Robert Reid (bishop)

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Robert Reid
Bishop of Orkney
Church Roman Catholic Church
Metropolis St Andrews
Diocese Orkney
Ordination c. 1519 (priest)
Consecration 1529 (abbatial blessing)
1541 (bishop)
Personal details
Born c. 1496–c. 1499
Died 6 Septmeber 1558
Dieppe, Normandy, France
Buried Church of St Jaques, Dieppe
Nationality Scottish
Parents John Reid and Elizabeth (Bessata) Schanwell
Education Master of Arts (1511–1515)
Post graduate, prob. France (1515–1518)
Alma mater St Salvator's College, St Andrews University

Robert Reid (died 1558) was Abbot of Kinloss, Commendator-prior of Beauly, and Bishop of Orkney. He was born at Aikenhead in Clackmannan parish, the son of John Reid (killed at the battle of Flodden) and Elizabeth Schanwell, his formal education began in 1511 at St Salvator's College in St Andrews University under the supervision of his uncle, Robert Schanwell, dean of the faculty of arts. Reid graduated in 1515 and by 1524 was subdean at Elgin Cathedral where, by 1527, was Official of Moray. Thomas Chrystall, the abbot of Kinloss chose Reid as his successor in 1526; in 1527, as abbot-designate, he attended the court of Pope Clement VII on abbacy business. While returning via Paris in 1528, Reid met the Piedmontese humanist scholar Giovanni Ferrerio who accompanied him back to Scotland. Following Chrystall's resignation in July 1528, Reid was blessed as abbot in September and received the Priory of Beauly, in commendam, in 1531; in that same year, Ferrerio left the court of James V to join Reid at Kinloss as tutor to the monks of both Kinloss and Beauly. Reid held many offices of state between 1532 and 1542 including ambassadorial roles to England and France and as a senior law official, he considerably improved the external and internal fabric of both monasteries in 1538.

In the spring of 1541, James V nominated Reid to the vacant bishopric of Orkney with his consecration taking place in late November. King James died in 1542 and James Hamilton, Earl of Arran was appointed regent during Queen Mary's minority. Bishop Reid aligned himself with Cardinal Beaton in his dislike of the pro-English stance of Arran. Beaton's resistance to the regent's viewpoint led to his arrest and at the will of the cardinal's supporters, Reid was selected to negotiate with Arran for Beaton's release in 1543. Reid's attempts were rejected but the cardinal's freedom was gradually restored, despite his support of Beaton, Reid was elected to the influential Lord of the Articles committee of parliament. This position also brought with it membership of the regent's privy council. Parliament approved the Treaty of Greenwich, concluded in July 1543, that would pave the way to a betrothal between Queen Mary and Prince Edward of England, on 11 December, a renunciation of the treaty was passed by parliament and resulted in the English King Edward's declaration of war on Scotland that lasted nearly eight years and came to be known as the rough wooing.

In August 1544, Bishop Reid traveled to Kirkwall's St Magnus Cathedral, the seat of his Orkney bishopric and immediately began structural improvements to the diocesan buildings and reforms to the cathedral chapter. Reid became President of the Court of Justice in February 1549, he relinquished his abbacy of Kinloss to his nephew Walter Reid in 1550 and that same year sat at the heresy trial of Adam Wallace. His services continued to be in demand and in June 1551 he was a commissioner appointed to treat for peace with England; in May 1554, Reid was a curator to the young Queen Mary. Shortly before embarking for France to attend Queen Mary's wedding to the Dauphin in 1558, Reid made out his last will and testament that allowed for a college to be established in Edinburgh that was to comprise of grammar, arts and law schools with all necessary accommodation. Reid's ship was wrecked near Boulogne but both he and his fellow commissioner, the Earl of Rothes, survived to witness the royal marriage at Notre Dame Cathedral, on reaching Dieppe on his journey home, Reid and fellow commissioners fell ill and on 6 September 1558 he died and was buried in Dieppe's church of St Jacques.

Early life[edit]

Robert Reid's date of birth is unrecorded but he began his university education in 1511 and like most students of the time, entry usually occurred between the ages of twelve and fifteen—this would have placed his probable year of birth between 1496 and 1499.[1]Robert's parents, John Reid and Elizabeth (sometimes known as Bessata) Schanwell had six children of whom, Robert was the third born — his two older brothers were David and James, and his three younger sisters were Christian, Helen and Margaret.[2]Elizabeth Schanwell had at least three siblings; John who became abbot of Couper Angus, William who was a secular cleric, and Robert who, in 1501 was Vicar of Kircaldy and Dean of the faculty of arts at St Andrews University from 1512 to 1517. From 1517 to 1519 Robert Schanwell served as Deputy Rector and Rector of the University.[3]

