Southern Anthology

Families on the Frontiers of the Old South

St. Margaret of England, Queen of Scotland

St. Margaret of England, Queen of Scotland[1, 2]

Female Abt 1046 - 1093  (~ 47 years)

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  • Name Margaret of England 
    Title St. 
    Suffix Queen of Scotland 
    Born Abt 1046  Hungary Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    Died 16 Nov 1093  Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Edinburgh Castle
    Edinburgh Castle
    Canonized 1250 
    By Innocent IV. 
    Buried Dunfermline Abbey, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    St. Margaret of Scotland
    St. Margaret of Scotland
    • MARGARET, St. (d. 1093), queen of Scotland, was daughter of Edward the Exile, son of Edmund Ironside [q. v.], by Agatha, usually described as a kinswoman of Gisela, the sister of Henry II the Emperor, and wife of St. Stephen of Hungary. Her father and his brother Edmund, when yet infants, are said to have been sent by Canute to Sweden or to Russia, and afterwards to have passed to Hungary before 1038, when Stephen died. No trace of the exiles has, however, been found in the histories of Hungary examined by Mr. Freeman or by the present writer, who made inquiries on the subject at Buda-Pesth. Still, the constant tradition in England and Scotland is too strong to be set aside, and possibly deserves confirmation from the Hungarian descent claimed by certain Scottish families, as the Drummonds. The legend of Adrian, the missionary monk, who is said to have come from Hungary to Scotland long before Hungary was Christian, possibly may have been due to a desire to flatter the mother-country of Margaret. The birth of Margaret must be assigned to a date between 1038 and 1057, probably about 1045, but whether she accompanied her father to England in 1057 we do not know, though Lappenberg assum it as probable that she did. Her brother Edgar Atheling [q. v.], was chosen king : 1066, after the death of Harold, and made terms with William the Conqueror. But the summer of 1067, according to the 'Angle Saxon Chronicle,' 'Edgar child went out with his mother Agatha and his two sisters Margaret and Christina and Merleswegen and many good men with them and came to Scotland under the protection of King Malcolm III [q. v.], and he received them all. Then Malcolm began to yearn after Margaret to wife, but he and all his men long refused, and she herself also declined,' preferring, according to the verses inserted in the 'Chronicle,' a virgin's life. The king 'urged her brother until he answered "Yea," and indeed he durst not otherwise because they were come into his power.' The contemporary biography of Margaret supplies no dates. John of Fordun, on the alleged authority of Turgot, prior of Durham and archbishop of St. Andrews, who is doubtfully credited with the contemporary biography of Margaret, dates her marriage with Malcolm in 1070, but adds, 'Some, however, have written that it was in the year 1067.' The later date probably owes its existence to the interpolations in Simeon of Durham, which Mr. Hinde rejects. The best manuscripts of the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ' accept 1067. Most writers since Hailes, including Mr. Freeman, have assumed 1070. Mr. Skene prefers the earlier date, which has the greater probability in its favour. The marriage was celebrated at Dunfermline by Fothad, Celtic bishop of St. Andrews, not in the abbey of which parts still exist, for that was founded by Malcolm and Margaret in commemoration of it, but in some smaller church attached to the tower, of whose foundations a few traces may still be seen in the adjoining grounds of Pittencreiff.

      According to a letter preserved in the 'Scalacronica' from Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, the archbishop, in reply to Margaret's petition, sent her Friar Goldwin and two monks to instruct her in the proper conduct of the service of God. Probably soon after her marriage, at the instance of these English friars, a council was held for the reform of the Scottish church, in which Malcolm acted as interpreter between the English and Gaelic clergy. It sat for three days, and regulated the period of the Lenten fast according to the Roman use, by which it began four days before the first Sunday in Lent ; the reception of the sacrament at Easter, which had been neglected ; the ritual of the mass according to the Roman mode, the ob- servance of the Lord's day by abstaining from work, the abolition of marriage between a man and his stepmother or his brother's widow, as well as other abuses, among which may have been the neglect of giving thanks after meals, from which the grace cup received in Scotland the name of St. Margaret's blessing.

