Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

25 November 1639 A.D. Mr. (Scots Archbishop) John Spottiswood Dies—Calvinistic and Reformed Anglican

25 November 1639 A.D.  Mr. (Scots Archbishop) John Spottiswood Dies—Calvinistic and Reformed Anglican

H/t to the Rev. Dr. Wayne Pearce, a scholar on this Scottish Jacobean statesman and Archbishop.   Dr. Pearce has written an excellent volume.  Our blog recommended the volume for 3 months, but the time expired since we feature a new volume every month.  Nontheless, a recommended volume.

Pearce, Wayne. John Spottiswoode Jacobean Archbishop and Statesman.  Available at: 

Now, for the Archibshop.

Pearce, Wayne.  “Spottishwood, John.”  Facebook.  21 Jun 2014.  Accessed 21 Jun 2014. 

Dr. Pearce sent the following today:

Donald Philip Veitch and anyone else who is interested in post-Reformation Scottish Church History. I posted this before on the History of the Church in Scotland site but since you missed it, here is the article on Archbishop John Spottiswoode that I wrote for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Spottiswoode, John (1565–1639), archbishop of St Andrews and historian, was born in Greenbank, in the barony of Calder, Edinburghshire, the eldest son of John Spottiswoode (1509/10–1585), the widely respected protestant reformer and superintendent of Lothian and Tweeddale, and Beatrix Crichton, the daughter of Patrick Crichton of Lugton and Gilmerton by Dalkeith. Although there is no extant record appertaining to Spottiswoode's childhood, like his younger brother James Spottiswood it is likely that he received his initial educational instruction in his father's house under the tutorage of the cleric William Strange. Afterwards he presumably proceeded to grammar school at Edinburgh or Linlithgow, where an introduction to the arts prepared him for entry to university. Spottiswoode matriculated at the University of Glasgow at the early, although not uncommon, age of twelve or thirteen. He graduated MA in August 1581 at the age of sixteen. After graduating he returned to Calder to help his aged father, probably with a view to succeeding to his charge after gaining the requisite experience and having met with the church's thorough exegetical and doctrinal standards.

Early career
In 1583, at the age of eighteen, Spottiswoode was officially deemed qualified to assist his father in his pastorate. He duly succeeded to the incumbency after his father's death in December 1585, and in addition was advanced to the nearby charge of Calder-Cleres on 19 July 1594. He demitted this second charge two years later to make way for John Brown, who was presented to the vicarage by James VI on 31 January 1596. The frequency of his name in extant synod and general assembly registers is indicative of his high standing among fellow ministers. Although the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale records reveal that Spottiswoode encountered difficulties with regard to enforcing church discipline within the jurisdictional bounds of the Linlithgow presbytery, in comparative terms his problems were relatively minor and were not peculiar to his pastorate. Moreover, he continued to play a conspicuous role within the higher echelons of the church, which would indicate that his administrative and managerial talents were recognized at a relatively early date. He was among the commissioners nominated by the general assembly to undertake a visitation of the University of Aberdeen in 1593. He was elected moderator of the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale in October 1594, was assigned a prominent part in negotiations between church and state, and played a high profile role in the battle to extirpate Roman Catholic recusancy from Scotland. In May 1601 Spottiswoode, along with his future archiepiscopal colleague James Law, was instructed to effect the proselytization of William Douglas, tenth earl of Angus. However, he was unable to comply ‘because he was directit be his Majestie to awaite upon the Duke of Lennox in his ambassadrie to France’ (Booke of the Universall Kirk, 3.981). He was also appointed by the general assembly on visitations to Galloway in 1596 and Clydesdale in 1601 and 1602.

The available evidence, although inconclusive, implies that Spottiswoode was a firm adherent of the decidedly presbyterian party within the church up until the late 1590s. However, by 1600 there can be no doubt that Spottiswoode favoured the reinstitution of Erastian episcopacy. Indeed, he was chosen secretary of the Erastian party in the church–state debates, which monopolized the Montrose assembly in March of that year. If he needed to be persuaded of the merits of Erastian episcopacy, the answer to his conversion lies in his belief that the power and coercive authority of the crown and state were essential to both the material and spiritual well-being of the reformed faith in Scotland. It is also worth conjecturing that Spottiswoode's father-in-law, the moderate-minded royal chaplain, David Lindsay, who was appointed bishop of Ross in November 1600, might well have had a bearing on Spottiswoode's future Erastian orientation. In 1589 Spottiswoode had married Rachel, the daughter of that vastly experienced and much respected cleric. During the 1590s their marriage produced three children who survived into adulthood. Their eldest son, John, subsequently became Sir John Spottiswoode of Dairsie after his father's accession to the metropolitan see of St Andrews; their younger surviving son was the lawyer and supporter of Montrose, Sir Robert Spottiswood (1596–1646), and their daughter, Anna, eventually married Sir William Sinclair of Roslin.

