Scottish Reformation Parliament

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Members of the Estate of Burgesses which supported the Protestant Reformation in the Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Reformation Parliament is the name given to the Scottish Parliament commencing in 1560 that passed the major pieces of legislation establishing the Scottish Reformation, most importantly Confession of Faith Ratification Act 1560;[1] and Papal Jurisdiction Act 1560.[2]

In 1559, John Knox returned to Scotland, marking a new effort in his battle to reform the nation. While Scottish Protestants in the 1520 and 30s were Lutherans such as Patrick Hamilton, George Wishart, who translated the First Helvetic Confession written by Heinrich Bullinger, marks the impact of the Swiss Reformation. With the return of Knox from Geneva Scottish Protestants rallied around him and the Scottish Reformation continued to be characterised by Calvinism.

Queen dowager Mary of Guise, acting as regent for her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, had become keen to crush the Protestants and was determined to use force. Civil war appeared imminent, but each side shrank from the first step. Knox at once became the leader of the reformers. He preached against "idolatry" with the greatest boldness, with the result that what he called the "rascal multitude" began the "purging" of churches and the destruction of monasteries. Mary of Guise died on 11 June 1559, at which point the youthful Mary Queen of Scots, then resident in France, gave permission through her husband Francis II, for Parliament to meet in her absence but religious questions were specifically to be submitted to the 'intention and pleasure' of the king and queen. The work of the 'Reformation Parliament' was popularly acclaimed, but not formally ratified until seven years later by James VI. Mary never ratified it.

In August 1560 the 'Reformation Parliament' abolished the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland with the Papal Jurisdiction Act.

A Reformed confession of faith was drafted by six ministers: John Winram, John Spottiswoode, John Willock, John Douglas, John Row, and John Knox. On 17 August 1560, the document was read twice, article by article, before the Parliament; and the Protestant ministers stood ready to defend "the cause of truth", in the event that any article of belief was assailed.

When the vote was taken, the Confession was ratified and adopted, and the church was organised along Presbyterian lines. The first General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met in Edinburgh, and the First Book of Discipline (1560) was drawn up. The Second Book of Discipline (1581) was ratified by Parliament in 1592 (see General Assembly Act 1592[3]). This definitely settled the Presbyterian form of polity and the Calvinistic doctrine as the recognised Protestant establishment in the country.

Process and Ceremony[edit]

The English correspondent Thomas Randolph described the ceremony surrounding the selection of the Lords of the Articles on 9 August 1560. The lords convened at Holyroodhouse then rode to the Tollbooth near St Giles. Mary, Queen of Scots was represented by the crown, mace and sword. After a speech by William Maitland, the articles of the peace with France were read and confirmed. The Lords of the Articles were chosen - these decided the agenda for the full parliament session. Then all the lords processed with the Duke to the Netherbow, and back to the Palace. The whole town wore armour, with trumpets sounding, and all other kinds of music. Randolph was confident the Lords of the Articles would commune on the "dysannullinge" of Papal authority.[4]

The Confession of Faith was established by parliament on 17 August.[5] The Parliament also agreed on 16 August to pursue the marriage of Elizabeth I of England to James Hamilton, 3rd Earl of Arran. Randolph, "never saw so important matters sooner dispatched." When the first session of the Parliament was concluded the Duke of Châtellherault gave the Clerk Register a silver coin to have the proceedings recorded.[6] On the 26 August the Parliament approved the Treaty of Berwick (1560), and James Stewart, Earl of Moray requested and received special confirmation that the acts of the Lords of the Congregation were not unlawful. The authority of the Pope in Scotland was abrogated without contradiction.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Statute Law: Confession of Faith Ratification Act 1560". Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  2. ^ "Statute Law: Papal Jurisdiction Act 1560". Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  3. ^ "Statute Law: General Assembly Act 1592". Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  4. ^ Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland, vol. 1 (1898), 456-459, Randolph to Cecill.
  5. ^ CSP Scotland, vol. 1 (1898), 462: Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vol. 2 (1814), 526-534.
  6. ^ CSP Scotland, vol. 1, (1898) 465, 466-467: Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vol. 2, (1814), 605-606.
  7. ^ Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 1, (1898), 473-474.