Margaret, Maid of Norway (Norwegian: Margrete or Margareta) was a Norwegian princess who was recognised as Queen of Scots between March 29th 1286 and September 26th 1290. She succeeded at the age of seven and her early death four years later heralded a succession crisis in the Scottish kingdom, eventually leading to the Fist War of Scottish Independence.
Margaret was the granddaughter of Alexander III (Alaxandair mac Alaxandair), who had three children Margaret, Alexander and David. Margaret’s mother, also called Margaret, was Alexander’s daughter and was married to Eric King of Norway. She died during childbirth and by 1284 Alexander’s two sons were also dead, without children of their own. Consequently, Margaret became the king’s only living descendant and so on the February 5th 1281 the thirteen earls and twenty-four barons of Scotland met Alexander to agree to recognise her as heir. Alexander did remarry, to Yolande de Dreux, but he died in an accident on March 19th 1286.
Following Alexander’s death the magnates and clerics of the realm assembled on the 29th March to select the Guardians of Scotland who would keep the kingdom for the rightful heir. At this time it was thought that Queen Yolande was pregnant, so that Margaret was not yet the obvious successor. However the unborn child was lost, probably by miscarriage and so at the age of three, Margaret was recognised as Queen of Scots.
The first sign of future troubles occurred shortly afterwards when Robert Bruce, 5th Lord of Annandale rebelled with the aid of his son the Earl of Carrick. The Bruces captured strongholds in Galloway, as well as bolstering their position in the south-west where their rivals the Balliols also had influence. This may have been a bid for the Crown, but further support was not forthcoming and the rebellion quickly dissipated.
Because Margaret was a princess in a foreign court, the position of Scotland at this point was perilous as Margaret’s father, Eric was able to marry his daughter to whoever he wanted, with the Guardians of Scotland having no say in the negotiations. There was the risk therefore that a match with another royal family could lead to the disappearance of Scotland as an independent kingdom. The not so subtle elephant in the room was of course Edward I of England, whose son Edward, Prince of Wales, was a potential husband, indeed it is clear that Edward had this in mind.
Any such plans would however come to nothing as her voyage to Scotland would end in the Orkney Islands, where she died on September 26th 1290, apparently from the effects of sea sickness. Her remains were taken to Bergen and interred beside her mother in the wall on the north side of the choir in Christ Church, Bergen.
Her death left no obvious heir to the Scottish throne and the matter of succession would be resolved, albeit temporarily, in the Great Cause of 1291–2. John Balliol would be chosen as king, beginning his reign on November 30th 1292. It would not be a popular one and Edward I would use his influence over the new monarch to place himself as Lord paramount of Scotland and so the bitter struggle of the 1st Scottish War of Independence would follow.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
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