Margaret, Maid of Norway

Last updated

Queen of Scots
Disputed reign1286 – 1290
Predecessor Alexander III
Successor John
Born9 April 1283
Tønsberg, Norway
Died26 September 1290(1290-09-26) (aged 7)
Orkney Islands, Norway
House Sverre
Father Eric II of Norway
Mother Margaret of Scotland

Margaret (Norwegian : Margrete, Margareta; March/April 1283 – 26 September 1290), known as the Maid of Norway, was the queen -designate of Scotland from 1286 until her death. She was the daughter of King Eric II of Norway and Margaret of Scotland. By the end of the reign of her maternal grandfather, King Alexander III of Scotland, she was his only surviving descendant and recognized heir presumptive. Alexander III died in 1286, his posthumous child was stillborn, and Margaret inherited the crown. Due to her young age, she remained in Norway rather than going to Scotland. Her father and the Scottish leaders negotiated her marriage to Edward of Caernarfon, son of King Edward I of England. She was finally sent to the British Isles in September 1290, but died in Orkney, sparking off the succession dispute between thirteen competitors for the crown of Scotland.

Norwegian language North Germanic language spoken in Norway

Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken mainly in Norway, where it is the official language. Along with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a dialect continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional varieties, and some Norwegian and Swedish dialects, in particular, are very close. These Scandinavian languages, together with Faroese and Icelandic as well as some extinct languages, constitute the North Germanic languages. Faroese and Icelandic are hardly mutually intelligible with Norwegian in their spoken form because continental Scandinavian has diverged from them. While the two Germanic languages with the greatest numbers of speakers, English and German, have close similarities with Norwegian, neither is mutually intelligible with it. Norwegian is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era.

A queen regnant is a female monarch, equivalent in rank to a king, who reigns in her own right, as opposed to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king, or a queen regent, who is the guardian of a child monarch and reigns temporarily in the child's stead. An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire.

Kingdom of Scotland Historic sovereign kingdom in the British Isles from the 9th century to 1707

The Kingdom of Scotland was a sovereign state in northwest Europe traditionally said to have been founded in 843. Its territories expanded and shrank, but it came to occupy the northern third of the island of Great Britain, sharing a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England. It suffered many invasions by the English, but under Robert I it fought a successful War of Independence and remained an independent state throughout the late Middle Ages. In 1603, James VI of Scotland became King of England, joining Scotland with England in a personal union. In 1707, the two kingdoms were united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain under the terms of the Acts of Union. Following the annexation of the Northern Isles from the Kingdom of Norway in 1472 and final capture of the Royal Burgh of Berwick by the Kingdom of England in 1482, the territory of the Kingdom of Scotland corresponded to that of modern-day Scotland, bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest.



Margaret, Maid of Norway, was the only child of Eric II, King of Norway, and his first wife, Margaret, daughter of King Alexander III of Scotland. [1] She was born in Tønsberg, a coastal town in southeastern Norway, [1] between March and 9 April 1283, when her mother died, apparently during or after childbirth. [2] Aged fifteen and possessing little royal authority, King Eric did not have much say about his daughter's future. The infant Margaret was instead in the custody of the leading Norwegian magnate, Narve, Bishop of Bergen. Margaret's upbringing in the city of Bergen shows that her future marriage was expected to be important to the kingdom's foreign policy. [1] The 1281 treaty arranging the marriage Eric of Norway and Margaret of Scotland specified that the Scottish princess and her children would succeed to the throne of Scotland if King Alexander died leaving no legitimate sons and if no legitimate son of his left legitimate children. [2] It also stated that the couple's daughters could inherit the Norwegian throne "if it is the custom". The Scottish party seems to have been deceived because the succession law of Norway, codified in 1280, provided only for succession by males, meaning that the Maid could not have succeeded to her father's kingdom. [3] [nb 1]

Eric II of Norway Norwegian king

Eric Magnusson was the King of Norway from 1280 until 1299.

Margaret of Scotland was Queen of Norway as the wife of King Eric II. She is sometimes known as the Maid of Scotland to distinguish her from her daughter, Margaret, Maid of Norway, who succeeded to the throne of Scotland.

