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The History of Glasgow
Chapter XXXVIII - Kings James III. and IV.—Bishops Carmichael and Blacader —Archbishopric of Glasgow—Grant of Free Tron—Burgh Privileges—Lollards of Kyle


FOR several years after the truce of 1464, in the negotiations for which the bishop of Glasgow had been a party, there was no serious misunderstanding between England and this country, though there were occasional border disturbances, and the truce was renewed in 1473. But from the year 1479 till the end of his reign King James and his government were never long free from domestic troubles and these were often accompanied by international quarrels. The king's partiality for seclusion and for the society of favourites who shared his fine-art sympathies was repugnant to most members of the nobility, who preferred to associate with the king's two brothers, the Duke of Albany and the Earl of Mar, both of whom were noted for their knightly accomplishments. In 1481 hostilities were resumed with England, both by sea and land, next year a large Scottish army was raised for defence of the kingdom against "the revare Edward, calland himself king of England," and at this time Albany joined himself with his country's enemies. The year 1482 witnessed the triumph of the disaffected nobles, the Lauder bridge tragedy, and the recapture by the English of the castle and town of Berwick, one of this country's earliest and most flourishing burghs, which thus finally passed from the hands of the Scots. A three years' truce with England, entered into in 1484, had not expired when James met his death, after the skirmish at Sauchieburn, in June, 1487. In the civil war thus brought to a crisis the bishop of Glasgow was on the side of the insurgents, and took part in the futile negotiations for a peaceful settlement.

During the reign of James III. parliaments were held with great regularity and many useful measures were passed. Some of these have already been referred to, such as the Act of 1469, relating to elections in burghs. In 1487 it was ratified and ordered to be observed, so that elections might result in the choice of the best and worthiest inhabitants, not through partiality or mastership, "quhilk is undoing of the borowis whare mastershippis and requestis cummis." [Ancient Laws and Customs, ii. p. 43.] At the same time the Act was passed which is usually regarded as the first statutory constitution of the Convention of Burghs, [Ibid. p. 44. By this Act commissioners of all burghs, both south and north of the Forth, were appointed to meet yearly to commune and treat upon the welfare of merchants, good rule and common profit of the burghs.] and as such was one of the few Acts which escaped the wholesale repeal carried through in 1908. In authorising an embassy of thirty persons to England regarding marriages of the King and his son Prince James, it was arranged about the expenses which amounted to £250, that £100 should be laid on the prelates, £100 on the barons and the remaining £50 on the burghs. [Ibid. p. 44.] One sixth was the usual proportion borne by the burghs in national taxation, the shares payable by the several communities being apportioned by the Convention. [Ibid. pp. 109, 161.]

In the parliament held on 16th October, 1488, a special effort was made for the suppression of theft, robbery and other "enormities," which were at that time grievously prevalent, by dividing the kingdom into districts over which were placed various earls and barons to whom full authority was entrusted

during the king's minority. The district within which Glasgow was situated was assigned to the Earl of Lennox, Lord Lyle and Matthew Stewart, the earl's eldest son.' But within a few months after this Act was passed these three guardians of order broke into open revolt against the king's government. Lyle occupied the strong fortress of Dumbarton, while Lennox and his son raised their vassals and garrisoned their castles and strongholds, including Crookston, near Paisley, and Duchal, in the parish of Kilmacolm. In the course of the military movements for suppressing this insurrection, a result which was speedily effected, Glasgow comes frequently into notice. On 18th July, 1489, the king was in Glasgow on his way to the siege of Duchal. In the following October, levies from the west and south were summoned to assemble on Glasgow Moor, and thence, on the 18th of that month, the king proceeded to Dumbarton to press the siege of the castle. On 10th November he was again in Glasgow on his way to Linlithgow. On 23rd November he returned to Dumbarton and left it on 13th December, a few days after its surrender. Other visits of the King to Glasgow are traced by his donations to the poor, to altars and to Friars. Of these the larger sums were usually given to the Friars, as in December, 1488, when he gave [A.P.S. 1488 C. 9. ii. p. 208.] "in alms," and on 2nd May, 1489, £10 both to the "Freris of Glescow," not distinguishing between the Preachers and the Friars Minors, the two bodies of friars located in the city. [Lord High Treasurer's Account, vol. i. See also Crookston Castle, by Robert Guy (1909) pp. 36-42.]

Glasgow was now coming into greater prominence in national affairs and was beginning to occupy a leading position in its relation to other districts in the West Country. Elevation in ecclesiastical status added to the influence of its archbishop, with whom the King seems always to have been on friendly terms, and between 1491 and 1496 he was on several important embassies, such as to France for renewal of the old alliance and to the court of Spain to negotiate a treaty of friendship as well as to engage in matrimonial speculation. Glasgow likewise provided a serviceable base for incursions against some of the West Islesmen who, notwithstanding their formal submission to royal authority, in 1493-4, continued to give trouble to the government for many years to come.