In May 1601 Spottiswoode was nominated chaplain to Prince Henry's house and was called upon to join the duke of Lennox's diplomatic mission to France in July of that same year. From extant correspondence between Spottiswoode and Isaac Casaubon, the French classical scholar who was sub-librarian of the royal library in Paris, it is evident that he almost met with a premature death on his return voyage from France. Spottiswoode set sail for England from Dieppe on the afternoon of 3 November 1601 on board an English merchant vessel. However, the ship never reached its destination for it was caught in a storm and badly damaged, forcing her skipper to return to the port of Boulogne. From there Spottiswoode made a safe and uneventful journey back to Scotland via the English court, which he visited with the prime objective of securing official recognition of James's right to succeed the aged Elizabeth I. Spottiswoode had evidently made a favourable impression on James since he was included in the royal party, which, after James's peaceful accession, headed south in April 1603. News reached the king, while at Burleigh House, that the exiled Roman Catholic archbishop of Glasgow, James Beaton, whom he had restored in 1598, had died in Paris. Spottiswoode was immediately appointed to the see, and was instructed to return to Scotland to escort Queen Anne to London as her official almoner. He was officially installed in the archbishopric of Glasgow in July.

Archbishop of Glasgow
After the regal union Spottiswoode quickly emerged as the most authoritative and commanding episcopal figure of his generation. As archbishop of Glasgow (1603–15), his ascent was meteoric. Owing to the titular nature of his office and his involvement in more pressing matters on behalf of church and crown, the archbishop did not take up residence in Glasgow until January 1605. However, his acquisition of ecclesiastical, and magisterial authority within Glasgow and its archiepiscopal environs was swift and decisive. The Linlithgow assembly made him constant moderator of the Glasgow presbytery in December 1606, although in practice Spottiswoode rarely attended its meetings until the Glasgow assembly of 1610 restored episcopal ecclesiastical jurisdiction. In his protracted absences from his locality the archbishop relied on the highly competent Patrick Sharp, principal of the University of Glasgow and deputy moderator, to keep him informed of developments and oversee the smooth operation of presbyterial affairs. The same assembly similarly allegedly appointed Spottiswoode moderator of the synod of Clydesdale. Nevertheless, it was not until the following August that the injunction was put into effect after the synod was browbeaten into acceptance of the new constitutional arrangement by the earl of Abercorn at the behest of the king. In a similar manner the archbishop quickly established his grip on the archiepiscopal city as he filled the power vacuum left by the duke of Lennox, who had relocated in England with King James. As early as November 1606 Spottiswoode had gained control of the city administration through his ability to determine the complexion and composition of the burgh council. It was no coincidence that in April 1611 Glasgow was finally accorded royal burgh status through the endeavour of the archbishop.

Spottiswoode's elevation rested on solid financial and legal foundations. Although they were significantly dilapidated, a grant made under the privy seal on 4 June 1604 reallocated the temporalities of the bishopric back into the archbishop's patrimony. The following year he was granted the parsonage and vicarage of the parish church of Glasgow. More important, in August 1608 he was awarded regality jurisdiction throughout his archbishopric. Such an award not only boosted the archiepiscopal coffers with the profits of justice but also placed a vast reservoir of patronage at his disposal. That same year he was additionally granted the parsonages and vicarages of Ancrum, Eskirk, Stobo, Edilstoun, Kilbryde, and Torrence. In August/September 1614 Spottiswoode successfully negotiated the transfer of Kilwinning Abbey into his patrimony. Moreover the archbishop was instrumental in the acquisition of New Abbey for his younger son, Robert, in September 1612 and had the title deeds of Holyroodhouse conferred upon his elder son, John, in March 1613.

From the parliament of July 1604 Spottiswoode was a regular lord of the articles, preparing, scrutinizing, and selecting all legislation presented to parliament for its formal approval. From 30 May 1605 he also sat as a privy councillor. He played a key role in the successful campaign of 1608 and 1609 to have commissariat jurisdiction restored to the episcopate. His timely intervention and involvement in the affairs and procedures of the Scottish exchequer in 1608 led to alterations in its constitution and personnel. During his years in Glasgow, Spottiswoode was also heavily involved in government initiatives to advance the cause of church and crown in the Scottish borders and in the highlands and islands. In May 1610 he was made an extraordinary lord of session. Moreover, following the untimely and premature death of his powerful ally, the earl of Dunbar, in late 1611, Spottiswoode was one of the neo-Octavians appointed by the king in April 1612 to oversee the affairs of the combined offices of the treasurer, collector, and comptroller. He was the crown's principal agent in the re-establishment and defence of an Erastian episcopal settlement. He was moderator of the landmark Glasgow assembly of 1610 which fully restored episcopal ecclesiastical jurisdiction and all but made presbytery a bare name, and his ecclesiastical powers were further enhanced in February of that year by the creation of the Scottish court of high commission. Later that same year Spottiswoode, along with Bishop Andrew Lamb of Brechin and Bishop Gavin Hamilton of Galloway, received episcopal consecration in England at the hands of the bishops of London, Ely, Rochester, and Worcester, although at Spottiswoode's insistence, both English archbishops were excluded from the service, since their inclusion might have left the Church of Scotland open to a renewal of the highly contentious and dubious English archiepiscopal claim to jurisdictional supremacy over Scotland.

