Featured: St Margaret

Margaret hadn’t planned to be Queen of Scots. But her brother was legitimate heir to the English throne, and had to flee with his family to the Continent when the Normans took over England (you know, 1066 and all that). Nature had other plans, and a storm blew their boat onto the shores of Fife and into the clutches of Malcolm Canmore, King of Scots!

Malcolm welcomed the royal refugees, especially Margaret, who made a huge impression. Frankly he was smitten, and the pair were married within a year of the landing. Where Malcolm was rough and warlike, Margaret was refined and pious: if you are looking for a lazy stereotype, the king and queen from Disney’s Brave perhaps comes closest to it.

Malcolm loved to hear Margaret discuss matters of doctrine with his bishops and even though he couldn’t read them – or perhaps because he couldn’t – he bound her religious books in gold and kissed them.

Margaret was appalled at the way the Scots worshipped God, and decided to do something about it! She instigated a programme of building stone churches. She set up the Queens Ferry to ease travel between Edinburgh and Fife. She encouraged manufactures, arts, and trade. The nature of the Scottish court became more anglified, as English aristos fleeing the Norman conquest were made welcome, thanks to the queen. Her large family continued her work, making Scotland a recognisable feudal state, robust enough to withstand its future trials.

It is a reasonable argument that more than any one person, St Margaret changed the nature of early Scotland.