St. Margaret of Scotland
Born about 1045, died 16 Nov., 1092, was a daughter of Edward
the Exile, by Agatha, kinswoman of Gisela, the wife of St. Stephen of Hungary.
She was the granddaughter of Edmund Ironside. A constant tradition asserts that
Margaret's father and his brother Edmund were sent to Hungary for safety during
the reign of Canute, but no record of the fact has been found in that country.
The date of Margaret's birth cannot be ascertained with accuracy, but it must
have been between the years 1038, when St. Stephen died, and 1057, when her
father returned to England. It appears that Margaret came with him on that
occasion and, on his death and the conquest of England by the Normans, her
mother Agatha decided to return to the Continent. A storm however drove their
ship to Scotland, where Malcolm III received the party under his protection,
subsequently taking Margaret to wife. This event had been delayed for a while by
Margaret's desire to entire religion, but it took place some time between 1067
In her position as queen, all Margaret's great influence was thrown into the cause of religion and piety. A synod was held, and among the special reforms instituted the most important were the regulation of the Lenten fast, observance of the Easter communion, and the removal of certain abuses concerning marriage within the prohibited degrees. Her private life was given up to constant prayer and practices of piety. She founded several churches, including the Abbey of Dunfermline, built to enshrine her greatest treasure, a relic of the true Cross. Her book of the Gospels, richly adorned with jewels, which one day dropped into a river and was according to legend miraculously recovered, is now in the Bodleian library at Oxford. She foretold the day of her death, which took place at Edinburgh on 16 Nov., 1093, her body being buried before the high altar at Dunfermline.
In 1250 Margaret was canonized by Innocent IV, and her relics were translated
on 19 June, 1259, to a new shrine, the base of which is still visible beyond the
modern east wall of the restored church. At the Reformation her head passed into
the possession of Mary Queen of Scots, and later was secured by the Jesuits at
Douai, where it is believed to have perished during the French Revolution.
According to George Conn,
De duplici statu religionis apud Scots (Rome, 1628),
the rest of the relics, together with those of Malcolm, were acquired by Philip
II of Spain, and placed in two urns in the Escorial. When, however, Bishop
Gillies of Edinburgh applied through Pius IX for their restoration to Scotland,
they could not be found.
The chief authority for Margaret's life is the contemporary biography printed
Acta SS., II, June, 320. Its authorship has been ascribed to Turgot, the
saint's confessor, a monk of Durham and later Archbishop of St. Andrews, and
also to Theodoric, a somewhat obscure monk; but in spite of much controversy the
point remains quite unsettled. The feast of St. Margaret is now observed by the
whole Church on 10 June.
Acta SS., II, June, 320; CAPGRAVE, Nova Legenda Angliae (London, 1515), 225; WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY, Gesta Regum in P.L., CLXXIX, also in Rolls Series, ed. STUBBS (London, 1887-9); CHALLONER, Britannia Sancta, I (London, 1745), 358; BUTLER, Lives of the Saints, 10 June; STANTON, Menology of England and Wales (London, 1887), 544; FORBES-LEITH, Life of St. Margaret … (London, 1885); MADAN, The Evangelistarium of St. Margaret in Academy (1887); BELLESHEIM, History of the Catholic Church in Scotland, tr. Blair, III (Edinburgh, 1890), 241-63.
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