The Book of Wallace

Extract from the Book of Wallace (Volume II, pages 276-281) by the Rev. Charles Rodgers, D.D., LL.D. 1889

The surname of Guiscard or Wiscbard, an appellative implying skill or prowess, was conferred on Robert, son of Tancred de Hauteville of Normandy, afterwards Duke of Calabria, who died on the 27th July 1085. Guiscard was also the surname of the Norman kings of Apulia in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. John Wychard is named as a small landowner in the Hundred de la Mewe, Buckinghamshire, in the reign of Henry II (1216-72), and in the reign of Edward I persons named Wyschard or Wischart appear as landowners in Shropshire, also in the counties of Essex, Oxford, Buckingham, and Warwick.1

From the south, members of the House of Wischard penetrated into Scotland prior to the twelfth century. John Wischard was sheriff of Kincardineshire in the reign of Alexander II. (1214-49). To a charter by which this sovereign confirmed a grant to the monks of Arbroath by Walter and Christian Lundyn, spouses, the witnesses are John Wischard “vicecomes de Moernes,” and his son John.2 The same persons are witnesses to a charter by which Robert and Richenda Warnebald, spouses, grant to the kirk of St Thomas, of Arbroath, certain lands in  he parish of Fordoun,3 which charter is confirmed by Alexander II on the 20th March 1238.

John Wischard, sheriff of Kincardineshire, had three sons, John, William, and Adam. John, the eldest son, was knighted by Alexander II., and from Adam, abbot of Arbroath, received the lands of Conveth (Laurencekirk), Halkertoun, and Scottistoun, in the county of Kincardine. His greatgrandson, also Sir John, received the lands of Pitarrow in Kincardineshire, and among his notable descendants were James Wishart, Justice-Clerk to James IV; George Wishart, the martyr; John Wishart, collector-general of teinds at the Reformation, and William Wishart, father and son, both distinguished Principals of the University of Edinburgh.4

William, second son of John Wischard, sheriff of Kincardineshire, entered the Church ; and in 1256, while holding office as Archdeacon of St Andrews, was appointed Chancellor of the kingdom. In 1270 he was elected bishop of Glasgow, but in the same year was postulated to St Andrews. On the solicitation of Edward I, Pope Gregory X, dispensed with his proceeding to Rome for consecration. At St Andrews he founded the Dominican monastery, and reared the nave of the cathedral ; he also exercised an important influence in public affairs. He died in 1278.5

Adam, third son of the sheriff of Kincardineshire, acquired the lands of Ballandarg, Logie, and Kennyneil, in the county of Forfar.6 He had, with other children, two sons, John and Robert. “John Wychard del Miernes,” supposed to be the elder son, swore fealty to Edward at Elgin on the 29th July 1296.7

Robert, the younger son, entered the church under the auspices of his uncle. Bishop Wishart of St Andrews. Having served as archdeacon of St Andrews within the bounds of Lothian, he was in 1270 elected bishop of Glasgow, when his uncle Bishop William was from that See transferred to the bishopric of St Andrews. According to the chartulary of Melrose he received consecration at the hands of the bishops of Aberdeen, Moray, and Dunblane. A Privy Councillor to Alexander III, he was, on the death of that sovereign, appointed one of the six guardians of the kingdom. To Edward’s proposal for the marriage of the infant queen Margaret with the Prince of Wales, Bishop Wishart yielded a cordial assent, and in prospect of the union he, as a representative of the Guardians, consented to place the national strongholds in Edward’s hands.8 On the 9th May 1291, he received from Edward a safe conduct to enable him to proceed to Norham, there to engage in conference relative to the national affairs;9 and on the 24th December 1292, he appended his seal to an instrument whereby Baliol acknowledged Edward as his liege-lord.10

Towards Bishop Wishart Edward began to evince a special liberality; he in October 1294 granted him the escheats, wards, and other privileges connected with certain lands of the earldom of Fife, till Duncan, the youthful earl, should attain his majority;11 he also allowed him to possess the lands of Calder, in Fife. In a letter to his keeper in Fife, Edward distinguishes the bishop as his “dear friend.”12

A patriot by conviction, Bishop Wishart lacked fixity of conduct. When in 1295 Baliol renounced Edward’s allegiance, he also withdrew his fealty, and thereafter prominently furthered the league with France, as a member of Baliol’s government. But when Baliol was feudally degraded and deprived of his crown, he, on the 26th July 1296, waited on Edward at Elgin, and there renewing his homage, expressed his regret for his recent tergiversation.13

