Margaret, ‘Pearl of Scotland’

I struggle with pyramid style societies. As Lenny Bruce once quipped,”If the Venusians aren’t scufflers we’re screwed.” Placing each other in hierarchies; identifying ourselves along a line from bottom to top; forming friendships, alliances with those ‘at our level’ – is this a controlling methodology or a natural behaviour ingrained from birth no matter what the century?

I’m in Scotland. The history of the chief, laird, noble, monarch has been written up by scribes of one sort or another because a narrative has to be passed on for future generations. These narratives usually justify The Pyramid style of rule over the existing population. We do this to the present day.  It is a form of history, and we know archaeologists often dig up material which might add to or change the narrative. Usually it was the religious scribe who wrote the narrative because the only people allowed to read and write scripts were selected religious orders.  This further encourages a hierarchy of who  puts history into the written word form.

Thus it was that Torgot of Durham wrote the story of Margaret (1045 a 1093). Torgot (or Thorgaut) lived 1050 – 1115.  He was therefore one of her contemporaries. He was Archbishop and Prior of Durham, England and Bishop of St.Andrews, Scotland. He became close to the Scottish court toward the end of his life and he wrote the life of Margaret at the request of her daughter, Matilda, wife of King Henry 1 of England.  It makes good reading, like a romantic novel, you can believe the story to have been true.  It would certainly have delighted those important folk at the top of the pyramid he was writing it to please. You can read it  St Margaret  The description of her devout actions so satisfied the Catholic Church that 150 years after her death she was canonised on 19 June 1250 by Pope Innocent IV. She is also venerated in the Anglican Church.

When Margaret married Malcolm III, he was forty and she was twenty. His kingdom did not include north and west Scotland.  He fought many wars against the kingdom of England.  He ruled for 35 years. He was constantly at war with England. In 1070 Malcolm and his army raided across the Pennines, wasting Teesdale and Cleveland, and returning loaded with loot. Malcolm had met Margaret, by chance, a couple of times in the past year or so.  By the end of 1070 he was married to Margaret, whose ship had carried her brother and sister to seek exile in Europe but had floundered in Wearmouth, due to bad weather, and, again by chance, she met Malcolm and he was smitten. She personified all that is pure and good to the illiterate warrior, Malcolm.  He adored her and so did her people of Southern Scotland. They lived together for 25 years.

Malcolm and one of their sons, Edward, were killed at the Battle of Alnwick 1093. She could not cope with their loss and died within 3 days of their deaths.

She was highly devout and lived an austere life through choice.  She followed the religious fasting practice, so had little strength to cope with the blow of such bad news.  Throughout her reign, she influenced the worship and practices of the Church of Scotland to become closely linked to the Church of Rome.  She did this through her sincerity and persuasion, so did not stir any violent protest to her reforms. It was the Scottish Reformation, led by John Knox in the 16th Century which outlawed  the Catholc faith.  It then became an underground faith, particularly amongst the gentry.  Lady Fernihurst in the Borders was an example of gentry making their homes places of safety for priests. Lairds targeted catholic families in the Clearances between 1770 – 1810, many herded onto ships and sent to Canada. But in the 19th century, many Roman Catholics arrived in Scotland from Ireland – and more arrived later from Italy, Poland and Lithuania.  

It seems to me religion has created narratives to influence the masses who respected those better educated than themselves. Yet the very education of the elite gave them a perspective of superiority where they might feel they should be devout and care for the poor, or despise the mass and exterminate them at every opportunity, gaining redemption from some religious practice.  

Now, as I read the news of world conflict, endless suffering and human misery, I watch the narrative which is the rhetoric for world leaders as they create more havoc through elitist beliefs about who should despise who. Yet even the ‘devout’ seem to have sinister motives.  The Pyramid is a strong structure. So strong it may contain the human race and implode, leaving the Planet to recover from the Anthropocene era of destruction.

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About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers.
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