WHEN Malcolm Canmore had reigned over Scotland for
about ten years, a great event happened in the neighbouring kingdom of
England. I mean the conquest of England by William Duke of Normandy.
William Duke of Normandy took possession of all
England, and Edgar, the rightful heir to the throne, fled with his mother
and sisters. They set sail in a ship, meaning to go to Hungary, where they
knew they would be kindly received. But great storms arose. Their ship was
battered and driven about by winds and waves they knew not whither, and at
last when they had lost all hope of ever seeing land again, they were driven
upon the shores of Scotland. They landed there at a place on the Firth of
Forth which to this day is called Margaret's Hope, from the name of Edgar's
sister the Princess Margaret. The place at which they afterwards crossed the
river is still called Queen's Ferry.
Edgar, who was only a boy, and his sisters and mother found themselves in
Scotland they were uncertain what to do. They did not know if they would be
received in a friendly manner or not.
country people gathered round and stared at these strange ladies. They were
astonished, and a little afraid too at their grand clothes, and at the great
size of the ship in which they had come.
When King Malcolm was told of the beautiful ladies
and fine tall men who had come in the strange ship, he sent some of his
nobles to find out who they were, where they came from, and what they
When the nobles came to the ship they
were almost as much astonished as the common people had been at the splendid
men, and beautiful, sad ladies. So the nobles spoke gently to them, and
asked them how it was that they had landed upon these shores.
Then the lady Agatha and her daughters told their sad
story. 'We are English,' they said, 'the relatives of King Edward. He is
dead, and his throne and crown have been taken by the cruel Duke of
Normandy. We have fled from the country. The winds and the waves have driven
us upon your shores, and we seek the help and protection of your most
The ladies spoke so simply,
yet they looked so beautiful and so grand, that the nobles felt more and
more sorry for them. They talked kindly to the ladies for some time. Then
they went back to King Malcolm and told him all that they had learned.
When Malcolm heard that the ladies and their brother
were English, and relatives of the King who had been so kind to him, he
called for his horse and set out to visit them.
Malcolm brought Edgar and his mother and sisters back
with him, gave them rooms in his palace, and treated them as great and
honoured guests. Soon he came to love the Princess Margaret very much, for
she was both beautiful and good. She too loved the King, and after a little
time they were married.
The wedding was very
splendid. Such pomp and grandeur had never before been seen in Scotland as
was seen at the marriage of Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret For the sake
of his wife Margaret, King Malcolm treated all English people kindly. So at
this time very many of the English, who were driven out of their own country
by William of Normandy, came to settle in Scot- land. Malcolm gave these
English exiles both land and money, and thus it came about that in after
years many of the great families had lands both in Scotland and in England.
These English nobles brought English manners and
customs to Scotland. This greatly displeased many of the Scottish nobles.
The Scots had always been a very hardy people. They were big and strong—more
like giants than like ordinary people. They ate and drank little and cared
little for fine clothes or fine houses. It seemed to them that the English
cared too much for all these things. They thought it was a bad day for
Scotland when all these grand knights and nobles came to live there, and
they were angry with Malcolm because he was kind to them.
They were angry too with Queen Margaret, for she
thought it right that the King of Scotland should be surrounded by splendour
as befits a great king. So she did away with all the old simple ways to
which the Scottish people were accustomed. Great knights, nobles, and fair
ladies waited upon the King and Queen. Their meals were served upon dishes
of gold and silver, and the clothes they wore were beautiful and gorgeous.
Queen Margaret also encouraged merchants to come to
Scotland to trade. They brought jewels and gold and other beautiful things,
and took away woollen cloth and whatever else the Scots had to sell. It was
in the days of Queen Margaret that the Scottish people first began to wear
the brightly coloured checked cloths which we call tartans.
But in spite of all her splendour, Queen Margaret was
a very good and holy woman, and after her death she was called a saint.
Every morning before she had her own breakfast she fed nine little beggar
children. Often she took them in her arms and fed them with her own hands.
At certain times in the year the King and Queen would give dinner to three
hundred poor, and wait upon them as they sat at table in the great hall of
the palace. Queen Margaret too used to wash the feet of pilgrims and
beggars, which in those days was thought to be a very holy action.
The Queen could not bear to see any one hungry, ox
cold, or in misery. She gave all her own money to the poor, and often, when
she had nothing left to give, she would borrow from her lords and ladies in
waiting. They were always willing to lend to her, for they knew that they
would be paid again more than they gave. Sometimes too the Queen would take
the King's money to give to the poor. He knew very well that she took it,
but he pretended not to miss it. But sometimes lie would laugh and say that
he would have her tried and imprisoned for stealing. Really he loved her so
much that she might do anything she wished.
Queen Margaret was learned too. In those days, when few people could read,
she could read both English and Latin. The King, although he could speak
Latin, English and Scotch (which were different languages in those days),
had never been taught to read. But he loved to take Margaret's books in his
hand and sometimes he would kiss those which she liked the best. Sometimes
too he would take away one of her favourites and give it to a goldsmith, who
would cover it in gold and set it with precious stones. Then Malcolm would
bring the book back again and give it to Queen Margaret as a sign of his
love for her. Malcolm was a good King, but he was rough and passionate, and
sometimes cruel. But however angry he was, the gentle Queen Margaret could
always soothe and calm him again.
William of Normandy, who had now made himself King of England, heard that
Malcolm had married the Princess Margaret, he was very angry. He was afraid
that now the Scottish King would help Edgar to win the crown of England
again. So he sent to Malcolm demanding that Edgar should be given up to him.
This Malcolm refused to do, and there was bitter war
between the King of England and the King of Scotland.
The northern part of England, called in those days
Northumbria, had always been a ground of fighting and quarrel between
England and Scotland. The boundary of Scotland was always changing.
Sometimes it was as far north as the Forth; sometimes as far south as the
Now Malcolm made many expeditions
into Northumbria to help the Northumbrian lords, who hoped to drive William
the Conqueror out of England and to place Edgar upon the throne instead.
Malcolm ravaged and plundered the whole country in a
fearful manner. The Scots grew rich upon the spoils of war, and they carried
so many captives back to Scotland that for many years English slaves were to
be found in every town, every village, and every cottage in Scotland.
William, seeing that he could not conquer the
Northumbrians, resolved to make their land a barren waste. He marched all
over it, and what the Scots had not destroyed, he destroyed, until the whole
country north of the Humber was a blackened, ruined desert; and the people
who were not killed in battle died of hunger or escaped into Scotland.
Then William marched to Scotland, resolved to punish
Malcolm for having helped Edgar and the Northumbrians, but, as an old
history says, he and his soldiers found naught there for which they were the
better. So at last the two Kings made a peace, which lasted until the death
of the Conqueror.