Printer Friendly

Torn apart by religious war; Millennium Life.

WHEN the Reformation finally arrived in Scotland, the old Catholic faith did not collapse overnight.

The process took place gradually over a period of years and part of the reason for this was that, while firebrands like John Knox were desperate to move Scotland towards the Protestant faith, the Scottish rulers were happy with Catholicism.

The battle between Knox and Mary, Queen of Scots was one of the most fascinating tussles in Scotland's history ... and it was a religious war in which Knox would eventually triumph.

When he was sent to France after his part in the murder of Cardinal Beaton, it seemed the Reformers had fired their best shot and missed.

But Scotland was still a highly unstable place, dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church was rampant and it was virtually inevitable that change would come, altering the nature of Scotland forever.

Henry VIII, who had already converted England to Protestantism in 1534, was keen that the infant Mary, Queen of Scots - born just a week before James V died in 1542 - should marry his five-year-old son Edward, so uniting the two crowns and effectively bringing the Scots under English control.

However, Henry had not reckoned on Mary's Catholic mother, Mary of Guise, who forced the cancellation of the match. As a result, Henry invaded southern Scotland and razed towns and border abbeys in a so-called "rough wooing".

Knox and the Reformers recognised their success depended to a large extent on forging alliances with the English. At the same time, the council ruling Scotland in the infant Mary's name - which included French-born Mary of Guise - felt Scotland's best hope lay in protection from another Catholic nation, France.

When the English attacked Scotland again in 1548, the Scots asked the French to intervene. They sent 7000 troops, but would only use them if the infant Mary Queen of Scots was betrothed to the future king of France, the Dauphin, Francois.

The aim was clear - to bring the two Catholic nations together under a united French crown. But the Scots were clever enough to allow Francois only her hand in marriage, and not the Scottish succession.

John Knox, meanwhile, had finished his sentence in France and gone to England. However, Henry VIII had died, and when his son Edward VI also died, Henry's daughter Mary took the throne. She was a Catholic and, as she attempted to move her country back towards the old faith, Knox fled to the continent.

He went to Switzerland and, in Geneva, he met fellow reformer, John Calvin, a no-compromise firebrand who preached a much harder type of Protestantism than the Lutheranism on which Knox had cut his theological teeth.

Knox warmed to it and vowed to take it to Scotland. But what type of man was Knox? It is clear that he thought of himself as the father of the Scottish Reformation, but in reality the change was happening without his presence north of the border.

Father Mark Dilworth, an expert on the period, says: "Most of what we know about Knox comes from his own writings.

"He was certainly a strong figure, but there is a suspicion among historians that he was an extremely good self-publicist, and he may not actually have been as important as people think."

By 1559, Knox felt it was safe to return to Scotland. By then, the Reformation was in full swing and, despite Mary of Guise's influence, Scotland's nobles had swung behind Protestantism.

Five of them had titled themselves the Lords of the Congregation and made a covenant to overturn the Roman Church and install the Protestant faith instead. Others flocked to their cause, and the tide had turned in their favour in 1558 when Mary Tudor of England died and was succeeded by the Protestant Elizabeth I.

That made Mary of Guise feel vulnerable, so she demanded that all Protestant preachers appear before her and declare their allegiance to Rome. None turned up, so she tried to ban them. But it was a losing battle. More and more Scots were signing up to the Reformed faith.

Knox was ordained as Minister at St Giles, in Edinburgh. His brilliant preaching abilities stirred people into action - when he delivered a sermon in Perth, the mob rioted for two days and destroyed not only most of the fittings in the church, but also two monasteries and an abbey.

Mary of Guise reacted by ordering her forces to march on the Reformers. But the Protestant nobles were also determined to strike while the iron was hot.

They occupied St Andrews and sacked the magnificent cathedral. Scotland was virtually in a state of civil war, with Knox and Mary of Guise at the heart of it.

Again Mary of Guise - whose daughter had married the French Dauphin the previous year - waited for her French allies to arrive and bail her out.

But Queen Elizabeth, haunted by French claims that Mary, Queen of Scots was the successor to her own throne, decided to back the Scottish Reformers and the English fleet was sent to besiege the French, who were garrisoned at Leith.

Then there was a twist to the tale - Mary of Guise died. The French surrendered and concluded peace terms with the English in the Treaty of Edinburgh - a move which effectively ended the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France.

