Saint Margaret

Saint Margaret of Scotland / Religious Figures

  • Name  : Saint Margaret of Scotland
  • Born  : c.146
  • Died  : c.1093
  • Category  : Religious Figures
  • Finest Moment : Founding Dunfermline Abbey

She bore three kings of Scotland, introduced English as a language to the Scottish court, founded Dunfermline Abbey, and was canonised in 1205. She was also probably born in Hungary, in Castle Reka, where her father, Edward the Exile, had been sent for protection. When Margaret was eight, the English Witan (supreme council), summoned Edward the Exile to replace Edward the Confessor as King. (While we are at this, the old custom of nicknames should be brought back; we could have a great time thinking up ones for current monarchs ' Charles the Conk anyone').

This was in 1054, and Edward the Exile died soon after arrival. His family, including Margaret's brother Edgar Atheling, remained at court. When Edward the Confessor died, the English government rejected Edgar's claim to the throne, instead electing Harold, son of Earl Godwine. Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, Edgar was advised to escape, and the family left by boat for the Continent.

Here fate played its hand and romance enters the story. A storm blew the ship off course and into the Fife harbour now called St Margaret's Hope. Here Malcolm III Canmore, King of Scotland from c.1057-1093 came to meet them. Malcolm had himself been a refugee at the English court, following the murder of his father Duncan by MacBeth (yes, the 'real' MacBeth). Malcolm had apparently met Margaret when she was a girl, but now he was meeting her as a beautiful 20-year old. He fell in love, tradition has it, and four years later a blissful marriage began.

Margaret, like many a good wife before and since, kept her husband straight; she was more cultured than Malcolm, and was well known for her acts of piety and charity. She encouraged pilgrims to visit St Andrews, for example, by giving them free access across the Forth. North and South Queensferry bear her name to this day. She helped organise the Church into geographical or diocesan areas, a progression from the churches of the Celtic era when small monastic groups existed as isolated communities known as Culdees, from Keleidei (Cele dei): friends of God; gradually these were absorbed into the new dioceses.

Malcolm and Margaret had six sons, of whom no less than three became Scottish Kings ' Edgar, Alexander I, and David I. Not to let down the ladies' side, they also had two daughters. The elder daughter, Edith, married Henry I, King of England, while the younger daughter, Mary, married Eustace, Count of Boulogne.

In 1093, at the battle of Alnwick, Northumberland, Malcolm was killed, along with their son Edward. Margaret, already dying, died of grief four days later. She is buried, appropriately enough, in Dunfermline Abbey.

 Print  Email