Queen Margaret of Scotland
"Mother of kings, reformer of the church, saint"
Margaret of Scotland—beautiful, strong-willed and devout—was descended from England's early Saxon kings, progenitor of a long line of Scottish kings and an influential queen in her own right.
Her whole life was lived on the edge of conflict and amid the murky history of the years when England and Scotland were coalescing into kingdoms. Her great-uncle was King Edward the Confessor; her grandfather was King Edmund Ironside. Tradition has it that her family was exiled to Hungary, her mother's birthplace, when the Danes invaded and ruled England. They returned during the reign of Edward the Confessor, who became king of England in 1042, succeeding the Danish King Canute. After her protector King Edward died and the Normans under William the Conqueror arrived in 1066, Margaret had to flee again, this time to Scotland.
Her marriage to King Malcolm III of Scotland may have been arranged for political reasons, but it turned out to be harmonious and fruitful. She found happiness in her large family—she bore Malcolm eight children—and in her work to reform the Scottish church. Pious and practical, she founded churches, monasteries and pilgrimage hostels. She arranged for ferries over the Firth of Forth to help pilgrims reach the shrine of St. Andrew. She strengthened relations with the Church of Rome. She had secular interests as well, and brought civilized practices, acquired during her life in Eastern Europe, to the raw and not always well-mannered Scottish court. She tamed her bellicose husband somewhat, but not enough. He invaded England repeatedly, and finally along with his son Edward died during one such battle. Margaret, 47, died within a few days—some say of a broken heart.
Before Margaret met him, Malcolm had taken revenge for his father King Duncan's death by killing Macbeth, Duncan's murderer. If Shakespeare had written a sequel to Macbeth, Margaret of Scotland too might have been immortalized in literature. She would have given him a strong, queenly heroine, fit to dominate any stage.
But Margaret found her own kind of immortality. She was canonized in 1250 for her religious reforms and her charitable works. The tiny chapel that she built in Edinburgh Castle still bears her name.
Learn more about Queen Margaret:
The Kingdom of the Scots, by Edward Arnold. London, 1973.
Queen Margaret of Scotland (1070-93): Burying the Past, Enshrining the Future, by Valerie Wall. In Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe, ed. Anne Duggan, pages 27-38.
Queen Margaret of Scotland, by Jone Johnson Lewis. http://womenshistory.about.com/library/bio/biblio/list.htm
Margaret of Scotland, 1045-1093. www.pitt.edu/~eflst4/MofScotland.html