Margaret of Denmark

(23 June 1456 – 14 July 1486)

Also referred to as Margaret of Norway, was Queen of Scotland from 1469 to 1486 as the wife of King James III. She was the daughter of Christian I, King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and Dorothea of Brandenburg.

Margaret was betrothed to James of Scotland in 1460. The marriage was arranged by recommendation of the king of France to end the feud between Denmark and Scotland about the taxation of the Hebrides islands, a conflict that raged between 1426 and 1460. In July 1469 (at age 13), at Holyrood Abbey, she married James III, King of Scots (1460–88). Her father, King Christian I of Denmark and Norway (the two realms being united at the time under the Kalmar Union), agreed to a considerable dowry. He was in need of cash, however, so the islands of Orkney and Shetland, possessions of the Norwegian crown, were pledged as security until the dowry was to be paid.

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 to Castle Ravenscraig, so the Scottish throne took the earl's rights in the islands too.

This marriage produced three children:

  • James IV (17 March 1473 – 9 September 1513)
  • James Stewart, Duke of Ross (March 1476 – January 1504)
  • John Stewart, Earl of Mar (December 1479 – 1503).

Margaret became a popular queen in Scotland and was described as beautiful, gentle, and sensible.[2] Many later historians called her far better qualified to rule than her husband. A story given 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.[2] However, as Ramsay was favoured by the royal family also after the death of the queen, this is considered doubtful and may have been slander, although he did have some knowledge of poisons.[2] During the crisis of 1482 when her husband was deprived of power for several months, Margaret was said to have shown more interest in the welfare of her children than her husband, and this apparently led to an estrangement. Despite later rumours however there is no reason to think that the King wished for her death.

She died at Stirling Castle on 14 July 1486, and is buried in Cambuskenneth Abbey.