Our thirteenth blog of the 2016-17 class comes from Sophie Gartshore, and examines two linked documents from Mary of Guise and Mary Queen of Scots granting much-needed support and finance to the university of Glasgow in the tumultuous decade after the Protestant Reformation of 1560.
The year 1560 marked a great change for Scottish society as, on an official level, Catholicism gave way to Protestantism and the country was religiously reformed. In reality there was not such a clean cut. This was especially true where Scotland’s educational institutions were involved. By this period Scotland boasted three universities, namely St.Andrews (f. 1413), Glasgow (f.1451) and Aberdeen (f.1495), and already enjoyed an educational tradition ‘distinct’ from England, where a third university would not be added until the 19th century. Glasgow University’s history is peppered with problems of endowment and patronage which the sources discussed in this essay illustrate. Education suffered much in Scotland during this period but Glasgow University was perhaps the least prepared and subsequently the most affected by such radical educational and religious reform.
The two letters written by Mary, Queen of Scots, to the University of Glasgow (BL486 and BL394) are both part of the Blackhouse Charters, documents which recount the history of the university ‘through acts of land transfer, settlements of court, donations and royal grants.’ The ‘Old College’ inherited the Blackfriars land and legal documents, including the Blackhouse Charters, in 1563 and again in 1573 after Mary granted them to the university. The Blackhouse Charters now reside in the University Archives.
(Front side of BL486)
BL486 is a letter composed in 1557 by Queen Mary and her mother the Queen Regent ‘discharging of the university, the dean of faculty, and the principal of the Pedagogy, all beneficed clergymen’ from payment of two subsidies amounting to £4500. The letter is in relatively good condition with slight wear on the folds of the parchment and is roughly 18 x 30cm in size. It is written most probably by one author. There is a red circle where the seal would have been stamped but it is otherwise unidentifiable. On the bottom left-hand corner a university archives stamp has been added. Another copy of the document can be found in the Blackhouse Charters number 485 as part of a group of miscellaneous copies of charter texts copied out by a later 17th century hand.
(Front side of BL394)
(Back side of BL394)
BL394 is another letter from Queen Mary dated 1563 which makes provision for ‘bursaries for five poor children’ and endowments of land to the University after the realisation of the ‘ruined state’ of the faculty after the Reformation. The parchment is weathered particularly on the left side but the seal is almost intact although ‘much defaced.’ It is written in an ‘angular, non-cursive bastard hand’ with extra flourishes on the opening letters. The bottom left-hand corner of the document contains an additional note that is not much more recent than the original hand defining where the lands, rents and bowls of oatmeal given in the grant are to be taken from. The letter is approximately 18 x 32cm. These letters are closely linked as they show the royal support given during Mary’s reign to the university. However, by examining the wider context at the time of these sources the limitations of royal patronage and the national state of education can be brought to light.
It can be argued that the 1557 tax exemption did not have the desired impact on the university that the Queen may have hoped. When the university was founded in 1451, Bishop William Turnbull, said to be both a king’s man and a pope’s man, had a grand vision for his institution. It was to cater to the needs of the west of Scotland with particular focus on the Arts and Theology. It has been suggested that it was also created to be a sister university to that of St. Andrews, providing much needed educational balance on Scotland’s coasts. However, the weakness of early modern education was undoubtedly ‘inadequate funding.’ Universities drew the primary part of their income from annexing ecclesiastical lands from grants and endowments which were often slow and difficult to collect. Therefore, royal patronage for universities was highly important in securing financial stability and the prestige and influence that came with royal backing. To acquire this financial support a university had to have an influential founder who could secure endowments, preferably in perpetuity, for their institution. At St. Andrews, this was James Kennedy, founder of St Salvators college, whose grandiose architecture was funded by his ‘wealth and care.’ Similarly, at Aberdeen, William Elphinstone spent two years securing financial support for his fledgling university as this was a responsibility which he viewed as being entirely his own. He achieved this by guaranteeing a ‘broad range of endowments and annexed parishes’ for his foundation.
For Glasgow, however, royal patronage was an elusive and time-consuming venture as Turnbull’s influence at court became more a hindrance to the university’s growth than a help. James II’s patronage never extended to actual endowments and his increasing want of Turnbull at his legal court meant that Glasgow was often left without it’s Bishop-Chancellor. Turnbull died in 1454 before he could sufficiently endow Glasgow with ecclesiastical lands. Unfortunately, Queen Mary’s exemption from tax in 1557 did little to help the university, following her predecessors model, and was really ‘little consolation to a college on the verge of bankruptcy.’
