Lesley, John

, the celebrated bishop of Ross in Scotland, was descended from a very ancient family, and bora in 1527. He had his education in the university of Aberdeen; and, in 1547, was made canon of the cathedralchurch of Aberdeen and Murray. After this, he travelled into France; and pursued his studies in the universities of Thoulouse, Poictiers, and Paris, at which place he took the degree 01 doctor of laws. He continued abroad till 1554, when he was commanded home by the queen-regent, and made official and vicar-general of the diocese of Aberdeen; and, entering into the priesthood, became parson of Une, or Oyne. About this time the doctrines of the reformation having reached Scotland, were zealously opposed by our author; and, a solemn dispute being held between the protestants and papists in 1560, at Edinburgh, Lesley was a principal champion on the side of the latter, and had Knox for one of his antagonists. This, however, was so far from putting an end to the divisions, that they daily increased; which occasioning many disturbances and commotions, both parties agreed to send deputations, inviting home the queen, who was then absent in France. It was a matter of importance to be expeditious in this race of politic courtesy; and Lesley, who was employed by the Roman catholics, made such dispatch, that he arrived several days before lord James Stuart, who was sent by the protestants, to Vitri, where queen Mary was then lamenting the death of her husband, the king of France. Having delivered to her his credentials, he told her majesty of lord James Stuart’s (who was her natural brother) coming from the protestants in Scotland, and of his designs against the Roman catholic. religion; and advised her to detain him in France by some honourable employment till she could settle her affairs at home; thus infusing suspicions of her protestant subjects into the queen’s mind, with a view that she should throw herself entirely into the hands of those who were of her own religion. The queen, however, not at all distrusting the nobility, who had sent lord James, desired Lesley to wait, till she could consult with her friends upon the methods most proper for her to take. At first, the court of France opposed her return home; but, finding her much inclined to it, they ordered a fleet to attend her; and Lesley embarked with her at Calais for Scotland, Aug. 19, 1561.

Soon after his arrival, he was appointed one of the senators of the college of justice, and sworn into the | privycouncil. In 1564, the abbey of Lundores was conferred upon him; and, upon the death of Sinclair bishop of Ross, he was promoted to that see. This advancement was no more than he merited from the head of the Roman church in Scotland, in whose defence he was always an active and able disputant with the reformed party. His learning was not inferior to his other attainments; nor was his attention so entirely absorbed in ecclesiastical matters, as to prevent his introducing some important improvements in the civil state of the kingdom. To this end, having observed that all the ancient laws were growing obsolete, for want of being collected into a body, he represented this matter to the queen, and prevailed with her majesty to appoint proper persons for the work. Accordingly, a commission was made out, granting to Lesley, and fifteen others, privycounsellors and advocates in the law, authority to print the same. Thus it is to the care principally of the bishop of Ross, that the Scots owe the first impression of their laws at Edinburgh, in 1566, commonly called the black acts of parliament, from their being printed in the black Saxon character. Upon the queen’s flying into England from her protestant subjects, who had taken up arms against her, queen Elizabeth appointed commissioners at York to examine the case between her and them, and bishop Lesley was one of those chosen by Mary, in 1568, to defend her cause, which he did with great vigour and strength of reasoning; and, when this method proved ineffectual, appeared afterwards in the character of ambassador at the English court, to complain of the injustice done to his queen. Finding no notice taken of his public solicitations, he began to form schemes to procure her escape privately, and at the same time seems to have been concerned with foreign courts in conspiracies against queen Elizabeth. With a view, however, to serve queen Mary, he hit upon the unfortunate expedient of negotiating her marriage with the duke of Norfolk; which being discovered, the duke was convicted of treason, and executed. Lesley being examined upon it, pleaded the privileges of an ambassador; alleging, that he had done nothing but what his place and duty demanded for procuring the liberty of his princess; and that he came into England with sufficient warrant and authority, which he had produced, and which had been admitted. It was answered, that the privileges of | ambasjadors could not protect those who offended against the majesty of the princes to whom they were sent; and that they werfe to be considered in no other light than as enemies who practised rebellion against the state. To this our prelate replied, that he had neither raised nor practised rebellion; but, perceiving the adversaries of queen Mary countenanced, and her deprived of all hope of liberty, he could not abandon his sovereign in her afflictions, but do his best to procure her freedom; and that it would never be found that the privileges of ambassadors were violated, via juris, by course of law, but only via facti, by way of fact, which seldom had good success.