Alexander III of Scotland King of Scots 1249–1286

Alexander III was King of Scots from 1249 until his death in 1286.

Alexander, brother of Margaret's mother and the last surviving child of the King of Scotland, died on 28 January 1284. The Maid was left as the only living descendant of Alexander III. The King did not wait to discover whether his son's widow, Margaret of Flanders, was pregnant. [3] Already on 5 February he had all thirteen earls, twenty-four barons, and three clan chiefs come to Scone and swear to recognize his granddaughter as his successor if he died leaving neither son nor daughter and if no posthumous child was born to his son. [4] By April it had presumably become clear that the young Alexander's widow was not expecting a child and that Margaret was the heir presumptive. [5]

Alexander was an heir apparent to the throne of the Kingdom of Scotland who never ascended due to his early death.

Barons in Scotland Wikimedia list article

In Scotland, a Baron is the head of a "feudal" barony. This used to be attached to a particular piece of land on which was the "caput", or the essence of the barony, normally a building, such as a castle or manor house. Accordingly, the owner of the piece of land containing the "caput" was the baron or baroness. The Court of the Lord Lyon issued a new ruling April 2015 that recognises a person possessing the dignity of baron and other feudal titles (Lordship/Earl/Marquis). Lord Lyon now prefers the approach of recognizing the particular feudal noble dignity as expressed in the Crown Charter that the petitioner presents. These titles are recognised as the status of a minor baron but not a peer. Scottish feudal baronies may be passed to any person, of either sex, by inheritance or conveyance. Scotland has a distinct legal system within the United Kingdom. Historically, in the Kingdom of Scotland, the Lord Lyon King of Arms, as the Sovereign’s Minister in matters armorial, is at once Herald and Judge.

An heir presumptive is the person entitled to inherit a throne, peerage, or other hereditary honour, but whose position can be displaced by the birth of an heir apparent or of a new heir presumptive with a better claim to the position in question. The position is however subject to law and/or conventions that may alter who is entitled to be heir presumptive.

Alexander III's wife, another Margaret, sister of King Edward I of England, had died in 1275, and the oath he exacted strongly implied that he now intended to remarry. [4] When Edward expressed his condolence to Alexander III that month for the death of his son, the latter responded that "much good may come to pass yet through your kinswoman, the daughter of your niece ... who is now our heir presumptive", suggesting that the two kings may have already been discussing a suitable marriage for Margaret. Alexander and his magnates may have hoped for an English match. [6] The King took a new wife, Yolanda of Dreux, on 14 October 1285, hoping to father another child. On the evening of 18 March 1286, he set out to meet with Queen Yolanda, only to be found dead with a broken neck the next day. [6]

Margaret of England 13th-century English princess and Queen of Scotland

Margaret of England was Queen of Scots by marriage to King Alexander III.

Edward I of England 13th and 14th-century King of England and Duke of Aquitaine

Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. Before his accession to the throne, he was commonly referred to as The Lord Edward. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons. In 1259, he briefly sided with a baronial reform movement, supporting the Provisions of Oxford. After reconciliation with his father, however, he remained loyal throughout the subsequent armed conflict, known as the Second Barons' War. After the Battle of Lewes, Edward was hostage to the rebellious barons, but escaped after a few months and joined the fight against Simon de Montfort. Montfort was defeated at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, and within two years the rebellion was extinguished. With England pacified, Edward joined the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land. The crusade accomplished little, and Edward was on his way home in 1272 when he was informed that his father had died. Making a slow return, he reached England in 1274 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 19 August.

Yolande of Dreux, Queen of Scotland Queen consort of Scotland, duchess consort of Brittany

Yolande of Dreux was a sovereign Countess of Montfort from 1311 until 1322. Through her first marriage to Alexander III of Scotland, Yolande became Queen consort of the Kingdom of Scotland. Through her second marriage to Arthur II, Duke of Brittany, she became Duchess Consort of Brittany.

