William Elphinstone

(Bishop of Aberdeen)

1431 - 1514

King's College Chapel, Elphinstone Memorial
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

King's College Chapel, Elphinstone Memorial

Bishop and statesman. Born illegitimate in Glasgow, he was brought up by his father and the clergy in Glasgow Cathedral. Having been deprived of a mother, he developed a strong religious devotion for the Virgin Mary, which continued throughout his life.

He was educated in France and took senior office under King James III (1452-88), and continued as Ambassador to France under King James IV (1473 - 1513).

Elphinstone is best known for his association with Aberdeen, founding the University there as King's College (1494). He added a central tower and choir to St. Machar's Cathedral (both subsequently lost), prepared the Breviarium Aberdonense as a replacement liturgy for Scotland (1509) and was offered the post of Archbishop of St. Andrews (1514), but died in Edinburgh before he could be installed.

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