St Margaret of Scotland

Window in St Margaret's Chapel, Edinburgh Castle
Last month I enjoyed revisiting the oldest building still surviving in Edinburgh. This is a 12th Century chapel within Edinburgh castle dedicated to St Margaret and built by her son King David 1 of Scotland.

Today is her commemorative day as she died on 16 November 1093.

Entrance to St Margaret's Chapel

Margaret's mother was Hungarian and she was probably born there about 1045 and grew up in the Hungarian court, later moving to England. Her father Edward the Atheling was son of the Anglo-Saxon King of England Edmund II ('Ironside'). When William the Conqueror invaded England (1066) Margaret's family fled to Northumbria and attempted to return to mainland Europe from there, but were shipwrecked on the Scottish coast. King Malcolm III of Scotland (whose father Duncan had been killed by Macbeth) protected Margaret's family and married Margaret about 1070. Margaret and Malcolm had 8 children, including 3 Kings of Scotland (Edgar, Alexander I and David I) and a Queen Consort of England (Edith = Matilda, wife of Henry I of England).

East Window in St Margaret's Chapel
Margaret was only 47 years old when she died of ill-health, a few days after her husband and one of her sons died (fighting the English - King Malcolm did a lot of that.)

In her lifetime and since she acquired a reputation for holy living, faithfulness to the Roman Catholic church, religious reform and charitable works. She is said to have had a civilising influence on her husband and the Scottish royal court.

Turgot, Bishop of St Andrews was commissioned by Margaret's daughter to write an account of Margaret's life. You can read it on-line in a beautifully illustrated English translation with 19th century editorial footnotes here. (The original was in Latin.) I also enjoyed reading a later historical essay by David McRoberts about St Margaret Queen of Scotland.


  1. 'She is said to have had a civilising influence on her husband...'

    Behind every great man lies a greater woman.

  2. Chelliah - I think she must have been a remarkable woman, although some of the stories about her have probably been romanticised and exaggerated.


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