Lady and queen

Following the unexpected death of King Alexander, Scottish magnates gathered to discuss the future of the kingdom. They swore to preserve the throne for the right heir and chose six regents, known as guardians of Scotland, to govern the country. Although the succession had been laid out by the time King Alexander III died, Margaret's accession was not yet assured. Her stepgrandmother Queen Yolanda was pregnant and the child was expected to succeed to the throne. [7] There was a dispute in parliament in April involving Robert Bruce, 5th Lord of Annandale, and John Balliol, Lord of Galloway. Bruce may have opposed the Maid's succession, [8] or the two men may have both claimed to be next in line to the throne after Yolande's child and Margaret. [9] Yolande delivered a stillborn child in November, [8] and within a few months Eric's most prominent councilor, Bjarne Erlingsson, arrived in Scotland to claim the kingdom for Margaret. [10] Bruce raised a rebellion with his son, Robert, Earl of Carrick, but was defeated in early 1287. [11] The precariousness of the situation made King Eric reluctant to see his three-year-old daughter leave Norway for Scotland. [12]

A regent is a person appointed to govern a state because the monarch is a minor, is absent or is incapacitated. The rule of a regent or regents is called a regency. A regent or regency council may be formed ad hoc or in accordance with a constitutional rule. "Regent" is sometimes a formal title. If the regent is holding his position due to his position in the line of succession, the compound term prince regent is often used; if the regent of a minor is his mother, she is often referred to as "queen regent".

John Balliol King of Scots

John Balliol, known derisively as Toom Tabard was King of Scots from 1292 to 1296. Little is known of his early life. After the death of Margaret, Maid of Norway, Scotland entered an interregnum during which several competitors for the Crown of Scotland put forward claims. Balliol was chosen from among them as the new King of Scotland by a group of selected noblemen headed by King Edward I of England.

Lord of Galloway Wikimedia list article

The lords of Galloway consisted of a dynasty of heirs who were lords and ladies who ruled over Galloway in southwest Scotland, mainly during the High Middle Ages. Many regions of Scotland, including Galloway and Moray, periodically had kings or subkings, similar to those in Ireland during the Middle Ages. The Scottish monarch was seen as being similar to a high king. The lords of Galloway would have either paid tribute to the Scottish monarch, or at other times ignored him. The Lords of Galloway are fairly well recorded in the 12th and 13th centuries, but the records are incomplete or conflicting at other times. Later on, the kings were known as "lords" at the Scottish court, and "kings" at home, finally becoming "lords" in both arenas.

Great Seal appointed for the Government of the Realm after death of King Alexander III Government2.jpg
Great Seal appointed for the Government of the Realm after death of King Alexander III

In May 1289, Eric II sent envoys, certainly not the first, to Edward I to discuss the future of Margaret, whom he called "lady and queen". Edward was later approached by William Fraser, Bishop of St Andrews and one of the guardians of Scotland, but the Scots could merely observe the negotiations between the two kings. [11] Eric was indebted to Edward, and Edward was determined to make the most of the situation. The guardians, accompanied by Bruce, finally met with English and Norwegian envoys in Salisbury in October. The Treaty of Salisbury was drawn up on 6 November, stating that Eric and Margaret, "queen and heir of the kingdom", asked Edward to intervene on behalf of his grandniece so "that she could ordain and enjoy therein as other kings do in their kingdoms". [13] Margaret was to be sent, by 1 November 1290, to England directly or via Scotland. Once the Scots could assure Edward that Scotland was peaceful and safe, he would send her to them. Edward was given the right to choose her husband, while her father could veto the choice. A papal bull sought earlier by Edward I was issued on 16 November 1289, permitting Margaret to marry his son, Edward of Caernarfon. [14] The guardians and other prelates and magnates wrote that they were firmly in favour of the English match for "the lady Margaret queen of Scotland, our lady". [15] It was strongly implied that Margaret's husband would be king, and Edward insisted on referring to Margaret as queen in order to speed up the accession of his own son, [15] though the Scots themselves normally described her only as their lady. [16]

William Fraser (bishop of St Andrews) bishop

William Fraser was a late 13th century Bishop of St Andrews and Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland. Before election to the bishopric, he had been and Royal Chancellor of King Alexander III of Scotland and dean of Glasgow. He was elected to the bishopric on 4 August 1279, and confirmed in the position the following year by Pope Nicholas III

Salisbury Cathedral city in Wiltshire, England

Salisbury is a cathedral city in Wiltshire, England, with a population of 40,302, at the confluence of the rivers Avon, Nadder, Ebble, Wylye and Bourne. The city is approximately 20 miles (32 km) from Southampton and 30 miles (48 km) from Bath.

