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The Works of John Knox Volume II Part 73

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III. JOHN BISHOP OF ROSS AND ABBOT OF LINDORES, 1560.

A few particulars may be added respecting another Abbot of Lindoris, who was much more distinguished both in his literary and political career--JOHN LESLEY, Bishop of Ross. He was born 29th September 1527.

Knox, at page 141 of this volume, calls him "a priest's gett," or b.a.s.t.a.r.d; and this a.s.sertion is fully confirmed by some original doc.u.ments which Bishop Keith examined, showing that he was the natural son of Gawin Lesley, parson of Kingussie in Badenoch, and Official of the See of Murray. In 1537, John Lesley obtained a dispensation, notwithstanding the defect of his birth, to become a clergyman. He was inducted to a canonry in the Cathedral Church of Aberdeen and Ellon in August 1550. He then spent four years abroad, in the study of the civil and canon laws in the University of Poictiers; and was created a Doctor of Laws at Paris. He returned to Scotland in April 1554; four years later, in April 1558, he was appointed Official at Aberdeen; and in July 1559, he was inducted to the parsonage, canonry, and prebend of Oyne. In April 1561, he was deputed, on the part of the Roman Catholic party, to invite the Queen to Scotland, after the death of Francis the Second. He returned to Leith in the same vessel with her; and for a period of upwards of twenty years continued one of the most active and zealous adherents and a.s.sertors of the rights and character of his Royal Mistress. On the 19th January 1563-4, he took his seat as a Lord of Session, by his designation as Parson of Oyne. Soon afterwards he obtained the Abbacy of Lindores _in commendam_; and upon the death of Henry Sinclair, Bishop of Ross, having been promoted to the vacant See, his appointment was confirmed in April 1566.

Among the various doc.u.ments relating to John Lesley parson of Oyne, and afterwards Bishop of Ross, of which Keith has given some account, is one, No. 7, which, if correctly stated, would have shown that the name of the Abbot, his immediate predecessor, was also John Lesley. It will be seen, however, that this is a mistake. Having obtained a sight of the original paper, which is written in a small hand, and full of contractions, it may be described as a pet.i.tion intimating in the usual form, that JOHN, ABBOT OF THE MONASTERY OF LINDORIS, of the Order of St. Benedict, in the diocese of St. Andrews, had resigned the Abbacy in favour of JOHN LESLIE, Clerk in the diocese of Murray, and a Doctor of both Laws, who had a seat on the bench as one of the Lords of Council in Scotland. To this added the _fiat ut pet.i.tur_, granting Lesley a dispensation to hold this benefice _in commendam_. It is dated "Rome apud Sanctum Petrum s.e.xto Kal. Martij, Anno Primo." That this was during the first year of the Pontificate of Pius V., (who was elected on the 7th, and crowned on the 17th January 1565-66,) is evident from the doc.u.ment itself, which refers to letters in favour of Lesley, "by Henry and Mary, King and Queen of Scotland," thus fixing the date to the 24th February 1566.

In June following, John Bishop of Ross, and Commendator of Lindores, obtained a Royal mandate, and took an active part in regard to the confirmation of various feu-farms of lands pertaining to the Abbey of Lindores. In the letter describing Riccio's murder and the Queen's conduct, addressed to the Council of England by the Earl of Bedford and Sir Thomas Randolph, the 27th March 1566, it appears that Bishop Lesley, along with his colleague James Balfour, Parson of Flisk, was that night in Holyrood,--"Atholle had leave of the Kinge, with Flyske _and Landores_, (_who was lately called Lyslaye, the Parson of Ovne_,) to go where they wolde; and being convoide oute of the courte," &c.

(Wright's Queen Elizabeth, vol. i. p. 229.)

The latter portion of Bishop Lesley's life is well known, and need not be detailed--his imprisonment in England in 1571--his long residence in different parts of the continent, and his death near Brussels on the 31st May 1596, in the sixty-ninth year of his age. See in particular the account of his life and writings, by Dr. Irving in his "Lives of Scotish Writers," vol. i. p. 122, &c.

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