Saturday, November 19, 2005

Fiddle and Heart

If you need a break and some energy, stop here

Just listening to 'Greek Fiddle' or Drums of Belfast is guaranteed to add two hours of wakefulness to your evening study time!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Saint Margaret of Scotland


Born about 1045, died 16 Nov., 1092, Margaret was a daughter of Edward "Outremere", or "the Exile", by Agatha,. Her uncle was St. Stephen of Hungary, and she was the granddaughter of Edmund Ironside. The date of Margaret's birth must have been between the years 1038, when St. Stephen died, and 1057, when her father returned to England. On his death and the conquest of England by the Normans, her mother Agatha decided to return to the Continent. A storm however drove their ship to Scotland, where Malcolm III received the party under his protection, subsequently taking Margaret to wife. This event had been delayed for a while by Margaret's desire to entire religious life.

In her position as queen, all Margaret's great influence was thrown into the cause of religion and piety. Margaret impressed not only Malcolm but many other members of the Scottish Court both for her knowledge of continental customs gained in the court of Hungary, and also for her piety. She became highly influential, both indirectly by her influence on Malcolm as well as through direct activities on her part. Prominent among these activities was religious reform. Margaret instigated reforms within the Scottish church, as well as development of closer ties to the larger Roman Church in order to avoid a schism between the Celtic Church and Rome. Further, Margaret was a patroness both of the célidé, Scottish Christian hermits, and also the Benedictine Order. Although Benedictine monks were prominent throughout western continental Europe, there were previously no Benedictine monasteries known to exist in Scotland. Margaret therefore invited English Benedictine monks to establish monasteries in her kingdom.

On the more secular side, Margaret introduced continental fashions, manners, and ceremony to the Scottish court. The popularization of continental fashions had the side-effect of introducing foreign merchants to Scotland, increasing economic ties and communication between Scotland and the continent. Margaret was also a patroness of the arts and education. Further, Malcolm sought Maragret's advice on matters of state, and together with other English exiles Margaret was influential in introducing English-style feudalism and parliament to Scotland.

Margaret was also active in works of charity. Margaret frequently visited and cared for the sick, and on a larger scale had hostels constructed for the poor. She was also in the habit, particularly during Advent and Lent, of holding feasts for as many as 300 commoners in the royal castle.

King Malcolm, meanwhile, was engaged in a contest with William the Conqueror over Northumbria and Cambria, and The Conqueror's son William Rufus. In the ensuing hostilities Malcolm was killed along with Edward, the eldest son of Malcom and Margaret.

Margaret had already been ill when Malcolm and Edward went off to battle. Her surviving children tried to hide the fact of their deaths, for fear of worsening her condition. But Margaret learnt the truth, and whether due to her illness or a broken heart, Margaret died four days after her husband and son, on November 16, 1093.

Edgar, son of Malcom and Margaret, came to the throne. He was succeeded by his brothers, Alexander and David. Alexander smoothed over relations with England by marrying the daughter of King Henry I and arranging for Henry to marry Alexander's sister Matilda. Edgar and David carried on their mother's reputation for sanctity, both in their service to the poor and their patronage of religious orders, and David was later canonized. Quite a celebrated family when you consider that Margaret's uncle is also known as Saint Edward the Confessor.

Margaret herself was declared a saint in 1250, particularly for her work for religious reform and her charitable works. She herself was considered to be an exemplar of the just ruler, and also influenced her husband and children to be just and holy rulers. She was further declared Patroness of Scotland in 1673. Her book of the Gospels, richly adorned with jewels, which one day dropped into a river and was according to legend miraculously recovered, is now in the Bodleian library at Oxford.

Image: William Hole