Thursday, 1 May 2014

England's first Scottish queen

Later this year, Scotland will hold a referendum about whether it wants to remain part of the United Kingdom.  But although the formal union between the crowns of England and Scotland only occurred in the 18th century, the relationship between the royals of both countries had woven their way into the history books for many hundreds of years before.  And the first formal connection between the crowns of England and Scotland came in the early days of  Norman England when the unexpected king, Henry I, married Edith Dunkeld who reigned as Queen Matilda.  Her death on May 1st 1118, her death had a massive impact on the English crown.

Edith 'Matilda' Dunkeld, Queen of England from 1100 to 1118 was well loved and hugely popular

Queen Matilda had been hugely popular, well loved by her subjects and popular with the court at which she resided.  She was known for her love of building, of the arts and poetry and for her devotion to helping the poor and ill.  After her death she was remembered as a good, pious woman who had been a calming influence on her husband.  But the start of Edith's life was much more dramatic.

Henry I, King of England, married Edith Dunkeld in 1100 just months after taking the throne

Edith was the daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland and Margaret of Wessex, known to history as Saint Margaret.  Edith was born in Dunfermline but at the age of 13 she lost both her parents within months of each other.  At the time, Edith was living in a monastery run by her aunt, Christina, where she was a sought after bride.  But soon after her parents' deaths, she is believed to have left the monastery and disappears from the records until 1100 when the new king of England, Henry I, made her his wife.

Matilda, the Empress, was the daughter of Henry I and Matilda of Scotland

The couple had a son, William, and a daughter, Matilda, but two years after Edith's death William died in the White Ship disaster and her husband's plans for a great dynasty died with him.  His daughter, Matilda, would try to claim his throne as hers after his death but the civil war that followed was only ended by the accession of her son, Henry II. But thanks to Matilda putting her son on the throne, Edith became the ancestor of every monarch to have ruled England and then Great Britain afterwards.  For centuries after her reign, her country of birth was at odds with the country she grew up to rule.  But they did eventually unite their crowns and those who went on to wear it can call England's first Scottish queen great granny - several times over.

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