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. Until this time many Scottish Protestants were Lutherans such as Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart. However, upon the return of Knox from Geneva Scottish Protestants rallied around him and the Scottish Reformation came strongly under the influence of 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 in 1560, at which point Mary, then resident in France, gave permission for Parliament to meet in her absence. The work of the 'Reformation Parliament' was popularly acclaimed, but not formally ratified until seven years later.

Following the signing of the First Covenant in 1557 by the nobles and barons, Parliament abolished 1560 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.