As the small ship rocked violently in the North Sea storm, the twenty-year old Saxon princess sent a prayer to heaven. If The Lord Our God found, in His infinite wisdom, to allow her and her family to survive the journey to the Continent, she would devote her life to humbly serving His Name.
The ship had set out from Northumbria to sail across the brackish waters to carry what remained of the Saxon Royal line, and a small band of loyalists, into exile on the Continent. William, the Duke of Normandy’s, successful invasion of England meant an interruption to the House of Wessex’s years of rule. But their dynasty had been deposed and restored twice before. It was unknown if it would be restored again.
The storm drove the ship north rather than east, and it washed up on a rocky outcropping that, years later, would become known as Saint Margaret’s Hope. The passengers of the ship were taken to the court of Malcolm III, King of the Scots, where they received a warm welcome. Malcolm had been an exile himself in the past and had found refuge in the Wessex royal court.
Years earlier Malcolm’s father Duncan had been murdered in a coup that Shakespeare would dramatize centuries later in Macbeth. Malcolm showed hospitality to all of the shipwrecked refugees, but he gave special attention to Princess Margaret. Malcolm was forty years old and widowed. If he was able to marry the twenty-year old princess, he would be uniting two royal dynasties, and perhaps all of Great Britain would follow.
Margaret had been preparing herself for the nunnery, but after deep prayer and meditation, and consultation with earthly advisors, she consented to the marriage. The marriage had obvious political benefits for Malcolm, but by all accounts and evidence, he was genuinely enamored with his young bride.
As Queen Consort, Margaret never forgot the promise that she had made to the Divine Power on that fateful stormy day. And because of her husband’s adoration, and the respect of the Scots as a people, she wielded a great deal of power. Almost immediately she organized a synod, which resulted in the regulation of the Lenten feast, observance of the Easter communion, and reform of many corrupt and abusive church practices. Before Margaret, mass was conducted in the dozens of local Scottish dialects that were spoken during that era. Margaret established the Latin mass in Alba (the Gaelic name for Scotland), which helped to unite the nation.
Malcolm was illiterate, and had not been a particularly religious man, but he had great respect for his wife’s piety and faith. He could not read her holy texts, but it is said that he would often kiss the books, and arrange for them to be gilded and encrusted with jewels. Margaret’s influence on the king only increased his popularity amongst his people.
Margaret spent much of her reign in service to the poor. She frequently visited the sick, and had hostels constructed for the indigent. During Advent and Lenten feats she would host as many as 300 commoners in the royal castle. Her charity extended to the clergy, and her introduction of the Benedictine Order to Scotland helped to bring closer union between Rome and the Celtic Church.
In late 1093, Malcolm and his son Edward went off into battle against the forces of King William Rufus, the son and heir of William the Conqueror. Both Malcolm and his son were killed in battle. Queen Margaret had been ill, and when she was told of the death of her husband and son, she was devastated, and died three days later.
The memory of Margaret’s charity, piety and just rule remained clear in the hearts and minds of the Scots. She was canonized in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV, and was made Patroness Saint of Scotland in 1673. In Scotland today there are scores of churches, hospitals, schools and streets named in her honor. Her bloodline would continue through the Royal Houses of England and Scotland for centuries.
My link to St. Margaret: Adam Lowe Martin (son of)-Allen Lowe Martin-Margaret F. Persse (daughter of)-Edwin Theophilus Persse (son of)-Dudley Persse-Theophilus Blakeney Persse-Henry Stratford Persse-William Persse-Elizabeth Parsons (daughter of)-William Parsons (son of)- William Parsons -Frances Savage (daughter of)-William Savage (son of)-Arthur Savage-John Savage-Laurence Savage-Ann Bostock (daughter of)-Elizabeth Dutton-Anne Touchet (daughter of)-5th Baron Audley (son of)-4th Baron Audley-John Tuchet-Joan Audley (daughter of)-2nd Baron Audley (son of)-1st Baron Audley-Nicholas d’ Audley-Ela of Salisbury-William II Longespee-3rd Earl of Salisbury-Henry II-Empress Matilda (daughter of)-Matilda of Scotland-Saint Margaret of Scotland
Illustration: Saint Margaret with the Children
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Next Week’s Post: “If Defeated, the Nation Could Scarcely Have Lived”