During the turbulent reign of Mary Queen of Scots and James VI, the Jesuits played a significant role in preserving Catholicism in the land of John Knox.
The Jesuits played an important role in the preservation of the Catholic faith in Scotland from the time of its first mission to Ireland and Scotland in 1541 until the accession of James VI to the English throne in 1603. Twenty years later, following Nicholas de Gouda’s mission to Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1562 there was a significant influx of Scottish recruits though it was a further twenty years before a formal Scottish mission was established. During this time the young Scottish recruits underwent a rigorous training programme in colleges throughout Europe. William Crichton, James Gordon and Edmund Hay, three of the earliest Scottish Jesuits, were particularly active during the 1580s, which marked the high point of Catholic militancy in Scotland. Despite the success of the Catholic army at Glenlivet in 1594 and the best efforts of the Society of Jesus, this militancy declined from the mid-1590s onwards. Nevertheless, the Society remained active in Scotland, attempting to influence James and his wife, Anne, who was converted to Catholicism by Robert Abercrombie. James’s accession to the English throne was a watershed for the Society, after which religious toleration for the Catholic community rather than the forcible conversion of Scotland became the priority.
Michael Yellowlees is a history and law graduate of Edinburgh University. In 1990 he completed his post doctorate thesis, Dunkeld at the Reformation. He has written articles for the Innes Review and is a contributor to the new Dictionary of National Biography. He was a civil servant and an international hockey player before entering the legal profession and currently practices in Edinburgh, specialising in rural property.
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