In spite of his later assertion incorporated into his will that ‘the government episcopall is the only right and Apostolique form’, Spottiswoode was, however, no jure divino episcopalian. Nor for that matter was he an enthusiastic supporter of the creation of a British church conforming to the Anglican via media. The archbishop was first and foremost a Scottish churchman. A highly astute and skilful politician, his talent lay especially in administration and in motivating and managing the affairs of men. In addition to Spottiswoode's continual endeavour to right the Church of Scotland's pecuniary difficulties, the perennial problem of Roman Catholic recusancy occupied much of his time and energy. Most notably he was the crown's chief protagonist and prosecutor in the capture, trial, and subsequent execution of John Ogilvie in 1614 and 1615. He penned A trve relation of the proceedings against John Ogilvie, a Jesuit, executed at Glasgow, the last of Februarie, anno 1615, in an attempt to demonstrate that Ogilvie was tried and convicted for treason not heresy. Spottiswoode was also a prominent player in the infamous political fall in 1608 of the crypto-Roman Catholic secretary of state and president of the court of session, James Elphinstone, first Lord Balmerino.

Archbishop of St Andrews
Spottiswoode was elevated to the metropolitan see after the death of George Gladstanes in March 1615. As primate he continued to be the main channel through which James VI and later Charles I sought to Anglicize the Church of Scotland through the introduction of doctrinal, liturgical, and ceremonial modifications. Spottiswoode was the author of the Refutatio libelli de regimine ecclesiae Scoticanae, 1620, which was an episcopal riposte to the presbyterian polemics of David Calderwood. His forceful and erudite sermon on 1 Corinthians 11: 16, given in defence of the king's five articles at the Perth assembly on 25 August 1618, was similarly published in defence of the untimely and unwarranted alterations. Nevertheless Spottiswoode was no slavish sycophant. Although an advocate of the theory of divine right of kings, the archbishop was often working to a quite independent agenda to that of his royal master. The archbishop's extant sermons as primate clearly reveal that he was an orthodox Calvinist in theology if not ecclesiology. It is telling that he informed Isaac Casaubon that he greatly admired the works of the widely renowned Scottish covenant theologian, Robert Rollock, whom he described as ‘worthy of immortality’ (Burney MSS 366, fol. 197r).

At St Andrews, Spottiswoode continued his quest to secure adequate financial provision for the church. In 1616 he had published a Scottish edition of Sir Henry Spelman's De temerandis ecclesiis, or, The rights and respects due to churches, written to a gentleman, who having an appropriate parsonage, employed the church to profane uses, and left the parishioners uncertainly provided of divine service in a parish there adjoining. He added a preface in which he argued that to ‘rest upon the benevolence of the people … is a beggarlie thing … not beseeming the dignitie of the Ministrie’. During his early years as metropolitan Spottiswoode purchased the pre-Reformation archiepiscopal estate of Dairsie, which was held in the name of his son John. The archbishop contributed towards the restoration and refurbishment of the castle at Dairsie and had a new parish church erected there in 1621. Shortly after the death of James VI in March 1625 Spottiswoode wrote that ‘posteritie wil admire bothe the workes and the persone [of James VI], and looking back into ages past for the lyk pattern, sal not be able to find any thing to be compared with it’ (NL Scot., MS 2934, fol. 28). It was testimony to Spottiswoode's loyalty and to his in-depth knowledge and experiences of the Scottish administration that Charles I made him president of the exchequer shortly after becoming king, despite the fact that the archbishop's conscientious opposition to officiating at the funeral of James VI in May 1625 dressed in Anglican ecclesiastical vestments compelled him to relinquish his place in the ceremony.

