November 16, 2011

St Margaret of Scotland

Today is the feast day of my patron saint, Margaret of Scotland. She was an incredible woman: The great-niece of King St. Edward the Confessor, she was raised in Hungary, where her family fled during a short Danish invasion of England.  Her brother had strong claims to the English throne, so they returned together. They fled the invading Normans (Battle of Hastings, ho!) to Scotland (or were blown there by a terrible storm), and the Scottish King Malcolm III welcomed them warmly.

Malcom was the son of Duncan I, who was usurped by Macbeth.  (Yes, that Macbeth. Sort of.) Malcom likely spent some of his teenage years in the court of King Edward the Confessor.  He and Margaret married in 1070, and she bore him 6 sons and 2 daughters.  Her daughter Agatha became Queen Edith, of England, wife of William the Conqueror's son, King Henry I.

She also brought civility, the English Parlimentary and Feudal systems to Scotland, reformed the Celtic Church, which still had hints of paganism, and was generous to the poor, and especially orphans. She also established the ferry which took pilgrims to Dumfermline Abbey.  She died on Nov. 16, 1093, three days after the death of Malcom and their son Edward were killed in the Battle of Alnwick.

What is fascinating to me, reading her story and the stories of the lives of her family, her husband, is how on the cusp they were.  The battles and claims to power which brought her to Hungary, then back to England, then away again, first battling other Saxons, then the Normans, then alliance with the Scots, and, through her life, smaller battles over Northumbria and other parts of Northern Britain--brother fighting against brother and invader--all this was the precursor to what we see as the pivotal moments in English history, and the firm establishment of a British monarchy.  It is fascinating.

1066 may be one of the most important dates in the history of Western Civilization, but her life was in the midst of it, and was largely directed by the outcome of that fateful battle. And yet her legacy is one of charity, justice, and faith.  What a time for a saint to be born!  It give me hope for today.

St. Margaret of Scotland, pray for us!

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