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Margaret of Denmark, Queen of Scotland

Margaret of Denmark
Margaret of Scotland (1469) by Hugo van der Goes.jpg
Margaret depicted in the Trinity Altarpiece by Hugo van der Goes, c. 1480
Queen consort of Scotland
TenureJuly 1469–14 July 1486
Born23 June 1456
Copenhagen Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark
Died14 July 1486(1486-07-14) (aged 30)
Stirling Castle, Stirling, Scotland
(m. 1469)
IssueJames IV of Scotland
James, Duke of Ross
John, Earl of Mar
FatherChristian I of Denmark
MotherDorothea of Brandenburg
ReligionRoman Catholic
Modern grave of Queen Margaret at Cambuskenneth Abbey

Margaret of Denmark (23 June 1456 – 14 July 1486) was Queen of Scots from 1469 to 1486 by marriage to King James III. She was the daughter of Christian I, King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and Dorothea of Brandenburg.


Margaret was born in Denmark to King Christian I and Queen Dorothea of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Not much is known about her upbringing. By the time she was four years old there were talks about her marriage to the Scottish Prince James. In 1468 Margaret was betrothed to James of Scotland as a means to stop a feud regarding the debt Scotland owed Denmark over the taxation of the Hebrides and Isle of Man. The marriage was arranged on the recommendation of king Charles VII of France. In July 1469, at the age of 13 she married James III at Holyrood Abbey. Upon their marriage all of the Scottish debt was cancelled. William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness, was at that time the Norse Earl of Orkney. In 1472 he was made to exchange his Orkney fief for Ravenscraig Castle, so the Scottish throne took the earl's rights to the islands too.[citation needed]

Queen Margaret was given the largest jointure allowed by Scottish law in her marriage settlement - one third of the royal revenues, together with Linlithgow Palace and Doune Castle. She was interested in clothes and jewellery, and known for always being dressed in the latest fashions of the time. Following the birth of her son James, in 1473 she went on a pilgrimage to Whithorn. She may have taught her son James to speak Danish. She became a popular queen in Scotland and was described as beautiful, gentle, and sensible.

The relationship between Margaret and James III was not described as a happy one. Reportedly, she was not very fond of her husband and had intercourse with him only for procreation, though she did respect his position as a monarch. One reason for their estrangement was the fact that James favoured their second son over their eldest. In 1476, James had decided that he wanted the Earldom of Ross for his second son and accused John MacDonald, the Earl, of treason. Macdonald was then put on trial before the Parliament, but upon Margaret's request he was allowed to remain as Lord of Parliament. During the crisis of 1482, when James III was deprived of power by his brother for several months, Margaret was said to have shown more interest in the welfare of her children than her spouse, which led to a permanent estrangement. Politically, she worked for the reinstatement of her spouse in his powers as monarch during this incident. After the crisis of 1482, the couple lived apart: James III lived in Edinburgh, while queen Margaret preferred to live in Stirling with her children.


Margaret died at Stirling Castle on 14 July 1486 after falling ill, and was buried in Cambuskenneth Abbey. Her husband, James III, was interred with her after his death in 1488. The abbey has mostly been reduced to ruins, apart from its bell-tower, which is still standing today. The grave was enclosed and restored in 1865 at the expense of their descendant, Queen Victoria.

A story told by her son claims that Margaret was killed by poison given to her by John Ramsay, 1st Lord Bothwell, leader of one of the political factions. As he was still favoured by the royal family after her death, this is doubtful and maybe slanderous, although he did know poisons.



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