The Reformation precipitated in Scotland a time of great civil unrest and religious turmoil. Post-1560 the university suffered from a liquidation of staff as Catholic teachers fled to France and left possibly only one active teacher to run the faculty. Furthermore, Glasgow had little to no funding and records for 1562 show a sharp decline in student numbers, almost certainly the provisions for poor scholars had ceased. This in fact is one motivation for the 1563 grant as provision was made for five poor scholars to be supported by the crown. The Queen was so shocked by the ‘half built’ schools and buildings of the university that she was moved to grant more land and endowments including the ‘mace and ‘kirkroom’ of the Black Friars of Glasgow’ along with 13 acres of land in the city, money from rents in Nethertoun of Hamilton and Avondale, and 10 bowls of oatmeal yearly from lands in the Lennox. This was to add to a grant of the Blackfriars land that Mary had given Glasgow in the previous year. The specific amounts in the 1563 grant indicate that these lands already fell under the jurisdiction of Glasgow University proving that there must have been some difficulty in collecting them if further royal intervention was needed. Mary’s provisions are still lacking here, possibly due to the failing influence of an increasingly unpopular Catholic Queen in a reformed nation, but also because of the chaotic system of ecclesiastical finance. Although these grants were solid on paper they were elusive in reality which is evidenced by the granting of further lands and revenues from the town in 1567 including all the former possessions of the black and grey friars in Glasgow. In 1573 the town baillies and provost, with consent of the parliament, used the endowment to re-found the college and create ‘a new civic institution.’ These further endowments illustrated the need for more funding at Glasgow as Mary’s provisions were shown to be insufficient.
The University of Glasgow was not, however, unique during this period but it can be argued that St. Andrews three colleges were better prepared for reform. St. Andrews faculty had shown a willingness to conform to Protestant thinking prior to the Reformation and because of this was less effected by political change when it came. The colleges were able to maintain a steady stream of funding and staff which helped to keep student numbers afloat, although they do dip immediately prior to and post 1560. Similar to Queen Mary’s visitation of Glasgow in 1563, George Buchanan, prominent Humanist and Scottish historian, visited St. Andrews in the same year and formed ‘his opinion’ on how best to reform the colleges. This included changing the focus of the colleges to become more humanist, or Protestant, in outlook. For example, the three colleges were to focus on Humanities, with a grounding in Latin and Greek, Philosophy, and Divinity respectively. However, these suggestions for reform remained just that as the university retained its traditional structure but with a change in religious affiliation. The University of Aberdeen was likewise able to escape the brunt of damage from religious reform by remaining sympathetic to Catholicism. This was mainly due to the conservative nature of religion and politics in the North-East of Scotland as even riots died down quickly, the university not being greatly damaged by them. As well as this, Mary maintained royal patronage for Aberdeen and its catholic tendencies. In 1561 Aberdeen was exempt from a tax imposed on the clergy, and in 1562 Mary issued a letter of protection to the University to safeguard its revenues. So, although these universities struggled during the Reformation years both were better equipped to deal with reform, through acceptance and conservatism, than Glasgow whose poor scholars and underfunded institution were not ready for radical change.
The documents briefly discussed here well-illustrate the impact of the Reformation on Glasgow University. They show that royal patronage was insufficient at a time when the crown, under Mary, had little support in Scotland. Also, they demonstrate well the haphazard system of ecclesiastical finance and the struggle that the university faced after the loss of its founder. When placing these grants in context we can see that education in Scotland was struggling with reform and the burden placed on them to rapidly change the core of their institutions. Whilst St. Andrews and Aberdeen seem to recover, at least in part, during the decade after the Reformation it would take widespread reform under Andrew Melville and the addition of the Nova Erectio in 1577 to finally revive the University of Glasgow. This document recognised that education would perish if not fostered by ‘honours and rewards’ and aimed to ‘gather together the remains of our university of Glasgow’ to finally attempt to create a reformed institution.
