They say it was love at first sight, the beautiful, educated, pious English princess and the rough and tumble warrior, widower, and Scots king twenty years her senior.
Margaret was devoted to the Lord; Malcolm III, not so much, though he considered himself a believer. Despite all their differences, Margaret and Malcolm proved to be exceptionally well yoked.
In addition to her royal household duties, which included raising their eight children and two sons from the king’s first marriage, Malcolm involved Margaret heavily in matters of state. It was through Margaret that Catholic traditions were integrated into court life, specifically through a synod that resulted in rules regarding the Lenten fast and Easter communion and challenged clerical abuse. She also lived her faith in seemingly small but very visible ways: she washed the feet of the poor and orphans. At meals to assist the needy, she made sure others were served before her. She set aside time for prayer and devotions, a practice Malcolm so admired (though he did not emulate it) that he had some of her books covered in gold and silver. It is said that while he never learned to read them, he was known to hold them and kiss the pages she had been reading.
The couple also founded a number of churches, including the Abbey of Dunfermline, where they are both buried. Margaret died just days after Malcolm and their oldest son were killed in battle. On her deathbed, she mourned them both; blessed their other children; and made a final prayer to the Lord.
It’s not always a bad thing when opposites attract. Margaret’s love for and influence on Malcolm helped Scotland mature into a well-run, compassionate land. May we seek to find the commonalities with those whose upbringings or worldview are different from our own. It may be an evangelization opportunity.