ST. MARGARET of SCOTLAND: PATRONESS of SCOTLAND
It is interesting to note that the patroness of Scotland was not even born there but probably in Hungary. Granddaughter of the Anglo-Saxon King Edmund Ironside and daughter of an English prince – Edward Aetheling and a German princess, Agatha, Margaret was raised at King St. Stephen of Hungary’s court where her father was in exile.
When she was twelve years old the whole family returned to England where they lived and her father died at the court of King Edward, the Confessor. However, after the battle of Hastings in 1066, the family fled for safety to Scotland where they found refuge with King Malcolm III Canmore.
In spite of her leanings toward a religious life, Margaret at 24 married Malcolm in 1070 and became Queen Margaret of Scotland.
An Ideal Mother
She proved to be an ideal mother for their eight children – six sons and two daughters. Not only did her sons become Kings of Scotland but her daughter Matilda became Queen Maud of England when she married King Henry I. Thus uniting the Anglo Saxon line with The Normans.
A Perfect Queen
Because she was able to soften the rough temper of her husband and to exert her great influence over him and his court she was able to incite him to works of justice and charity.
She worked hard for her adoptive country by promoting the arts and improving education. Thus she established schools with the best possible teachers to come and teach in Scotland.
Margaret is also said to have elevated and refined the manners of the Scottish court and to have personally set a role model and noble example to the people. Even her husband’s slovenly manners improved.
The interests of the English population conquered by the Scots in the previous century were promoted and safeguarded.
But it was for her great personal piety, religious influence and activities that she was best known. Always deeply pious, she followed a strict spiritual life made up of not only ascetical practices and fasting but of constant prayer and austere self-denial.
Her spiritual practices rubbed off on her husband so that he even began to join in her spiritual devotions even in her midnight devotions during her Lenten seasons.
Margaret uniquely observed not one but two Lents. Besides the common one before Easter she also had her own Lent of 40 days before Christmas. At these times she would rise at midnight to hear matins with the monks.
Even the poor knew of her nightly vigils as they knew that before returning to bed it was her practice to choose six of them, wash their feet and give them alms.
Her Service to the Church
Margaret was also reknown for her service to the Church. Not only did she promote the spiritual renewal of the clergy, arranging for the best priests to come to Scotland but she built several churches foremost of which was the Holy Trinity Church at Dumfermline.
She made the observance of holidays obligatory and even formed a guild composed of virtuous ladies to provide for the Church’s liturgical needs.
It was largely through her great efforts and influence with the king that the Scottish Church was brought into conformity with the Gregorian reform of England and Europe.
As she was against the abuses prevalent at the time such as simony and usury, she supported synods to reform them. She also regulated degrees of relationship in marriage and rules for the Lenten fast and Easter Communion.
Always known for her great concern for the poor and needy, it was said that a beggar never went away from her empty handed.
A royal benefactress she was a role model in the great love she had for the poor. Thus Margaret won a great reputation among the Scots not only for her piety but also for her charity.
Unfortunately, while Margaret was at her deathbed in 1093, she heard the alarming news that her husband and son Edward were killed when their castle was attacked by enemies.
It was only four days later that Margaret of Scotland died at the young age of forty-seven. She was buried in the Holy Trinity Church of Dunfermline which she herself had founded.
She was canonized in 1250.
SOURCES of REFERENCE
ST. MARGARET of SCOTLAND
November 16 ( June 10)
Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. II pp. 515 – 517
The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Saints – p. 138
The Book of Saints – p. 285
Pocket Dictionary of Saints – pp. 235 – 236
The Watkins Dictionary of Saints – pp. 153 – 154
A Calendar of Saints – p. 222
Butler’s Saint for the Day – pp. 538 – 539
Illustrated Lives of the Saints – Vol. I pp. 517 – 518
My First Book of Saints – p. 272
Saint Companions – pp. 429 – 430
Saints for Our Time – pp. 236 – 237
Saint of the Day – pp 315 – 315
The Big Book of Women Saints – p. 346
Voices of the Saints – pp. 336 – 337
The Lion Treasury of Saints – p. 216; 134 – 135
The Way of the Saints – pp 303 – 304