I love Norway, I love Scotland, and we all love stories. So here is a story as a present for your imagination.
In the thirteenth century, Alexander III was King of Scots. He’d been king since he was eight years old, he was popular and good at his job, and he and the queen had three children, a daughter and two sons. But the queen and one of the princes died. The daughter, Margaret, went to Norway, married a prince, and died giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, also called Margaret.
Three years later, King Alexander’s only remaining son died, aged twenty. All his family had died before him and that was a terrible thing for the country, not just for the king. In those days a king wanted a son to rule after him, otherwise there would be battles for power. He married again, to a lovely young French princess.
One night, he had been at a meeting of the Scottish lords and set out to ride home even though it was dark and the weather conditions were atrocious. In spite of everyone urging him to stay the night, he rode out, determined to get back to his castle and his young wife. He never got there. His horse stumbled, and he wa found dead at the bottom of a cliff the next morning. In Norway, a tiny girl woke up Queen of Scots, not that she knew anything about it.
There was a council who acted as regents, The Guardians of Scotland. By land and sea they travelled to Norway to give the news and kneel at little Queen Margaret’s feet, and for the next four years they ruled the kingdom for her while she stayed in Norway with her father, who was now the king. In Scotland there were rebellions, but they never came to anything. Then, when Margaret was seven, there were plans to marry her to the young son of Edward 1 (Edward 1, by the way, was in my opinion one of the nastiest pieces of work ever to rule England.) The little girl and her attendants boarded a ship. The Queen of Scots was coming home! But the ship sailed through wild weather. The Queen became violently ill and died. She never set foot in Scotland. Her body was taken back to Bergen so she could be buried beside her mother. Unusually for the time, her father insisted on opening the coffin so he could identify the body, or perhaps because he simply couldn’t believe it until he’d seen her. Much later a woman appeared in Norway claiming to be Margaret, but everybody knew that the king had formally identified his little girl.
What Alexander had feared came true. There was no clear heir to the throne, and rival claimants rattled their swords. King Edward, seeing his opportunity, offered to sort it all out. You can read elsewhere about John Balliol, Robert the Bruce, and The Red Comyn, but what it came to was war, bitterness, vengeance and more war.
I’ve often thought that Margaret’s story is a wonderful starting point for writers. If there hadn’t been a positive identification of her body, there could be all kinds of stories about her growing up on a remote island somewhere.
And this is where, as writers and readers, we put on our ‘What If?’ hats. What if the identification didn’t really happen? What if her father knew that she wouldn’t be happy or safe in Scotland, and had arranged for her death to be faked? What if, what if? And did she grow up amongst rugged, beautiful landscapes in Norway,on an island, or even secretly in Scotland? One day I might write this story myself. In the meantime, if you love history and want a starting point to a story, what about this –
Let’s say Margaret didn’t die. What really happened? Where did she grow up, what did she do? Was somebody looking for her?