quotations · textiles in literature · weaving

Monday Reflections: Saint Margaret, Queen of Scotland

The merchants that came from all lands, bringing their wares at the bidding of the Queen, found the people eager and willing to buy. […]

‘But why,’ asked the Queen, ‘should we buy foreign wares? Why not weave these softer fairer stuffs ourselves?’

‘The people know not the art of weaving such stuffs,’ replied her courtiers.

‘Then they shall learn,’ replied the Queen. ‘They have as good brains and as deft hands as any of these foreigners, why should they not weave as well as others ? I will see that my people are taught the art.’

The Queen was as good as her word, and sent abroad for workers to teach her people at Dunfermline how to weave the fair white linen, giving them thus an industry which has lasted to this day.

from Steedman, Amy. “Saint Margaret of Scotland.” Our Island Saints; Stories for Children. London: T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1912. 139-159.

The story of Saint Margaret (1045-1093) is a fascinating one. A foreign-born English princess who became queen of Scotland, she has been revered for centuries. Known for her deep faith and active role in shaping Scotland’s culture in the 11th century, she is also recorded as taking great delight in beautiful, brightly-colored textiles.

I’ve sought high and low for some source corroborating Steedman’s story about Saint Margaret encouraging fine weaving in Scotland, but without success. Still, the vignette resonates with what we know about Margaret: that she loved finely-made goods, but rather than hoard them for her own royal person, desired that they be a source of pride and accomplishment among her adopted subjects.

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