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Archbishop John Spottiswoode


1565 - 1639

Archbishop Spottiswood, Lord High Chancellor
©2016 Gazetteer for Scotland

Archbishop Spottiswood, Lord High Chancellor

Archbishop and church historian. Born in Mid Calder, the son of another John Spottiswoode (1510-85) who was Rector of the Kirk of Calder and invited John Knox (c.1513 - 72) to celebrate the first Protestant communion in the village. Spottiswoode was educated at the University of Glasgow and married at South Leith in 1589. When King James VI succeeded to the English throne in 1603, Spottiswoode was one of the entourage who accompanied his King to London. He was appointed a member of the Privy Council of Scotland (1605), Archbishop of Glasgow (1610) and then Primate of Scotland and Archbishop of St. Andrews (1615). He lived close to St Andrews at Dairsie Castle, building a church there in 1621. He crowned King Charles I in 1633 at the Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh, and was appointed Chancellor of Scotland in 1635.

He was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church at Perth (1618) which had been rigged to ensure acceptance of James VI's unpopular reforms, known as the Articles of Perth, which were intended to unify church practices between Scotland and England under an Episcopal system of church government . He was appointed Chancellor of Scotland by King Charles I (1635), but Spottiswoode found himself caught between a monarch intent on introducing an unpopular prayer book, which resulted in riots in St. Giles Kirk in Edinburgh, and the people. Thus in 1638, while the people signed the National Covenant, the King dismissed Spottiswoode from the Chancellorship for having failed to enforce the Episcopacy, yet the General Assembly in Glasgow reintroduced Presbyterianism, deposing him as Archbishop and excommunicated him.

He wrote a "History of the Church of Scotland" which examined the Church from 203AD until the close of the reign of James VI (1625). Spottiswoode dedicated this work to King Charles I, but it was not published until 1655.

He died in London and was buried in Westminster Abbey.


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