Alexander Livingston, Rector of Monyabroch 1560 - 1597

A grandson of William, Fourth Lord Livingston, Alexander was regarded by some as the first minister to be inducted into a charge in the Reformed (Protestant) Church of Scotland in December, 1560.

He was the son of Master James Livingston slain at the Battle of Pinkie, 10th September 1547, the event as prophesied by Thomas the Rhymer (Thomas Rimor de Ercildoun [modern day Earlston] c1210 -c1294) 

"There shall the Lion lose the gylte,
                                          And shall the Libbards bear it clean away:
                                              At Pinkie Cleuch there shall be spilt
                                                    Much gentil bluid that day."

In addition to the death of his father, his cousin John, heir to the Lordship of Livingston also fell that day.  John had led a party of vassals from the Falkirk area into the battle, many of whom were among the thousands of Scots who lost their lives.

Descended from such stock as they, the boldness and resolution of Alexander and his immediate successors in the Church`s service would seem to have been assured.

In 1547, he married Barbara Livingston of Kilsyth, a grand daughterof William Livingston, fourth of Kilsyth.

As Rector of Monyabroch, in 1560/1561, Alexander had to share the privations that were the lot of his contemporaries at the time.  The stipend had been ten chalders of meal prior to the Reformation, but this had been greatly reduced.  He had been obliged to feu away half his glebe for the annual sum of five shillings and two pence.  The greed of the landlords, demanding five sixths of the Church`s property resulted in this outpouring from John Knox,

"Well if the end of this order be happy, my judgement fails me.  I see two parts given to the devil, and the third part must be divided between God and the devil."

Eventually some of the stolen property was returned, but for several years the hardship to Livingston and his like persisted.

His pastorship of Monyabroch continued and in 1589 he was appointed by the Privy Council as one of the commissioners to oversee the maintenance of the Protestant Government and religion in Stirlingshire.

His advanced age and infirmity caught up with him, and by the year 1591 he could not preach and his failure to
`exercise discipline,` became a cause for concern for the Presbytery. He was advised to seek an assistant, but it was three more years before steps were taken to assist him in this respect.  The Presbytery informed the Synod but no action was taken.  It would seem the responsibility of this body was abdicated under the pretext that his son, William, studying at Glasgow University, would be able to help him discharge his parochial duties.

During this period he was charged to persuade his near relative, Lady Livingston of the House of Callendar to appear before the Glasgow Presbytery
`on pain of excommunication; that the lady may be won to God.`  

The lady`s opinions were contrary to those of the Reformers, and her determination to adhere to the old rites and observances was treated as a scandal by the elders of the kirk.

With his age and experience, coupled with the family connection, Livingston was looked upon as the ideal person for negotiating such a delicate manner.

A mood of trepidation, bordering on paranoia, had gripped the Reformers that the influence of the Roman Church was still prevailing within the Establishment.  The threat to the achievements of the Reformation was real and as such was eating away at the self confidence of the Kirk.

To off-set this, the Church began an all-out campaign to bring those reluctant to conform to heel with all the means at their disposal.  Intransigence reigned on both sides of the divide it seemed.

Helenor Hay, Lady Livingston was prominent among those determined to hold on to the old faith.

Helenor, the elder daughter of the Eighth Earl of Erroll, was the wife of Alexander, Seventh Lord Livingston of Callendar and First Earl of Linlithgow.  Her brother, the Ninth Earl of Erroll had previously fallen fould of the Kirk by openly agitating for a return to Roman Catholicism, and had even gone as far as communicating with the King of Spain.  This open defiance led him into conflict with the forces of the Crown that resulted in him being captured and tried.  he was forced into exile as a consequence.  Thjis did nothing for his sister`s cause.  It steeled the Kirk`s resolve.

She had been designated by her presbyterian persecutors as
`Helenor Hay, Mistress of Levingstoun, a malicious Papist.`   

She had, however, a powerful ally in King James Vl who had entrusted into her care his infant daughter, Princess Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was later to marry Frederick, the Elector Palatine.  The present British Royal Family being traced from this source.

The King explained that his daughter was in the care of Lord Livingston, himself a
`man of good religion,` but this did not satisfy the General Assembly who continued to protest that she was being brought up `in the companie of professed, avowed, and obstinate papists, such as Ladie Levingstoun.` 

The King relented and promised to remove Elizabeth from their care, but this he failed to do, and to aggravate the situation, he further allowed his other daughter Margaret to join Elizabeth in their keeping.  Much earlier in her life, Helenor Hay had the honour of being a governess to the young Mary, Queen of Scots.

For his part, Lord Livingston was exempted by the order from the Privy Council on 28th January, 1600 from attending all raids, wars and gatherings on account of
`his majestie having been pleased to burden Alexander, Lord Levingstoun with the keipping, education, and the upbringing of the Princessis, His Heynes darrest dochters.`

The end result of the King`s entrustment of the care of his two daughters to Lord Livingston was Lady Livingston`s lasting bitter persecution and many years spent as
`a hunted partridge.`

Alexander Livingston was prevailed upon numerous occasions to summon her before the Presbytery but on each occasion she flatly refused to attend.

Eventually every minister, including Livingston, was ordered to denounce her from the pulpits that she was excommunicated.  Livingston, somewhat reluctant, was forced to do so under pain of deposition.

The minister of Falkirk, Adam Bellenden in whose parish Callendar House was situated, was called upon to report on Lady Livingston`s behaviour.

In his reply, the minister stated,
".....she has never kept any one of the said conditions, but rather it appears that the delay of the Kirk has wrought in her a greater obstinacy and contempt of the evangell."

She was also accused of harbouring Jesuits in `ye plaice of Callendar besyd Falkirk` and among other heinous offences, having at the head of her bed, `monuments of Idolatrie,` and a `beanfyr ye plaice odf callendar on midsomer evin last.`

Despite her excommunication, Lady Livingston lived out her days defiant to the end until her death in 1627, although this assertion would seem to be challenged when John Livingston, Alexander`s grandson and temporary minister at Torphichen  later recorded.

" August 1627, I got letters from the Countess of Wigton from Cumbernauld that I would come hither to be present with her mother the Countess of Linlithgow, who was dying, and had been all her days a papist, but some while before had quit it."

Four months after the edict from the pulpits proclaiming Lady Livingston`s excommunication, the Presbytery summoned Alexander Livingston to appear before it on the 4th July, 1597.  Here he was told of his deposement `...inability in your person of spiritual graces to teach the kirk and for inability to use discipline in said kirk..`

He did not contest the decision that terminated in the words, `simplicitor and forever.`  It would seem that the dismissal was not unexpected for a year earlier on the 16th March, 1596 it was asserted by the Presbytery that, ` to Monyabroch, neither exercise or discipline is keepit by him.`

Alexander Livingston died soon afterwards.

It had been suggested that the commissioning of him, already near the end of his life, to pursue Lady Livingston was tactless on the part of the Presbytery.  To expect him to fulfill the public humiliation of his near relative was naive in the extreme, and it was no wonder the exercise failed.  His total commitment to the task was questionable.


[An abridged version of the book by John P Stewart]