Herbert Maxwell.

Official guide to the Abbey-church, palace, and environs of Holyroodhouse online

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a change in the law rendering it unnecessary, had no
connection either with the specific terms of the charter
of 1143-47 or with the general right of sanctuary
attached to most religious houses. The bounds of the
modern sanctuary are not the same as those of the
old one. They do not include the Canongate, which
was within the demesne of the monastery, but are co-
extensive with the royal park of Holyrood, containing
part of the lands of Duddingston, which never belonged
to the monastery, but was bought by James V. from Sir
David Murray of Balvaird. The sanctuary of the Abbey,
which was open to all criminals, ceased with other ecclesi-
astical privileges at the Reformation. The sanctuary for
debtors was the only one in Scotland, and derived its
virtue not from the Abbey, but from the royal Palace
which James IV. built beside the Abbey. The earliest
notice of any debtor availing himself thereof is made, by
Buchanan, who states that in 1531 John Scot, "having
lost a certain lawsuit, became insolvent, and remained for
several days without food or drink in the monastery of
the Holy Rood."

The roll of the early abbots of Holyrood is of little
interest to the general reader partly because surnames
did not become generally fixed until towards the end of
the thirteenth century, which makes it impossible to identify


the families to which these abbots belonged, and partly
because of the extremely meagre character of
of h H<Jyrood. the chr onicle compiled in the Abbey. OfAlwin
or Alcuin, the first abbot, it is known that he
was confessor to David, Earl of Huntingdon, before he
became King of Scots. He is believed to have lived
till 1155, but resigned the abbacy in 1150, and was
succeeded by Osbert, who died in December of the same
year. Next came William, who witnessed many charters
in the reigns of Malcolm IV. and William the Lion,
followed by Robert. John was abbot in 1173, in whose
time Cardinal Vibianus Tomasi came as Papal legate,
and summoned the Scottish bishops to meet him at
Edinburgh no doubt in Holyrood. Much friction
existed at that time between the Church of Scotland
and the Papal authority. Christianus, Bishop of Galloway,
was suspended from his see for refusing to obey the
legate's summons ; and in the Melrose Chronicle Vibianus
is described in no complimentary terms " trampling
upon and pulverising everything in his way : eager to
receive and not unwilling to take by force." In 1189
an important national council assembled in the monastery
to receive the proposals of Richard Cceur de Lion for
annulling the treaty of Falaise, whereby his father, Henry
II., had secured the suzerainty of Scotland. Richard,
being in want of cash for a crusade, agreed to surrender
all claim upon the independence of Scotland in return for
a payment of 10,000 marks. The transaction was com-
pleted, England and Scotland remaining good neighbours
for a century following.

Of William, who was abbot in 1206, nothing is recorded.
Walter, Prior of Inchcolm, was appointed in 1210, and
held office until 1217 ; to be succeeded by a third William,


who, in 1220, granted certain lands to the Lady Aufrice
(Affrica), daughter of Eadgar.

He was released from the charge in 1227 by the Papal
legate James, canon of St Victor, and William the son of
Ovinus was appointed in his place. Vix in omnibus com-
mendabilis not very praiseworthy in everything is the
comment upon this William in Father Hay's ill-arranged
notes. Inconstant in purpose, in the very first year of his
abbotship he handed over the government of the convent
to his ordinary, and retired as a hermit to Inchkeith. Nine
weeks of that life cured him of the love of solitude, and
he found his way back to Holyrood. Being asked why
he had changed his mind so soon, he replied in doggerel

" Quid faciam cum nudus earn ? jam prseterit sestas ;
Ad patriam remeare meam me cogit egestas."

Which may be freely rendered thus

My clqthes are thin and rent ; the summer's nearly spent ;
What can I do ? Stern need drives me home with utmost speed.

He died soon afterwards, and was followed by Abbot
Helias or Elias, "son of the priest Nicolas, a man of the
utmost tenderness, merry withal, devout, and affable in
conversation." During his time the drainage of Holyrood
caused much trouble, as it may be remembered happened
more than six hundred and fifty years later, when Edward
VII., visiting his Scottish capital in 1902, could not be
lodged in Holyrood Palace because the drains were out
of order. Abbot Elias rearranged the drains on a new
system opus egregium, ex quo salubrior habitatio "a
noble work, which made the monastery a healthier resid-
ence." Also he enclosed the cemetery with a stone wall, 1

1 Muro e lapide coctili which perhaps means concrete.


he himself being buried in St Mary's Chapel behind the
high altar.

