False Margaret

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False Margaret (or Margareth or Margareta) (c. 1260 – 1301) was a Norwegian woman who impersonated Margaret, Maid of Norway.

The real Margaret had died in 1290 in Orkney, and her father King Eric II of Norway died in 1299, succeeded by his brother Haakon V of Norway. The following year a woman arrived at Bergen, Norway, off a ship from Lübeck in Germany, claiming to be Margaret, and accused several people of treason. She claimed that she had not died in Orkney, but had been sent to Germany, where she had married. The city people and some of the clergy supported her claim, even though the late King Eirik had identified his dead daughter's body, and even though the woman appeared to be about 40 years old, whereas the real Margaret would have been 17.

The false Margaret and her husband were convicted for fraud: he was beheaded and she was burnt at the stake in 1301. The story of the betrayed Princess was spread through a popular ballad. Some years later a small St. Margaret Church (Margaretaskirk) was built in Bergen near the place of execution, although this was frowned on by the authorities, and it became the centre of a local martyr cult. The eventual fate of the church is uncertain, but it was probably demolished around the time of the Protestant Reformation.

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