Eight years later, on 18 June 1633, Spottiswoode did officiate at Charles's Scottish coronation in the Canongate kirk. Between December 1634 and March of the following year the archbishop, with the aid of his youngest son, Robert, was the principal crown prosecutor of John, second Lord Balmerino, on account of the nobleman's opposition to the king's religious policy. In January 1635 the archbishop, by now in his seventieth year, combined the two most powerful offices in the Scottish church and state in his person after he was appointed chancellor of the kingdom. Nevertheless Spottiswoode's influence over the affairs of the crown was evidently on the wane. Not unexpectedly he was involved in the preparation of the new book of canons in 1635 and 1636 and in the innovative Scottish prayer book, which was in circulation by the winter of 1636–7. Nevertheless, the impetus behind their introduction lay with the king and the archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. Although loyalty and duty to the crown compelled Spottiswoode to implement the highly controversial canonical and liturgical alterations, these were done against his better judgement. Indeed, he had intimated to both Charles and Laud that the Scottish church and nation were ill-prepared, and unlikely to accept these new measures without a fight. In February 1638 he reputedly intimated to the privy council that the aberrant imposition of the prayer book was ill-conceived and should be shelved forthwith. In spite of his overtures to dampen the flames which threatened to raze the episcopal edifice to the ground, his career ended in failure and ignominy. His attempts to mediate between the crown and the covenanting government after the revolution of 1637–8 having fared no better, he was forced to seek exile in England, where he lived out the remaining months of his eventful life.

Having made his will at Newcastle in January 1639, Spottiswoode died in London on 26 November. In spite of his expressed desire to be buried alongside his late wife at Dairsie he was interred at St Benedict's Chapel in Westminster Abbey. The day after his death his History of the church and state of Scotland from the year of Our Lord 203 to the end of the reign of King James VI, 1625, was presented to Charles I by John Maxwell, the bishop of Ross. Ironically, the archbishop's magnum opus was not published until 1655, during the Cromwellian interregnum. The History was unquestionably an apologia for the royalist and episcopal cause in Scotland. Its title is somewhat misleading since its spotlight is largely focused on the reign of the ‘British Solomon’, James VI and I, who commissioned the work. In contrast to the compositions of his presbyterian detractors, Spottiswoode's History is a great deal more guarded and temperate in its use of language. His partisanship, however, is palpably manifest, and his apparent moderation should not obscure the obvious point that the archbishop, unlike his persecuted opponents, could afford to be magnanimous during the years of its compilation.

A. S. Wayne Pearce


A. S. W. Pearce, ‘John Spottiswoode, Jacobean archbishop and statesman’, PhD diss., University of Stirling, 1998 · A. S. W. Pearce, John Spottiswoode: Jacobean archbishop and statesman [forthcoming] · J. Spottiswood, The history of the Church of Scotland, ed. M. Napier and M. Russell, 3 vols., Bannatyne Club, 93 (1850) · Original letters relating to the ecclesiastical affairs of Scotland: chiefly written by … King James the Sixth, ed. D. Laing, 2 vols., Bannatyne Club, 92 (1851) · R. Pitcairn, ed., Ancient criminal trials in Scotland, 3, Bannatyne Club, 42 (1833), 332–54 · J. Spottiswoode, Miscellany, 1 (1844), 31–62, 65–87 · J. Cooper, ‘Archbishop Spottiswoode, 1565–1639’, Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, new ser., 7 (1924), 79–104 · A. I. Dunlop, ‘John Spottiswoode, 1565–1639’, Fathers of the kirk, ed. R. S. Wright (1960), 48–61 · A. L. Birchler, ‘Archbishop John Spottiswoode: chancellor of Scotland, 1635–1638’, Church History, 39 (1970), 317–26 · M. Ash, ‘Dairsie and Archbishop Spottiswoode’, Records of the Scottish Church History Society, 19 (1975–7), 125–32 · J. Kirk, ed., The records of the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, 1589–1596, 1640–1649, Stair Society, 30 (1977) · D. Calderwood, The history of the Kirk of Scotland, ed. T. Thomson and D. Laing, 8 vols., Wodrow Society, 7 (1842–9) · T. Thomson, ed., Acts and proceedings of the general assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, 3 pts, Bannatyne Club, 81 (1839–45) · The letters and journals of Robert Baillie, ed. D. Laing, 1 (1841) · M. Lee, ‘Archbishop Spottiswoode as historian’, Journal of British Studies, 13/1 (1973–4), 138–50 · A. R. Macdonald, The Jacobean kirk, 1567–1625: sovereignty, polity and liturgy (1998)


BL, letters | BL, Burney MS 366 · NL Scot., Advocates MSS, MS 2934: 5960–5996


W. Hollar, etching, BM, NPG; repro. in J. Spottiswoode, The history of the church and state of Scotland (1655) [see illus.] · oils, Parliament Hall, Edinburgh · portrait, Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh; repro. in T. G. Snoddy, Sir John Scot, Lord Scotstarvit: his life and times (1968)

Wealth at death

was owed much money (never collected): will, Spottiswood, History of the Church of Scotland, vol. 1, pp. cxxx–cxxxiii

© Oxford University Press 2004–14
All rights reserved: see legal notice Oxford University Press

A. S. Wayne Pearce, ‘Spottiswoode, John (1565–1639)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 28 Jan 2014]

John Spottiswoode (1565–1639): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26167

No comments: