Margaret (Gaelic: Mairead or Maighread) (c. April 1283 – September/October 1290), usually known as the Maid of Norway (Norwegian: Jomfruen av Norge, literally The Virgin of Norway), sometimes known as Margaret of Scotland (Norwegian: Margrete av Skottland), was a Norwegian princess who was Queen of Scots from 1286 until her death. Her death sparked off the disputed succession which led to the Wars of Scottish Independence.
She was the daughter of King Eric II of Norway and Margaret, daughter of King Alexander III of Scotland. Margaret was born in 1283, most likely in early April; it is likely that her mother died at her birth, but the date of that death is uncertain.
When the treaty arranging the marriage of Margaret and Eric was signed at Roxburgh on 25 July 1281, Alexander III's younger son David had already died in June of 1281, leaving the King of Scots with only one legitimate son, Alexander. Consequently, the treaty included a provision for the children of Margaret and Eric to succeed to the kingdom of the Scots:
If it happens that the king of Scotland dies without a lawful son, and any of his sons does not leave lawful issue [not sons] and Margaret has children [not sons] by the king of Norway, she and her children shall succeed to the king of Scotland ... or she, even if she is without children, according to Scottish law and custom.
Alexander III made similar provisions when arranging the marriage of his son Alexander to Margaret, daughter of Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders, probably also in 1281. The treaty arranging the marriage, signed in December 1281, included a lengthy and complex document setting out the customs and usages which determined the succession. As well as general statement of principles, the annex includes specific examples of the rights of "A and M" and their children in particular cases. The document, while confusing in places, appears to favour primogeniture for male heirs, or their descendants, and proximity of blood for female heirs and their descendants.
When Prince Alexander died on 28 January 1284, leaving only the king's granddaughter Margaret living out of his descendants, Alexander III summoned all thirteen Earls of Scotland, twenty-four barons and the heads of the three main Gaelic kindreds of the West, Alexander of Argyll, Aonghas Mór of Islay and Alan MacRuari of Garmoran. At Scone on 5 February 1284, the signatories agreed to recognise Margaret as "domina and right heir" if neither Alexander had left a posthumous child and the king had left no children at the time of his death. However, it is unlikely that this was intended to allow Margaret to rule alone as queen regnant, but rather jointly with her future spouse, whoever he might be. While unexceptional in the circumstances, this would appear to show that Alexander III had decided on remarriage. He did remarry, to Yolande de Dreux, but died on 19 March 1286.
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