Preparatory to a military expedition to the Isles, ships and boats were being put in order, and for that purpose iron, timber, and other material, were bought and collected at Glasgow and despatched in boats from the "brig" there to Dumbarton, towards the end of 1494. Thereafter the "lords of the westland, eastland and southland " were summoned to meet the King at Glasgow in April or May, 1495, and there his presence is indicated by an offering of a French crown, valued at 14s., "to the reliquis in Glasgw." Boats carried the guns to Dumbarton, where the king was on 5th May, and on the following day he was at Newark Castle, whence probably he embarked. Returning from this expedition, in which he was accompanied by Sir Andrew Wood, with one of his ships, the King was in Glasgow in the end of June, and he remained there till the middle of the following month, during which period he received a visit from Odonnel, chief of Tyr-connel, in Ulster, who came to renew old family alliances.

In May, 1496, "the preistis of Glasgo" got 40s. when the King seems to have been passing through the city on his way from Ayr to Stirling. There, on 9th June, the sum of 5s. was paid "to the man that brocht the sture fra Glasgo," indicating apparently the gift of a sturgeon for the king's table and perhaps an early example of the liberality of the citizens in distributing the produce of their bounteous river. Shortly after the death of Bishop Laing, on 11th January, 1482-3, the chapter elected George de Carmichael, who had been for some years treasurer of the cathedral and prebendary of Carnwath. In deeds dated, respectively, 18th February and 22nd March, 1482-3, he is designated elect of Glasgow, but on 13th April Pope Sixtus IV. declared the election to be null and void as being contrary to his reservation of the see. The Pope favoured the translation of Robert Blacader, bishop of Aberdeen, to Glasgow, and this was effected with such expedition that he was consecrated in April or May, 1483. But Carmichael did not relinquish his claims and he is said to have been on a journey to Rome, seeking consecration, when he died in 1484.

In 1472 St. Andrews had been constituted the archiepiscopal and metropolitan see of Scotland, a step which was disapproved of by the bishops of the other sees as well as by the king. To allay contentions which had arisen between the archbishop and Bishop Blacader, the Pope, on 27th May, 1488, exempted the bishop and his diocese from all jurisdiction, visitation and rule of the archbishop during the lifetime of the former. But the see of Glasgow was not satisfied with this temporary favour and its cause was warmly supported by King James IV., who held the honorary dignity of a canon of Glasgow. Letters were despatched by the king urging on the Pope that Glasgow should be raised to a primacy like that of York in the church of England, and in a parliament held on 14th June, 1488-9, it was enacted that for the honour and public good of the realm the see of Glasgow should be erected into an archbishopric with such privileges and dignities as York enjoyed. After further pressure the desired object was attained, and by a bull of Pope Innocent VIII., dated 9th January, 1491-2, Glasgow was raised to the dignity of a metropolitan church, with Blacader as the first archbishop and the bishops of Dunkeld, Dunblane, Galloway and Lismore (Argyll) as suffragans. That peace between St. Andrews and Glasgow was not effected by these changes is shown by the terms of an act of parliament dated 26th June, 1493, whereby it was declared that if the two archbishops did not cease their -strife and stop litigation in the court of Rome, the King would -command his lieges not to pay them the ferms, rents and mauls required for the prosecution of such pleas, a threat which probably secured ostensible compliance for the time. [Dowden's Bishops, pp. 329-36, and authorities cited; Early Glasgow, pp. 51-55.]

Before the negotiations in regard to the archbishopric had been fully concluded, King James IV. granted to Bishop Blacader and his successors a charter confirming and extending the liberties and privileges of the see. In the preliminary narrative of the charter, which is dated 4th January 1489-90, the King refers to the singular devotion which he bore to the church "wherein we are a canon," and to the favour and love which he had for the bishop "and his renowned chapter, which holds the chief place among the secular colleges of our kingdom." After the confirmation, in general terms, of existing possessions, special reference is made to the baronies of Ancrum, Lilliesleaf and Ashkirk, in the shires of Roxburgh and Selkirk, and to those of Stobo and Edilston in Peeblesshire, and then comes the grant of a free Iron, introduced by words which indicated uncertainty as to whether that privilege had not been already conferred.

At that time merchandise liable to the great custom, payable to the crown, could not be legally exported without a cocket, being a certificate under the seal of the proper officer that the dues had been settled. Lords of regality who owned burghs of export had generally a grant of cocket, entitling them to export merchandise duty free. So far as shown by any extant writing the bishops of Glasgow do not appear to have previously had this privilege, but by the charter of 1489-90

the bishop and his successors were authorised to have a free tron in the city of Glasgow and to appoint a troner of the customs and clerk of the cocket, in order that all merchandise and goods pertaining to the citizens and tenants of the barony might be there troned, weighed and customed. The bishops were to possess, for their own use and profit, the customs collected by their officers and factors, and on payment of such dues cockets were to be issued, entitling the citizens and tenants to be free of exaction or payment of all other customs on their goods, in all other towns, ports and places within the kingdom. [Glasg. Chart. i. pt. ii. pp. 79-87. By a precept and warrant dated 10th October, 1490 (Ib. pp. 87, 88), King James IV. ratified the decreet by James III. (antea, p. 244, requiring all trading ships to be brought to such burghs with their merchandise and there to "pay their dewties and take cockets."] The first tron or weighing place within the city was erected a little to the west of the market cross, on the south side of the street at one time known as St. Tenewis-gait, but the name of which, after the erection of the tron, was changed to Trongait. About forty years later an adjoining site was occupied by the Collegiate Church of St. Mary and St. Anne, which in its turn was replaced by the Tron Church; and by this adherence to existing nomenclature the old weighing place has become one of the best known landmarks in the city.

