St. Margaret Queen of Scotland
After the 1066 death of Saint Margaret of Scotland’s grandfather, English king, Edmund Ironside, the English people chose Cnut to be their king. Edmund’s twin infant sons were sent abroad to the protection of King Stephen of Hungary. Though his twin died young, Saint Margaret’s father, Edward Atheling, was brought up as a protégé of Stephen’s Queen, Gisela. While in Hungary, Edward married Agatha, and had one son, Edgar, and two daughters, Christian, and Margaret. In Hungary, Margaret was trained to be a princess by her parents and taught to be a devout Christian by Benedictine nuns.
In 1042, Edward Atheling’s uncle, Edward the Confessor became king of England. Edward the Confessor had no children, so in 1054 he asked his nephew Edward Atheling to return with his family to England and prepare to become king. Edward Atheling, Agatha, and their children arrived in England around 1057. Before the end of the year, Edward Atheling was dead. Without a strong Saxon heir to become king, William the Conqueror seized the English crown and once again Saint Margaret’s family was forced to flee England.
The family attempted to sail to the Continent, but bad weather carried them to Scotland, where Scotland’s king, Malcolm, offered hospitality. In 1070 Margaret became the bride of Malcolm, and reigned Queen of Scotland till her death in 1093.
During her reign over Scotland, Margaret was the most trusted counselor of her husband and taught Malcolm the ways of prayer and charity. With his consent, Margaret labored for the material improvement of Scotland by building schools, establishing abbeys and personally caring for pilgrims and the poor by distributing money for food with her own hands. Never was a better mother, she spared no pains in the education of her eight children. Their sanctity was the fruit of her prudence and her zeal.
In her last illness, she learned that both her husband and her eldest son, Edward, had been killed in battle. Yet she prayed: “I thank You, Almighty God, for sending me so great a sorrow to purify me from my sins.” After receiving Holy Viaticum, she was repeating the prayer from the Missal, “O Lord Jesus Christ, Who by Thy death didst give life to the world, deliver me.” At the words “deliver me,” says her biographer, she took her departure to Christ, the Author of true liberty.