Abbot of Melrose

Abbot of Melrose
The ruins of Melrose Abbey as they were in June 2004.

The Abbot and then Commendator of Melrose was the head of the monastic community of Melrose Abbey, in Melrose in the Borders region of Scotland. The abbey was founded in 1136 on the patronage of David I (Dabíd mac Maíl Choluim), King of Scots, by Cistercian monks from Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire. Control of the abbey was secularized in the 16th century and after the accession of James Stewart, the abbey was held by commendators. The last commendator, James Douglas of Lochleven, resigned the abbacy to William Douglas, 6th Earl of Morton (his nephew) in December 1606, and the abbey itself to the king in 1608. The abbey (or most of its lands) was then erected into a secular lordship for viscount Haddington, John Ramsay, who in 1609 was created "Lord Melrose".[1] Lochleven however resumed the title of commendator in 1613 until his death in 1620.


List of Abbots

  • Richard,[2] 1136-1148[3]
  • St. Waltheof,[4] 1148-1159[5]
  • William, 1159-1170[6]
  • Jocelin, 1170-1174[7]
  • Laurence, 1175-1178[8]
  • Ernald, 1179-89[9]
  • Reiner,[10] 1189-94[11]
  • Radulf (I),[12] 1194-1202[13]
  • William,[14] 1202-06
  • Patrick,[15] 1206-07
  • Adam, 1207-13[16]
  • Hugh de Clipstone, 1214-15[17]
  • William de Courcy, 1215-6[18]
  • Radulf II,[19] 1216-1219[20]
  • Adam de Harkarres,[21] 1219-46[22]
  • Matthew,[23] 1246-61[24]
  • Adam of Maxton,[25] 1261-67[26]
  • John de Edrom (or Ederham), 1267-68 x 69[27]
  • Robert de Keldeleth,[28] 1269-73
  • Patrick de Selkirk, 1273–96
  •  ???[29]
  • William de Fogo, 1310–1329
  • Thomas de Soutra, 1333 x 1335-x1342
  • William de St Andrews, 1342–1376
  • Gilbert de Roxburgh, 1391–1392
  • David Benyng (or Binning), 1394–1422
  • John Fogo, 1425–1434
  • Richard Londy (or Lundy), 1440–1444
  • Andrew Hunter, 1444-1465[30]
  • Robert Blackadder, 1471–1483
  • Richard Lamb, 1472-1483[31]
  • John Brown (or Carnecorss), 1483–1486
  •  ???, 1486[32]
  •  ???, 1486[32]
  • David Brown, 1486-1507/10
    • Bernard Bell, rival to David Brown, 1486–1503
    • William Turnbull, rival to David Brown, 1503-1507[33]
  • Robert Betoun,[34] 1507/10-1521 x 1524
  • John Maxwell,[35] 1524-1526
  • Andrew Durie, 1525-1541[36]

List of Commendators

  • James Stewart,[37] 1535-1557
  • Louis de Guise,[38] 1558-1559
  • James Balfour, 1559–1564
  • Michael Balfour, 1564–1568
  • James Douglas of Lochleven,[39] 1569-1620


  1. ^ Ian B. Cowan, & David E. Easson, Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland With an Appendix on the Houses in the Man, Second Edition, (London, 1976), p. 77.
  2. ^ Newbattle founded during abbacy; deposed 1148.
  3. ^ He resigned in 1148, and was not deposed by the Abbot of Rievaulx; he died at Clairvaux in 1149.
  4. ^ Previously Sacrist of Rievaulx.
  5. ^ Holmcultram & Kinloss abbeys founded during abbacy; died August 3, 1159
  6. ^ Coupar Angus Abbey founded; resigned, April 1170.
  7. ^ Elected Bishop of Glasgow, May 23, 1174; retained abbacy until consecration to bishopric in May 1175
  8. ^ A Melrose monk, formerly abbot of some short-lived cistercian foundation in Orkney; elected May, 1174; died January, 1179.
  9. ^ Abbot from January, 1179; in March 1189, elected as Abbot of Rievaulx.
  10. ^ Formerly Abbot of Kinloss
  11. ^ Resigned Melrose in 1194.
  12. ^ Formerly Abbot of Kinloss.
  13. ^ In 1202, elected Bishop of Down in Ireland.
  14. ^ Formerly Abbot of Coupar Angus.
  15. ^ Formerly sub-prior of the convent.
  16. ^ Made Bishop of Caithness in 1213.
  17. ^ Elected May, 1214; resigned at Citeaux in November, 1215.
  18. ^ Promoted to the abbacy of Rievaulx.
  19. ^ Former cellerar.
  20. ^ Died 1219.
  21. ^ Formerly Abbot of Newbattle.
  22. ^ Succeeded on August 6; 15th Abbot. Died probably in 1246.
  23. ^ Former cellarer of Melrose.
  24. ^ One authority claims that he resigned because of infirmity (at Melrose) on July 24, 1261, while another claims that he was deposed at Rievaulx by the Abbot of Rievaulx.
  25. ^ Formerly Abbot of Newbattle.
  26. ^ Deposed by the General Cistercian Chapter, 1267.
  27. ^ Excommunicated by council of Scottish church in 1268; resigned 1268x69.
  28. ^ Former monk of Newbattle, Abbot of Dunfermline and Chancellor of Scotland.
  29. ^ Although the First Scottish War of Independence was taking place at this time, the length of ""vacancy" nevertheless implies that at least one person held the abbacy post between 1296 and 1310.
  30. ^ One source mentions an abbot called William for June 2, 1460, but this looks like it's probably a mistake.
  31. ^ Was elected by the brethren and received recognition from the bishop of Glasgow; Blackadder had had the abbacy reserved to him without taking up the monastic habit, but by 1476 resigned his claim, probably in return for a pension. Lamb contracted leprosy a few years before his death.
  32. ^ a b Died soon after election; name unknown.
  33. ^ Became Abbot of Coupar Angus.
  34. ^ Formerly Abbot of Glenluce and then Abbot of Coupar Angus, which he exchanged with Turnbull for his claims to Melrose.
  35. ^ Formerly Abbot of Dundrennan.
  36. ^ Became Bishop of Galloway.
  37. ^ Aged 14; was already Commendator of Kelso; he was an illegitimate son of King James V of Scotland, but not James Stewart.
  38. ^ Became Commendator of Melrose and Kelso after the death of James Stewart until 1559.
  39. ^ Second son of Archibald Douglas, 8th Earl of Angus.


  • Cowan, Ian B. & Easson, David E., Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland With an Appendix on the Houses in the Man, Second Edition, (London, 1976), pp. 76–77
  • Fawcett, Richard, & Oram, Richard, Melrose Abbey, (Stroud, 2004)
  • 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), p. 149-55

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