To conclude, these sources fit into a wide range of historical interests and would, therefore, make a great addition to any number of museum exhibits. For example, they could be incorporated into an exhibit displaying the history of the University of Glasgow itself, or perhaps more widely the history of university education in Scotland. Further to this they would offer valuable information about royal patronage and support of education in Scotland, or possibly the effect of Queen Mary on Reformation Scotland. To enable the most engagement with these sources they would be best placed in some form of interactive exhibit. The documents are exciting to look at for the sheer joy of coming face to face with a physical product of history although to an untrained eye this may be where their value ends. This is why I would suggest creating an interactive exhibit which highlights the usefulness of these sources to the specified area of history under examination. This would allow the wider public and historians alike to engage with primary sources creating a buzz around an area of history which may usually be rather niche.
Further to this, I would suggest creating an online blog post, or series of vlogs, explaining the significance of these letters. These could be produced alongside other blogs presenting the individual documents from the Blackhouse Charters to create a virtual online catalogue which is both interactive and engaging. This could be expanded to create a valuable teaching tool which would allow people from all over the globe to access Scotland’s history at large. Combining a physical exhibit with a regular blog, an online presence for these sources, would create a unique source-base which is easily accessible to a wider audience.
‘Blackhouse Charters’ in Glasgow University Archives, http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb248-guabl (Last Accessed: 12/11/16)
Brown, A.L., and Michael Moss, The University of Glasgow: 1451-1996 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996)
Cant, Ronald G., The University of St. Andrews: A Short History (St. Andrews: St. Andrews University Library, 1992)
Dunlop, Annie I., The Life and Times of James Kennedy, Bishop of St. Andrews (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1950)
Durkan, John and James Kirk, The University of Glasgow 1451-1577 (Glasgow: Glasgow University Press, 1977)
Innes, Cosmo, (ed.) Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis, Records of the University of Glasgow from its Foundation till 1727, (Glasgow : the Maitland Club, 1856)
Macfarlane, L.J., William Elphinstone and the Kingdom of Scotland, 1431-1514: the struggle for order (Aberdeen: University of Aberdeen Press, 1985)
Reid, Steven. J., Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560-1625 (Dawson Books, 2010)
Stevenson, David, King’s College Aberdeen 1560-1641: From Protestant Reformation to Covenanting Revolution, (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990)
 A.L Brown and Michael Moss, The University of Glasgow: 1451-1996 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996) p.2.
 Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis, Records of the University of Glasgow from its Foundation till 1727, ed. by Cosmo Innes (Glasgow : the Maitland Club, 1856) vol.I, pp.xvi, entry 36.
 Munimenta, vol. I, pp.xvi, entry 36.
 Munimenta, vol.I, p.xvii, entry 40.
 University of Glasgow Archive Hub under ‘Blackhouse Charters’, http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb248-guabl.html?page=28#idm54792368
 Munimenta, p.xvii, entry 40.
 John Durkan and James Kirk, The University of Glasgow 1451-1577 (Glasgow: Glasgow University Press, 1977) p.5.
 Annie I. Dunlop, The Life and Times of James Kennedy, Bishop of St. Andrews (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1950) p.277.
 Brown and Moss, 1451-1996, p,7.
 Ibid, p.8.
 Dunlop, James Kennedy, p.302.
 L. J. Macfarlane, William Elphinstone and the Kingdom of Scotland, 1431-1514: the struggle for order (Aberdeen: University of Aberdeen Press, 1985) p.309.
 Steven J. Reid, Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560-1625 (Dawson Books, 2010) p.16.
 Durkan and Kirk, University of Glasgow, p. 15.
 Reid, Humanism and Calvinism, p.31.
 Ibid, p.245.
 Reid, Humanism and Calvinism, p.21.; see also Brown and Moss, 1451-1996, p.8.
 Brown and Moss, 1451-1996, p.9.
 Munimenta, vol.I, pp.xvii, entry 40.
 Durkan and Kirk, University of Glasgow, p.247.
 Munimenta, vol.I, p.71.
 Reid, Humanism and Calvanism, pp.35/6.
 Ronald G. Cant, The University of St. Andrews: A Short History (St. Andrews: St. Andrews University Library, 1992) p.54.
 Ibid, p.54.
 David Stevenson, King’s College Aberdeen 1560-1641: From Protestant Reformation to Covenanting Revolution, (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990) p.7.
 Ibid p. 10; see also Reid, Humanism and Calvinism, p.28.HumanHu
 Nova Erectio of the University of Glasgow (1577) in Durkan and Kirk, University of Glasgow, pp.439-447.