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St. Margaret of Scotland

St. Margaret of Scotland by Julie Lonneman

Artist's Narrative:

Here Margaret is depicted with a book to symbolize her promotion of the arts, education and religious reform in her adopted country of Scotland. The daughter of a Hungarian princess and English prince, Margaret’s family fled its home in England from William the Conqueror and was shipwrecked off the coast of Scotland. King Malcolm, who befriended them, fell for the lovely Margaret. Malcolm and Margaret were married in 1070.

Scotland was a rough and uncultured country at the time, and though good-hearted, Malcolm shared these qualities. However, Margaret was able to calm his temper and polish his manners. Malcolm consulted her extensively about the governance of the country and relied heavily on her counsel. Together, they reformed and improved religious and civil life.

Margaret, queen and mother of six, still found time to pray and read Scripture. Her life was austere, and Margaret personally fed and clothed the poor that constantly surrounded her.

Her feast day is November 16.

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Margaret of Scotland was a truly liberated woman in the sense that she was free to be herself. For her, that meant freedom to love God and serve others.

Not Scottish by birth, Margaret was the daughter of Princess Agatha of Hungary and the Anglo-Saxon Prince Edward Atheling. She spent much of her youth in the court of her great-uncle, the English king, Edward the Confessor. Her family fled from William the Conqueror and was shipwrecked off the coast of Scotland. King Malcolm befriended them and was captivated by the beautiful, gracious Margaret. They were married at the castle of Dunfermline in 1070.

Malcolm was good-hearted, but rough and uncultured, as was his country. Because of Malcolm’s love for Margaret, she was able to soften his temper, polish his manners and help him become a virtuous king. He left all domestic affairs to her and often consulted her in state matters.

Margaret tried to improve her adopted country by promoting the arts and education. For religious reform she encouraged synods and was present for the discussions which tried to correct religious abuses common among priests and lay people, such as simony, usury and incestuous marriages. With her husband, she founded several churches.

Margaret was not only a queen, but a mother. She and Malcolm had six sons and two daughters. Margaret personally supervised their religious instruction and other studies.

Although she was very much caught up in the affairs of the household and country, she remained detached from the world. Her private life was austere. She had certain times for prayer and reading Scripture. She ate sparingly and slept little in order to have time for devotions. She and Malcolm kept two Lents, one before Easter and one before Christmas. During these times she always rose at midnight for Mass. On the way home she would wash the feet of six poor persons and give them alms. She was always surrounded by beggars in public and never refused them. It is recorded that she never sat down to eat without first feeding nine orphans and 24 adults.

In 1093, King William Rufus made a surprise attack on Alnwick castle. King Malcolm and his oldest son, Edward, were killed. Margaret, already on her deathbed, died four days after her husband.

Born: c.1045 in Hungary

Died: November 16, 1093 at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, four days after her husband and son died in defense of the castle

Canonized: 1251 by Pope Innocent IV