      According to a tradition handed down by Goscelin, a monk of Canterbury, she was less successful in asserting the right of a woman to enter the church at Laurencekirk, which was in this case forbidden by Celtic, as it was commonly by the custom of the Eastern church. Her biographer dilates on her own practice of the piety she inculcated : her prayers mingled with her tears, her abstinence to the injury of health, her charity to the orphans, whom she fed with her own spoon, to the poor, whose feet she washed, to the English captives she ransomed, and to the hermits who then abounded in Scotland. For the pilgrims to St. Andrews she built guest-houses on either side of the Firth of Forth at Queensferry, and provided for their free passage. She fasted for forty days before Christmas as well as during Lent, and exceeded in her devotions the requirements of the church. Her gifts of holy vessels and of the jewelled cross containing the black rood of ebony, supposed to be a fragment from the cross on which Christ died, are specially commemorated by her biographers, and her copy of the Gospels, adorned with gold and precious stones, which fell into the water, was, we are told, miraculously recovered without stain, save a few traces of damp. A book, supposed to be this very volume, has been recently recovered, and is now in the Bodleian Library. To Malcolm and Margaret the Culdees of Lochleven owed the donation of the town of Balchristie, and Margaret is said by Ordericus Vitalis to have rebuilt the monastery of Iona. She did not confine her reforms to the church, but introduced also more becoming manners into the court, and improved the domestic arts, especially the feminine accomplishments of needlework and embroidery. The conjecture of Lord Hailes that Scotland is indebted to her for the invention of tartan may be doubted. The introduction of linen would be more suitable to her character and the locality. The education of her sons was her special care [see under Malcolm III], and was repaid by their virtuous lives, especially that of David. 'No history has recorded,' says William of Malmesbury,' three kings and brothers who were of equal sanctity or savoured so much of their mother's piety. . . . Edmund was the only degenerate son of Margaret. . . . But being taken and doomed to perpetual imprisonment, he sincerely repented.' Her daughters were sent to their aunt Christina, abbess of Ramsey, and afterwards of Wilton. Of Margaret's own death her biographer gives a pathetic narrative. She was not only prepared for, but predicted it, and some months before summoned her confessor, Turgot (so named in Capgrave's 'Abridgment,' and in the original Life), and begged him to take care of her sons and daughters, and to warn them against pride and avarice, which he promised, and, bidding her farewell, returned to his own home. Shortly after she fell ill. Her last days are described in the words of a priest who attended her and more than once related the events to the biographer. For half a year she had been unable to ride, and almost confined to bed. On the fourth day before her death, when Malcolm was absent on his last English raid, she said to this priest : 'Perhaps on this very day such a calamity may befall Scotland as has not been for many ages.' Within a few days the tidings of the slaughter of Malcolm and her eldest son reached Scotland. On 16 Nov. 1093 Margaret had gone to her oratory in the castle of Edinburgh to hear mass and partake of the holy viaticum. Returning to bed in mortal weakness she sent for the black cross, received it reverently, and, repeating the fiftieth psalm, held the cross with both hands before her eyes. At this moment her son Edgar came into her room, whereupon she rallied and inquired for her husband and eldest son. Edgar, unwilling to tell the truth, replied that they were well, but, on her abjuring him by the cross and the bond of blood, told her what had happened. She then praised God, who, through affliction, had cleansed her from sin, and praying the prayer of a priest before he receives the sacrament, she died while uttering the last words. Her corpse was carried out of the castle, then besieged by Donald Bane, under the cover of a mist, and taken to Dunfermline, where she was buried opposite the high altar and the crucifix she had erected on it.

      The vicissitudes of her life continued to attend her relics. In 1250, more than a century and a half after her death, she was declared a saint by Innocent IV, and on 19 June 1259 her body was translated from the original stone coffin and placed in a shrine of pinewood set with gold and precious stones, under or near the high altar. The limestone pediment still may be seen outside the east end of the modern restored church. Bower, the continuator of Fordun, adds the miracle, that as the bearers of her corpse passed the tomb of Malcolm the burden became too heavy to carry, until a voice of a bystander, inspired by heaven, exclaimed that it was against the divine will to translate her bones without those of her husband, and they consequently carried both to the appointed shrine. Before 1567, according to Papebroch, her head was brought to Mary Stuart in Edinburgh, and on Mary's flight to England it was preserved by a Benedictine monk in the house of the laird of Dury till 1597, when it was given to the missionary Jesuits. By one of these, John Robie, it was conveyed to Antwerp, where John Malder the bishop, on 15 Sept. 1620, issued letters of authentication and license to expose it for the veneration of the faithful. In 1627 it was removed to the Scots College at Douay, where Herman, bishop of Arras, and Boudout, his successor, again attested its authenticity. On 4 March 1645 Innocent X granted a plenary indulgence to all who visited it on her festival. In 1785 the relic was still venerated at Douay, but it is believed to have perished during the French revolution. Her remains, according to George Conn, the author of 'De Duplici Statu Religionis apud Scotos,' Rome, 1628, were acquired by Philip II, king of Spain, along with those of Malcolm, who placed them in two urns in the chapel of St. Laurence in the Escurial. When Bishop Gillies, the Roman catholic bishop of Edinburgh, applied, through Pius IX, for their restoration to Scotland, they could not be found.

