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HOME   -   PEOPLE IN HISTORY A-Z   -   MARGARET OF SCOTLAND

 
   


Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

 

Margaret of Scotland 1045-1093

Photo Above

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Historic Scotland

 

Margaretís father was English, her mother German. Yet, Margaret became one of the most famous women, a Saint even, in the history of the Scots who ultimately honored her with a burial place at Edinburgh Castle.

How can you become this prominent in a foreign country?

Let's learn from Margaret.

 

It all started in the year 1045. Europe was still quiet as the gunpowder hadnít been brought there yet. Ireland was busy inventing handball, southern France checkers, and the Italians carelessly started their building project in Pisa without inspecting the foundation first.

Margaret was born a princess. One day her brother would succeed Margaretís father to the crown of England. The only problem was that her father wasnít king. The whole family lived in exile.

What had gone wrong?

 

Some decades before Margaretís birth, the Danish decided it was their turn to rule England and overrun the country. Margaretís grandfather and great-grandfather bravely opposed these strong invaders but eventually had to submit to their rule.

As the local heir apparent, Margaretís father was sent from the country and found exile, and later a wife, in Hungary. Thus Margaret was born, brought up and educated at the Hungarian court.

 

Margaret was 12 years old when the family thought it safe enough to return back home. In 1057, they arrived back in England.

Things didnít develop much in Margaretís favor, however. Her father died soon after their return and her brother was simply passed over in the matter of throne inheritance.

There wasnít much time to think about all this though, as yet another horde of foreigners already stood ready to become lords over England. This time it was
 William the Conqueror and his fellow Normans. Margaret, now in her twenties, fled for protection to Scotland where Malcolm III Canmore was king.

 

Just like her father, Margaret found her spouse in the land of their refuge. King Malcolm proposed to her and in 1070 the couple got married in Dunfermline, 16 miles northwest of Edinburgh.

Margaretís husband Malcolm, a widower, knew about the heartache of having to live in exile. He himself had to flee Scotland when he was only 9 years of age and had to live in exile in England. The turning point for Malcolm came at age 26. He found an opportunity to kill Macbeth, the murderer of his father and current occupier of the throne. Malcolm came back home to Scotland and continued the reign of the nation just like his father Duncan did.

Supported by a husband who understood her lot, Margaret rolled up her sleeves. Her activities over the next two decades would inspire the religious, social, and political world of Scotland.

 

As a woman of class, Margaret brought a certain refinement to the rather rough and rustic Scottish court. She increased the number of the kingís attendants and had some suggestions with regards to their way of dressing. She also made a point of maintaining a certain style at the kingís table. Fashion and manners mattered now and Scotland made big eyes.

More importantly, Margaret cared about the poor and the pilgrims. Margaret fed little orphan children, invited Benedictine monks to Scotland, and founded churches, abbeys, hospitals and schools.

Under her leadership and with her husbandís backing, church councils were held and the country was steered from their former Celtic way of worship towards the Roman Catholic way of exercising faith.

In only 23 years Margaret managed to re-shape the religion of the entire Scottish nation.

 

Margaret was the mother of Edward, Edmund, Edgar, Ethelred, Alexander, David, Matilda and Mary Ė eight children who became kings of Scotland and Queens of England.

 

In November 1093 Margaretís husband Malcolm and her eldest son Edward engaged in a battle with the Normans, who were then ruling over England. Both men were slain near Alnwick, Northumberland. Prince Edward was only 22 years old. Margaret died only three days later at Edinburgh Castle, 47 years of age. Her physical condition was already weakened by excessive abstinence and this bad news delivered the final blow.

The royal couple was buried at Dunfermline, the very place where they were wed.

 

As it often happens with true celebrities, real fame materialized after death. How did it work in Margaretís case?

Thanks to Margaretís daughter Mary we are able to know quite a bit about Margaretís life today. Mary asked a gentleman named Turgot to write her motherís biography. Turgot did a good job.

In 1250 the pope thought Margaret worthy of being canonized. Hence she became known as Saint Margaret. Because of this event, Margaretís buried bones were suddenly in high demand. Even Mary Queen of Scots was said to have been in possession of Margaretís head.

The tiny chapel in which Margaret worshiped when residing at Edinburgh Castle is the oldest building in the castle and attracts many visitors each year.


St Margaret's Chapel, Edinburgh Castle
St Margaret's Chapel, Edinburgh Castle
 

You're welcome to visit Edinburg Castle today. You might even see a traditional Scottish wedding with bagpipes and kilts.

 

 

 

 

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