The tower of St Salvator's, University of St Andrews

Reid matriculated at St Salvator's College in the University of St Andrews in 1511 where the rector at the time was his uncle, Robert Schanwell.[4]Under the tutelage of Hugh Spens, Professor of Sacred Theology, he graduated as a Batchelor of Arts in 1513 or 1514 followed by his Master of Arts on 28 May 1515.[5][6][7][8] St Salvador's College introduced the study of Civil Law as part of the curriculum in 1500 when it required that a Bachelor of Civil Law deliver three lectures per week. [9]By the 1430s, for those aspiring to the higher echelons of the church or service to the king, or both, a postgraduate degree in canon or civil law was essential.[10] Reid is almost always described as being a postgraduate law student at the University of Paris but no record of this has been uncovered.[11] Moreover, Reid's future distinguished law career with expertise in both canon and civil law[12] would rule out Paris as it was specifically barred from offering civil law.[13]Instead, other universities provided this discipline; for instance, the University of Orlèans, situated only 110kms southwest of Paris, offered a three-year course on civil law for those qualified in canon law.[14]

Reid was appointed as a Notary public in the diocese of Moray in 1518 and then described as a court procurator in Fife and also as a cleric of St Andrews diocese, both in 1519;[15] in 1520, he acted as a notary public of St Andrews diocese.[16] He was subdean in the Diocese of Moray at Elgin Cathedral by 1524 and then officialis or official of the diocese by 1527—the official of a diocese was a lawyer who was the judge in the bishop's consistorial court and needed not only in-depth knowledge of canon law but frequently, civil law also.[17][18][19]

Abbot of Kinloss[edit]

The abbey of Kinloss, situated only a few miles from Elgin Cathedral where Robert Reid was its subdean and official, was governed by Abbot Thomas Crystall since his appointment on 13 January 1500. Christall had been very successful in retrieving misappropriated property belonging to the abbey and reinstating teinds that had been neglected and by doing so doubled the abbey income.[20]Crystall performed numerous charitable acts in the distribution of alms and even provided impoverished ladies with money as dowries to enable suitable marriages. The upkeep of his abbey properties was important to him carrying out repairs and new building work at Kinloss while also improving the church furnishings and library, the external properties in Ellon and Strathisla were also well maintained.[21] The additional income that Chrystall achieved allowed him to increase the numbers of monks from fourteen to twenty or more. Crystall was fully committed to the abbacy refusing offers of elevation to the larger abbacies of Melrose and Dryburgh and then to the bishopric of Ross.[22] Reid's own abilities were drawn upon by the Pope when he was chosen to resolve an internal church dispute between the Abbot of Cambuskenneth and the Vicar of Stirling in 1526,[23] with the abbey's proximity to the cathedral, Chrystall was ideally placed to observe Reid at first-hand and so it was that it was the cathedral's subdean that he chose as his successor in 1526.[24]

Pope Clement VII to Robert Reid, 4 July 1528

Clement etc. to his dear son Robert Reid, Abbot of the Monastery of Kinloss, of the Cistercian Order, in the Diocese of Moray, greetings etc

...For some time now We have reserved all of the appointments of all of the churches and monasteries, vacant then and vacant before, in the aforesaid See [Moray], to our decision and disposition, and We declare that it is invalid and idle for anyone, relying on any authority whatsoever, knowingly or ignorantly, to call this in question...

...We appoint you abbot, and commit you to the cure, rule and administration of that same monastery, with full powers over its spiritual and temporal affairs.

Given at Viterbo, 4 July 1528, in the fifth year of Our pontificate.[25]

Rome was sacked on 6 May 1527 by the forces of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor resulting in Pope Clement VII's imprisonment in the Castel Sant'Angelo. His release was finally negotiated and on 6 December 1527, he left Rome for the Umbrian city of Orvieto, 120 km to the North. Abbot-elect Reid, faced a winter journey to meet the Pope, probably in the furtherance of his position at Kinloss, and left Elgin, ostensibly for Rome, sometime after 10 November 1527 but it may have been in Orvieto that he met the Pontiff. Reid's return journey took him via Paris where he was introduced to the humanist scholar Giovanni Ferrerio by the Scottish scholar and Augustinian canon, Robert Richardson. Following his studies at Turin, the Piedmontese Ferrerio arrived in Paris in 1525 where he became a companion of not only Richardson but other Scottish scholars such as Hector Boece, George Buchanan and William Gordon. Ferrerio joined Reid back to Scotland to the court of King James V where he would spend the next three years;[26] in Pope Clement VII's bull of 4 July 1528, he acknowledged having received Chrystall's request to resign, which he granted, and declared that the appointment of a successor to any monastery within the see of Moray lay solely with him and that he had therefore appointed Reid, Abbot of Kinloss.[27][28] This was conditional on Reid accepting the Cistercian monk's habit within six months of taking up the rule of the abbey; although not within the original time remit, he received the habit and blessing from the bishop of Aberdeen at a ceremony at the church of the Grey Friars in Edinburgh in July 1529. Crystal retired to the tower house that he had built in 1525, at Strathisla in the abbey estates, having retained the fruits of the abbey. Crystall lived on for a further six years when he died at Strathisla on 29 December 1535 and was buried the next day at Kinloss.[29][30]

