Scotland 1560: quite a summer so far
Following the storms of last winter which decimated the French fleet off Scotland's shores and the death last month of Mary of Guise, John Knox the religious firebrand is now in pole position in the nation.
FOLLOWING the death in June of the Queen Mother, Mary of Guise, and the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh last month on 5 July, the pace of change in Scotland has been relentless.
Date: 22 August 1560
The Queen Mother;
Mary of Guise
In accordance with the terms of the Treaty, we have seen the withdrawal of all French officials and troops from Scotland – an event which, in effect, has terminated the Auld Alliance between the Scottish nation and France.
This development represents a profound political upheaval with strong religious undertones. The new concord between Scotland and England which the Treaty invokes, paves the way for Scottish businessmen to gain access to English home markets; and those abroad: it even presents the possibility at some future date of a united Reformed church spanning the two nations. Who know's?
Certainly Queen Elizabeth I of England can rest in the knowledge that the threat of a Roman Catholic and French-led invasion from Scotland has been removed. As a result, the Reformation in England and the supremacy of the Monarch over the Pope – enforced by as King Henry VIII as the Divine Right of Kings – becomes more secure.
Cometh the hour; cometh the man
Martin Luther’s Reformation is now the dominant dynamic in the life of the Scottish nation. And ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’.
Returned from mainland Europe a year ago John Knox, the priest of Haddington, is now the prophet of and to Scotland: the champion of reforming zeal.
Mary, Queen of Scots
Meanwhile the young Queen Mary of Scotland – daughter of King James V – is living in Europe . The 18-year-old who grew up in France is Roman Catholic and became Queen consort of France last year through her marriage in 1558 to the French Dauphin.
Accordingly she is not well placed in terms of exercising a role in the land of her birth: in effect, the Lords of the Congregation and parliament are – as much as the monarch – in charge of Scotland’s affairs.
The meeting of the Scottish Parliament on the first day of this month is already being known as the Reformation Parliament.
The newly-created Scots Confession of Faith – expediently drawn up by Knox and his five colleagues in four days – was first presented to the parliamentary committee of the Lords of the Articles.
Last week – on the 17th of August – the document was presented to and accepted by Parliament. Allied to this new confession are the denunciations of the ‘enormities and the pestiferous errors of the Roman Kirk’: it is a direct challenge to the citadel of the Roman system.
Another Act is to be presented this coming week which will abolish the jurisdiction and authority of the 'Bishop of Rome called the Pope or his sect' within the realm of Scotland. A third act in course of preparation will annul all those statutes which are in favour of Romanism and against reformed doctrines as outlined in the Confession.
No desire for two churches in Scotland
There is no desire to establish a new church in Scotland, indeed such a thought is considered monstrous to both sides of the reformation divide. However these Acts will remove the ultimate source of the errors in doctrine and laxity of discipline – problems which have lain in the discretion of the mainly-Italian cardinals sitting in Rome under the presidency of the Pope. Knox and his followers totally repudiate the claims of the Pope to be ‘Vicar and Vice-Regent of God on earth’.
The First Book of Discipline which was drawn up by John Knox and published in May is due to be presented to the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland next year (1561).
Included in the Book will be measures whereby a system of ministers, elders and kirk sessions will be established.
A system of poor relief will be established whereby each parish church will be responsible for the poor within its boundaries. Superintendants will be established to oversee the work of the churches and, through parish schools, the education of the young.
Meanwhile, church polity and practice will also be dictated by the Book of Common Order as developed in Geneva and which Knox carried into Scotland on his return from Europe last year.
It is difficult to see how the competing claims and priorities of the new religious grouping, the Scottish nobility and a young and absent Queen of Scotland can be reconciled. The summer of 1560 in Scotland is certainly creating some headlines. Watch this space.