Henry Wemyss

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Henry Wemyss
Bishop of Galloway
Church Roman Catholic Church
See Diocese of Galloway
In office 1526–1541
Predecessor David Arnot
Successor Andrew Durie
Consecration after 1 March 1526
Personal details
Born unknown
Died 14 March × 21 May 1541
Previous post Official of Galloway (1512 × 1517–1522 × 1526)
Archdeacon of Galloway (1513 × 1522–1531)

Henry Wemyss (died 1541) was a prelate from the 16th century Kingdom of Scotland. He appears in the sources in the bishopric of Galloway for the first time in 1517, and rose to become Bishop of Galloway in 1526, a position he held until his death in 1541.



He was said to have been the son of John Wemyss, fifth son of Sir John Wemyss of Wemyss, by a daughter of Sir John Arnot of Arnot (in Fife); if true, this would make him a relative of David Arnot, sometime Bishop of Galloway who resigned that bishopric in Wemyss' favour;[1] Robert Keith thought he may have been related to King James V, as a brother,[2] but this was a mistake based on textual misreading (mispunctuating) which resulted in Henry's name being confused with that of James Stewart, Earl of Moray, the King's actual brother.[3]

Earlier career[edit]

Henry is found as the Official of the diocese of Galloway on 8 February 1517, and again on 16 January 1522; the last known holder of this position occurred on 12 March 1512, so that Henry must have taken this position at some point between 1512 and 1517.[4] Henry was parson of the parish church of Auchterderran (Outherdekan), Fife, in the diocese of St Andrews, and is found to be Archdeacon of Galloway on 9 December 1522; like his position as Official, it not known when he ascended the archdeaconry, and the last occurrence of a predecessor occurs on 9 November 1513.[5]

Bishopric of Galloway[edit]

The letter from Bishop Henry to Abbot William Kennedy of Crossraguel; Bishop Henry's signature is visible in the bottom-right.

Henry Wemyss received provision to the bishopric of Galloway (with the position of Dean of the Chapel Royal, Stirling) when David Arnot resigned his bishopric on 23/4 January 1526; Arnot retained right of return upon any future vacancy and half of the revenue of the diocese.[6] Although Arnot also resigned his position as Commendator of Tongland for, once again, a lifelong pension and with right of return on vacancy, Arnot may have effectively held on to Tongland Abbey for a few more years; repeated crown nominations of Wemyss to Tongland failed, apparently because of Arnot, while William Stewart, a canon of Glasgow Cathedral, also got crown nomination until the Pope finally agreed to give Bishop Henry Wemyss Tongland Abbey in commendam in 1530, with Stewart resigning his rights.[7]

The commend of Dundrennan Abbey came into Wemyss' possession after a crown nomination on 11 December 1529, to which he was admitted on 24 April 1530.[8] Henry also retained the Archdeaconry of Galloway after becoming bishop, at least until he resigned the position to Patrick Arnot on 11 February 1531.[9] Bishop Wemyss was a frequent attender of parliament, and his name occurs frequently as a witness to charters under the Great Seal of Scotland.[10] He appeared for the last time in the latter capacity on 14 March 1541.[10] He died soon after this date, and was certainly dead by 21 May.[11] On 25 May, Andrew Durie, Abbot of Melrose, was put in charge of the vacant temporalities of Galloway and Tongland; Durie indeed succeeded Wemyss to these positions later in the year.[12]

There survive some correspondences between Bishop Henry Wemyss and William Kennedy, Abbot of Crossraguel, written in the English language.[13] Bishop Henry and Abbot William have been said to have been close friends.[14] Two letters sent by Bishop Wemyss, dated to 5 July, and to 5 December 1536, survive; the first was addressed to "Jhone Makmaister and maister Patrik Ryschert", officials at Crossraguel Abbey, and the second to Abbot William; they concern certain revenues pertaining to one Ninian Boyd and his land at Culmoyr (Cùl Mòr, "big back"),[15] over which the bishop may have had rights;[16] Culmoyr was in the now defunct parish of Clashant, later belonging to the MacDowall kindred of Garthland.[17] Bishop Wemyss' signature has survived on the letter to Abbot William.[18]


