The Martyr of Solway


The Martyr of Solway is one of my favorite Millais paintings. She was originally nude, which in my mind would further capture the severity of her plight. But Millais added clothes in order not to offend the Victorian public. (Scroll to the bottom of this page at the Liverpool Museum to see x-rays of the painting that shows her to be originally nude.)

Loving this painting as I do, I have been thrilled to encounter it unexpectedly online a couple of times this week. Grace at The Beautiful Necessity shares a link to Martin Beek’s work at Flickr. His hard work and photographs give a unique perspective into the works of Millais.

At Unusual Historicals Anita Davison shares the true story behind The Matyr of Solway (whose name was Margaret Wilson). It is a sad tale of a young Scottish girl who refused to swear an oath declaring the King of England as Head of the Church. She and a friend were chained to stone stakes in Solway Firth, forced to drown in the tide.

Other links:

The Solway Martys @

The Martyr of Solway @ ArtMagick

Women in History of Scots Descent: Women in Covenanting Times: @

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5 Replies to “The Martyr of Solway”

  1. I too share a love of this Millais painting. In this one picture he has illustrated the entire tragic story for me. In Margaret’s expression I see only sorrow, no peace; or perhaps that’s just the way I feel when I study it – that such a beautiful young lady is about to be sacrificed for her religious beliefs. According to the story she was a sacrificial example.

    Thank you for all the background and ancillary research you’ve done, too. They all join to enhance my appreciation of this painting and the story it tells.

    1. Sadly, I do not. In the memorial book that Millais’ son wrote, he included an appendix that includes major works, the date signed, who purchased and who the model was. I am disappointed that next to The Martyr of Solway, there is no model listed.

  2. My brother found her while tracing our ancestry. I have a daughter that looks just like Margaret. I am proud to know that she stood for Christ. I have this picture in a frame in my home. Everyone who sees it immediately thinks of my daughter. 🙂

  3. The model’s name may be listed with The Knight Errant picture as the painting of Margaret started out as the damsel in destress in the above mentioned picture.

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