I recently went to Edinburgh on a city break, and whilst there naturally went to go and visit the imposing and impressive Edinburgh Castle, which sits high above the Old Town. As I looked around and read the guidebook I discovered St Margaret’s Chapel, and the fascinating woman it was founded for.
Margaret (1046-1093) began life as a Saxon princess, however this was during a period of serious upheaval, with Margaret having to flee England when the Danish Viking King Cnut gained the English throne. Margaret’s brother, Edgar, was also a claimant to the throne but he never gained the crown, his position became even more precarious when William the Conqueror took the crown in 1066.
Long story short they ended up in Scotland, where Margaret’s life took a significant turn. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reported how,
“Then began King Malcolm to yearn after the child’s sister, Margaret, to wife; but he and all his men long refused; and she also herself was averse, and said that she would neither have him nor any one else, if the Supreme Power would grant, that she in her maidenhood might please the mighty Lord with a carnal heart, in this short life, in pure continence.”
This report emphasises Margaret’s well-known piety, and shows how she would have been satisfied not making a political or personal marriage. Yet Malcom was persistent, eventually persuading everyone including Margaret herself. She became Queen of Scotland and bore Malcom eight children. On an interesting side note, Margaret’s granddaughter Matilda becoming the famous Lady of the English, who was involved in the English Civil War (also known as the Anarchy) that raged for decades.
Margaret’s piety shone throughout her life, as she changed the very nature of Scottish religious worship, for example instigating the use of Latin in Mass across the nation. Although living a good Christian life was crucial for potential canonisation, miracles also needed to have been performed to achieve Roman Catholic sainthood. Margaret’s main miracle occurred during her lifetime, when her Gospel Book fell into a nearby river and was recovered undamaged. This famous Gospel Book is now within her Chapel at Edinburgh Castle, and is a truly beautiful manuscript. The Chapel, which is quite small and easy to miss, hides within it a light and calm atmosphere. It was built by Margaret’s son King David I, nearly 40 years after her death, and remains the oldest part of the Castle. An appropriate lasting legacy to this pious Saxon princess.
What do you think St Margaret? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
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The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Eleventh Century <http://avalon.law.yale.edu/medieval/ang11.asp>
Encyclopedia, St. Margaret of Scotland <http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Saint_Margaret_of_Scotland.aspx> [accessed 9 July 2016]
Historic Scotland, Edinburgh Castle: Official Souvenir Guide (Scotland: Historic Scotland, 2014)
Historic UK: The History and Heritage Accommodation Guide, St Margaret <http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofScotland/St-Margaret/> [accessed 9 July 2016]
Medievalists.Net: Where the Middle Ages Begin, Empress Matilda, Lady of the English <http://www.medievalists.net/2013/04/09/empress-matilda-lady-of-the-english/> [accessed 9 July 2016]
The Telegraph, How to become a saint: As Catholics prepare for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, here is a guide on how to become a saint: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/8479255/How-to-become-a-saint.html> [accessed 9 July 2016]