EARL OF GLENCAIRN
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EARL OF GLENCAIRN.
Alexander Cuningham, [note] Earl of Glencairn, was son and heir of William, fourth Earl of
Glencairn, Lord Treasurer of Scotland, one of the prisoners taken at the battle of
Solway Moss in 1542. In 1547, he succeeded to the earldom. He took the part of the Queen Dowager
of Scotland, against the regent, James Duke of Chatelherault;
[note] and afterwards, according to Crawfurd
was one of the first of the peers of Scotland who concurred in the Reformation of the church from
popery. His zeal in the cause is said to have partaken of frenzy; and the picture of him, given in
Pinkerton's [note] Scottish Gallery,* presents a physiognomy
which gives every countenance to the assertion. He particularly distinguished himself for an
enmity to the works of art, which a man of his rank might have been expected to leave to the
vulgar rabble. When Queen Mary [note] was driven from the
throne, he hastened to Holyrood House, attended by his domestics, tore down the altars of the
royal chapel, and broke the images to pieces. 2
John Knox, [note] in his
History of the Reformation,
| * From which the portrait which accompanies this work is taken. |
speaking of the cruelties exercised against the reformers about the
end of the reign of James the Fifth, observes, that notwithstanding
this prosecution, “the monsters and hypocritis, the Gray Freers, day by day, came
farder in contempt: for not only did the learned espye and detest their abominable hypocrisy,
but also men in whom none such graces nor gifts were thought to have been, begun plainly to
paint the same forth to the people, as the rhyme made by Alexander Earl
of Glencairn, yet alive, can witness.” The rhyme to which Knox refers was “Ane
Epistle directed from the Holy Heremite Allareit to his Brethren the Graye Frears.”
The Hermit of Allareit is mentioned by Sir David Ramsay at the close of his Satyre of the three Estaitis.
|42||LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.|
| “I will with ane humill spreit, |
Ga serve the Hermit of 'Lareit,
And leir him for till flatter.”
Allareit, or 'Lareit, says Sibbald,
[note] was undoubted Loretto, at the east end of Musselburgh, where there was formerly a chapel,
belonging to the abbacy of Dunfermline, dedicated to the Lady of Loretto. Of the
“Hermit,” we have the following instructive account in Mr.
“Cursory Remarks on Ane Booke of Godly Songs,”
prefixed to his Collection of “Scottish Poems of the
Sixteenth Century.” “A person having lost a lawsuit, and being
unable to pay, took refuge in Holyrood-house, which is still a sanctuary for debtors. He
abstained a long time from food; on which the king, it is said, tried this faculty for
thirty-two days in a private chamber. He was
dismissed; and coming half naked into the street, professed to the
people, that what he had done was from the assistance of the Virgin Mary. Many supposed him a
sacred person; but others, with more probability, that he was mad; so that soon being
neglected, he went to Rome, where he gave Pope Clement a similar
proof; and besides getting a certificate of so valuable a property, he obtained some money to
defray the expense of a journey to Jerusalem. As he returned by London, he preached against
King Henry's [note] divorce and defection from the Holy
See, for which he was imprisoned; and having fasted fifty days, he was dismissed for a madman.
Falling in with another rogue by profession, who earned a livelihood by exhibiting miracles
and selling relics, they agreed to join their fortunes. But one of them appropriating too much
of the spoil, the other deserted him; and erecting an altar (at Loretto) set up his own
daughter, a beautiful young woman, as an image of the Virgin Mary,
and thousands flocked to worship her. The cell at Loretto was a kind of fashionable
resort. Young men and women made pilgrimages to the hermit, but for purposes very different
from devout. His impostures were exposed when men durst begin to write.” 4
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The first that exposed them in writing was Glencairn,
in his “Epistle.” It has no
poetical merit, and is only curious as a relic of the history of the times. The following is the
| I Thomas, Hermit of Lariet, |
Saint Frances' bretheren heartily greet,
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| Beseching you with firm intent, |
To be wakryif and diligent:
For thir Lutherans risen and new,
Our order daily dois pursue.
Thir smaikes* do set thir whole intent
To read the English New Testament;
And say we have them clean disceyvit,
Therefor in haste they must be stoppit.
Our state hypocresy they prise,
And do blaspheme us on this wise:
Saying, that we are heretics,
And false, loud, lying mastiss tykes,
Cummerars and quellers of Christ's kirk,
Sweir swingeours that will not work,
But idly our living wins,
Devouring wolves into sheep's skins.
Hurkland with hoods into our neck,
With Judas mind to jouk and beck;
Seeking God's people to devore,
The overthrowers of God's gloir,
Proffessors of hypocresy,
And doctors in idolatrie, &c. &c.
After continuing for some time in the same strain, the Hermit proposes to
his monkish brethren to redeem the credit of the order by the exhibition of pretended miracles.
| A ghaist I purpose to gar gang, |
By counsal of Frear Walter Lang,
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| Which shall make certain demonstrations, |
To help us in our procurations,
Your holy order to decore.
That practice he prov'd once before,
Betwixt Kyrkcadie and Kinghorne, &c.
Although intemperate in his religious conduct, the
earl of Glencairn appears to have been highly esteemed among those of his own belief
for his kindness of heart, and habits of active beneficence. He was called “the good earl;” and no one can wish to dispute a title which popular opinion conferred.