Margaret, the Maid of Norway, was born on 9 April 1283 to Eric II of Norway and Margaret of Scotland. Her mother was the daughter of Alexander III of Scotland and Margaret of England. She tragically died giving birth to her daughter. She was just 22 years old. At the time of her mother’s marriage to Eric II of Norway, it was already stipulated that Margaret and Eric’s children might succeed to the throne of Scotland. At the time Alexander III had just one living son, his other son having died in June 1281.
If it happens that the king of Scotland dies without a lawful son, and any of his sons does not leave lawful issue [not sons] and Margaret has children [not sons] by the king of Norway, she and her children shall succeed to the king of Scotland … or she, even if she is without children, according to Scottish law and custom.
Tragedy would strike once again on 28 January 1284 when Alexander’s only surviving son also died. His granddaughter Margaret was now his only living descendant. Alexander tried to provide for her succession by summoning all thirteen earls of Scotland, twenty-four barons and the heads of the three mains Gaelic kindreds of the West. By 5 February 1384 Margaret was declared to be ‘domina and right heir’ of Scotland, providing Alexander did not leave any other surviving issue. Alexander remarried in 1285 to Yolande of Dreux, and while she appears to have been pregnant, she either had a miscarriage or a stillborn child. Alexander died while she was still pregnant on 18 or 19 March 1286 while on his way to see her.
A regency council was formed called the Guardians of Scotland to keep the kingdom for its rightful heir, which at the time could also be Yolande’s child. When it became clear that there was no surviving child, Margaret became Queen under the regency of the Guardians, despite competing claims and rebellions. Both Edward I of England and Eric II of Norway referred to Margaret as Queen. Edward I anticipated a marriage between Margaret and his son as he received a papal bull permitting the marriage.
Margaret departed Norway in the summer of 1290, still only seven years old. She never made it to her coronation. Margaret died on the Orkney Islands on 26 September after being brought ashore, apparently of the effects of sea-sickness. Her remains were returned to Norway where she was laid to rest next to her mother. Nothing remains of that church.
Margaret’s death caused a succession crisis in Scotland as there was no obvious heir to the throne. Her premature death also caused some to question her status as monarch. She was never crowned as such. However, I would consider her a monarch. She was referred to as a Queen, and she was en route to being crowned. If you consider her a monarch, she was the first Queen regnant in the British Isles.
Duncan, A.A.M., The Kingship of the Scots 842–1292: Succession and Independence. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2002. (UK & US)
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