A beautiful little manuscript in the Bodleian Library, which was purchased for £6 at auction in 1887, was discovered afterwards to belong to none other than Margaret, Queen of Scotland and was, according to her biographer, her favourite book. The story of the book is as romantic as the story of Margaret herself.
Born in Hungary, St Margaret was briefly sister of the King of England then exiled to Scotland after the Norman Conquest where she married King Malcolm. Despite many political upheavals, she adapted to an unwelcome public role to become famous for her piety, dignity and compassion. She helped her husband to make Scotland a European power, and her children ruled over both Scotland and England. After her death she was invoked as a force for stability and reconciliation, even as late as the Restoration of Charles II.
Although Margaret was later revered as a saint, her Latin biographer recounts only a single miracle, an occasion on which this very book fell in a stream but was later found undamaged. A Latin poem added to the beginning of the Bodleian gospel-book describes the same events. It was only after the Library purchased the book that the connection was made by the 22-year-old-scholar, Lucy Hill, making it clear that we have the very book St Margaret owned and diligently studied.
Saint Margaret’s Gospel Book will explain this beautiful manuscript, exploring its making and its meaning for Margaret, looking at how it became associated with her sanctity; and setting this against the background of historical events which made Margaret a significant figure both then and now.