  1. ^ Brunton & Haig, Historical Account, p. 42; their authority is cited as "Douglas Peer ii 619", which represents John Philip Wood's The Peerage of Scotland: Containing an Historical and Genealogical Account of the Nobility of that Kingdom, from their Origin to the Present Generation, Collected from the Public Records, Ancient Chartularies, the Charters and Other Writings of the Nobility, Works of our Best Historians, &c., 2nd ed. revised and corrected, with a continuation to the present period, 2 vols, (Edinburgh, 1813), vol. ii, p. 619; this is a self-proclaimed revision of Sir Robert Douglas of Glenbervie's earlier work. See below for bishopric of Galloway.
  2. ^ Keith, Historical Catalogue, p. 278.
  3. ^ Dowden, Bishops, p. 373, n. 1.
  4. ^ Dowden, Bishops, p. 373; Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, p. 140.
  5. ^ Dowden, Bishops, p. 372; Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, p. 138.
  6. ^ Dowden, Bishops, pp. 372-3; Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, p. 132.
  7. ^ Watt & Shead, Heads, pp. 211-2.
  8. ^ Watt & Shead, Heads, p. 66.
  9. ^ Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, p. 138.
  10. ^ a b Dowden, Bishops, p. 373.
  11. ^ Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, p. 132.
  12. ^ Dowden, Bishops, pp. 373-4; Watt, Fasti Ecclesiae, p. 132; Watt & Shead, Heads, p. 212.
  13. ^ Blair & Morris (eds.), Charters, vol. i, pp. 98-9; Dowden, Bishops, p. 373.
  14. ^ Paul, Scots Peerage, vol. ii, p. 469.
  15. ^ Blair & Morris (eds.), Charters, vol. i, pp. 98-9.
  16. ^ Blair & Morris (eds.), Charters, vol. i, p. 98, n. 2.
  17. ^ Blair & Morris (eds.), Charters, vol. i, p. 99, n. 1.
  18. ^ See illustration in Blair & Morris (eds.), Charters, vol. i, between p. 98 and p. 99.


  • Blair, F. C. Hunter, & Morris, J. A., Charters of the Abbey of Crosraguel, 2 vols., (Edinburgh, 1886)
  • Brunton, George, & Haig, David, An Historical Account of the Senators of the College of Justice from its Institution in 1532, (Edinburgh, 1832)
  • Donaldson, Gordon, "The Bishops and Priors of Whithorn", in Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History & Antiquarians Society: Transactions and Journal of Proceedings, Third Series, vol. 27 (1950), pp. 127–54
  • Dowden, John, The Bishops of Scotland, ed. J. Maitland Thomson, (Glasgow, 1912)
  • Keith, Robert, An Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops: Down to the Year 1688, (London, 1824)
  • Paul, James Balfour, The Scots Peerage, Vol. II, (Edinburgh, 1905)
  • Watt, D. E. R., Fasti Ecclesiae Scotinanae Medii Aevi ad annum 1638, 2nd Draft, (St Andrews, 1969)
  • Watt, D. E. R. & Shead, N. F. (eds.), The Heads of Religious Houses in Scotland from the 12th to the 16th Centuries, The Scottish Records Society, New Series, Volume 24, (Edinburgh, 2001)
Religious titles
Preceded by
David Abercrombie
Official of Galloway
1517 – 1522 × 1526
Succeeded by
Andrew Arnot
Preceded by
Alexander Shaw
Archdeacon of Galloway
1513 × 1522 – 1531
Succeeded by
Patrick Arnot
Preceded by
David Arnot
Bishop of Galloway
1526 – 1541
Succeeded by
Andrew Durie
Dean of the Chapel Royal
1526 – 1541
Preceded by
David Arnot/
William Stewart
Commendator of Tongland
1530 – 1541
Succeeded by
Andrew Durie
Preceded by
John Maxwell
Commendator of Dundrennan
1529 – 1541
Succeeded by
Adam Blackadder