The storm that blew all night drove the refugee ship off course. Edward the Etheling, his sister Margaret, and her mother Agatha were trying to return to Hungary, where they had formerly spent some years in exile. But instead, dawn revealed that they were off the rocky shore of Scotland in the year 1066.
The ship landed. King Malcolm III of Scotland was away, maneuvering against William the Conqueror, the Norman whose claim to England had forced the royal family to flee. Scotland took the refugees to heart. When Malcolm returned from war, he fell in love with beautiful Margaret. But Margaret was not eager for marriage. She wanted to become a nun.
Crude but goodhearted, Malcolm finally convinced Margaret to marry him. She became his queen. It is told that she slipped out nights to pray for her husband in a cave. Rumors attributed her absences to a plot against the kingdom. But the king soon learned the truth. Her godly influence transformed him, his court, and the nation.
Her confidence in God worked on the king’s nature. Malcolm listened to her because she gave good advice. Her faith gave her wisdom and insight and her reading gave her knowledge. She taught him to control his temper and instructed him in the manners of the civilized world. Malcolm and Margaret prayed together. With their own hands they fed crowds of poor people.
As the leading lady of Scotland, she set an example of holiness and personal worship for the court. Many of the ladies of the court imitated her behavior. At her patient insistence, Sunday became the day of rest and worship that it was meant to be. She set an example of charity by personally taking in at least nine orphans.
Before Margaret came to Scotland, ignorance ruled the land. Religious observances had slipped into error. At her insistence, a synod (council of church leaders) corrected the abuses.
The gracious queen loved to read, especially the gospels, with their glorious tale of God giving up glory that mankind might find it. An illuminated gospel that she treasured survives today. She sponsored new churches and improved existing ones so that the people might be attracted to Christianity.
Margaret loved color and soft cloth. She imported skilled workers to train the Scots to make such cloth. In this way, clan tartans owe their origin to her.
Malcolm and Margaret had six sons and two daughters whom she reared in her faith.
In light of Margaret’s remarkable story, we must believe that it was no mere chance that sent her to Scotland. Clearly God meant for her to perform a missionary work, and she fulfilled her responsibility. That is why a feast is held for her on this day, June 10, each year.
- Butler, Alban. Lives of the Saints. Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics, 1981, 1956.
- Huddlestone, G. Roger. “Margaret of Scotland.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.
- “Margaret of Scotland.” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
- Steedman, Amy. “St. Margaret of Scotland.” Catholic Information Network. http://www.cin.org/margsc1.html
- “St. Margaret of Scotland.” Women of Scots Descent. http://www.electricscotland.com/history/women/wih2.htm
- Various encyclopedia and internet articles.
Last updated May, 2007.