The next abbot, Henry, " a discreet and holy man,
very careful for his house and parish," was appointed
Bishop of Galloway 1 in 1253 by Alexander III.; but
John de Baliol opposed the election, claiming, as hus-
band of the eldest daughter of Alan, last Celtic lord
of Galloway, the right of nominating to that see. The
controversy was not settled till 1255, when Henry was
consecrated at Richmond in Yorkshire by the Bishop
of Durham.

To Abbot Henry succeeded Abbot Rafe, a canon of
Holyrood, about whom history has nothing to say save
that he alienated the abbey lands of Pittendriech in favour
of the monks of Newbattle. This brings us to the crucial
period of the interregnum following upon the death of
Alexander III. in 1286, when Adam (de Montgomerie ?)
was abbot.

Down to this point in its history, nothing seems to have
interrupted the progress and prosperity of the monastery ;
but its outward aspect had undergone sweeping changes.
To the Norman building of David I., which probably did
not extend westward of the crossing, had been added
the nave with its aisles, a beautiful and stately example
of pointed Gothic at its best period, whereof the shattered
remains still attest the splendour. It was doomed to
suffer sorely during the War of Independence. When
Alexander III., last of the " Kings of Peace," died in
1286, Scotland entered upon three centuries of stress and
storm. Andrew of Wyntoun, composing his metrical
chronicle about the year 1400, had good cause to look
wistfully back to the days when good understanding pre-
1 The name of the see was Candida Casa i.e., Whithorn.


vailed between the two realms. All that came to an end
with Alexander's wise reign.

"ufjm aigsanogr oure I&gng foes te&e

3T{jat Scotland lei tit htfoe ano It,
gfoag fors sons off ale ano fcre&e,

ff fognt ani foax, off gamgn anto gle* ;
ure plo foes cftanggto into Irtoe.

<Ergst, borne in to Fgrggntte'!
Suecoure Scotland an! retnetoe,

(JThat staU is in ptrplwgtcV' 1

Adam Abbot had a difficult course to steer through

the years of the disputed succession. He declared for

Edward I. and the English, performing his

Tne \Var of -

independ- homage on 8th July 1291 in the chapel of
JJJfl I3a7 Edinburgh Castle, where the English king
was lodged. In the following month he
was appointed one of the commissioners charged by
Edward to examine and report upon the Scottish
national records, in connection with the competing claims
to the crown. Five years later, in January 1296, Adam
and the brethren renewed their fealty, swearing on the
Corpus Christi before Sir John de Kingston, English
governor of Edinburgh Castle, thereby securing their rein-
statement in the Abbey lands, which the King of England
had seized. 2

Abbot Adam's policy secured the safety of his convent
during his life ; it is not known when he died, but Helias

1 Wyntoun's Cronykil, B. vii.

2 Attached to this deed of homage, which is preserved in West-
minster Chapter House, there appear, after Abbot Adam's, the names
of William, "formerly abbot," John the Prior, Thomas sub-Prior,
Simon the Precentor, Adam the Sacrist, Elias the Land -factor
[terrarius}, Robert, Keeper of the Granary, Thomas the Cellarer,
John the Almoner, and nine others.


or Elias, second of the name, was head of the monastery in
1316, and probably was still in office when its first disaster
befell. Hitherto, by common consent, Church property
and buildings had been respected generally in the opera-
tions of war; henceforth they became special objects of
fire and plunder. So in 1322, when Edward II. led a
futile invasion as far as Edinburgh, and found the country
so scrupulously laid bare by King Robert's command that
he was forced to retreat in haste in order to escape star-
vation, he plundered the Abbeys of Holyrood and Melrose,
and set fire to delectable Dryburgh.

In 1327, after Edward II. 's abdication, King Robert the
Bruce held a parliament in Holyrood Abbey, Simon of
Wedale (Galawater) being abbot, and received supplies for
the last invasion of England that he was ever to send forth.
He died in 1329, and was succeeded by his son David II.,
who had married Princess Joan, daughter of Edward II. ;
but in 1332 Edward Baliol, having secured the support of
Edward III. by acknowledging his suzerainty, raised his
standard and was crowned at Scone. King David, after the
crushing disaster to his cause at Halidon Hill, igth July
T 333 wen t to France, leaving his realm rent with civil
war. In February following Edward Baliol held a
parliament in Holyrood Abbey, when Geoffrey Scrope,
Chief Justice of England, demanded the ratification of the
agreement between Baliol and his liege lord Edward III.,
whereby Baliol had bound himself to serve with all his
forces in the wars of the King of England, and to make
absolute surrender of the town, castle, and territory of
Berwick. The assembly was composed of seven bishops,
Dunbar, Earl of March, and a number of " disinherited
lords " barons who had been forfeited for resisting King
Robert Bruce. But for these last, the cause of King David


would never have been in jeopardy. On the other hand,
the action of these disinherited lords, as claiming lands
which King Robert had bestowed upon others, consolidated
the national party, and ensured the fidelity of the men in
possession to "the King over the water." On i6th
December 1334 Edward Baliol was driven across the
Border in the famous camisade of Annan, and although
restored by English arms in the following year, his cause
never prospered again. The King of England, occupied
with schemes of aggression and defence in France, could
only give intermittent attention to the Scottish war, and
the disinherited lords fell to bitter disputes among them-

