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Chapter VII: The Abbey 1200-1248

While thus generous in his benefactions, the Stewart was always particular in reserving to himself certain rights and privileges. The birds and beasts on the land transferred to the monks are always specially retained. “The preservation of game and the whole economy of the forest were necessarily of prominent importance in an age when the time of the free born was divided between war and the chase.” [10] The Stewarts were strict preservers of game. In their early grants to Melrose, they expressly reserve the rights of the chase. “Except only that neither the monks, nor lay brethren, nor any, by their authority, shall hunt, nor take hawks in that forest, for that suiteth not their order, and we think it not expedient for them.” “Salva eadem foresta mea tantum in bestiis et avibus.” [11] Walter, in his transactions with the Paisley monks is equally particular. His forest of Fereneze was to be free from all their encroachments, lest his deer should be disturbed. If any of their cattle should pass the boundaries below Fereneze in charge of a keeper, they should pay a fine of five cows, and if without a keeper, they should pay a fine of a penny for every five cows, a heavy penalty for trespass.

Notwithstanding all the wealth bestowed on the Convent, it had one drawback to its prosperity. It was in the second rank of religious houses, and was ruled only by a Prior. In position it was inferior to the other principal monasteries of Scotland. The Abbey of Clugny was very jealous of raising any of the houses over which it had jurisdiction to the rank of an abbey. It held them more firmly, and enforced its discipline over them more easily when they were in the subordinate position. It was, however, very inconvenient for the Monastery of Paisley to be in strict subjection to a superior so far away as the French Abbot. The distance rendered it a great hardship for the Paisley House to be constantly sending an account of its doings to Clugny; and there were other drawbacks of an ecclesiastical kind which rendered it desirable that the Monastery should be ruled by an Abbot of its own. In some cases not even a novice could be received without the consent of the Arch-Abbot, and those who were to be admitted as monks had to go to Clugny in order to make their profession. Accordingly, King Alexander, influenced doubtless by the Stewart his counsellor, applied to Pope Honorius III., setting forth in his petition the loss the Convent had sustained for want of an Abbot, how the monks had not been able to make regular profession “to the great danger of their souls, the dissolution of order and the loss of their property,” and asking his authority for the creation of an Abbot in the Monastery.
[12] The Pope, by a bull dated at Reate, in 1219, the third year of his pontificate, issued a commission to the Bishop of Glasgow and the Abbots of Kelso and Melrose to enquire into the whole circumstances of the case, and if they thought proper to allow the monks to proceed to the canonical election of an Abbot. [13] The commissioners accordingly (with the exception of the Abbot of Melrose, who sent “sufficient excuse,”) met at Jedburgh, and, by the advice of certain men “skilled in the law,” summoned the Prior and Convent of Wenlock to appear before them and state whether they had any objections to the proposed change in the House of Paisley, as it was from their Monastery that the Convent of Paisley was planted. No one appeared at the proper time from Wenlock, but letters were received from the Shropshire House stating that they made no objections to the proposed change. The commissioners, therefore, with reservation of the rights of other parties, decreed that the monks of Paisley might proceed to the canonical election of an abbot, and the Patron of Paisley, the Lord High Stewart, also gave his permission. [14]

[10] Sketches of Early Scottish History, p. 102.
[11] Sketches of Early Scottish History, p. 103.
[12] Reg. de Pas., p. 8.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid., p. 10.