Saint Margaret

Picture Of A Part Of A Stained Glass Window Showing Saint Margaret St. Margaret was born an Anglo-Saxon princess around the year 1045 (the actual date is uncertain) and died in Scotland on the 16th of November 1093.

She was the eldest child and daughter of Edward "Outremere" (the Exile), or "Aetheling" (the Claimant) and granddaughter of Edmund Ironside. Her mother was Agatha, a German princess and a relative of Gisela, the wife of St. Stephen of Hungary.

Her father and uncle, Edmund, had been sent to King Andrew in Hungary for their own protection while King Canute, a Dane, conquered England and took over the throne.

Margaret would most likely have been born in Hungary along with her sister, Christina, and brother, Edgar.

Her parents would have her schooled thoroughly in matters both royal and religious. Benedictine nuns had taught Margaret to be a devout Christian.

Meanwhile, in England, the Anglo-Saxons got rid of the Danes and Edward the Confessor became king in 1042, but, he had no children and in 1054 invited his nephew, Edward Aetheling, to come back to England. The family arrived back in 1057, although later that year, Margaret's father died.

Edward the Confessor died in 1066 and Margaret's brother, Edgar unsuccessfully claimed the throne, the English nobles preferred Harold of Wessex.

The rest, as they say, is history. William of Normandy (William the Conqueror) invaded England and took control causing Margaret and her family, plus a number of English nobles, to flee.

In one story, Margaret was on board a ship which was driven on to shore in Scotland during a storm. Another says she just arrived at the Scottish royal court seeking protection, or "asylum", as it would be called today.

The spot where she landed was known as St. Margaret's Hope.

Malcolm Canmore became King of Scotland (Malcolm III) in 1054 when he drove out MacBeth who had killed his father, King Duncan. If you have read Shakespeare's MacBeth, do not be fooled. Things were not as Shakespeare had written them, call it "artistic licence".

Malcolm lost his first wife, Ingibjorg (who was the widow of Thorfinn the Mighty of Norway), when she died in 1069. He was impressed by the young Princess Margaret when she came to his court. Malcolm and Margaret married in 1070 when he was nearly 40 and she was 24.

While Malcolm concentrated on things political, like invading England, much to William's annoyance, Margaret set about having schools, churches and abbeys built. She also became renowned for her charity towards the poor and taking care of pilgrims.

The reforms she instigated within the church in Scotland brought closer ties to Rome. This alienated the Celtic Church and caused the move away from Celtic spirituallity for a time. Building Benedictine monasteries and nunneries, including Restenneth Priory in the County of Angus, near to the town of Forfar, reinforced this.

The Canmores often held court at what is now known as Canmore Castle in Forfar. All that is left visible is the tower.

She bore eight children and was supposed to be responsible for the introduction of continental fashions. Edgar, Alexander and David (later canonised a saint), followed their father on the throne of Scotland. Another son, Ethelred, was an abbot.

After 23 years of happy marriage, tragedy was to strike. Malcolm died in battle at Alnwick on the 13th of November 1093. Eldest son, Edward died near Jedburgh two days later, on the 15th of November, from his injuries.

Margaret, ill in bed at Edinburgh Castle was said to have died of a broken heart on the 16th of November in 1093 when she heard the news.

Both Margaret and Malcolm were buried at Dunfermline Abbey in Fife. The base of her shrine can still be seen at the abbey, from where her body, and that of her husband, Malcolm, was moved to the Escorial in Madrid under the care of Philip II of Spain during the Scottish Reformation. Her head had its own shrine, and was acquired by the Jesuits of Douai Abbey.

Bishop Gillies of Edinburgh applied through Pope Pius IX for their restoration to Scotland, but they could not be found.

Malcolm and Edward's death plunged Scotland into a constitutional crisis.

Following a turbulent year, a period of stability returned when Edgar, Alexander and David, in succession sat on the throne of Scotland. From around then, Scotland was to enjoy a "golden age".

Alexander married Sybilla, the daughter of King Henry I of England. Matilda (also known as Edith), daughter of Malcolm and Margaret and sister to Alexander, married King Henry I bringing royal Anglo-Saxon blood back into the English kingship and further peace for a time.

The chapel in Edinburgh Castle is named after Margaret along with numerous churches and schools.

A Gospel book that once belonged to Queen Margaret is now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University in England.

In the year 1250, Margaret was finally canonised a saint by Pope Innocent IV.

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