St Margaret should be better known in England because of her important rule in the blood line of the English Monarchy.
She was the grand daughter of King Edmund Ironside (Edmund II of England). When Edmund died, King Canute became King, and Margaret and her family went into exile in Hungary. In 1057 she came back to England, but had to flee when William the Conqueror took over. She went to Scotland and in 1070 married Malcolm III ( Mael Column Mac Donnchada).
Malcolm was the son of King Duncan (murdered by Macbeth (see my book Divorced, Beheaded, Died for a short biography)). In 1040, Malcolm fled to England, but returned with English help to defeat Macbeth at Dunsinane. After his first wife’s death he married the deeply pious Margaret. Their court was very influenced by Saxon and Norman ways. She helped aligned the Church more closely with the rest of Christendom, and brought up her children piously.
The Royal couple had 6 sons and two daughters. Her son David became one of the most influential Kings of Scotland; introduced Norman ideas of feudalism, and created Boroughs to strengthen the Scottish economy. So, in many ways, Margeret had an influential role in ‘modernising’ the Scottish Monarchy from its Gaelic Clan based structure to a more European style that was ruled from the Lowlands and spoke the Scots version of English, rather than the Gaelic version of the Celtic branch of languages.
She died on 16th November 1093 AD and is ‘particularly noted’ for concern for orphans and poor people. There is an annual procession to her altar, followed by Evensong at Durham Cathedral on the following day. She was buried at Dunfermline following the violent death of her husband. The Abbey has recently celebrated the 950th anniversary of Queen Margaret consecrating the site.
Margaret’s daughter, Matilda married the son of William the Conqueror, King Henry I. This marriage was important for the Normans, because it added a strong dose of English Royal blood to the French Norman Royal line. Their daughter was the formidable Empress Matilda, designated heir to the throne of England and founder of the Plantagenet line of English Kings and mother of Henry II.
She has a plausible claim to having been the first ruling Queen of England. But she was never crowned because of the disruption caused by the usurpation of the throne by King Stephen.
First Published on November 19th 2021. Revised on Nov 15th, 2023