Robert de Keldeleth

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Robert de Keldeleth
Born Probably, 1200s
Died 1273
Melrose, Scotland
Other names Robert Kenleith
Occupation Abbot
Title Abbot of Dunfermline
Chancellor of Scotland
Abbot of Melrose

Robert de Keldeleth (or Robert Kenleith) (died 1273) was a 13th-century Benedictine and then Cistercian abbot. He started his senior career as Abbot of Dunfermline (1240–52), becoming Chancellor of Scotland later in the 1240s. He took a prominent role as a supporter of Alan Durward during the minority of Alexander III of Scotland, and appears to have lost the Chancellorship as result. Following his resignation of the abbacy of Dunfermline, he became a Cistercian monk at Newbattle Abbey while continuing a comparatively less active role on the wider stage. In 1269 he became Abbot of Melrose (1269–1273), Newbattle's mother house, and held this position for the last four years of his life.


His name suggests he came from or was associated with Kinleith, in Currie parish, Midlothian.[1] Robert began his career as a Benedictine monk at Dunfermline Abbey, Fife, Scotland. After the death of Abbot Geoffrey III on 5 October 1240, he was chosen as the new Abbot of Dunfermline.[2] He became one of Dunfermline's most successful abbots and enjoyed a close relationship with King Alexander II of Scotland. After a request was made by the king, on 3 May 1245, Pope Innocent IV wrote to Abbot Robert granting permission for the latter to use a mitre and a ring, a privilege which increased the abbey's status.[3] Robert further elevated the abbey's status by successfully spearheading a campaign to canonise Saint Margaret of Scotland, a figure who had been claimed to be Dunfermline's founder and whose shrine lay in the town; the translation of her remains took place in June 1250.[4] Such successes were undoubtedly helped by Robert's good relationship with the Pope.[1] Robert was officially a Papal chaplain,[5] and, for instance, the Pope had charged Robert to assist in a dispute with the Bishop of St Andrews regarding a benefice that he wished to bestow on a Florentine follower.[3]

National politics[edit]

Robert's career rise continued when, at an unknown point between 1247 and 1251, he became Chancellor of Scotland.[1] He was on the Council of Guardians formed to govern Scotland after the death of Alexander II on 6 July 1249.[6] The governing Council broke down around two rival factions, one centred on Walter Comyn and the other around Alan Durward; Robert became a firm member of the Durward faction.[1] The Comyn's later accused Robert of using his seal (the Great Seal of the Chancellor) and influence in an attempt to legitimise Durward's wife, a bastard daughter of Alexander II, an act which would have made Durward heir to the throne.[7] However, Robert's position became difficult when in 1251 the Walter Comyn gained control of the government.[8] In 1252 Robert lost the position of Chancellor.[1]

Robert the Cistercian[edit]

In the same year Robert resigned his position as Abbot of Dunfermline and retired to be a Cistercian monk at Newbattle Abbey.[9] Nevertheless, Robert did not cease to be active on the wider stage, and his relationship with Pope Innocent continued even as a humble monk of Newbattle.[10] In August and September 1260, Robert was used as a messenger between King Alexander III of Scotland and King Henry III of England.[11] Moreover, by the end of the 1260s he rose again to the position of Abbot. After the resignation of John de Ederham, Robert was chosen to become Abbot of Melrose.[12] Melrose Abbey was the mother-house of Newbattle and the position of Abbot of Melrose was the senior Cistercian post in Scotland.[13] Robert held the position for four years. He resigned and died in the year 1273.[14] He was probably buried in Melrose Abbey.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Tait & Reid "Kenleith , Robert (d. 1273)".
  2. ^ Watt & Shead, Heads of Religious Houses, 68.
  3. ^ a b Anderson, Early Sources, 518.
  4. ^ Laing, Andrew of Wyntoun, 2.250–51; Barrow, "Margaret [St Margaret] (d. 1093)".
  5. ^ Anderson, Early Sources, 563, n. 3.
  6. ^ Anderson, Early Sources, 583, n. 2.
  7. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Melrose Abbey, 34; Tait & Reid "Kenleith , Robert (d. 1273)".
  8. ^ Alan Young, "Political Role of Walter Comyn", 136.
  9. ^ Watt & Shead, Heads of Religious Houses, 68; both Tait gives the year 1253, the following year, and Anderson says "before 13th February 1253": Tait & Reid "Kenleith , Robert (d. 1273)", Anderson, Early Sources, 661-2, n. 8 on page 661.
  10. ^ See, for example, Anderson, Early Sources, 572, n.4.
  11. ^ Anderson, Early Sources, 661-2, n. 8 on page 661.
  12. ^ Watt & Shead, Heads of Religious Houses, 151.
  13. ^ Fawcett & Oram, Melrose Abbey, 20-67.
  14. ^ Watt & Shead, Heads of Religious Houses, 151; Tait & Reid, "Kenleith , Robert (d. 1273)".


  • Anderson, Alan Orr, Early Sources of Scottish History: AD 500–1286, 2 Vols, (Edinburgh, 1922), vol. 2
  • Barrow, G. W. S., "Margaret [St Margaret] (d. 1093)", in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 , accessed 17 Feb 2007
  • Fawcett, Richard, & Oram, Richard, Melrose Abbey, (Stroud, 2004)
  • Laing, David, Andrew of Wyntoun, The orygynale cronykil of Scotland, revised edition 2, ( Edinburgh, 1872)
  • Tait, James, "Kenleith , Robert (d. 1273)", rev. Norman H. Reid, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 , accessed 17 Feb 2007
  • 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)
  • Young, Alan, "The Political Role of Walter Comyn, Earl of Menteith During the Minority of Alexander III of Scotland", in K. J. Stringer (ed.), Essays on the nobility of medieval Scotland, (Edinburgh, 1985), pp. 131–49
Religious titles
Preceded by
Geoffrey III
Abbot of Dunfermline
Succeeded by
Preceded by
John de Ederham
Abbot of Melrose
Succeeded by
Patrick de Selkirk
Political offices
Preceded by
William de Bondington
Chancellor of Scotland
1247 × 51 –1252
Succeeded by