St. Margaret of Scotland
St. Margaret was the grandaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England through his son Edward the Aethling. She had been exiled to the eastern continent with the rest of her family when the Danes overran England. She was well educated, mostly in Hungary. She returned to England during the reign of her great-uncle, Edward the Confessor, but, as one of the last remaining members of the Saxon Royal Family, she was forced to flee north to the Royal Scots Court at the time of the Norman Conquest.
Beautiful, intelligent and devout, Margaret brought some of the more detailed points of current European manners, ceremony and culture to the Scottish Court and thus highly improved its civilized reputation. She had a taste for the finer things in life and, in 1069, she won over the Scots King, Malcolm Canmore, and married him. Their union was exceptionally happy and fruitful for both themselves and the Scottish nation.
Margaret was one of the principal agents of the reform of the Church of Scotland which was, at the time, at a low point in its history. Church councils now promoted Easter communion and abstinence from servile work on a Sunday. Margaret founded churches, monasteries and pilgrimage hostels, including the revival of Iona, the building of the tiny chapel which still bears her name at Edinburgh Castle and establishment of the Royal Mausoleum of Dunfermline Abbey with monks from Canterbury. She was especially devoted to Scottish saints and instigated the Queen's Ferry over the Forth so that pilgrims could more easily reach the Shrine of St. Andrew.
In her private life, Margaret was much given to prayer, reading and ecclesiastical needlework. She also gave alms lavishly and liberated a number of Anglo-Saxon captives. Her influence over her husband was considerable and she brought an English slant to Scottish politics for which has sometimes been criticized. King Malacolm's initial rough character was certainly softened by the lady.
Margaret bore the King eight children, all with English names. Alexander and David followed their father to the throne, whilst her daughter, Matilda, brought the ancient Anglo-Saxon Royal bloodline into the veins of the Norman Invaders of England when she marrie and bore children to King Henry I. Margaret died aged forty-seven, on 16th November 1093, not long after learning of the deaths of her husband and son in a campaign against William Rufus of England. She was buried in Dunfermline Abbey and miracles at her tomb brought her canonization by 1249. The base of her shrine can still be seen at the Abbey, but her body, along with that of her husband, was translated to the Escorial in Madrid during the Scottish Reformation. Her head, which had its own shrine, was acquired by the Jesuits of Douai Abbey, but was destroyed during the French revolution.
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