Patrick Adamson

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The Most Reverend
Patrick Adamson
Installed 1576
Predecessor John Douglas
Successor George Gledstanes
Personal details
Born 1537
Perth, Scotland
Died 1592
St Andrews
Nationality Scottish
Denomination Reformed, Presbyterian
Occupation Theologian
Profession Pastor
Alma mater University of St Andrews

Patrick Adamson (1537–1592) was a Scottish divine, and Archbishop of St Andrews.


He was born at Perth, Scotland, where his father, Patrick Adamson, was Dean of the Merchant Guildry.[1][2] He read Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, and took the degree of MA.[3] Archbishop Adamson was a Knight Hospitaller of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.[4]

Residence in France[edit]

After being Minister of Ceres in Fife for three years, in 1565 he set out for Paris as tutor to the eldest son of Sir James MacGill, Clericus Rotulorum. In June 1566 he wrote a Latin poem on the birth of the young Prince James to King consort Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and Mary, Queen of Scots. He described James as serenissimus princeps of France and England. The French Court under Charles IX of France was offended, and he was confined for six months.[3]

He was released only through the intercession of Queen Mary and some of the principal nobility, and retired with his pupil to read Law at the University of Bourges. He was in this city at the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in Paris, and lived concealed for seven months in a tavern, the aged master of which, in reward for his charity to such a heretic, was thrown from the roof. While in this "Sepulchre", he wrote his Latin poetical version of the Book of Job, and his tragedy of Herod the Great in the same language.[3]

Return to Scotland[edit]

Archbishop Adamson's family coat of arms

In 1572/1573 he returned to the Scotland and became Minister of Paisley. In 1575, he was appointed by the General Assembly as one of the Commissioners to settle the jurisdiction and policy of the Church; and, the following year he was named with David Lyndsay, to report their proceedings to James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, then Regent of Scotland.[3]

In 1576, his appointment as Archbishop of St Andrews gave rise to a protracted conflict with the Presbyterian party in the Assembly. He had previously published a catechism in Latin verse dedicated to James VI, a work highly much acclaimed even by his opponents, and also a Latin translation of the Scots Confession of Faith.[3]

In 1578 he submitted himself to the General Assembly, which procured him peace for a short while, but the following year fresh accusations were brought against him. He took refuge in St Andrews Castle, where "a wise woman", Alison Pearson, who was subsequently burned for witchcraft, cured him of a so-called "serious illness".[3]


In 1583 he went as James's Ambassador to the Court of Elizabeth I of England, where he is reported to have behaved rather badly. On his return he took strong parliamentary measures against Presbyterians, and consequently, at a provincial Synod held at St Andrews in April 1586, he was accused of heresy and excommunicated, although at the next General Assembly this verdict was remitted as illegal.[3]

In 1587 and 1588, however, fresh accusations were brought against him, and he was again excommunicated, though afterwards on the inducement of his old opponent, Andrew Melville, the sentence was again remitted. Meanwhile he had published the Book of Lamentations, and the Book of Revelation in Latin verse, which he dedicated to the King, complaining of his hard usage. But James was unmoved by his application, and granted the revenue of his See to Ludovic Stewart, 2nd Duke of Lennox. For the rest of his life Adamson was supported by charity; he died in 1592.[3]


Cathedral of St. Andrews

His recantation of Episcopacy (1590) is probably spurious. Adamson was a man of many gifts, learned and eloquent, but with grave defects of character. His collected works, prefaced by a fulsome panegyric, in the course of which it is said that "he was a miracle of nature, and rather seemed to be the immediate production of God Almighty than born of a woman", were produced by his son-in-law, Thomas Wilson, in 1619.[3] An heraldic memorial to him survives at St Andrews Cathedral.[5]

Adamson had by his wife Elizabeth Arthur another daughter, Mariota, who married Sir Michael Balfour.[6] His elder brothers, James and Henry, both served as Provost of Perth, and they were fathers of Henry Adamson and John respectively.


  1. ^ "Perth Magistrates". Scottish Family Heritage. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Adamson, Patrick". Encyclopædia Britannica 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  4. ^]
  5. ^
  6. ^ Orkney Balfours Home Page

External links[edit]

Religious titles
Preceded by
John Douglas
Archbishop of St Andrews
Succeeded by
George Gledstanes
Academic offices
Preceded by
John Douglas
Archbishop of St Andrews
Chancellor of the University of St Andrews
Succeeded by
Lord Maitland of Thirlestane