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Beginnings: Early times to 1560


Archbishop James Beaton

By John R Young

Archbishop Beaton's Seal, 1557-1560 Archbishop James Beaton (1517-1603) was the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow. He was the nephew of Cardinal David Beaton (c.1494-1546), the noted ardent Francophile and persecutor of Protestants in the 1540s. James was sent to Paris to study and was appointed to the abbacy of Arbroath in 1545-46. He had also been a chanter in Glasgow Cathedral. At the request of the Queen-dowager, Mary of Guise, the Pope appointed Beaton to the archbishopric of Glasgow in 1551. At several ceremonies in Rome in July and August 1552 he was raised through various religious orders, ordained deacon and a priest, before being consecrated as archbishop on 28 August 1552.

Chapter Seal of Glasgow With the outbreak of the Reformation in Scotland and the death of the Regent, Mary of Guise in 1560, Beaton fled to France. He took many of the records, treasures and muniments of the Cathedral and his diocese in order to protect them from the hands of the Reformers. He kept in close touch with Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as with Scottish affairs when he was in France. He was popular there and thereafter was on good terms with James VI who in 1587 commissioned him as his ambassador in France. In 1568, 1570, and again in 1573, Beaton had been denounced as a rebel by the Reformers and had his property forfeited. However, when King James came of age Beaton had the title of Archbishop temporarily restored to him.

Bishop's Castle Beaton was a strong supporter of the Scots College in Paris throughout his life and when he died in Paris (he was also buried there) he left his fortune and his own correspondence to the College. At the outbreak of the French Revolution, his records and the ancient records he had brought from Glasgow were transferred to St Omer for safety, but they appear to have been lost or destroyed during the revolutionary troubles.

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