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Author Topic: OTD 10th June: Feast Day of St. Margaret of Scotland  (Read 1005 times)


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OTD 10th June: Feast Day of St. Margaret of Scotland
« on: June 12, 2021, 10:54:40 AM »
Continuing my series of posts from the Companions' Facebook page, here is the second most popular post from the past week commemorating St. Margaret, sister of Edgar the Æþeling.

The most popular post was a in fact brief notice commemorating those killed at Lindisfarne on 8th June 793 AD, but I thought I would skip over that here.
So back to Margaret...

The Anglo-Saxons did not vanish mysteriously in 1066 and so today we are going to remember Margaret, daughter of Edward the Exile and sister of Edgar the Æþeling and Christina. She became known to posterity as St Margaret of Scotland and 10th June was originally her Feast Day; she actually died on 16th November 1093. She is also called Margaret of Wessex.

Margaret was the daughter of Edward the Exile and granddaughter of Edmund Ironside. Edward’s family fled abroad following the accession of Cnut to the English throne in 1016, around the time of Edward’s birth, and so Margaret was born in Hungary around 1045/6 AD.

Edward returned to England with Margaret and the rest of his family in 1057 during the reign of Edward the Confessor; the search for a successor to the English throne was in full spate. Hearing Edward was alive the Confessor recalled him and made him his heir. Harold Godwinson had been sent to persuade Edward to return and take up the role, but within a few days of his arrival in England Edward died without meeting the King.  The children were still young, but Margaret’s brother Edgar was considered a potential heir to the Confessor and the family stayed at court.

Following the invasion by William of Normandy the family once again fled the country, this time to Scotland where they were offered refuge and Margaret married King Malcolm III Canmore in 1069/70. Malcolm already had two sons from a previous marriage.

After their marriage Malcolm led a number of invasions into Northumbria in support of Edgar’s claim to the throne but to little effect.

Margaret and Malcolm had eight children, among them Edith (Matilda) who later married Henry I of England, William of Normandy’s son, providing a start towards the unification of the Norman and Anglo-Saxon houses. “The Life of St Margaret, Queen of Scotland” was written for Edith by Turgot of Durham and describes Margaret as a civilising influence on Malcolm. She also worked to introduce church reform, trying to align Scottish practice with the Continent and was inspired by Lanfranc, later the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Her piety and concern for the poor earned her great affection and she is also known for establishing the Queen’s Ferry across the Forth to ease access to the shrine of St Andrew. She used a cave on the banks of the Tower Burn in Dunfermline to pray, and today the cave is open to the public, should you wish to get closer to the life of this extraordinary woman.

On 13th November 1093 Malcolm and their eldest son Edward were killed at the Battle of Alnwick fighting William Rufus, who had succeeded his father William of Normandy to the throne of England. Margaret received the news at Edinburgh Castle where she was already ill, and she died on 16th November, heartbroken.

She was canonised in 1250 and on 19th June 1250, both her body and that of Malcolm were exhumed and removed to a magnificent shrine.
Mary, Queen of Scots had St. Margaret's head removed as a reliquary to Edinburgh Castle in the 16th century and in 1597 it was taken by a “gentleman” to Antwerp, then France when it was lost during the French Revolution.

Three or four of Margaret’s surviving sons became kings of Scotland in turn: Edmund (evidence for his kingship is disputed), Edgar, Alexander and David. Her youngest son, David, honoured her memory by building St. Margaret's Chapel at Edinburgh Castle on the spot where his mother died.