The Pearl of Scotland
The Life of Saint Margaret of Scotland
1045 – 16 November 1093
27th Great Grandmother
Margaret of Wessex was born in the year 1045 in Szabolcs-Szatmar-Bereg, Hungary. She is also known as Saint Margaret of Scotland and Queen Margaret of Scotland, she was an English princess of the House of Wessex and the granddaughter of Eadmund II Isen-Healf (old English) “Edmund Ironside King of England.”.
Golden Wyvern of Wessex
My connection to Saint Margaret of Scotland
Margaret was sometimes called “The Pearl of Scotland” She was Born in exile in Hungary and was the sister of Edgar ÆÞELING the short-ruling and uncrowned Anglo-Saxon King of England.
Margaret was the daughter of the English prince, Edward the Exile also known as Edward ÆÞELING He spent most of his life in exile following the defeat of his father by Canute the Great.
After the Danish conquest of England in 1016, Canute had Edward, said to be only a few months old, and his brother, Edmund, sent to the Swedish court of Olof Skötkonung(who was either Canute’s half-brother or stepbrother), supposedly with instructions to have the children murdered. Instead, the two boys were secretly sent to Kiev, where Olof’s daughter Ingigerd was the Queen. Later Edward made his way to Hungary, probably in the retinue of Ingigerd’s son-in-law, András in 1046, whom he supported in his successful bid for the Hungarian throne.
The provenance of Margaret’s mother, Agatha, is disputed, and what speculation has appeared is inextricably linked to the contentious issue of Agatha’s paternity, one of the unresolved questions of medieval genealogy. As the birth of her children is speculatively placed at around the year 1045, her own birth was probably before about 1030. She came to England with her husband and children in 1057, but was widowed shortly after her arrival. Following the Norman conquest of England, in 1067 she fled with her children to Scotland, finding refuge under her future son-in-law Malcolm III. While one modern source indicates that she spent her last years as a nun at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, dying before about 1093, Simeon of Durham carries what appears to be the last reference to her in 1070
Margaret was born in Hungary around 1045. Her brother Edgar the Ætheling and her sister Cristina were also born in Hungary around this time. Margaret grew up in a very religious environment in the Hungarian court. Andrew I of Hungary also known as “András” and “Andrew the Catholic” for his extreme aversion to pagans, and great loyalty to Rome, which probably could have induced Margaret to follow a pious life.
On hearing the news of Edward the Exile and family were alive, Margaret’s great uncle Edward the Confessor recalled them to England in 1056 and made him his heir. Edward offered the last chance of an undisputed succession within the Saxon royal house. News of Edward’s existence came at a time when the old Anglo-Saxon Monarchy, restored after a long period of Danish domination, was heading for catastrophe. The Confessor, personally devout but politically weak and without children, was unable to make an effective stand against the steady advance of the powerful and ambitious sons of Godwin, Earl of Wessex. From across the Channel William, Duke of Normandy, also had an eye on the succession. Edward the Exile appeared at just the right time. Approved by both king and by the Witan, the Council of the Realm, he offered a way out of the impasse, a counter both to the Godwinsons and to William, and one with a legitimacy that could not be readily challenged.
Margaret was only a child of eleven or so years when they arrived on the shores of England and sadly within two days of their arrival, her father Edward had died. The exact cause of Edward’s death remains unclear, but he had many powerful enemies, and there is a strong possibility that he was murdered, although by whom is not known with any certainty. It is known, though, that his access to the king was blocked soon after his arrival in England for some unexplained reason, at a time when the Godwinsons, in the person of Harold, were once again in the ascendant. This turn of events left the throne of England to be disputed by Earl Harold and Duke William, ultimately leading to the Norman Conquest of England.
1066 and Margaret’s Journey to Scotland
Between 1056 – 1066 Margaret, her mother and siblings lived in the court of Edward the Confessor and it must have been a very dark time The House of Wessex and the Saxon rule of England was coming to an end. Edward the Confessor died on the 5th January 1066 and although to young the last legitimate heir to the throne was Margaret’s younger brother Edgar ÆÞELING, whom although never cwowned is disputed to have being named King of England after the death of Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings on the 14th October 1066, he is said to have only reigned for 56 days, between 15 October – 10 December 1066.
