Patrick Adamson - A Famous Scottish Divine & Archbishop of St Andrews
Patrick Adamson (1537 - 1592), also known under other names such as "Constance", "Constantine" or "Couston", was a Scottish divine & a medieval archbishop of St Andrews, was born at Perth, Scotland. [There would appear to be a little dispute over the exact year of his birth but most refer to 1537, I have decided to use this date for this reason and that it would appear to be the most logical if we consider his documented career]. He studied philosophy at the University of St Andrews where he graduated as Master of Arts. It was during this time that his name was Patrick Consteane and recorded as the various other names above and is the cause of some confusion as little is known about the apparent change of name to Patrick Adamson which is how we will now refer to him (in preference to the other names).
Patrick Adamson's Early Career
The first mention of Patrick Adamson appears to be in the roll of the General Assembly of 1560 (which was the first to be held by the reformed church of Scotland). He was referred to as a person from St Andrews who was considered to be fit for ministering and teaching. It is known that after leaving college he opened a small school in Fife and there is reference to him serving as a minister in Ceres, Fife around the year 1562/3. It wasn't long before he was appointed 'commissioner' for Aberdeenshire (the commissioner performed many of the functions which were more usually carried out by the bishops or superintendents). However it would appear that Adamson was rather impatient in his career because it was only about twelve months later that he applied to the General Assembly for leave to travel to other countries.
Within the year Adamson had obtained a license for travel from the General Assembly and had set off for Paris, France to tutor the son of James MacGill of Rankeillor. While in Paris, William Adamson studied Law. These were eventful times for Scotland with great association with France through Mary, Queen of Scots, who had not long given birth to her son the future James VI, and her mother's family (the powerful Guise family). Adamson decided to write a poem in celebration of the birth in which he gave great praise and hailed James as Prince of Scotland, England, France and Ireland.
The poem was published and caused uproar amongst the French and English and greatly upsetting both Charles IX of France & Queen Elizabeth of England. Such were the times that the French could not afford a break with Scotland and the turbulent past relationships with England meant that they were also unwilling to upset Elizabeth. William Adamson found himself facing prosecution by the French who sentenced him to six months imprisonment. It would appear that Adamson could have easily suffered a far worse fate but for the mediation and intercession of Queen Mary and the Scottish nobles.
Upon his release Adamson moved, with his pupil, to Bourges expecting a peaceful existence. However events in Paris were to change that. The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in Paris, where a catholic mob set about a chain of events that led to many deaths, caused Adamson (and most other protestants) to fear for his life and he concealed himself in a public-house. The landlord was thrown, to his death, from the roof of his building by an angry mob for sheltering the "heretics". William Adamson remained hidden for seven months during which time he consoled himself with his latin poetry. As soon as it was safe for him to do so he set about making plans for his return to Scotland.
Patrick Adamson's return to Scotland went well, he was favorably received by his friends and brethren. His indiscretion of the poem was old news and his recent persecution and suffering at the hands of catholics was far more newsworthy. At that time the archbishopric of St Andrews lay vacant, the position was complicated as the Earl of Morton had claim to the revenues of the post but did not wish it for himself. It was, therefore, necessary for him to find somebody willing to take the post without the revenues, or maybe the Earl would allow the archbishop a small percentage of them. The position was given to John Douglas and it has been assumed that Adamson had wished it for himself as his behavior during the induction horrified many. Adamson took the opportunity to deliver a sermon in which he vehemently attacked the bishop and the appointment of him. Such terrible behavior meant that William Adamson was, once again, in everyone's bad books and unlikely to gain high office.
It was with his sights set lower that Adamson returned to ministry and was allowed to become a minister in the town of Paisley. He was also appointed as commissioner of Galloway, a post which had similar duties to that of a bishop but without all of the glamour of the title. Little else is known of his time in Paisley. However it was during this period that the church struggled with the creation of a Book of Policy. The Earl of Morton, acting as regent, aimed to use the book to attempt to bring the churches of Scotland and England closer together in preparation for the Union of The Crowns under James VI. Adamson managed to become involved in the project and was soon working towards being in the favor of the regent and nobody was really surprised when he was chosen as the regent's chaplain.. The archbishopric of St Andrews again became available and the Earl, this time, nominated Adamson. Strangely this was not done through the usual channels of the Assembly which were bypassed completely and, in 1576, Adamson was "installed" as archbishop. The Presbyterian party in the Assembly were furious but Adamson was, through clever craft, able to procure peace until completion of the Book of Policy.
By the summer of 1581 James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton had resigned the regency, been found guilty of crimes and beheaded for them. William Adamson was without his most powerful ally and supporter. The only options available to him were to make full peace with the Assembly and lead a normal and uneventful life. It would appear that he did this for some time but in 1583 he went to the court of Elizabeth I of England as James's ambassador and behaved rather poorly. Upon his return to Scotland he took measures against the Presbyterians but by 1586 they had accused him of heresy which led to his excommunication. In, what seems typical of the roundabout lifestyle of Adamson, he managed to have the sentence declared illegal at the next General Assembly. In 1587 and again in 1588 he faced fresh allegations and was again excommunicated and, yet again it was remitted.
William Adamson now found that his health was failing him and he relied upon charity as a means of support, his deterioration continued until 1592 when he died. His continued fight for the system of Episcopy to be that which was employed by the church and the ultimate success of the Preshetaian system had cost him his position and, possibly, even his life. In 1590 he published the Nook of Lamentations and the Book of Revelation (in his usual Latin) which followed his previous style of writing and contained complaints of how he had been treated. He dedicated these books to King James but it would appear that he gave it little thought as he was clearly unmoved.