The deal left a council of 12 people with the responsibility of governing Scotland during the absence of Mary Queen of Scots in France. Crucially, it gave the Scottish parliament real power and the opportunity to call the shots in favour of Scotland's Reformed faith.

Needless to say, they took it, quickly abolishing the authority of the Pope in Scotland. The public celebration of Mass was forbidden and John Knox was asked to mastermind a new declaration of the Reformed faith, which came to be known as the Scots Confession.

In France, yet another twist to the drama was unfolding. The husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, by now the French King Francois II, died of a septic ear.

Mary was only 17. Her advisers thought it best that she return to Scotland - the country she had last seen at the age of five.

In August 1561, Mary sailed back to her native land. A devout Catholic, she was returning to a kingdom where the Protestants now had the whip hand.

With Knox at the height of his power, it seemed like a formula for division, bitterness and disaster. And, of course, it was ...

Too little, too late to stop the reforms

QCOULDN'T the Catholic Church do anything to stop the slide towards Protestantism?

ATHEY tried, but their attempts were half-hearted. Archbishop John Hamilton, of St Andrews, issued a catechism which tried to put things right. Among other things, it tried to force priests to get rid of their illegitimate children and to stop taking on paid secular work, but it was too little, too late. The abuses of power and negligence of parishes didn't stop, and the slide towards the new faith continued.

QWAS there much difference between Lutheranism and Calvinism?

ATHE Lutherans were considered a bit softer. The main theological difference, however, was over predestination. Lutherans believed that once you had accepted Christ and if you lived a good life, your soul could be saved. Calvinists argued that your life was predestined - God had already decided whether you were going to Heaven or Hell, and there was nothing you could do about it.

QSOUNDS a bit grim. Did the new Protestant faith catch on everywhere in Scotland?

ATHERE were some remote islands - Barra and South Uist, for example, which remained Catholic. It wasn't that they disagreed with Knox or Calvin or thought they would all go to Hell - they stuck to Rome because they were geographically so out of the way that the Reformation never actually reached them. These islands remain Catholic to this day.

QWERE the Scots happy to have French troops in their midst during this time?

AMARY of Guise and the Catholic nobility and church hierarchy were delighted, but ordinary Scots weren't so keen. It's said that while they were here, the French soldiers were distrusted by the people and hated by householders in the properties in which they were billeted.

QWHAT were the main changes the reformers introduced?

AIN simple terms, they moved the focus of worship away from the taking of communion at Mass to the preaching of God's word in the sermon. Altars were thrown out and replaced by pulpits. Reformers retained communion as one of only two sacraments - the other was baptism - and held a symbolic Eucharist at a communion table. This is still the practise in the Church of Scotland.

QANY other ways in which they altered the nature of worship?

AYES. The Calvinists scrapped Christmas, which they claimed was a heathen Roman feast. The birth of Christ, they said, should be remembered every day. But the ending of Christmas didn't mean people couldn't have a good time. The old pagan Norse winter festival of New Year came back into fashion. Since then, celebrating Hogmanay is something we have become rather good at.


1542: James V dies and Mary, his week-old daughter, succeeds to the throne of Scotland.

1545: English forces attack southern Scotland.

1547: Death of Henry VIII of England. He is succeeded by his son, Edward VI.

1548: Scots agree to let Mary, Queen of Scots marry the French Dauphin. She is sent to France.

1549: John Knox released by the French. He goes to England to help its Reformation.

1552: Archbishop Hamilton publishes his Catechism.

1553: Edward VI of England dies and his sister Mary Tudor, a Catholic, becomes Queen. John Knox flees to the continent.

1557: The Lords of the Congregation sign their convenant to make Scotland a Protestant country.

1558: Mary, Queen of Scots marries the Dauphin of France

1559: John Knox returns to Scotland and lands at Leith.

1559: Francois II becomes king of France when his father dies.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Features
Author:Collier, Andrew
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 10, 1999
Previous Article:Slice of big bird that's fair game; Food Life.
Next Article:Scotland's best-loved agony aunt offers one reader advice and gives you the chance to share your own experience; Gay friend would make a great dad.

Related Articles
The War at Home.
Millstones for the millennium.
Vandals rob aid station.
Gadget girl steals the show; AND TO BUY ...
CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 1: Pope call for end to terrorism.
Religious heads in prayers for unity.
Masa Obradovic.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters