Iconography of St. Margaret

In devotional pictures, the attribute of St. Margaret is the dragon. She is usually trampling him under her feet, holding up the cross in her hand. Sometimes the dragon is 'bound with a cord; or his jaws are distended as if to swallow her; or he is seen rent and burst, and St. Margaret stands upon him unharmed, -as in the old metrical legend in the Auchinleck MSS.:-
Maiden Margrete tho [then] Loked her beside, And seas a loathly dragon -out of an him [corner] glide: His eyen were ful griesly, His mouth opened wide, And Margrete might no where flee, Thera she must abide.
Maiden Margrete Stood still as any stone And that loathly worm To her-ward gan.gone, Took her in his foul mouth, And swallowed her flesh and bone. Anon he brast- hath she none 1. Maiden Margrete Upon the dragon stood; Blyth was her harte, And joyful was her mood.
This is literally the picture which, in several instances, the artists have placed before us (133). As martyr she bears, of right, the palm and the crown; and these, in general, serve to distinguish St. Margaret from St. Martha, who has also the attributes of the dragon and the cross. Here, however, setting the usual attributes aside, the character ought to be so distinctly marked, that there should be no possibility of confounding the beautiful and  deified heroine of a spiritual warfare, with the majestic maturity and staid simplicity of Martha. In some pictures St. Margaret has a garland of pearls round her head, in allusion to her name; and I have seen one picture,and only one, in which she wears a garland of daisies, and carries daisies in her lap and in her hand. 

The Life of St. Margaret

Taken from--Jameson.  Sacred and Ledgendary Art, vol. II.  London: Longmans, Green, and Company (1890). 

The legend of St. Margaret, which is of Greek origin, was certainly known in Europe as early as the fifth century, being among those which were repudiated as apocryphal by Pope Gelasius in 494. From that time we, hear little of her till the eleventh century, when her legend and her name-which signifies a pearl, and  has been given to that little lowly flower we call the daisy-were both introduced from the East by the first crusaders, and soon became popular all over   Europe.' In the fourteenth -century we find her one of the most favourite saints, particularly amongst women, by whom, she was invoked against the pains of childbirth. She was also, the chosen type of female innocence and meekness; -the only one of the four great patronesses who is not represented as profoundly learned:-

Mild Margarete, that was God's maid;
Maid Margarete, that was so meeke and mild

and other such phrases, in the old metrical legends, show the feeling with which she was regarded. Her story is singularly wild. She was the daughter of a priest of Antioch, named Theodosius; and in her infancy, being of feeble health, she was sent to a nurse in the country. This woman, who was secretly a Christian, brought up Margaret in the true faith. The holy maid, while employed in keeping the few sheep of her nurse, meditated on the mysteries of the Gospel, and, devoted herself to the service of Christ. One day the governor of Antioch, whose name was Olybrius, in passing by the place, saw her, and was captivated by her beauty. He commanded that she, should be carried to his palace, being resolved, if -she were of free birth, to take her for his wife; but Margaret rejected his offers with scorn, and declared herself the servant of Jesus Christ Her father and all her relations were struck with horror at this revelation. They fled, leaving her in the power of the governor, who endeavoured to subdue her constancy by the keenest torments: they were so terrible that the tyrant himself, unable to endure the sight, covered his face with his robe; but St. Margaret did not quail beneath them,  Then she was dragged to a dungeon, where Satan, in the form of a terrible dragon, came upon her with his inflamed and hideous mouth wide open, and sought to terrify and confound her; but she held up the cross of the Redeemer, and he fled before it. Or, according to the more popular version, he swallowed her up alive, but immediately burst; and she emerged unhurt : another form of the familiar allegory-the power of sin overcome by the power of the cross. He returned in the form of a main, to tempt her further; but she overcame him, and, placing her foot on his head, forced him to confess his foul wickedness, and to answer to her questions. She was again brought before the tyrant, and, again refusing to abjure her faith, she was further tortured; but the sight of so much constancy in one so young and beautiful only increased the number of converts, so that in, one day five thousand were baptized, and declared themselves ready to die with her. Therefore the governor took counsel how this might be prevented, and it was advised that she should be beheaded forthwith. And as they led her forth to death, she thanked and glorified God that her travail was ended; and she prayed that those who invoked her in the pains of childbirth should find help through the merit of her sufferings, and in memory of her deliver- from the womb of the great dragon. A voice from heaven assured her that her prayer was granted; so she went and received joyfully the crown of martyrdom, being beheaded by the sword.