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CHAPTER IX.

ST. MARGARET.

'A lady with a lamp shall stand
In the great history of the land,
A noble type of good
Heroic womanhood.'

Longfellow.

The Norman conquest had been scarcely established when four royal fugitives—Edgar the .fEtheling, the hereditary king of England; his mother, Agatha; and his two sisters, Margaret and Christina—fled out of the dangerous hands of William the Conqueror, and sought refuge in Scotland. They were most kindly entertained by King Malcolm 1II., and soon after, pleased by the winning grace of Margaret, the eldest sister, he espoused her at his royal residence of Dunfermline. Many causes combined to make the reign of Malcolm Canmore and Margaret, the grandniece of Edward the Confessor, an era in the history of the civilisation and religion of our country. Malcolm's early residence in England, the friendly reception he offered to numerous Saxon and Norman lords who were desirous to escape from the iron dominion of the Conqueror, permitting them to settle in the fertile Lothians, his own steady and successful resistance to the attempted encroachments of England, whereby he increased the nation's confidence in its military strength, and wider commercial intercourse with the Continent, opened up new thoroughfares, and contributed generally to the advancement of Scotland. That refined gentleness of manners which is the natural expression of true Christianity began now to be practised, and comforts hitherto unknown in the half-savage courts of former kings were introduced into the household of Malcolm, from thence extending in various degrees to every rank of society. The great refining element, to which all others were subordinate, was the character of the Saxon queen. In her life, written by Turgot, her confessor, the Prior of Durham, we have a beautiful pattern of a queen, a Christian wife and mother, and a reformer of Church and State. One of her earliest enterprises was to set about combating the lukewarm spirit and laxity of morals which prevailed both among clergy and laity, and with womanly tact she began by striving with innocent artifices to allure her husband to love that religion which made the sunshine of her own life. In this she succeeded, 'for he, seeing that Christ dwelt in the heart of his queen, was always ready to follow her counsels; what she disliked he disliked, and what she loved he loved for the love of her.' Rough and unlettered, he reverenced the learned books he could not read, and used to steal away and affectionately kiss his wife's most cherished little prayer-books, and then return them to her encased in bindings of gold and jewels; better still, the descendant of many a 'mighty man of valour' began to know that the encouragement of a ferocious unforgiving spirit is not becoming in the soldier of Jesus Christ, but that the truest revenge was to forgive his enemies.1

1 It is related of Malcolm III. that hearing that one of his nobles designed to kill him, he sought an opportunity of meeting the traitor in a solitary place. • Now,' said he, unsheathing his sword, 'we are alone, and armed alike; you seek my life—take it.' The penitent threw himself at the king's feet, implored forgiveness, and

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Having won the king, Margaret found it easy to obtain that the vacant sees should be filled with holy prelates, under whose rule the long-standing abuses were gradually extirpated. At the ecclesiastical councils the king and queen were present; the queen pointed out to the clergy their errors, and her husband translated her English words into Gaelic. Sunday, too often profaned by servile work, was once more kept holy as a festival of rest. Certain of the faithful who neglected to receive Holy Communion, even at Easter, alleging fear of approaching the altar unworthily as an excuse for not approaching it at all, were taught to come to repentance and confession, and after absolution to receive the Bread of Life. The evil custom of a man marrying his stepmother or his brother's widow was abolished, and certain barbarian rites, unknown in other branches of the Catholic Church, were suppressed in the service of the mass; and by reason of the learned and persuasive arguments of the queen the clergy were prevailed on to begin Lent on the Wednesday before Quadragesima Sunday, instead of the Monday after the following Sunday, as their custom was. Large grants were made by the Crown to the Church, especially to St. Andrews and Loch Leven. Mortlach, the foundation of the future see of Aberdeen, was erected; the king and queen dedicated a church in name of the Holy Trinity at Dunfermline in commemoration of their marriage, and Iona, which had fallen into a dilapidated condition, was repaired, and the voice of incessant prayer and praise again 'broke the silence of the Hebrides.' Margaret's loving biographer tells us of her learning, her persuasive eloquence, and her munificence, and hints at her miracles, but all these lose their lustre beside the history of her daily life. It was

obtained it. Aldred, Genealog. Reg. Angfor., p. 367; cited by Hailes, vol. i. p. 26.

divided into prayer, the management of her household, and the education of her children, the service of the poor, and attendance upon the affairs of State. She used to observe the seven hours of prayer, and the spirit of prayer never left her, however busy she was. Like our dear Lord, she would often 'continue in prayer all night.' She began every day by receiving Holy Communion, or being present at its celebration, and soon after provided breakfast for nine poor babies, serving them on her bended knees the while psalms were chanted; then with the king she distributed food to three hundred of the poor, and every night she washed the feet of six beggars. 'She herself,' says her biographer, 'was poorer than any of the poor,' yet she never refused a measure of that outward state which was consistent with the exalted position to which God had called her. When the king was at his council the queen did her work for Scotland, by kneeling before the altar, and there making with many prayers and tears a self-oblation to the Lord. She employed her ladies in embroidering vestments for the service of the altar, and the history of an unblemished court is briefly told in the statement that 'in her presence nothing unseemly was ever said or done.' The best witnesses to the early training of her children are the lives of St. David, of Matilda, the wife of Henry Beauclerc, and the repentance of Edmund. Her fasts were long and severe, but in the spirit of renunciation of her own will she moderated them at the desire of her spiritual father.

For six months before her death, in 1093, she was confined to bed by a grievous sickness, and during the latter part of the time her husband was absent at a battle on the Borders. In her last interview with Turgot, who was obliged to leave her for England, she solemnly committed to his keeping her sons and daughters. 'When you shall see any one of them,' she said, ' exalted to the height of earthly grandeur, be in an especial manner his father and teacher.' On the 11th of November, whilst besieging the castle of Alnwick in Northumberland, Malcolm Canmore was slain along with his son Edward. The queen at this time lay dying in Edinburgh Castle. On the morning of the 16th she entered her oratory for the last time, and received the viaticum of the Body and Blood of her Lord. She was then carried to her bed, and as the priests were preparing to say the commendatory prayers, she asked that a crucifix, known as the Black Rood of Scotland, might be brought to her. There was some difficulty in opening the casket in which it was kept. 'Wretched sinner that I am,' said Margaret, 'I am not worthy to look again upon the holy cross.' At length it was brought to her. Holding it with both hands before her eyes, she began to recite Miserere met, Deus, when her son Edgar, just arrived from Northumberland, suddenly entered the room. 'How fares it,' she asked, 'with your father and your brother?' He answered almost inarticulately, 'They are well.' 'I know it, my son, I know it. By this holy cross, by the love you bear your mother, I adjure you tell me the truth.' He told her all, and she gasped out with her dying lips, ' Praise and thanksgiving be to Thee, Lord Almighty, whose will it is that I should suffer this anguish at my departure, that so, as I trust, I may in some measure be cleansed from the stain of sin.' She then began a prayer from the Liturgy, ' O Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the will of the Father, and through the Holy Spirit, by Thy death hast given life unto the world, deliver me,' and as she uttered the words 'deliver me,' the Queen of Scots was with her Master.

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