King David returned from France in 1341, and, five
years later, undertook his fatal expedition into Durham
which, as mentioned above, cost him his liberty and the
loss of the Black Rood of Scotland. He obtained his
release upon a ransom of 100,000 marks in 1357, and,
dying in February 1371, was buried near the high altar of
Holyrood. In the following year Edward III. granted
safe-conduct to persons going from Scotland to Flanders
to get a stone for his brother-in-law's tomb.

It is not recorded that the Abbey had suffered in King
Edward's destructive foray of 1355 remembered as the
" burnt Candlemas " when the beautiful church of Had-
dington, the Lamp of Lothian, was burnt to the ground.
The Scottish kings continued to hold councils or parlia-
ments at Holyrood, and in 1381 the Abbey received a
John of Gaunt distinguished foreigner as guest of the nation
at Holyrood, in the person of John of Gaunt, Duke of
Lancaster, son of the deceased Edward III.,
whose palace of Savoy had been plundered by the
Tyler rioters, and who found it expedient to remain out


of England until matters should settle down. He was
received with royal honours, the Earl of Douglas and
Archibald Douglas " the Grim," Lord of Galloway, escorting
him from Haddington, and the Earl of Carrick, Heir-
Apparent (afterwards Robert III.), acting as host. The
visit being of good augury for future relations between the
kingdoms, no expense was spared, the large sum of
^597, 145. gd. appearing in the Chamberlain's accounts
as disbursed for the entertainment of this puissant guest.

It has been commonly stated that Richard II. burnt and
sacked Holyrood Abbey when he invaded Scotland in
1385. No doubt he destroyed the town of Edinburgh
with fire, including St Giles's Cathedral, as well as the
abbeys of Melrose, Dryburgh, and Newbattle; but both
Bower, the continuator of Fordun, and Wyntoun expressly
state that Holyrood was spared at the intercession of John
of Gaunt, out of gratitude for the hospitality he had received


" i3ot tfje tmfe for fjis curtasg,
Sgne fje ijalie qfofjglum tfjate Jjerfrrg
ufjen fye foes ofcrte off Jjts cttntrr,
ffiert it at tfjat tgnw safoffgti be." l

John of Gaunt died in 1399 ; and when his son Henry
IV. invaded Scotland in the autumn of 1400, he is said
to have spared Holyrood in remembrance of the kindness
of the convent to his father. It is not unlikely that, while
Henry was besieging the Duke of Rothesay in Edinburgh
Castle, he paid some civil compliments to the monks ; but,
in fact, during this invasion he caused all religious houses
to be respected.

Dean John of Leith was abbot at this time, about whom
nothing is known save that he held office for an unusually

1 Wyntoun's Cronykil, B. ix.


long term, as shown by the appearance of his name in
charters from the year 1386 to 1423.

James I. was a captive in England when he succeeded
his father Robert III. in 1406, and his coronation was
Jame* i at delayed until he regained his liberty and re-
Hoiyrood, turned to Scotland in 1424. He began to
reign with vigorous intention, carried into
measures not less vigorous, of remedying the misrule and
anarchy which had grown up under the regency of his
uncle Albany and his cousin Murdoch. Albany was dead ;
Murdoch, his two sons, and Duncan, Earl of Lennox, were
sent promptly to the scaffold ; after which the King directed
his attention to the suppression of humbler malefactors
a process in which mercy seems to have been wholly
eclipsed by justice. Having caused all the Lowlands to
cower, he proceeded to quell disorders in the Highlands by
setting the chief and thieves to catch each other. Alastair,
Lord of the Isles, saved his life by anticipating arrest. , The
King and Queen were in the Abbey Church on the eve of
St Augustine, when the rebel lord appeared before them
suddenly, clad, says the chronicler Bower, only in shirt and
drawers, unless, as Mr Lang suggests, "his romantic
national costume was mistaken by the Lowland Bower
for these garments." Holding a naked sword by the point,
he knelt before his sovereign and craved pardon. His life
was spared, but he was sent to ward in Tantallon Castle,
the grim fortress built by the dead Murdoch.

