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British RoyalsHistoryHistoryNorway

The fake Queen of Norway and Scotland

There are many people who, throughout history, have pretended to be royal. The desire for power and wealth have enticed many to falsely pretend to be a royal who has either died or disappeared. Not many of them are women; however, a ship once came to Norway with a woman who wanted to be the nation’s queen.

That woman has been known as “False Margrete.” She was a Norwegian woman who claimed to be Princess of Norway and Queen of Scotland.

Margaret, Princess of Norway, Queen of Scotland. Photo: By Colin Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

The real Margaret, known as “the Maid of Norway”, was the queen-designate of Scotland from 1286 until her death. Princess Margaret was the daughter of King Eirik and Queen Margaret, who was of Scottish royal descent. The year after King Eirik was crowned king in 1280, Eirik married Margaret of Scotland, and in 1283, little Princess Margaret was born. Sadly, later that same year, her mother died.

Princess Margaret was later recognised as heir to the Scottish throne at the age of two. When she was six-years-old, she was sent to Scotland to marry the English heir to the throne, Edward, who later became King Edward II of England. Little Margaret never married, and she became ill and died in the Orkney Islands in 1290. Her body was sent back to Bergen, Norway.

The real Margaret is still buried under the cathedral in Bergen. Photo: By Morten Dreier – Image:Bergen domkirken.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

The year after King Eirik’s death, a woman came to Bergen by ship from the German Hanseatic city of Lübeck. She claimed she was Margaret and accused a number of people of treason. She claimed that she had not died in the Orkney Islands but instead was sent to Germany and had married there. The citizens of the town and some of the clergy supported her claim, even though the late King Eirik had identified his daughter’s body and that the woman seemed to be around 40-years-old while the real Margaret would have been 17.

The fake Margaret demanded the people’s support and assistance in being installed as the rightful queen in both Norway and Scotland. The King immediately sent troops to capture the woman and her husband. The imposter and her husband were convicted of fraud; While her husband was beheaded, the woman pretending to be the princess was burned.

The story of the betrayed princess spread throughout Norway and Scotland. Her supporters posed a threat to the King, and it was forbidden to talk about her. ‘Margrete’ had support from the church in Bergen for an extended period, and 60 years after her execution, the small Margaret Church was built in Bergen, close to the place where she was burned. The church stood for over 100 years and was destroyed during the Reformation.

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About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written six books on historical subjects and more than 1.500 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.