Looking at the Abbey Nave

Tree in foreground casting shadow on New Abbey Church (south elevation) and attached to the left is Abbey Nave. Set against a blue sky

Fiona: Because she came from royalty, Margaret would have known all about the finer things in life.  She’d lived in the grandest courts in England, and around Europe, after all. But what you also have to remember is how important the Church was back then.  I won’t give you the whole history but, in a nutshell, the Church, governed by the Pope in Rome, dominated people’s lives, whether they were rich or poor. People worried as much about what would happen to them after they died as they did about what might happen to them the next day.  

Fiona: Margaret would have been ardently worshipping at the greatest churches with the most formal of services.  And she loved it.  

Fiona: She was extremely devoted to God and her reverence for the formality of the Church was well-known.  She believed strongly in living a life guided by a very literal interpretation of the gospels. So much so, I suppose you could say she had her career all planned.

Margaret: I’d been so happy in Hungary and then in England.  My faith and my church were the most important things to me and I dreamed of becoming a nun.  All I wanted was to spend my life quietly devoted to God, spending my days fulfilling His will. Then, all of a sudden, I’m in Scotland and all my plans evaporate.  Things go from bad to worse.

Thomas: So what stops her becoming a nun?  Were there convents in Scotland?

Fiona: Well that’s one of the things Margaret ends up having a hand in but I’ll come back to that.  Right now, her problem was that King Malcolm was becoming very interested in her from a romantic point of view!  Or more probably, interested in her royal connections and the benefits he could gain from those. But I bet Margaret was a bit of a feisty lass because even though it was the King of Scots asking for her hand, she REFUSED.  Can you imagine?  

Fiona: By all accounts Malcolm was more of a fighter than a lover. He liked a tussle with the English or even with any fellow Scots trying to invade his lands from the north.  This wasn’t a bad thing for Scotland as he was a good strong King for the country. But he wasn’t too, …well, shall we say, refined. Margaret was NOT keen. As I said, she had her heart set on the religious life.

Fiona: Anyway, eventually he won her around – or maybe it was because her brother delicately points out the family doesn’t have too many other options here – and right where the Abbey is now, before it was ever this grand building, there was a small church where Margaret and Malcolm were married. 

Thomas: He managed to get her.  But not the perfect match, by the sound of it.  Do we know how it turned out?

Fiona: Before I tell you the whole soppy story, return towards the main path, stop at the end of the wall on the right. Can you spot a small flat white rectangular stone set in near the top left corner? About waist height?

Thomas: What, this little tiny thing here?  It looks a bit strange, like it’s been pushed into the wall.  And it’s much smoother than the stone around it. Why is it there?

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