      Memorials, possibly more authentic than these relics, are still pointed out in Scotland : the cave in the den of Dunfermline, where she went for secret prayer ; the stone on the road to North Queensferry, where she first met Malcolm, or, according to another tradition, received the poor pilgrims ; the venerable chapel on the summit of the Castle Hill, whose architecture, the oldest of which Edinburgh can boast, allows the supposition that it may have been her oratory, or more probably that it was dedicated by one of her sons to her memory ; and the well at the foot of Arthur's Seat, hallowed by her name, probably after she had been declared a saint.

      [The Life of Queen Margaret, published in the Acta Sanctorum, ii. 320, in Capgrave's Nova Legenda Anglise, fol. 225, and in Vitae Antiques SS. Scotia?, p. 303, printed by Pinkerton and translated by Father Forbes Leith, certainly appears to be contemporary, though whether the author was Turgot, her confessor, a monk of Durham, afterwards archbishop of St. Andrews, or Theodoric, a less known monk, is not clear; and the value attached to it will vary with the religion or temperament of the critic, from what Mr. Freeman calls the 'mocking scepticism' of Mr. Burton to the implicit belief of Papebroch or Father Forbes Leiih. Fordun and Wyntoun's Chronicles, Simeon of Durham (edition by Mr. Hinde), and William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum Anglorum are the older sources ; Freeman's Norman Conquest, Skene's Celtic Scotland, Grrub, Cunningham, and Bellesheim's Histories of the Church of Scotland, and Robertson's Scotland under her Early Kings give modern versions.]
    Person ID I5017  Dickinson
    Last Modified 16 Jan 2018 

    Father Eadweard Ætheling,   b. ca. 1016,   d. 19 Apr 1057, London Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 41 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Mother Agatha --,   d. After 1067 
    Relationship Birth 
    Married ca. 1040  Kiev, Ukraine Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F1104  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Máel Coluim [Malcolm III] mac Donnchada, King of Scotland,   b. ca. 1030,   d. 13 Nov 1093, Alnwick, Northumberland, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 63 years) 
    Married 1070  Dunfermline Abbey, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    +1. Alexander I, King of Scotland,   b. ca. 1077,   d. Apr 1124, Stirling Castle, Stirling, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 47 years)
    +2. David I, King of Scotland,   b. ca. 1080, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 May 1153, Carlilse Castle, Carlilse, Cumbria Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 73 years)  [Birth]
    +3. Eadgyth-Matilda of Scotland,   b. Abt 1081, Dunfirmline, Fife, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 May 1118, Westminster Palace, Westminster, London Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 37 years)  [Birth]
    +4. Mary of Scotland,   d. ca. 1117  [Birth]
    Last Modified 14 Jun 2015 
    Family ID F1087  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 1070 - Dunfermline Abbey, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 16 Nov 1093 - Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Dunfermline Abbey, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

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

    How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of him who brings good news,
    who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
    who publishes salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

  • Sources 
    1. [S336463] Medieval Lands: A prosopography of medieval European noble and royal families, Charles Cawley, (Online: The Foundation for Medieval Genealogy at, 20XX),,%20AngloSaxon%20&%20Danish%20Kings.htm#Margaretdied1093.

    2. [S431] The Henry Project: The ancestors of king Henry II of England: An experiment in cooperative medieval genealogy on the internet, Stewart Baldwin and Todd Farmerie (editors), (Online:,, 16 Jan 2018.

    3. [S336351] Dictionary of National Biography, 63 volumes, Sir Sidney Lee, ed., (New York: McMillan and Company, 1885-1900), Public Domain., vol. 36, 132-34 (Aeneas James George Mackay).