From this time forward Holyrood Abbey

Birth of , ., f

James it. at became more and more the favourite resi-
Hoiyrood, dence of the royal family when in their

430. .


" In the year 1430," writes the Latin annalist of Pluscardin, "there
were born unto the King two male twins, the sons of the King and


Queen, whereat all people rejoiced with exceeding gladness throughout
the realm, and because they were born in the monastery of Holyrood,
bonfires \igties jocunditatis\ were lighted, flagons of wine and free
meals were offered to all comers, while the most delectable harmony of
musical instruments proclaimed all night long the praise and glory of
God for all his gifts and benefits." J

Alexander, the elder twin, died an infant ; the younger
lived to become James II. After his grand-uncle Walter
Stewart, Earl of Angus, with some of the other assassins of
his father James I., had been tortured and executed in
Edinburgh, the young king, aged seven years, rode in
procession from the Castle to the Abbey on 25th March
1437, there to be crowned in presence of

His corona-
tion, zsth the Three Estates. This king had a red
March 1437. birth-mark on his cheek, hence, with the
schoolboy frankness of the period, he was distinguished
among other sovereigns of his line and name as "James
with the Firye Face." A contemporary chronicler records
the ceremony with engaging naivete: "1436 wes the
coronacioun of King James the secund with the Red
Scheik [cheek], callit James with the fyr in the face, he
beand [being] bot sax yer aid and ane half, in the abbay
of Halyrudhous, quhar [where] now his banys [bones]
lyis." 2

The next great ceremony in this church took place on

3rd July 1449, when this James married Marie, daughter

of Arnold, Due de Gueldres. " Thar come

3rd .^"1440! w ^h hir x i" S ret schippis an d ane craike

[carrack], in the quhilk ther was the Lord

of Canfer [Campvere] 3 with xv score of men in harnes." 4

1 Liber Pluscardensis, xi. 5. 2 Winton MS.

3 Campvere's son and heir, Wolfaert, had married in 1444 Mary,
sister of James II.

* Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 41.


A minute and enthusiastic account of the proceedings is
preserved in the French chronicle of Mahieu d'Escouchy.
The wedding feast, says he, lasted four or five hours,
"wine and other beverages being grudged as little as if
they had been so much sea-water." Finally, in August
1460, after King James "unhappely was slane with ane
gun, the quhilk brak in the fyring " l at the siege of Rox-
burgh Castle, his body was brought to the Abbey to be laid
near the altar. Born, christened, crowned, wedded, buried

there no King of Scots ever was more
AU* us/'f'fo clos^y associated with Holyrood than James

with the Fiery Face. His queen, Mary of
Gueldres, survived him for three years, and was buried, not
in Holyrood, but in the Church of the Holy Trinity, which
she herself had founded after the death of her husband. It
must be matter for perpetual regret that the North British
Railway Company was allowed to destroy and remove this
building in 1848.

At this time Archibald Crawfurd, son of Sir William
Crawfurd of Haining, was Abbot of Holyrood, having pre-
viously been Prior of the same. He was an active poli-
tician, frequently engaged in diplomatic negotiations with
England, and was appointed Lord High Treasurer in
1474. But what chiefly concerns us at this day is the
change which he wrought in the fabric of the Abbey.
Although, as has been shown above, it is probable that
Richard II. did not, as alleged, apply fire to the building,

yet it must have fallen into some disrepair,

and P erna P s anxiety was felt for its security.

Abbot Craw- At all events, about the year 1460 Abbot
furd, c. 1464. ^ ., . r

Crawfurd, encouraged by the striking or a

truce with England for fifteen years, undertook its res-
1 Awhinleck Chronicle^ p. 57.


toration. He strengthened the walls of the north and
south aisles with those buttresses which stand out so
gaunt and conspicuous in the present state of the ruin ;
but the flying buttresses which connected them with the
clerestory, and which must have greatly enriched the aspect
of the church, have disappeared long ago. The arched
doorway, with ogee canopy, on the north side of the build-
ing, seems to have been erected at the same time. Each
buttress bears on its outer face a canopied niche, richly
ornamented ; above and below each niche is a panel for
arms, but most of the shields carved thereon are inde-
cipherable through decay, and the figures of saints or
heroes which probably occupied the niches have been torn
down by over-zealous reformers. It is said that Abbot
Crawfurd's arms, which may still be recognised on some
of the shields, were repeated thirty times.