When the Normans advanced on London, the Witenagemot presented Edgar to William the Conqueror who took him to Normandy before returning him to England in 1068, when Edgar, Margaret, Cristina and their mother Agatha fled north to Northumbria.
According to tradition, the widowed Agatha decided to leave Northumbria with her children and return to the continent. However, a storm drove their ship north to Scotland, where they sought the protection of King Malcolm III. The spot where they are said to have landed is known today as St. Margaret’s Hope, near the village of North Queensferry. Margaret’s arrival in Scotland in 1068, after the failed revolt of the Northumbrian earls, has been heavily romanticized, though Symeon of Durham implied that her first meeting with Malcolm III may not have been until 1070, after William the Conqueror’s harrying of the north.
Malcolm was a widower with two sons, Donald and Duncan. He would have been attracted by the prospect of marrying one of the few remaining members of the Anglo-Saxon royal family. The marriage of Malcolm and Margaret took place some time before the end of 1070. Malcolm followed it with several invasions of Northumberland, in support of the claims of his brother-in-law Edgar, as well as to increase his own power. These, however, had little result beyond the devastation of the province
Margaret and Malcolm had eight children, six sons and two daughters, I can trace my family tree back to three of their children.
- Edward, killed 1094.
- Edmund of Scotland (c.1070 – after 1097)
- Ethelred, abbot of Dunkeld
- Edgar of Scotland (c.1074 – 11 January 1107), King of Scotland from 1097 – 1107
- Alexander I of Scotland (c.1078 – 23 April 1124), King of Scotland from 1107 – 1124
- Edith of Scotland (c. 1080 – 1 May 1118), also called Matilda, married King Henry I of England
- Mary of Scotland (1082–1116), married Eustace III of Boulogne
- David I of Scotland (c.1083 – 24 May 1153), King of Scotland from 1124 – 1153
Margaret’s biographer Turgot, Bishop of St. Andrews, credits her with having a civilizing influence on her husband Malcolm by reading him stories from the Bible. She instigated religious reform, striving to make the worship and practices of the Church in Scotland conform to those of Rome. This she did with the inspiration and guidance of Lanfranc, the future Archbishop of Canterbury. She also worked to bring the Scottish Church practice in line with that of the continental church of her childhood. Due to these achievements, she was considered an exemplar of the “just ruler”, and influenced her husband and children – especially her youngest son, later David I – also to be just and a holy ruler.
She attended to charitable works, serving orphans and the poor every day before she ate, and washing the feet of the poor in imitation of Christ. She rose at midnight every night to attend church services. She invited the Benedictine order to establish a monastery at Dunfermline in Fife in 1072, and established ferries at Queensferry and North Berwick to assist pilgrims journeying from south of the Forth Estuary to St. Andrews in Fife. A cave on the banks of the Tower Burn in Dunfermline was used by her as a place of devotion and prayer. St Margaret’s Cave, now covered beneath a municipal car park, is open to the public. Amongst her other deeds, Margaret also instigated the restoration of the monastery at Iona. She is also known to have been an intercessor for the release of fellow English exiles, forced into serfdom by the conquest.
In her private life, Margaret was as devout as she was in her public duties. She spent much of her time in prayer, devotional reading, and ecclesiastical embroidery. This appears to have had a considerable effect on the more uncouth Malcolm who could not read; he so admired her devotion that he had her books decorated in gold and silver. One of these, a pocket Gospel with lavish images of the Evangelists, is kept at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
Malcolm seems to have been largely ignorant of the long-term effects of Margaret’s endeavours, not being especially religious himself. He was content for her to pursue her reforms as she wished, a testament to the strength and affection inherent in their marriage.
Her husband, Malcolm III, and their eldest son, Edward, were killed in a fight against the English at the Battle of Alnwick on 13 November 1093. Her son Edgar was left with the task of telling his mother of their deaths. Margaret was not yet fifty, but a life of constant austerity and fasting had taken their toll. Already ill, Margaret died on 16 November 1093, three days after the deaths of her husband and eldest son.
Saint Margaret was canonised in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV in recognition of her personal holiness, fidelity to the Church, work for religious reform, and charity. On 19 June 1250, after her canonisation, her remains were moved to Dunfermline Abbey.
Saint Margaret of Scotland is the Patron Saint of: against the death of children • for learning • parents of large families • queens • Scotland • widows