From a decree pronounced by the Lords Auditors on loth December, 1494, it seems that the customs were rentalled by a "custumar" who, in consideration of a yearly rent payable to the archbishop, was authorised to collect the amount for his own behoof. At that time Allan Stewart was the rentaller, but under an arrangement to which he was a consenter the archbishop had assigned to his brother, Sir Patrick Blacader of Tulliallan, knight, the half of the customs from 1st December, 1493, and during the subsistence of this let the rentaller was only entitled to his own half. But as he had collected the whole customs for the past year he was ordained to pay Sir Patrick £10, under deduction of 40s. paid for rent and 32s. "for a rud of calsay making." [Acta Dominorum Auditoruna, p. 197. The last item is interesting as showing that the upkeep of the causeway was a charge on the customs.]

It is ascertained from an entry in the Inventory of City Writs, compiled in 1696, that on 17th January, 1491-2, King James addressed a letter to the Provost and Bailies intimating the release of his former "recognitione" and granting them license to "use and occupy their freedom as they did of befor." [Glasg. Chart. i. pt. ii. p. 88. See another direct grant, antea, p. 168.] Here, presumably, was opportunity for learning something of the direct relationship subsisting between the King and the burgh, the bishop as lord of the regality and the usual intermediary being apparently no party to the arrangement ; but unfortunately the letter, like so many important documents extant in 1696 but now gone, has disappeared. The term "recognitione" indicates that the burgh had, for some reason, been deprived of certain possessions or privileges, but whatever may have been the nature or extent of the temporary forfeiture, the magistrates were fully restored to their former condition. [Between the municipal year 1486-7, when Robert Stewart was provost, and the year 1491-2 when Andrew Otterburn held that office, the line of Stewarts (of different families perhaps) was broken for the first time. The precise time and reason of the change are not known, but it is not unlikely that the provost was implicated in the Lennox revolt of 1488-9, bringing about the "recognitione" referred to in the text (Glasg. Chart. ii. p. 475)]

The persecutions which arose after the death of John Wycliffe, the English Reformer, in 1380, drove many of his adherents into exile. Some of them, coming to the western parts of Scotland, settled in Ayrshire and obtained the name of the Lollards of Kyle. Their tenets were obnoxious to the ruling classes, both civil and ecclesiastical, and it is probable that Wyntoun voiced the general opinion when, in his metrical Chronicle, he commends Robert Duke of Albany, governor of the kingdom, for maintaining that attitude:

"He was a constant Catholike,
All Lollards he hatyt, and Hereticke." [Book ix. lines 2773-4.]

It was during this governor's administration that James Resby, the first martyr of the Reformed religion, was committed to the flames at Perth, for alleged heresy, in the year 1406-7. John Knox commences his History of the Reformation in Scotland by referring to an unnamed person who, as mentioned in the Scrolls or Register of Glasgow, was burnt for heresy, in the year 1422. If correctly reported this event occurred during the governorship of Duke Murdoch and William Lauder's episcopate. King James I. continued the efforts for repressing the new doctrines, as by an act of parliament, passed on 12th March, 1424, "anentis heretikis and Lollardis," it was ordained " that ilk bischop sail ger inquyr be the Inquisicione of Heresy, quhar ony sik beis fundyne, ande at thai be punyst as Lawe of Halykirk requiris : Ande, gif it misteris, that secular power be callyt tharto in suppowale and helping of Halykirk." [A.P.S. ii. p. 7, c. 3.] The machinery for preventing the spread of independent opinion included the appointment of a dignified churchman as Inquisitor of Heresy, but no connected record of procedure has been preserved. The " Scrolls and Register of Glasgow "to which Knox refers are supposed to be the records of the Official of Glasgow, not now extant. [Glasg. Prot. vol. v. pp. xi. xii.] A deed recorded in "the books of the acts of the Official of Glasgow" is referred to in an instrument dated 27th July, 1506. [Dioc. Reg. Prot. No. 289.] These books seem to belong to the series to which Knox had access in Glasgow subsequent to the Reformation and consequently they had lost the chance of being preserved by the archbishop along with the other muniments which he took to France. From the Register of 1494 Knox supplied details of proceedings against thirty persons in Ayrshire whom Archbishop Blacader had summoned before the king and his council, but no conviction seems to have followed at that time. [6 History of Reformation, i. pp. 6-11; 494-500. Against two of the persons summoned in 1494, "George Campbell of Sesnok and John Campbell in Newmylns," a charge of heresy was depending on 9th March, 1503-4, on which date the archbishop declared that he was ready to deliver a copy of the attestations produced in support of the case (Diocesan Reg. Prot. No. 66). But again no decision seems to have been reached.]


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