Friday, November 16, 2012

Margaret of Scotland

(c 1045 – 16 November 1093), was the sister of Edgar Ætheling, the short-ruling and uncrowned Anglo-Saxon king of England. She married Malcolm III, King of Scots, becoming his Queen consort.

The daughter of the English prince Edward the Exile, son of Edmund Ironside, Margaret was probably born in Hungary. The provenance of her mother Agatha is disputed. According to popular belief, Margaret was a very serious person, so much that no one ever could recall seeing her laugh or smile.

When her uncle, Edward the Confessor, the French-speaking Anglo-Saxon King of England, died in 1066, she was living in England where her brother, Edgar Ætheling, had decided to make a claim to the vacant throne. According to tradition, after the conquest of the Kingdom of England by the Normans the widowed Agatha decided to leave Northumberland with her children and return to the Continent, but a storm drove their ship to Scotland where they sought the protection of King Malcolm III. The spot where she is said to have landed is known today as St Margaret's Hope, near the village of North Queensferry. Malcolm was probably a widower, and was no doubt attracted by the prospect of marrying one of the few remaining members of the Anglo-Saxon royal family. The marriage of Malcolm and Margaret soon took place and was followed by several invasions of Northumberland by the Scottish king, probably in support of the claims of his brother-in-law Edgar. These, however, had little result beyond the devastation of the province.

Margaret and Malcolm had eight children, six sons and two daughters:

* Edward, killed 1093.
* Edmund of Scotland
* Ethelred, abbot of Dunkeld
* King Edgar of Scotland
* King Alexander I of Scotland
* King David I of Scotland
* Edith of Scotland, also called Matilda, married King Henry I of England
* Mary of Scotland, married Eustace III of Boulogne

Her husband, Malcolm III, and their eldest son, Edward, were killed in siege against the English at Alnwick Castle on 13 November 1093. Her son Edmund was left with the task of telling his mother of their deaths. Margaret was ill, and she died on 16 November 1093, three days after the deaths of her husband and eldest son. Her children tried to hide the fact of their father's and brother's deaths, but when Margaret did find out she either died of sadness or a broken heart.

It is notable that while Malcolm's children by his first wife Ingibjörg all bore Gaelic names, those of Margaret all bore non-Gaelic names. Later tradition often has it that Margaret was responsible for starting the demise of Gaelic culture in the lowlands and Scotland in general. The forenames of Margaret's children were probably intended to bear Margaret's claims to the Anglo-Saxon throne in the period before permanent Norman rule was recognized, and so the first group of children were given Anglo-Saxon royal names. In fact, in Gaeldom, she has usually not been considered a saint, but referred to as Mairead/Maighread nam Mallachd: Accursed Margaret.

Moreover, it is unlikely that they were originally seen as successors to the Scottish throne, as Malcolm had other (grown) sons and brothers who were much more likely to succeed him. Furthermore, Margaret freely patronized Gaelic churchmen, and Gaelic remained an expanding language in northern Britain. Nevertheless, these sons regarded their Anglo-Saxon heritage as important, as the latter was one of the main devices for legitimizing the authority of the Scottish kings in English-speaking Lothian and northern England.

Margaret was canonized in 1251 by Pope Innocent IV on account of her personal holiness and fidelity to the Church. She would personally serve orphans and the poor every day before she herself would eat, and would rise at midnight to attend church services every night. The Roman Catholic Church formerly marked the feast of Saint Margaret of Scotland on 10 June, but the date was transferred to 16 November, the actual day of her death, in the liturgical reform of 1972. Queen Margaret University (founded in 1875), Queen Margaret Hospital (just outside Dunfermline), North Queensferry, South Queensferry and several streets in Dunfermline are named after her.

Propers for Margaret of Scotland - Queen

The Collect.

O GOD, who didst call thy servant Margaret to an earthly throne that she might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst endue her with zeal for thy Church and charity towards thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate her example may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle - Hebrews 12:1-2.

The Gospel - St. Luke 6:17-23.

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