St Margaret of Scotland

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St Margaret of Scotland

Feast day: November 16

Women who are trying to juggle the demands of work, family and social responsibility can find inspiration in St Margaret of Scotland.

Born in Hungary, St Margaret was the daughter of Princess Agatha of Hungary and Prince Edward Aelthing – an Anglo-Saxon (English) prince.

Her family returned to England when she was 10, and despite her father dying almost immediately, the family remained at the English court.

When English King Harold was killed in the Battle of Hastings in 1066 by the invading Normans, Margaret, her mother and brother Edgar – who was an heir to the throne – fled into exile.

Attempting to sail to continental Europe, their ship was taken by a storm instead to the coast of Scotland, where they were given refuge by Scottish King Malcom III.

A widower with three children, King Malcolm fell in love with the beautiful and pious Margaret and they married in 1070.

Her impact on the king and Scotland was profound.

Malcolm had great love and respect for Margaret, often consulting her in matters of state, and so admiring her religious devotion that he had her religious books decorated with gold, silver and jewels.

Her influence helped moderate his temper, and growing in virtue, they prayed together and served the poor.

St Margaret encouraged religious devotion, inviting Benedictine monks to found an abbey at Dunfermline. She also arranged for the monastery as Iona to be rebuilt, and provided pilgrims with a free ferry to Dunfermline and the religious site of St Andrews.

She worked hard to bring renewal in the Church, encouraging efforts to correct abuses, such as simony, and bring about liturgical reform.

She promoted education and the arts, and supervised the education of the eight children she and her husband had together.

Diligent in fostering her own faith life, she kept times of prayer and reading scripture, and during the two Lents (before Easter and Christmas) she and Malcolm observed, she would get up for Midnight Masses.

After years of a happy and fruitful marriage, Malcolm and their son Edward were killed in battle on November 13, 1093.

After hearing the news, St Margaret – who was already unwell – died four days later on November 16.

Many miracles were reported at the site of her tomb.

She is a patron saint of large families, and one of the patron saints of Scotland.