Papal bull type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church

A papal bull is a type of public decree, letters patent, or charter issued by a pope of the Roman Catholic Church. It is named after the leaden seal (bulla) that was traditionally appended to the end in order to authenticate it.

Negotiations about Margaret's marriage, dower, succession, and the nature of the intended personal union between England and Scotland continued into 1290. A lavishly provisioned ship failed to fetch the Maid in May because of diplomatic difficulties. [17] The Treaty of Birgham, agreed on 18 July, provided that Scotland was to remain fully independent despite the personal union [18] and that Margaret alone would be inaugurated as monarch at Scone. [19] By late August 1290, Margaret was preparing to sail from Bergen to the island of Great Britain or was already at sea. The ship was her father's but he did not accompany her; [20] the most prominent men in her entourage were Bishop Narve and Baron Tore Haakonsson. [21] She must have embarked in good health, but became ill during her journey. The ship landed in Orkney, a Norwegian island off the coast of Scotland, on about 23 September. [22] Suffering on the island for up to a week from food poisoning or, less likely, motion sickness, Margaret died between 26 and 29 September 1290 [22] in the arms of Bishop Narve. [23] Her body was returned to Bergen, where King Eric insisted on having the coffin opened to confirm his daughter's identity. He then had it buried in the north wall of the chancel of Christ Church, now destroyed. [24]


Lerwick Town Hall stained glass window depicting "Margaret, queen of Scotland and daughter of Norway" Margaret, Maid of Norway.jpg
Lerwick Town Hall stained glass window depicting "Margaret, queen of Scotland and daughter of Norway"

Margaret was the last of the line of King William the Lion. [22] Thirteen men laid claim to succession, most notably Bruce and Balliol. [25] Eric half-heartedly claimed the Scottish crown as well, and died in 1299. [26] In 1300, a German woman came with her husband from Lübeck to Bergen, insisting that she was the Maid of Norway and that she had been sold by Tore Haakonsson's wife Ingeborg. The woman, known as false Margaret, was 20 years older than Margaret would have been, and was burnt at the stake for treason in Nordnes in 1301. [27] She may have been used by Audun Hugleiksson as a pawn in the plot against the Maid's uncle, Haakon V, who had succeeded Eric II. [24]

Historians debate whether Margaret should be considered a queen and included in the list of Scottish monarchs. She was never inaugurated, [1] and her contemporaries in Scotland described her as queen very rarely, referring to her instead as their "lady". She was called Scotland's "lady", "heir", or "lady and heir" during the deliberations of the Great Cause after her death. [16] On the other hand, documents issued from late 1286 no longer refer to the "king whosoever he may be", indicating that the throne may have been regarded as already occupied by Margaret. Pope Nicholas IV considered Margaret to be the monarch of Scotland and treated her as such, sending to her a bull regarding the episcopal election of Matthew the Scot. [18] In modern historiography she is nearly unanimously called "queen", and reference books give 19 March 1286, the date of Alexander III's death, as the start of her reign. [16]

Family tree

Margaret's family ties resulted from the marital diplomacy that sought to ensure peace among the three kingdoms on the North Sea Norway, Scotland, and England, [1] and placed her at the centre of the Scottish succession intrigues. [28]

Henry of Scotland
William I of Scotland
David of Scotland
Henry III of England
Alexander II of Scotland
Margaret of Huntingdon
Isobel of Huntingdon
Edward I of England
Margaret of England
Alexander III of Scotland
Yolanda of Dreux
Dervorguilla of Galloway
Robert Bruce
Eric II of Norway
Margaret of Scotland
Alexander of Scotland
Margaret of Flanders
John Balliol
Edward II of England
Margaret, Maid of Norway


