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Significant Scots
Balcanquel, Walter D.D.


BALCANQUEL, WALTER, D.D. an eminent divine of the seventeenth century, was the son of the Rev. Walter Balcanquel, who was a minister of Edinburgh for forty-three years, and died in August, 1616. Dr Walter Balcanquel was born at Edinburgh. It has been supposed that he was himself a minister of Edinburgh; but probably the writer who makes this statement only mistakes him for his father, who bore the same name. He entered a bachelor of divinity at Pembroke Hall, Oxford, where, September 8th, 1611, he was admitted a fellow. He appears to have enjoyed the patronage and friendship of King James, and his first preferment was to be one of the royal chaplains. In 1617, he became Master of the Savoy in the Strand, London; which office, however, he soon after resigned in favour of Mark Antony de Dominis, archbishop of Spalatro, who came to England on account of religion, and became a candidate for the king’s favour. In 1618, Dr Balcanquel was sent to the celebrated synod of Dort, as one of the representatives of the church of Scotland. He has given an account of a considerable part of the proceedings of this grand religious council, in a series of letters to Sir Dudley Carleton, which are to be found in "The Golden Remains of the ever memorable Mr John Hales of Eaton, 4to. 1673." In 1621, the Archbishop of Spalatro having resigned the mastership of the Savoy, Dr Balcanquel was re-appointed; and on the 12th of March, 1624, being then doctor of divinity, he was installed Dean of Rochester. George Heriot, at his death, February 12th, 1624, ordained Dr Balcanquel to be one of the three executors of his last will, and to take the principal charge of the establishment of his hospital at Edinburgh. Probably, the experience which he had already acquired in the management of the Savoy Hospital might be the chief cause of his being selected for this important duty. Heriot appointed Dr Balcanquel, by his will, "to repair, with all the convenience he can, after my decease, to the town of Edinburgh," in order to conclude with the magistrates about the business of the hospital; allowing him, for his pains, in addition to the sum of one hundred merks, which he enjoyed as an ordinary executor, one hundred pounds sterling, payable by two equal instalments—the first three months after the decease of the testator, and the second at the completion of the hospital.

Dr Balcanquel is entitled to no small commendation for the able manner in which he discharged this great and onerous trust. The Statutes, which, in terms of the testator’s will, were drawn up by him, are dated 1627, and do great credit to his sagacity and practical good sense.

[They conclude with the following adjuration to the magistrates and clergy of Edinburgh, who were designed in all time coming to be the managers of the hospital; a piece of composition, calculated, we should think, by its extraordinary solemnity and impressiveness, to have all the effect which could be expected, from connecting the obligations of the trustees with the sanctions of religion:—

"And now, finally, I, the unworthy servant of God, Walter Balcanquel, the composor of these Statutes, do onerate and charge the consciences of you, the Lord Provost, Magistrates, and Ministry, and Council of the city of Edinburgh, and of all those who shall be your successors, unto the second coming of the Son of God, and that by the bowels of our Lord Jesus Christ, who one day will come to judge the quick and the dead, and take a particular account of every one of you, for this particular stewardship, wherewith you are trusted; by the zeal and honour of our reformed religion, which by this pious work of the founder, is illustrated and vindicated from the calumnies of the adversaries to our holy profession, by that pious respect which you, his fellow-citizens, ought to carry to the pious memory and last will of the religious founder, your worthy citizen, George Heriot. And, lastly, for the clearing of your own consciences and your own particular accounts in the great day of the Lord, let none of you, who read these presents, nor your successors, who in after ages shall come to read them, offer to frustrate the pious Founder of his holy intention, either by taking, directly or indirectly, from this hospital any thing which he, in his piety, hath devoted unto it, or by altering it, or bestowing it upon any other use, though you shall conceive it to be far more pious or profitable; or to go about to alter any of these Statutes and Ordinances, after they shall be once delivered up unto you, completely subscribed and sealed, as you will answer the contrary, at the uttermost of your perils, in the day of the Lord Jesus: to whom, (being fully assured of your goodly care and zealous conscience in these particulars) with his Father, and the Holy Ghost, three Persons, but one undivided Essence of the Godhead, as for all other their blessings, so in particular for the great charity of this most pious and religious founder, be ascribed, as is most due, all praise, honour, and glory, from age to age, Amen."

It is alleged, by traditionary report, that the taste of Dr Balcanquel is conspicuous in the external architecture of Heriot’s Hospital. He is said, in particular, to have directed that anomalous contrariety of ornaments which is observed in the windows of the building; a blemish, however, affecting only the details, and not the general effect of the building.]

Dr Balcanquel’s next appearance in the public concerns of his native country, was of a less happy character. In 1638, when Charles I. sent down the Marquis of Hami1ton to Scotland, to treat with the Covenanters, the Dean of Rochester accompanied his grace in the capacity of chaplain. What was his external behaviour on this occasion, we do not know; but it was afterwards surmised by the Covenanters, that he had been deputed by Archbishop Laud, as a spy, at once upon the Marquis, who was suspected of moderation, and the people with whom he was dealing. It is asserted by Sir James Balfour, in his "Memorialls of State," that Dr Balcanquel also communicated intelligence of all that happened in Scotland, to Signor George Con, the Pope’s legate, "as some of his intercepted letters can beare recorde." Early in the ensuing year, was published an apologetical narrative of the court-proceedings, under the title of "His Majesties Large Declaration, concerning the Late Tumults in Scotland," which, by universal and apparently uncontradicted report, was ascribed to the pen of Dr Balcanquel. While this work was received by the friends of the king as a triumphant vindication of his attempts upon the purity of the Scottish church, it only excited new indignation in the minds of the outraged people, who soon after appeared in arms at Dunse law, to defend their religious freedom with the sword. On the 14th of May, 1639, at the very time when the armies were about to meet on the borders, Dr Balcanquel, apparently in requital of his exertions, was installed Dean of Durham. He had now rendered himself a marked man to the Scottish presbyterians, and accordingly his name is frequently alluded to in their publications as an "incendiary." Under this character he was denounced by the Scottish estates, July 29, 1641, along with the Earl of Traquair, Sir John Hay, Clerk Register, Sir Robert Spottiswoode, and Maxwell, Bishop of Ross, all of whom were regarded as the principal causes of the war between the king and his people. In the Canterburian’s Self-Conviction, a pamphlet written in 1641, by the Rev. Robert Baillie, against Archbishop Laud, he is spoken of in a style of such asperity, as might have convinced him that, in the event of a complete triumph of the presbyterian party, he would share in the proceedings which were now directed against that unhappy prelate. Accordingly, the very next year, when the king could no longer protect his partizans, Dr Balcanquel was forced from his mastership of the Savoy, plundered, sequestered, and obliged to fly from London. Repairing to Oxford, he attached himself to the precarious fortunes of his sovereign, and for several years afterwards, had to shift about from place to place, wherever he could find security for his life. At length, having taken refuge in Chirk Castle, Denbighshire, he died there in a very cold season, on Christmas day, 1645. He was buried next day in the parish church of Chirk, where some years after a splendid monument was erected to his memory by a neighbouring royalist, Sir Thomas Middleton of Chirk Castle.


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