Learned queen

Daily Reading for November 16 • Margaret, Queen of Scotland, 1093

Nor need we wonder that the queen governed herself and her household wisely when we know that she herself acted under the wisest of masters, the guidance of the Holy Scriptures. I myself have had frequent opportunities of admiring in her how, even amidst the distractions of lawsuits, amidst the countless cares of state, she devoted herself with wonderful assiduity to the word of God, about which she used to ask profound questions from the learned men who were sitting near her. But just as no one among them possessed a deeper intellect than herself, so none had the power of clearer expression. Thus it very often happened that these doctors went from her wiser men by much than when they came. She sought with a religious earnestness for those sacred volumes, and oftentimes her affectionate familiarity with me urged me to exert myself to obtain them for her use. Not that in doing this she cared for her own salvation only; she thought of that of others too.

First of all, in regard to King Malcolm: by the help of God she made him most attentive to the works of justice, mercy, almsgiving, and other virtues. From her he learnt how to keep the vigils of the night in constant prayer; she instructed him by her exhortation and example how to pray to God with groaning from the heart and abundance of tears. . . . There was in him a sort of dread of offending one whose life was so venerable; for he could not but perceive from her conduct that Christ dwelt within her; nay, more, he readily obeyed her wishes and prudent counsels in all things. Whatever she refused, he refused also; whatever pleased her, he also loved for the love of her. Hence it was that, although he could not read, he would turn over and examine books which she used either for her devotions or her study; and whenever he heard her say that she was fonder of one of them than the others, this one he too used to look at with special affection, kissing it, and often taking it into his hands. Sometimes he sent for a worker of precious metals, whom he commanded to ornament that volume with gold and gems, and when the work was finished, the king himself used to carry the volume to the queen as a kind proof of his devotion.

From Life of St. Margaret Queen of Scotland by Turgot, Bishop of St. Andrews, translated from the Latin by William Forbes-Leith, S.J. (Edinburgh: William Peterson, 1884).

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