Within a year after his submission at Elgin, Bishop Wishart reappears prominently in the national cause. As an enemy of the English king, his Episcopal palace was in the summer of 1297 besieged by Bishop Bek, and early in July he is found in the camp at Irvine, a confederate of the Earl of Carrick, the Steward, Sir William Douglas, and others, who had assembled to resist the English arms. But in consideration that a powerful force under Percy and Clifford hovered near, he counselled submission, and succeeded in inducing the several leaders to signify their acceptance of the English rule, in the treaty of Irvine. In connexion with that treaty, he, on the 9tli July, joined the Steward and Alexander de Lindsay as guarantees for the good conduct of the Earl of Carrick, until such time as he should surrender his daughter Marjory as a hostage.14 Wallace avenged the bishop’s time-serving policy, by entering his episcopal residence, and carrying off his nephews and a portion of his goods.15

Prior to the 23d of July 1297, the bishop in a familiar letter thanks Cressingham for communicating with him by Sir Reginald de Craufurd, and asks him to give credence to his clerk. Master Walter Camoys, also to Sir Reginald.16 “Writing to Edward from Berwick on the 1st August, the Earl of Surrey reports that within a week he expected that the bishop of Glasgow would, along with the Earl of Carrick and the Steward, fulfil his covenant.17

During the protectorate of Wallace, and for several years afterwards, Bishop Wishart supported Edward’s authority. But prior to January 1303 he must have returned to the national party, for at that time we find Edward issuing instructions relative to the conditions on which his submission should be received. In Edward’s writ he is associated with “William le Waleys, Sir David de Graham, Sir Alexander de Lindesaye, and Sir John Comyn.”18 Having renewed his homage, he seems to have been received cordially, since, on the 10th April 1304, Edward thanks him “dearly” for appointing his clerk, P. de Donewyz, as prebendary of Old Roxburgh.19 On the 16th May and the 29th July, Edward addressed him special messages, and on the 1st August he is named as despatching a special messenger to Edward.20

Wishart next appears on the national side. In October 1304 Sir Nicholas Hastang, an English ecclesiastic, who held the church living at Ayr, represented to the English Privy Council that Wishart had ousted him from the prebend of Renfrew, while he was a hostage among the Scots for his brother, Sir Robert Hastang, sheriff of Roxburgh. In his memorial Sir Nicholas set forth that when the king ordered his being re-invested in his revenues, the bishop, “who was with the Scottish enemies,” had “deigned no reply.” Various proceedings followed, and as Wishart would not yield, the English warden was instructed to retain the petitioner in his office.21 In the Compotus for escheats rendered by James de Dalilegh, on the 20th November 1304, Sir Robert Hastang, in connexion with the county of Peebles, accounts for £10 from farm of the vills of Stobo and Draych, and for 46s. 8d. from the farm of the mill of Stobo, both of which had belonged to “the rebel bishop of Glasgow.” 22

Wishart again espoused the English interest. Accordingly, when at Lent 1305 Edward was prosecuting his arrangements for the representation of the Scottish Estates in the English Parliament, he communicated with Bishop Wishart and the Earl of Carrick, expressing his desire that the Scots should elect a certain number of commissioners to the Parliament to be held at Westminster after midsummer.23

A year later, Wishart enacted a further change, for when in the spring of 1306 Eobert Bruce asserted his claim to the throne, he became his active adherent. As a bishop he assoilzied him from his acts of slaughter within a consecrated edifice. He also supplied from his repositories robes and other adornments for the coronation at Scone. By this procedure he deeply incensed Edward, who on the 26th of May instructed his lieutenant, Aymer de Valence, to make every effort for his arrest.24 Soon afterwards Wishart was captured at Cupar-Fife, the garrison of the castle of that place, which he commanded, being forced to surrender. To Edward his seizure was so gratifying, that, writing to De Valence on the 16th of June, he remarked that he was as much pleased as if the Earl of Carrick had been apprehended personally.25 He instructed that the bishop should, under a strong guard, be sent to Berwick, and that without any regard to his estate as a prelate or clerk.26

About the time of Wishart’s arrest, Edward also secured as a prisoner Bishop Lamberton of St Andrews, and on the 7th of July he gave command that both prelates should, laden with irons, be imprisoned—Lamberton in Winchester Castle, and Wishart in the castle of Porchester.27 Thereafter Edward addressed several letters to the Pope, charging the bishops with perjury and rebellion. In support of his charge against Wishart, he signified that he had on six occasions sworn fealty to him.’28

