Saints of the Day – Margaret of Scotland, Queen

statue of Saint Margaret of Scotland on the Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic; photographed July 2007 by Karelj; swiped off WikipediaArticle

Born in Hungary in 1045; died in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1083; additional feast day is June 10.

Margaret was the daughter of the exiled Aetheling Prince Edward (of the line of Saxon kings and son of King Edmund Ironsides) and Agatha (kinswoman of Saint Stephen of Hungary – in the line of the Roman emperors). It is believed that she and her siblings – Edgar and Christina – were all born in exile in Hungary. When Margaret was 12, her family was received at the court of her great uncle Saint Edward the Confessor. Her father died soon after their arrival in England. Although the family did not remain there long, Margaret watched the initial erection of Westminster Abbey. When the Normans conquered England in 1066, the three children and their mother escaped to Scotland, where they were received by King Malcolm, who succeeded the usurper Macbeth. Malcolm immediately fell in love with 21-year-old Margaret and asked Edgar for his sister’s hand. Margaret wanted, like her sister who later became an abbess, to enter religious life, but after much prayer, she realized that her vocation was for marriage.

Malcolm (a widower) and Margaret married at Dunfermline around 1068 (their daughter Matilda married the Norman Henry I to reinstitute the old royal blood of England into the descendents of William the Conqueror).

Margaret’s first task was to civilize Malcolm, an illiterate barbarian. He was jealous of her, but this allowed him to be molded, “like wax in her hands.” She prayed for his conversion, taught him how to pray, and how to show mercy to the poor. After his conversion, they often prayed together. “Turgot tells how `there grew up in the King a sort of dread of offending one whose life was so venerable, for he could not but perceive from her conduct the Christ dwelt within her'” (S. P. Delany).

They were married for 16 years, had six sons and two daughters. Margaret gave them their early religious education. She never spoiled her children (see Douay Chronicles). Edward (son) killed in same battle as Malcolm. Ethelred became a lay abbot; Edmund went astray for a time, but later became a monk; Edgar, Alexander and David (David reigned 29 years) became three of Scotland’s best kings; Matilda married Henry I of England (known as Good Queen Maud, who washed and kissed the feet of lepers); Mary married Count Eustace of Bologna and was the mother of Matilda of whom was born Stephen, the English king.

Margaret urged Malcolm to reform his kingdom. She ransomed slaves. She also used her influence to reform abuses in the national Church to bring the Scottish Church into harmony with the rest of the Catholic Church. She wrote to Archbishop of Canterbury, who sent Friar Goldwin and two other monks to instruct her. They settled in a Benedictine priory at Dunfermline, Fife, where she built a new and exquisite church in 1072, dedicated to the Blessed Trinity. Then an ecclessiastical council was held with Malcolm acting as interpreter. She restored the monastery at Iona, provided vestments and chalices, etc. for churches, and established a palace workshop to train women in the making of ecclessiastical vestments.

Margaret developed a deep friendship with her confessor, Prior Turgot, who built the superb Norman cathedral at Durham. He had been one of William the Conqueror’s prisoners and had escaped to Norway where he had taught sacred music at the royal court. He told the story of her spiritual life in Latin (translated by W. Forbes-Leith, S.J.).

Margaret’s faithful prayer brought blessings on her family and nation. She kept herself humble through severe self-discipline. She repeated Breviary daily, attended five or six Masses daily, and waited on 24 poor people before partaking of her frugal meals. Endless days of toil, nights of prayer and self-discipline brought on an early death, which she accurately predicted (Bentley, S. P. Delany).

Returning thanks after meals is known as Saint Margaret’s Blessing.

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 August 2020. Web. 27 November 2020. <>