FROM DOT TO DOMESDAY
The main section of the ‘CHRONICLE OF MELROSE’, which survives in British Library MS Cotton Faustina B ix, begins in 731 (picking-up where Bede left off), and comes to an abrupt, mid sentence, end during an entry dated 1270. In fact, it had long been thought that this section was the full extent of the ‘Chronicle’, but in 2002 another part, including entries covering the years from 1 to 249, was discovered in British Library MS Cotton Julius B xiii.
Melrose Abbey was founded by Cistercian monks from Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire, at the behest of King David I of Scotland, in 1136.* The ‘Chronicle of Melrose’ was originally compiled there – mainly from English sources, and concluding with the murder of Thomas Becket at the end of 1170 – in 1173/4. Subsequently, until c.1290, it was intermittently updated and modified – more than 40 of Melrose's scribes making additional contributions to the compilation.* In the 1240s or 50s, one of those scribes copied a source known as the ‘VERSE CHRONICLE’ – a list of Scottish kings accompanied by chronicle notes, starting with Kenneth MacAlpin, rendered in Latin elegiac couplets – into margins and spaces at appropriate places in the existing chronicle. In terms of manuscript date, it is the earliest surviving Scottish king-list.
For details, see Dauvit Broun's article ‘Creating and Maintaining a Year-by-Year Chronicle: The Evidence of the Chronicle of Melrose’, published in ‘The Medieval Chronicle VI’ (2009).
There was a monastery at Melrose by the mid-7th century – Cuthbert, the Northumbrian bishop and saint, began his religious career there in 651. This establishment was evidently abandoned sometime between the mid-9th century – it is said to have been attacked by Kenneth MacAlpin (d.858) – and the mid-11th century – it was deserted by 1074, at which time Benedictine monks made an unsuccessful attempt to revive it. The Cistercians built their new abbey a couple of miles west of the earlier monastery.