CHARLES I, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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CHARLES I (1600-1649). King of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Letter Signed ('Charles R' at the head) to John Spottiswoode, archbishop of St Andrews, 1 page folio with address-leaf, Hampton Court, 16 September 1638. Granting him permission to give up and hand over the great seal of his office, and recalling that he had previously refused his request ('we were not then pleased that you should do the same').

This letter marks the end of a long and distinguished career in the Scottish Church and Government. John Spottiswoode lived from 1565 to 1639 and had an eventful if sometimes turbulent career. Born in Greenbank, he was the son of a well known activist of the Scottish Reformation. He studied at the University of Glasgow and thereafter entered the ministry. He was initially part of the Presbyterian party of the Kirk, favouring an independent self contained church, governed from the bottom up, but by 1600 he came to favour an Episcopalian settlement, where the King would appoint bishops meaning that it would be managed from the top down, but would secure the money it so desperately needed. Through this he gained the favour of King James and in 1603 he was appointed Archbishop of Glasgow. His rise continued in this office, and he strove to consolidate the position and power of the reformed bishops and among other achievements he helped Glasgow achieve the status of Royal Burgh.

He gradually accumulated influence in the government of Scotland, from 1605 he sat on the Privy Council, in 1610 he was made a lord of session and in 1611 he was appointed to a commission to control the finances of the country. In 1615 he was promoted to be Archbishop of Street Andrews. He was a cultured man; in 1620 he built the model church of Dairsie, he invested in architecture and wrote a history of the Church and State of Scotland. As he gathered powers to the Episcopal structure of the Scottish Kirk at the expense of the Presbyterian system, he created many enemies. Although he acquiesced to James and Charles' moves to Anglicise the Scottish Church, he resisted where he could, knowing that the strongly Calvinist country was unready and unwilling to accept such an arrangement. He refused to be present at King James' funeral, unwilling to wear English vestments, although in 1633 he officiated at King Charles' coronation in Edinburgh.

In 1635, at the age of seventy, he was appointed Chancellor of Scotland. However in his advanced years he was not as forceful as he had been in his youth. He reluctantly implemented Charles and Archbishop Laud's ecclesiastical reforms, which would lead to his political downfall as Scotland rebelled and the Covenanting movement gained momentum. After resigning from the Chancellorship he fled to England, where he would die in November 1639.

This letter marks the exact tipping point, not only the downfall of Spottiswoode after a long and distinguished career, but also marks a key moment of the long descent towards Civil War and Charles' steady loss of political control.


'To the right reverend father in God, John Archbishop of St Andrews our Chancellor of Scotland.
[Later hand] The King to my father ii wr 1638

Charles R
Right reverend father in god and right trustie and welbeloved counselour we greete you well. Having understood from you heretofore how that in regard of your age and infirmitie you were willing to dimitt the charge of tham cleer though (knowing your faithfulnesse, and earnest care toour serinte) we were not then pleased that you should do the same, yet considering your estate, and the troublesomenesse of this tyme we you cause deliver (haveing made your dicission) the greate seale up in the hands of our right trustie and welbeloved cousen and counselour James Margnesse of Lyaunstone our commissioner that he may despose of it as he shall have order from us and that it may appeare that we are well satisfied with your serinte in that place we have appointed our said commissioner to give unto you a testimonie of our favour, and as we are pleased that you and your brethren with you remant there where you are or in ane part to the north thereof that you shall send most connentent till you heard bak from our said commissioner we will hope thereafter to do as you shall be directed by him and so we bid you farewell. geven from our court at hamtoncourt the 16 of September 1638.'

[No: 25694]

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