'Charters of Crossraguel Abbey'






§ 5. The Abbey under William Kennedy. 1520-1547.

During the forty years preceding the Reformation, the monks of Crosraguel enjoyed the immediate protection of the Earls of Cassillis; and two eminent members of this family were abbots during the period. In 1520, William, brother to the second earl, was elected to the vacant office.{2} Jealous of their ancient rights, the Abbot and Convent of Paisley protested in vain against the election, which they refused to confirm as vicars of the mother house of Cluny.{3} William was duly elected, and retained the Abbacy until his death in 1547. We may notice here how the abbots were appointed at Crosraguel. By their ancient Charter of foundation the monks had full power given to them to elect their own abbots.{4} We have instances of this in 1370, when Nicolas succeeded Abbot Roger,{5} and again in 1491;{6} though in the latter case the election was confirmed by the Pope.{7} Towards the close of the fifteenth century, the right of election was gradually wrested from the clergy by James the Third, although he had previously passed an Act in their favour;{1} and in 1550 the right of appointment to the vacant benefices belonged solely to the Crown. Thus, although William Kennedy was elected in 1520 by his own monks,{2} Abbot Quintin was in 1550 appointed by the Crown;{3} and in 1565 we find the actual gift of the Abbacy by Queen Mary to Allan Stewart.{4}

Abbot William was a man of influence and ability. While devoting a great portion of his time to the duties of monastic life, to the encouragement of literature among his little community, to the erection of many beautiful buildings within the Convent walls, and to the management of the vast landed estates belonging to the Abbey, —he yet continued to take an active part in the political events of the day. During the twenty-seven years of his Regime, he was eight times present in the National Parliament.{5} He was twice a Commissioner of State,{6} once a Commissioner for the discussion of the "Dooms,"{7} and a member of the Privy Council.{8} Besides the Abbacy of Crosraguel he held for many years the Commendatorship of the opulent Abbey of Holy wood.{9} He was an intimate friend of Gavin Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow, and of Henry, Bishop of Galloway; while his position as "Tutour" to the young Earl of Cassillis brought him into contact with all the leading men of the time.

Among the charters of this period are three writs of great interest relating to Knockgarron,{1} showing the ancient solemnities of the former surrender of land by the owner on bended knees, within the monastic chapter-house, and the subsequent delivery to the heir by the symbolical staff and baton. A charter full of interest to the archaeologist occurs in 1520,{2} being a grant of land by Sir James Douglas, a prebendary of the church of Maybole.

On the assassination of the second Earl of Cassillis in 1527, the young earl, then in his 12th year, was placed under the guardianship of the Abbot; who for eleven years watched over his nephew's interests with paternal care. Many instances occur at this period of the thoughtfulness which he displayed in his dealings with the Kennedies of Blairquhan, and in providing for the widow of the murdered earl. In 1528 he was summoned before the Secret Council,{3} together with nearly every member of the clan Kennedy, for the slaughter of the Laird of Lochfergus, but he appears to have been acquitted. He attended the great meeting of the Scottish Estates in the same year, when the attainder was passed upon the Douglases.{4}

In April 1530 Abbot William obtained a royal license or "saufgarde" to pass to France and other places beyond seas on his pilgrimage to Rome,{5} whither many of the Scottish prelates were now going, to keep in favour with the Papal Court at the cry of "Breakers ahead." In this year, too, a learned monk of Crosraguel died, named Michaeus, the author of many theological treatises.{1} The monks also lost a great benefactress, and the Abbot a personal friend, in the death of Egidia Blair, Lady Row of Baltersan. By her will, which is preserved,{2} she appointed the Abbot her executor, bequeathing to the monastery twenty pounds, and directing her body to be buried at Crosraguel, in S. Mary's aisle. Recent excavations at the Abbey have discovered her tomb, and prove her instructions to have been literally carried out. Through her decease the Abbey gained a royal signature to the gift of her land of Row.