At length, after several debates, five civilians, Lewis, Dale, Drury, Aubry, and Jones, were appointed to ejamine the bishop of Ross’s case, and to give in answers to the following queries. 1. Whether an ambassador, who raises rebellion against the prince to whom he is sent, should enjoy the privileges of an ambassador, and not rather be liable to punishment as an enemy? To this it was answered, that such an ambassador, by the laws of nations, and the civil law of the Romans, has forfeited the privileges of an ambassador, and is liable to punishment. 2. Whether the minister or agent of a prince deposed from his public authority, and in whose stead another is substituted, may enjoy the privileges of an ambassador? To this it was answered, if such a prince be lawfully deposed, his agent cannot challenge the privileges of an ambassador, since none but absolute princes, and such as enjoy a royal prerogative, can constitute ambassadors. 3. Whether a prince, who comes into another prince’s country, and is there kept prisoner, can have his agent, and whether that agent can be reputed an ambassador? To this it was answered, if such a prince have not lost his sovereignty, he may have an agent; but whether that agent may be reputed an ambassador, dependeth upon the authority of his commission. 4. Whether if a prince declare to such an agent, and his prince in custody, that he shall no longer be reputed an ambassador, that agent may, by law, challenge the privileges of an ambassador? To this it was answered, that a prince may forbid an ambassador to enter into his kingdom, and may command him to depart the kingdom, if he keep himself not within the bounds prescribed to an ambassador; yet in the mean while he is to enjoy the privileges of an ambassador | Queen Elizabeth and her cdunsel being satisfied with these answers of the civilians, sent bishop Lesley prisoner to the isle of Ely, and afterwards to the Tower of London; but at length he was set at liberty in 1573, and being banished England, he retired to the Netherlands. The two following years he employed in soliciting the kings of France and Spain, and all the German princes, to interest themselves in the deliverance of his mistress. Finding them tardy in their proceedings, he went to Rome, to solicit the pope’s interference with them, but all his efforts being fruitless, he had recourse to his pen, and published several pieces to promote the same design. In 1579, he was made suffragan and vicar-general of the archbishopric of Rouen in Normandy, and, in his visitation of that diocese, was apprehended and thrown into prison, and obliged to pay three thousand pistoles for his ransom, to prevent his being given op to queen Elizabeth. He then remained unmolested under the protection of Henry III. of France; but, upon the accession of Henry IV. a protestant, who was supported in his claim to that crown by queen Elizabeth, he was apprehended, in his visitation through his diocese, in 1590; and, being thrown into prison, was again obliged to pay three thousand pistoles, to save himself from being given up to Elizabeth. In 1593, he was declared bishop of Constance, with licence to hold the bishopric of Ross, till he should obtain peaceable possession of the church of Constance and its revenues. Some time after this, he went and resided at Brussels; and when no hopes remained of his returning to his bishopric of Ross, by the establishment of the reformation under king James, he retired into a monastery at Guirtenburg, about two miles from Brussels, where he passed the remainder of his days, died May 31, 1596, and lies buried there under a monument erected to his memory by his nephew and heir, John Lesley.

His character is represented much to his advantage, by several writers, both at home and abroad; and all parties agree in speaking of him as a man of great learning, an able statesman, and a zealons churchman. His fidelity to his queen was certainly honourable in its motive, although it is impossible to defend all his proceedings. Dodd informs us that when at Paris he laid the foundation of three colleges for the education of popish missionaries; one for his countrymen at Paris, which was completed; another at | Home, which fell into the hands of the Jesuits; and a third at Doway, the superior of which, for some years, was a Scotch Jesuit.

Bishop Lesley’s writings are, 1. “Afflicti Aninw Consolationes, & tranquilli Animi Conservatio,Paris, 1574, 8vo. 2. “De Origine, Moribus, & Rebus gestis Scotorum,” Romae, 1578, 4to. It consists of ten books, of which the three last, making half the volume, are dedicated to queen Mary; to whom they had been presented in English, seven years before the first publication in Latin. There are separate copies of them in several libraries. See Catalog, Mss. Oxon. This valuable history is carried down to the queen’s return from France in 1561. He seems unwilling to divulge what he knew of some transactions after that period. “Some things,” says he, “savoured so much of ingratitude and perfidy, that, although it were very proper they should be known, yet it were improper for me to record them, because often, with the danger of my life, I endeavoured to put a stop to them; and I ought to do all that is in me, not to let them be known unto strangers.” With this work are published, 3. “Paraenesis ad Nobilitatem Populumque Scotorum” and, 4. “Regionum & Insularum Scotiae Descriptio.” 5.“” Defence of the Honour of Mary Queen of Scotland; with a Declaration of her right, title, and interest, to the crown of England,“Liege, 1571, 8vo, which was immediately suppressed. 6.A Treatise, shewing, that the Regimen of Women is conformable to the Law of God and Nature.“These two last are ascribed, by Parsons the Jesuit, to Morgan Philips, but Camden asserts them to be our author’s, Annal. Eliz. sub. ann. 1569. 7.” DeTitulo & Jure Marias Scotorum Reginae, quo Anglias Successionem Jure sibi vindicat,“Rheims, 1580, 4to. 8. There is a ms. upon the same subject in French, entitledRemonstrance au Pape,“&c. Cotton library, Titus, cxii. 1. and F. 3. 14. 9.” An Account of his Embassage in. England, from 1568 to 1572,“ms. in the advocates’ library in Scotland. Catal. of Oxford Mss. 10.” An Apology for the Bishop of Ross, as to what is laid to his Charge concerning the Duke of Norfolk,“ms. in the library of the lord Longueville. 11.” Several Letters in the hands of Dr. George Mackenzie," who wrote his life. 1

1 Life by Mackenzie, vol. If. Spotfwood’s and Robertson’s History. La’utg’s History, Dodd’s Church History. —Strype’s Life of Griudal, p. 1>0.