  1. Eric II was survived by one child from his second marriage, a daughter named Ingeborg, but was succeeded by his brother, Haakon V. When Haakon V died, he was not succeeded by his daughter Ingeborg but by her son Magnus VII. [3]

Related Research Articles

Malcolm III was King of Scots from 1058 to 1093. He was later nicknamed "Canmore". Malcolm's long reign of 35 years preceded the beginning of the Scoto-Norman age. Henry I of England and Eustace III of Boulogne were his sons-in-law, making him the maternal grandfather of Empress Matilda, William Adelin and Matilda of Boulogne. All three of them were prominent in English politics during the 12th century.

Donald III, and nicknamed "Donald the Fair" or "Donald the White", was King of Scots from 1093–1094 and 1094–1097.

Edmund or Etmond mac Maíl Coluim was a son of Malcolm III of Scotland and his second wife, Margaret of Wessex. He may be found on some lists of Scottish kings, but there is no evidence that he was king. Although Edmund was probably Malcolm and Margaret's second son, he was passed over in subsequent successions as a result of betraying his siblings by siding with their uncle, Donald III.

The House of Dunkeld, in Scottish Gaelic Dùn Chailleann, is a historiographical and genealogical construct to illustrate the clear succession of Scottish kings from 1034 to 1040 and from 1058 to 1286. The line is also variously referred to by historians as "The Canmores", and "MacMalcolm".

When the crown of Scotland became vacant in September 1290 on the death of the child monarch Margaret, the Maid of Norway, a total of thirteen claimants to the throne came forward. Those with the most credible claims were John Balliol, Robert Bruce, John Hastings and Floris V, Count of Holland.

The Treaty of Birgham, also referred to as the Treaty of Salisbury, comprised two treaties intended to secure the independence of Scotland after the death of Alexander III and accession of his granddaughter Margaret in 1286.

Sir Robert VI de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale, jure uxoris Earl of Carrick (1271–1292), Lord of Hartness, Writtle and Hatfield Broad Oak, was a cross-border lord, and participant of the Second Barons' War, Ninth Crusade, Welsh Wars, and First War of Scottish Independence.

Robert de Brus, 5th Lord of Annandale Regent of Scotland, and a competitor for the Scottish throne

Robert V de Brus, 5th Lord of Annandale, was a feudal lord, justice and constable of Scotland and England, a regent of Scotland, and a competitor for the Scottish throne in 1290/92 in the Great Cause. His grandson Robert the Bruce eventually became King of Scots.

Isabel Bruce was Queen of Norway as the wife of King Eric II.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Oram 2002, p. 107.
  2. 1 2 Duncan 2002, p. 166.
  3. 1 2 3 Duncan 2002, p. 169.
  4. 1 2 Duncan 2002, p. 170.
  5. Duncan 2002, p. 211.
  6. 1 2 Duncan 2002, p. 171.
  7. Duncan 2002, p. 175.
  8. 1 2 Duncan 2002, p. 178.
  9. Reid 1982, p. 76.
  10. Helle 1990, p. 149.
  11. 1 2 Duncan 2002, p. 179.
  12. Prestwich 1998, p. 360.
  13. Duncan 2002, p. 180.
  14. Duncan 2002, p. 182.
  15. 1 2 Duncan 2002, p. 183.
  16. 1 2 3 Duncan 2002, p. 181.
  17. Prestwich 1998, p. 361.
  18. 1 2 Reid 1982, p. 79.
  19. Barrow 1990, p. 135.
  20. Duncan 2002, p. 194.
  21. Helle 1990, p. 151.
  22. 1 2 3 Duncan 2002, p. 195.
  23. Reid 1990, p. 151.
  24. 1 2 Reid 1990, p. 156.
  25. Prestwich 1998, p. 382.
  26. Reid 1990, p. 152.
  27. Reid 1990, p. 155.
  28. Oram 2002, p. 168, 171, 347.


Margaret, Maid of Norway
Born: 9 April 1283 Died: 26 September 1290
Regnal titles
Title last held by
Alexander III
Queen of Scotland
Title next held by