An Appropriate Pillar of Piety

Today the church remembers an 11th Century pillar of piety who is often overlooked, but deserves some attention: Saint Margaret, Queen of Scotland.

Born of German stock in Hungary because her father had been a victim of political exile, Saint Margaret was of royal lineage as her grandfather had been Edmund Ironside, King of England. In 1057 she was brought back to England in the court of Edward the Confessor, leaning back into her heritage apart from her family of origin.

In 1067 the whole family fled after the Battle of Hastings and were shipwrecked off the coast of Scotland. There King Malcolm III welcomed the family and took romantic interest in Saint Margaret.

They were married, and she effectively became a bridge between two royal lines.

Here’s the thing, though: Margaret didn’t want to be married to anyone but the Church. She longed to be a nun.

Nevertheless, despite this inner desire, all accounts show their marriage a happy one, and they had eight children together who would, for better or for worse, be released into the royal spheres of the world.

The Church of Scotland as Saint Margaret found it was an amalgamation of ancient Celtic ways and Christian ideas (as it still rightly is). Saint Margaret worked hard to reform some of the rougher edges of their practice in order to more seamlessly match the practices of the rest of the Western Church. She took to founding new churches and new monasteries, and was keenly concerned for the welfare of the poor, the sick, and the underclass in Scotland.

Her piety was legendary, and she helped curb her husband the king’s baser instincts, resulting in relatively good rule for the people of Scotland.

Saint Margaret died in Edinburgh Castle on this day in 1093. Some say she died of a broken heart because she had just recently learned that both her husband and her eldest son had been killed on the battlefield. She is buried alongside her husband and son in Dumfermline Abbey.

Saint Margaret is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that appropriate piety is not a bad thing as long as it is focused not on scoffing and the “shalt-nots” too often found in the overly pious, but rather in taking care of the “least of these” in this world.

-historical bits gleaned from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations

-icon written by Theophilia