Abbot William must have returned from his pilgrimage in 1532, for we find him attending the Parliament of that year which instituted the College of Justice.{3} In 1534 he leased the parsonage fruits of the church of Straiton to James Kennedy of Blairquhan{4} —the first instance of a lease in these documents —and in 1535 he was again in Parliament.{5} Two valuable letters, facsimiles of which are given, were written to him by Henry, Bishop of Galloway, in 1536{6} regarding the churches of Inch and Leswalt, which had been let to the young Earl of Cassillis.

On the earl attaining his majority in 1538, the Abbot was relieved from the tutorship, and discharged his former ward from all the duties incidental to the various lands.{7} This young nobleman had profited by his uncle's excellent training, and took a prominent part in the stirring events of the day. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Solway Moss and conveyed to England, where he embraced the Reformed religion. The Abbot was meantime appointed Commissioner for holding the Parliament after that crushing defeat,{1} and his vote is recorded as having been cast for Arran as governor of the kingdom. But troubles appear to have arisen around his own monastery. The long-continued absence of the earl, and his second departure into England, evoked a letter in 1544 from the aged prelate,{2} wherein he entreats him to return home, for there were "mony cummeris and veray grit trublis now, and mony unfreindis and fewer freindis." The Scottish clergy were in fact beginning to realise that the old Church was in danger. Doubtless it was this sense of insecurity that prompted the Archbishop of Glasgow, Gavin Dunbar, to deposit in 1546 all his treasure and personal effects in the hands of his friend the Abbot of Crosraguel. The Archbishop's will,{3} which is printed here in full, discloses an enormous amount of wealth to have been entrusted to the Abbot's keeping. Richly embroidered vestments, gold and silver goblets, jewels of the rarest kinds, a valuable library, and nearly four thousand pounds in money, formed the nucleus of the Prelate's property; and the entrusting of them to the care of Abbot William is a sure sign of the high estimation in which he was held by a great man like Gavin Dunbar.

We find that the Abbot was busy and energetic to the last. In 1546 a Lord Commissioner for holding the Parliament which attainted the murderers of Cardinal Beaton;{l} elected a member of the Privy Council in the same year;{2} in the winter of 1546 at St. Andrews, busily concerned with the domestic affairs of his Abbey; and in the spring of 1547 present at the last Parliament of his life.{3} He had spent it well, in the service of his monastery, his country, his sovereign, and his church; and, in an age when the lives of all the Scottish prelates were not perhaps emblems of perfection, it is notable that not a breath of slander sullied the blameless life of William Kennedy.  


1 Vol. i. pp. 65-7. 2 Vol. i. p. 68. 3 Ibid. 4 Vol. i. pp. 3-6. 6 Vol. i. p. 26. ° Vol. i. p. 54. 7 Ibid.

1 Ada Pad. Scot., vol. ii. 2 Vol. i. p. GS. 3 yoj_ ; p 103_ 4 Vol. i. p. 141. 6 Ada Par. Scot, vol. ii. pp. 308, 321, 335, 339, 410, 468, 471, 598. 0 Ibid,, pp. 409, 470. i Ibid., p. 410. 8 Register of the Privy Council, vol. i. pp. 33, 39, 60, 67. 9 Vol. i. p. 79.

1 Vol. i. pp. 71-80. 2 Vol. i. p. 68. 3 Vol. i. p. 88. 4 Ada Parl Scotim, vol. ii. p. 321. 5 Vol. i. p. 91. VOL. I. g

 1 Hay's Scotia Sacra (MSS., Adv. Lib.), p. 87. 2 Vol. i. pp. 92-6. 3 Ada Pad. Scot., vol. ii. p. 335. 4 Vol. i. pp. 9C-7. 5 Ada Parl. Scot., vol. ii. p. 339. 6 Vol. i. pp. 98-9. 7 Vol. i. p. 99.

1 Ada Parl. Scot, vol. ii. p. 409. 2 Vol. i. pp. 100-1. 3 Vol. i. pp. 108-116. ==========================





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