Margaret Plantagenet was born on 29 September 1240 at Windsor Castle to King Henry III of England and his wife, Eleanore of Provence.
The second of five children, the first few years of Margaret’s life were spent quietly in the care of her affectionate and close family. Her first appearance in historical record came when she was three years old and she took part in a royal event in London with her brother, the future Edward I.
Margaret’s paternal aunt, Joan, had been married to King Alexander II of Scotland before she died in 1238 and so, as former brothers-in-law, Henry III and Alexander II had a good relationship and were quite fond of one another. When Alexander II welcomed the birth of a son with his second wife, Marie of Coucy, in September 1241 it was only natural that the possibility of a marriage between the young heir to the Scottish throne and Henry III’s eldest daughter be discussed. Margaret and Alexander III were betrothed when she was just four years old.
Alexander became King of Scotland at the age of seven when his father died in 1249 and Margaret became Queen of Scots at the age of eleven on 26 December 1251 when she was officially married Alexander II at York Minster. The marriage was the third youngest of monarchs in British history.
Removed to the harsh climate of Edinburgh and kept quite separate from her husband Margaret became lonely and homesick, writing often to her parents about her poor treatment. This created tension between England and Scotland and it was not until 1255 that this was eventually settled and the young Queen was given an opportunity to reunite with her parents at Wark. The visit vastly improved Margaret’s spirits and she returned to Edinburgh feeling much revived.
In 1257 Margaret and Alexander III were held captive by the powerful Comyn family and it was only through the intervention of Margaret’s father and the regency council that they were freed. They went on to have three children: Margaret (b. 28 February 1261, d. 9 April 1283), Alexander (b. 21 January 1264, d. 28 January 1284) and David (b. 20 March 1272, d. June 1281).
Though her life was quiet there is some scandal which remains unresolved to this day. Margaret had in her employ a young courtier – given to her by her brother – who claimed to have killed her uncle, Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. One day, while walking with a group of ladies and courtiers along the River Tay Margaret is said to have become annoyed with the courtier and either pushed, or had him pushed, into the river. Playful laughter quickly turned to shock, however, when the man was swept to his death by the powerful current. Margaret was said to have been saddened by the event but we will never know exactly what part she played and how she truly felt.
Margaret died at the age of thirty-four on 26 February 1275 at Cupar Castle after falling ill while visiting Fife. She is buried at Dunfermline Abbey in Fife.