The work on the Abbey may have been completed in
time for the marriage on i8th July 1469 of James III., at

Marria e of tne a & e ^ e ig nteen > w i tn Princess Margaret of
James in. Denmark, aged thirteen. This proved to be a

with Margaret r i .L i r

of Denmark, union of unusual importance to the realm of
isth July Scotland and the United Kingdom. The father
of the bride, Christiern I., third King of Den-
mark and Norway, had assigned to his daughter a dowry of
.60,060 florins, whereof 10,000 were to be paid down, and
the Orkney Islands, hitherto Norwegian territory, were to
be given in pledge for the remaining 50,000. But cash
being very scarce at that time in King Christiern's ex-
chequer, he failed to find more than 2000 florins, and the
Scottish ambassadors accepted the Shetland Islands in
pledge for the other 8000. It was provided that if Queen
Margaret survived. her husband and left Scotland, Orkney
and Shetland should revert to the Crown of Denmark and


Norway; but Margaret having died in 1486, two years
before King James was murdered at the Milltown of
Bannockburn, this provision never took effect. The
Danish Government frequently in after years opened nego-
tiations for reclaiming the pledged islands, but never found
it convenient to redeem them ; wherefore they have re-
mained to this day part of the realm of Scotland. In
November following the marriage, the Three Estates as-
sembled in Parliament at Holyrood for the coronation of
Queen Margaret.

The reign inaugurated with so much splendour and
promise turned out one of the most melancholy in the
annals of Scotland. James was of a dreamy, intellectual
temperament, ill fitted to cope with the violence of the
times, preferring, like Louis XVI. of France, to shun
affairs of State and to shut himself up with artists and musi-
cians. In the quaint words of Pitscottie, " he was ane that
lowit [loved] sollitarnes, and desyrit never to heir of weiris
[wars] nor the fame thairof, bot delytit mair in musik and
polliecie of beging [building] nor he did in the goverment
of his realme." He spent much of his time at Holyrood
in study of these arts, to the intense disgust of his barons,
which led to the terrible scene at Lauder, when Angus
" Bell-the-Cat " and his peers, determined to purge the
Court of " fiddlers and bricklayers," seized Robert Cochran,
an architect, whom the King had created Earl of Mar,
hanged him, with some of the other favourites, over the
Abb parapet of the bridge (22nd July 1482), and

Beiienden's confined the King in Edinburgh Castle.

5 e "3?S The nCXt abbot after Archibald Crawfurd
was Robert Bellenden or Ballantine, who pre-
sided over the convent for about sixteen "years. John
Bellenden, Archdeacon of Moray, in translating Boece's


history, interpolated a warm encomium upon his namesake,
who was probably a near relative.

"This abbay was laitly in gouernance of ane gud man den [Dean]
Robert Bellenden abbot xvi yens. He delt ylk owlk [each week]
iiii bowis of quheit [wheat] and xlsof syluer [silver] amang pure [poor]
houshaldaris and indegent pepil. He brocht hame the gret bellis, the
gret brasyn fount, xxiiii capis [copes] of gold and sylk. He maid ane
chalice of fyne gold, ane eucharist, with sindry challicis of siluer; he
theikkit [thatched] the kirk with leid ; he biggit ane brig of Leith, ane
othir ouir Glide ; with mony othir gude workis, qwhilkis war ouir
prolixt to schaw [which it would take too long to explain], Nocht
theless he wes sa inuiit [envied] be sindry othir prelatis, becaus he was
not gevyn to lust and insolence efter thair maner, that he left the
Abbay, and deit [died] ane Chartour monk." 1

The fate of two of Abbot Bellenden ; s gifts the brazen
font and the leaden roof will fall to be recounted later.

It is doubtful whether Bellenden was still in office, or
whether he had retired to the cloister as stated by his
namesake, when the marriage of James IV. to Princess
Margaret of England took place in Holyrood in 1503.
Before that event, great changes had been wrought in the
precincts of the Abbey, marking a fresh departure in its

1 Bellenden's Boece, xii. 16.




Holyrood Palace built by James IV. . . A. D. 1498-1503

Marriage of James IV. with Margaret of England . 8th August 1503
Pope Julius II. 's gifts to James IV. .... 1507

"Cleanse the Causeway" . . . 3Oth April 1520

James V. arrives at Holyrood . . . 26th July 1524

William Douglas, Abbot of Holyrood . . . 1525-28

Robert Cairncross, Abbot ... . 1528-38

Persecution of heretics ..... 1 534

Marriage of James V. with Madeleine of France . . 1537

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryHerbert MaxwellOfficial guide to the Abbey-church, palace, and environs of Holyroodhouse → online text (page 6 of 13)