Failing to accomplish Wishart’s clerical degradation, Edward kept him in close confinement to the close of his reign. In reply to a message from the Pope, Edward II, on the 4th December 1308, set forth that inasmuch as Wishart had been guilty of lese-majesty and other offences against the late king and himself, his return to Scotland was disallowed.29 Learning that Wishart had renewed his entreaties at the court of Rome, Edward, in January 1310-11, authorised the bishop of Worcester, his chancellor in Scotland, also the Earl of Lincoln, the guardian, to resist his efforts by reminding the Pope of his violated oaths.30 As a further step, Edward, on the 23d of April, requested the Pope to deprive Wishart of his See, and to appoint as his successor Stephen de Segrave, an English churchman.31

Though unheeding Edward’s demand for Wishart’s ecclesiastical degradation, the Pope, Clement V, was unwilling, in the interests of the imprisoned prelate, to incur the open hostility of the English sovereign. He therefore adopted the intermediate course of summoning Wishart to Rome, and afterwards of returning him to Edward’s keeping, with instructions that he should be subjected to a less rigorous restraint. Consequent on this decree, Edward, on the 20th November 1313, consigned the bishop to the care of the prior of Ely, with the injunction that he should not be allowed to leave the priory without a sufficient escort.32

At the battle of Bannockburn, fought on the 24th of June 1314, the Earl of Essex and Hereford fell a prisoner in the hands of the Scots, and on the 2d of October thereafter, he was exchanged for the Scottish king’s wife, daughter, sister, and nephew, also for the bishop of Glasgow.33

Owing to the rigorous character of his long imprisonment. Bishop Wishart became blind. Surviving his release about two years, he died on the 26th November 1316. Apart from his largely concerning himself in civil affairs, he promoted the erection of his cathedral. It was one of the charges brought against him by Edward I that he had used timber granted him for building a steeple to his cathedral, in constructing engines of war against certain English strongholds, especially the castle of Kirkintilloch.


1 Rotuli Hundredorum, vol. i. and ii. ; Testa

2 Register of Aberbrothoc, p. 97. de Nevill, passim.

3 Ibid., pp. 198, 199.

4 For a full account of the Scottish house of Wishart, see Life of George Wishart, Edinburgh, 1876, 8vo.

5 Fordun’s Scotichronicon, lib. x., c. 28; Spottiswoode’s History, Edinburgh 1851, vol. i pp. 91, 93.

6 Dalrymple’s Historical Collections, 217; Reg. of Aberbrothoc, 332.

7 Ragman Roll, m. 17, 18.

8 Patent Roll, 18 Edward I., m. 8.

9 Ibid., m. 14.

10 Chapter House (Scots Documents), Box 95, No. 6 ; Liber A., Chapter House, folio 175 b.

11 Chancery Miscellaneous Portfolios, No. 11.

12 Privy Seals (Tower), 22.Edward I., Bundle 3.

13 Foedera, i., 843.

14 Chapter House (Scots Documents), Portfolio 4, No. 6.

15 Hemingford, i., 124.

16 Royal Letters, No. 3362.

17 Ibid., No. 3263.

18 Chapter House (Scots Documents), Box 5, No. 25.

19 Chancery Miscellaneous Portfolios, No. ??

20 British Museum, Addit. MSS., No. 8835; Bain’s Calendar of Scottish Documents, iv. pp. 482, 483.

21 Patent Roll, 27 Edward I., m. 15 ; C. Miscellaneous Portfolios, No. ??.

22 Exchequer Q. R. Miscellanea, No. ??

23 Close Roll, 33 Edward I,, m. 13 dorso cedula.

24 Sir Francis Palgrave’s Transcripts, vol. 63, fol. 53.

25 Ibid, vol. 63, fol. 61.

26 Ibid, vol. 63, fol. 10.

27 Close Koll, 34 Edward I., m. 6.

28 Chapter House (Scots Documents), Portfolio 4, Nos. 2-6. Among the English archives is a letter in Norman French, purporting to be from Bishop Wishart, in which he begs Edward to allow him to remain in England till the “ryote” of the Scots be put down. The genuinness of the letter is more than doubtful (Royal Letters, No. 2782).

29 French and Roman Roll, 2 Edward II., m. 6.

30 Privy Seals (Tower), 4 Edward II., File 1.

31 Ibid., File 7.

32 Close Roll, 7 Edward II., m. 17 dorso.

33 Patent Roll, Edward II., p.1, m. 18.