
- David II had the misfortune to succeed to the throne at the age of 5. His father had been the great hero of Scottish Independence. From 1334, he and Queen Joan were guests of the French king Philippe VI, until he returned to take over active rule from the regent, his nephew Robert Stewart in 1341 - a move welcomed by the people. He was captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross (1346), having attacked to distract the English from their invasion of France, and remained captive until 1357, when he was ransomed. It is significant that he never accepted Edward III's claims to overlordship of Scotland. During his captivity, great nobles had taken power, and after it a huge ransom had to be paid; but David appears to have governed with an attempt at justice for all. His final misfortune was to die without an heir.