| By Candace Bryant-Lester

St. Margaret of Scotland

1045-93 | Feast: Nov. 16

While royals aren’t typically known for their generosity, St. Margaret of Scotland was renowned for her care for the poor and marginalized, as well as her intense piety.

After being born to King Edward the Exile and Princess Agatha in the Kingdom of Hungary sometime around 1045, Margaret and family returned to England when Margaret was 10 years old, where her father died shortly after their arrival. Margaret’s mother intended to return to the European continent, but they encountered a storm and were shipwrecked off the north coast of Scotland at a spot now known as St. Margaret’s Hope. The king of Scotland, Malcolm Canmore III, welcomed the family, took them under his care and married Margaret in 1070.

Margaret’s kindheartedness and faith helped Malcolm become a king of virtue, and together they grew a family that included eight children raised in the faith. Malcolm encouraged Margaret’s faith, and, in turn, she encouraged the Church’s growth in Scotland, from founding several churches to holding synods that reformed regulations of the Lenten fast and corrected religious abuses among both the laity and the clergy.

Margaret and Malcolm observed two seasons of prayer, fasting and almsgiving – before both Easter and Christmas – during which Margaret would attend midnight Mass and pause to wash the feet of the poor and give alms. It’s also recorded that she would feed orphans and those in need before she took her meals. She led a life of intense piety, forgoing eating and sleeping so she could dedicate more time to reading Scripture, prayer and devotions.

In 1093, her life of devotion came to an end just four days after Malcolm and their eldest son were killed during battle. She was buried before the high altar in one of the churches she helped build, the Abbey of Dunfermline. Margaret was canonized in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV for her powerful witness of faith and her efforts to bring relief and justice to the poor. She was named the patron saint of Scotland in 1673.