The Bishops of Scotland

by John Downden, D.D., LL.D. Bishop of Edinburgh, 1912 (pages 306-309)

ROBERT WISCHARD. Nephew [nepos) of William Wischard (M.). Cousin [consanguineus) of William Wischard (Sc. x. 29): archdeacon of Lothian, ‘juvenis aetate sed moribus senior’ (ib.). Elected, apparently, in 1271 ; but not consecrated till Sunday before the feast of the Purification, 1272-3, that is, on Sunday, 29 Jan. The consecration was at Aberdeen by the bishops of Dunblane, Aberdeen, and Moray (Sc. x. 30). We have a precept of ‘R. by divine mercy humble servant of the church of Glasgow,’ dated 28 Nov. 1273 (R-G. i. 186).

The important and stirring part played by this prelate in public affairs after the death of Alexander III, and more particularly in the contest with Edward I of England, gives him a prominent place in the history of his time.  On 11 April, 1286, he was chosen, at Scone, as one of the six guardians of the realm (Sc. xi. I, 3).  He was one of the three guardians who served in settling the treaty with the plenipotentiaries of Eric, king of Norway, at Melrose, 3 Oct. 1289 [Foed. i. 713).  He was a leading figure at Brigham (a village on the north bank of the Tweed between Kelso and Coldstream) on the occasion of the framing of the treaty with England, 17 March, 1289-90, and 18 July, 1290 (A. P. i. 441; Foed i. 735 sq.).  After the death of the Maid of Norway he appears, like so many others, in the position of one frequently making oaths of fealty to Edward I, and frequently breaking his oaths (see Palgrave’s Documents and Records Illustrating theHistory of Scotland; Stevenson’s Historical Documents Illustrative of the History of Scotland, 1 286-1 306, and Foedera).  He joined the armed rising of William Wallace in 1297; yet on 9 July, 1297, he became surety for the loyalty and good behaviour of Bruce [Foed. i. 868; Palgrave, 199). He surrendered himself at Roxburgh, a prisoner to Edward, in the same year (Hemingford, edit. Hearne, i. 124). On 27 June, 1299, Boniface VIII. wrote to Edward, saying that he had heard that he had imprisoned and harshly treated Robert, bishop of Glasgow, Mark, bishop of Sodor, and other ecclesiastics, and urges their release (Sc. xi. 38). How long Robert continued a hostage is not very clear, but his release was before he took, in the most solemn manner, for the fourth time, the oath of allegiance to Edward, 7 Oct. 1300, at Holmcultram [Foed. i. 924; Palgrave, 344).  Soon after he again joined Bruce and Wallace with an armed force. Pope Boniface VIII., now taking the side of Edward, wrote to Robert, bishop of Glasgow, rebuking him for his opposition to the king of England and bidding him repent, 13 Aug. 1302 (T. No. 372).

On the defeat of the Scots, Robert, bishop of Glasgow, came to Edward at Cambuskenneth and prayed for forgiveness, again took the oath of fealty, and received from Edward the temporality of Glasgow, which he had forfeited, 5 March, 1303-4 (Palgrave, 345)1.  At the following Easter he for the sixth time swore fealty to Edward at the high altar of St. Andrews Cathedral.  It was Robert who, within eight days, absolved Bruce for the murder of Comyn (10 Feb. 1305-6). And he went heartily with the party of Bruce when he was crowned at Scone (27 March, 1306).  He supplied from his own wardrobe the vesture in which Bruce was attired at his coronation.  Soon after the battle of Methven (19 June, 1306) the castle of Cupar in Fife fell into the hands of Edward’s troops, and among those captured was Robert, bishop of Glasgow.  He was sent in his coat of mail to Newcastle-on-Tyne, and thence to the castle of Nottingham.  Edward I. gave orders (7 Aug. 1306) that he should be kept in chains at Porchester Castle (Hampshire).  He remained a captive in England till after the battle of Bannockburn, although Pope Clement V. petitioned the king for his release (9 April, 1308). Edward II. besought the pope (1 Feb. 1310-11) to arrange that Robert should never return to Glasgow.  On 20 Nov. 1313 Edward II. ordered that Robert should be imprisoned and kept at his own cost in the convent of Ely.  After Bannockburn, Edward, at York, ordered Robert to be brought to him.  Robert was exchanged for Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford, the king ordering Robert (2 Oct. 1314) to be conveyed to Carlisle.  Barbour (Scottish Text Soc. edit. i. 349) says that the bishop was now blind.

Robert is at Glasgow 30 June, 1315 (Melrose, 393), and on the Friday after St. Mark’s Day (30 April), 13 16 (R.G. No. 263).

He died 26 Nov. 1316 (Spottiswoode, i. 222).  What early authority?

He was buried in his cathedral between the altars of St. Peter and St. Andrew (ib.).2

During the struggle for Scottish independence in the days of Bruce, the action of successive popes was consistently in favour of the kings of England. But sometimes requests were made which the popes did not consent to grant. Thus the efforts of Edward I. to induce the pope to substitute another for Robert Wischard, bishop of Glasgow, were unavailing. On 4 Oct. 1306, Edward wrote to Clement V. beseeching him to make his (the king’s) clerk. Master Geoffrey de Moubray, bishop of

Glasgow in place of ‘ the traitor ‘ Robert Wischard.  We hear no more of it. The letter is printed in full in Prynne’s History (p. 1 157).  In a writ of Robert I., dated 26 April, 1309 (R.G. i. 220), Master Stephen de Donydouer, canon of Glasgow and chamberlain of the king, makes his appearance (with Bernard, the chancellor) as vicar and locum tenens of Robert, bishop of Glasgow, then suffering chains, imprisonment, and persecutions ‘borne patiently for the rights of the Church and of our realm of Scotland.’  He appears as bishop-elect some seven years later.


[For the remainder of the paragraph the authorities are Palgrave and Foedera.”]

On 11 May, 1306, Pope Clement V, sent a mandate to the archbishop of York to cite Robert, bishop of Glasgow, suspended from spirituals and temporals, to set out for Rome within a month. On 13 May the pope wrote to the archbishop to seize Robert and keep him in custody, obtaining for him, if he desire it, a safe-conductfrom the king. The like letter was sent to Anthony, bishop of Durham (C.P.R. ii. 6, 7).