Index for Chapters XXI-XXIX

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Chapter XXII

Chapter XXI: The Commendator

Lord Claud, the Commendator, could take but little part in the festivities, and they were given in the name of his son, the Earl. He died in 1621, aged 78, having survived his son, who died in 1618. He had seen many changes during his most eventful life. Whether he ever became a Protestant is doubtful. Generally he is spoken of as a Catholic [30] or “Papist.” In a chronicle of his time, [31] we are told of his attending sermon in Edinburgh, and going out before the prayer. He certainly gave as little encouragement as he could to Protestantism in Paisley during his first residence there. Probably after his visit to the Court, of Queen Elizabeth he thought it wise to render outward conformity to the “new opinions,” and we give in the Appendix a letter from him to Lord Burleigh, treasurer to Queen Elizabeth, in which he expresses great indignation at a rumour that he had “changed his religion.” But he does not say which religion he means, and probably his expressions are designedly ambiguous. On the whole, we incline to the opinion that he died in the faith in which he was born, [32] and at the altars of which it was at one time intended he should minister.

With the death of the old “Commendator,” the last link between us and the Monastery of Paisley is severed. When in his boyhood, he was made “Abbot,” the Church seemed firm and almost beyond the reach of change. He had known the Abbey in its splendour, had assisted at its services, and had probably received his education within its walls. He had lived to see all its glory vanished, its walls defaced, its shrines despoiled, its brethren scattered and proscribed. With the notice of his death, we take our last look at “the things that were.” In doing so, we may give the description of the Abbey as it stood in its latter days, by one who was the last surviving Bishop of the old Church of Scotland,
[33] and who grows eloquent as he writes of its departed glories.

“Two miles from Renfrew is the town of Paisley, situated on the bank of the Cart, in a pleasant situation, amid hills, woods, and gardens. Thence there is a passage to a certainly magnificent and wealthy Monastery of the same name, built for the district, surrounded by a very splendid wall of dressed stone, with beautiful statues on the summit, for more than a mile on all sides. The beauty of the buildings of this temple, the splendour of the church furniture, and the beauty of the gardens, may rival many churches which are today considered more magnificent among foreign nations, a remark that might be made with perfect truth about all our monasteries without exception. Moreover, John, the last Bishop of St. Andrews, erected for the church of Paisley a tower second to none in our own country, at immense expense, which, from the first, resting on an insecure foundation, when hardly finished, fell by its own weight. Probably the “Commendator” was among the last who remembered the Abbey as the Bishop describes it.

[30] Bannatyne Memorials, where there are many notices of Lord Claud.
[31] Colville Memoirs (Bannatyne Club).
[32] In 1588 he was reported as “a receiver of Jesuits, and since his last comming to Scotland refuseth to subscribe and communicate. Those that resort to him are the Laird of Fintry, Mr. Robert Bruce, and Mr. Gilbert Browne.”—Calderwood, Vol. IV., p. 662. Well on to the end of the Commendator's life his deeds are witnessed by a Robert Ker, or Ker, as “servitor to my Lord of Paisley.” A person of the same name was among the last monks of the Abbey, and probably continued in the service of Lord Claud as Almoner.
[33] Leslie, Bishop of Ross.