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Margaret of Denmark (June 23, 1456 – July 14, 1486) 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, daughter of John, Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, and Barbara of Saxe-Wittenberg (1405–1465).

Margaret of Denmark’s mother, Dorothea of Brandenburg was Queen of Denmark, Queen of Norway and Queen of Sweden by her marriages to King Christopher III and King Christian I. She served as interim regent during the interregnum in 1448, and as regent in the absence of her second spouse during his reign. She was the mother of two future kings of Denmark: Hans, King of Denmark who reigned from 1481 until 1513; Frederik I of Denmark who reigned from 1523 until 1533.

Margaret was born in Denmark to King Christian I and Queen Dorothea of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Not much is known about Margaret’s upbringing. By the time she was four years old there were talks about her marriage to the Scottish Prince James. In 1468 Margaret was betrothed to James of Scotland as a means to stop a feud regarding the debt Scotland owed Denmark over the taxation of the Hebrides and Isle of Man.

The marriage was arranged on the recommendation of king Charles VII of France. In July 1469, at the age of 13 she married James III at Holyrood Abbey. Upon their marriage all of the Scottish debt was cancelled. Queen Margaret was given the largest jointure allowed by Scottish law in her marriage settlement. She was interested in clothes and jewellery, and known for always being dressed in the latest fashions of the time.

Following the birth of her son James, in 1473 she went on a pilgrimage to Whithorn. 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 years 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, she was not very fond of her husband and had intercourse with him only for procreation, though she did respect his position as a monarch. One reason for their estrangement was the fact that James favoured their second son over their eldest. In 1476, James had decided that he wanted the Earldom of Ross for his second son and accused John MacDonald of treason. Macdonald was then put on trial before the Parliament, but upon Margaret’s request he was allowed to remain as Lord of Parliament.

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 led to a permanent estrangement. Politically, she worked for the reinstatement of her spouse in his powers as monarch during this incident. After the crisis of 1482, the couple lived apart: James III lived in Edinburgh, while queen Margaret preferred to live in Stirling with her children.

Death

Margaret died at Stirling Castle on 14 July 1486 after falling ill, and was buried in Cambuskenneth Abbey. Her husband, James III, was interred with her after his death in 1488. The abbey has mostly been reduced to ruins, apart from its bell-tower, which is still standing today. The grave was enclosed and restored in 1865 at the expense of Margaret’s descendant, Queen Victoria.

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 mourned her death, and sent a supplication to the Pope where he applied for her to be declared a saint.