One of Reid's first acts as abbot was to prosecute the nearby burgh of Forres to retrieve lands at Burgie and converted all of the abbey estates into a burgh of barony;[31] in 1531, Ferrerio was allowed to leave James's court to teach some of the Kinloss monks and as a result of Reid having received, in commendam, the Priory of Beauly on 1 November, he also tutored five of the Beauly monks, seconded to Kinloss for a period of three years.[32][33] Reid was appointed as a senator of the new College of Justice at its inaugural meeting on 27 May 1532 in the place of his uncle, Robert Schanwell, the king also stipulated that Reid should act for its president upon his absence “to minister thair in quhill hes returning." [34] King James authorised William Stewart, Bishop of Aberdeen and Reid to negotiate a peace treaty with Henry VIII of England in February 1533 but it was 2 August 1534 before it was finally concluded.[35]Ferrerio later wrote that Bishop Stewart and Abbot Reid were the only men capable of getting a "peace surpassing all expectation from an angry nation" (England).[36] Reid was engaged in diplomatic work in France concerning the marriage of King James during 1535 and 1536, firstly with Marie de Bourbon and then with the sickly Madeleine, daughter of the French king. [37] James and Madeleine married at Nôtre Dame Cathedral in Paris on the 1 January 1537 but the new Queen died within months at Holyrood Palace.[38]

Bishop of Orkney[edit]

Robert Maxwell, Bishop of Orkney had died by 25 December 1540 and Robert Reid was nominated by the King for the bishopric on 5 April 1541. The provision was granted on 20 July 1541 with Reid retaining his existing benefices including the abbacy of Kinloss. [39]

Pope Paul III to Robert Reid, 20 July 1541

Paul etc. to his dear son Robert Reid, Elect of Orkney, greetings.

...For some time now We have reserved to Our ordination and disposition the appointments of all of the churches vacant, declaring that henceforth it is invalid and idle for anyone, relying on any authority, knowingly or ignorantly, to call this in question...

...We appoint you and prefer you to the office of bishop to the pastorate, cure, and administration of that church, and commit to you full powers in both spiritual and temporal matters.

Given at Rome, at Santa maria [Maggiore], 16th Ocyober,1541, in the seventh year [of Our pontificate.][40]

Diplomacy and judiciary[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]


  1. ^ Cuthbert, A Flame in the Shadows, 1998, p.16
  2. ^ Cuthbert, A Flame in the Shadows, 1998, p.17
  3. ^ Cuthbert, A Flame in the Shadows, 1998, pp.16–17
  4. ^ Kirk, Reid, Robert, ODNB, 2004
  5. ^ Henderson, DNB, 1896
  6. ^ Lyon, History of St AndrewsVol I, 1843, p.345
  7. ^ Cuthbert, A Flame in the Shadows, 1998, p.18
  8. ^ Dunlop, Acta Facultatis Artiump.313
  9. ^ Dunlop, Acta FacultatisArtium. pcliv
  10. ^ Macfarlane, William Elphinstone and the Kingdom of Scotland, p18
  11. ^ Cuthbert, A Flame in the Shadows, p20
  12. ^ Cuthbert, A Flame in the Shadows, p20
  13. ^ Boyle, History of University of Oxford, pp.536–8
  14. ^ Macfarlane, William Elphinstone and the Kingdom of Scotland, p. 38
  15. ^ Kirk, Reid, Robert, ODNB, 2004
  16. ^ Fraser, Registrum Monasterii Cambuskenneth,p.23
  17. ^ Kirk, Reid, Robert, ODNB, 2004
  18. ^ Watt, Fasti, p.xii
  19. ^ Dowden, Medieval Church. p.288
  20. ^ Dilworth, Thomas Crystall, ODNB
  21. ^ Dilworth, Thomas Crystall, ODNB
  22. ^ Stuart, Records of Kinloss,pxlvii
  23. ^ Cuthbert, Flame in the Shadows, p.24
  24. ^ Cuthbert, Flame in the Shadows, pp.23–4
  25. ^ Cuthbert, Flame in the Shadows, pp.169–174
  26. ^ Holmes, The Meaning of History, pp.89–90
  27. ^ Cuthbert, Flame in the Shadows, pp.169–174
  28. ^ Watt, Heads of Religious Houses. p.133
  29. ^ Shaw, History of Province of Moray, p.178
  30. ^ Dilworth, ThomasCrystall, ODNB
  31. ^ Stuart, Records of Kinloss, p.pref. l
  32. ^ Holmes, The Meaning of History, p.90
  33. ^ Cowan, Medieval Church in the Highlands
  34. ^ Brunton & Haig, Historical Account of the Senators of the College of Justice, p.16
  35. ^ Cuthbert, Flame in the Shadows, pp.56–64
  36. ^ Cuthbert, Flame in the Shadows, p.66
  37. ^ Cuthbert, Flame in the Shadows, pp.66–71
  38. ^ McGladdery, James V in Kings & Queens of Scotland, p.173
  39. ^ Watt, Fasti, pp.328–9
  40. ^ Cuthbert, Flame in the Shadows, pp.179–181


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External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Thomas Chrystall
Abbot of Kinloss Abbey
Succeeded by
Walter Reid
Preceded by
James de Baldoven
Prior of Beauly
Succeeded by
Walter Reid
Legal offices
Preceded by
Alexander Mylne
President of the College of Justice
Succeeded by
Henry Sinclair