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Margaret of Denmark, Queen of Scotland

Margaret of Denmark, Queen of Scotland

Queen of Scotland
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Queen of Scotland
Gender female
Birth 23 June 1456 (Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark, Kingdom of Denmark)
Death 14 July 1486 (Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom)
Mother: Dorothea of Brandenburg
Father: Christian I of Denmark
Siblings: JohnKing of DenmarkFrederick I of Denmark
Spouse: James III of Scotland
Children: James IV of ScotlandJames StewartDuke of RossJohn StewartEarl of Mar
The details

Margaret of Denmark (23 June 1456 – 14 July 1486), also referred to as Margaret of Norway, was Queen of Scotland 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 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. 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. In July 1469, at age 13, at Holyrood Abbey, she married James III. 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.

Queen Margaret was given the largest jointure Scottish law allowed in her marriage settlement. She was interested in clothes and jewelry, and known for always being dressed in the latest fashion of the time. 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. Many later historians called her far better qualified to rule than her spouse.

The relationship between Margaret and James III was not described as a happy one. Reportedly, Margaret was not very fond of James and had intercourse with him only for procreation, though she did respect his position as monarch. One reason for their estrangement was the fact that James favored their second son before their eldest. In 1476, John MacDonald was trialed for treason and deprived of the title Earl of Ross by James, who wished to give the title to his second son. However, John MacDonald was allowed to remain as Lord of Parliament upon Margaret's request. 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 lead to a permanent estrangement. Politically, she did work for the reinstatement of her spouse in his powers as monarch during this incident. After the crisis of 1482, however, 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, and is buried in Cambuskenneth Abbey. 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. 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. Reportedly, James III did mourn her death and sent a supplication to the Pope where he applied for her to be declared a saint.


  • 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).


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