Letter from David Anderson concerning Patrick Adamson, 1590.

Scope and Content

Autograph letter signed, David Anderson to a person unknown.The recipient is addressed only as 'Sir'. The letter is described by the author as being on the 'education, learning and lyfe' of Patrick Adamson, archbishop of St Andrews, and gives an outline of Patrick Adamson’s ecclesiastical career, his relations with the earl of Morton, regent of Scotland [Archibald Douglas, earl of Angus, 6th earl of Morton], an attempt on his life on the St Andrews golf links [Fife], his time in England, at Windsor [Berkshire], with an extended digression on the consequences to the Scottish Church of the recent reforms.Signed David Anderson.

Administrative / Biographical History

Patrick Adamson (1537-1592) was a highly controversial archbishop of St Andrews. Born in Perth, son of a merchant, he studied at St Mary’s College, St Andrews, from 1554-1558, and took up an appointment as minister of Ceres in Fife. However, he left parish ministry for France by 1566 as tutor to the eldest son of James MacGill of Nether Rankeillour. On the continent Adamson met some of the key figures of the Reformation, was imprisoned in Paris for a pamphlet claiming the new born son of Mary queen of Scots to be prince of Scotland, England and France, and studied law. He returned to Scotland, became chaplain to the regent of Scotland, the earl of Morton, and eventually took up a post as minister in Paisley. Complaints of neglect of his parish were soon made against him as he lived in Glasgow, keeping company with the principal of Glasgow University, Andrew Melville, and seemed to be in search of an academic post. However, he refused the principalship of St Leonard’s College, St Andrews, and then accepted the archbishopric of St Andrews when offered it by Morton, despite the decision of the general assembly to abandon the Episcopal system. He was threatened with excommunication while the Presbyterians were in charge but from 1583 he found support from James, earl of Arran. He was sent on a futile commission to the archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, to encourage cooperation between Episcopal supporters in Scotland and England. He began a campaign in print denouncing Presbyterian theories in favour of crown supremacy over the church and the divine right of the archbishops. Adamson briefly came to power on his return to Scotland when the reformers were ousted but his primacy disappeared with the fall of Arran; he was excommunicated by the synod, suspended from the ministry and finally deposed. He died in poverty and obscurity.


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Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Paper: two sheets, 41.3x30.7cm folded.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Maia Sheridan, Archives Hub project archivist, based on material from the Manuscripts Database

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