The Scottish Reformation


In 2010, Edinburgh celebrated Hogmanay with a theme of "reformation, renewal & resolution". It also celebrated the 450th anniversary of The Scottish Reformation. It was the banning of Celebrating Christmas post-Reformation that led to the celebration of Hogmanay in Edinburgh at New Year.

Religion played an important part in the lives of the people in education, health, welfare, and discipline. The Reformation is referred to as one of the most important and controversial points in Scottish history as it transformed Scotland from Catholic to Protestant. It forbade holding Mass, approved the Protestant religion, and revolted against French control.

Lutheran books began to appear in Scotland in the early 1500's and many Scots were impressed with their messages. King James V tried to ban their distribution, but they managed to get through the censor. At this time, Scotland was a Catholic nation. In England, King Henry VIII converted to Protestantism and James V flirted with the idea so that the Pope would grant him tax concessions to remain connected to the Roman Catholic Church. This supported the extravagant lifestyle of the nobility.

In 1535, Henry VIII had been excommunicated from Rome. England's religious moves were linked to political ones as they tried to entice Scotland away from its ties to France and Rome. King James V died in 1542 leaving infant daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, as heir to the throne.

Henry decided that the marriage of his son Edward to Mary would help to get power of Scotland. The match was approved by the Treaties of Greenwich, however Scotland was not impressed. Cardinal Beaton denied the consideration of an English marriage. England responded with the "Rough Wooing" in 1544. The English continually invaded, and defeated the Scots army at the Battle of Pinkie, trying to force Mary's hand. They occupied south-east Scotland, which helped to encourage the reforming cause. The Scots secured help from the French on the promise of betrothal of the Queen to the French dauphin, and stopped the English at Ancrum Moor in February 1545. With the betrothal of the Queen, some feared that Scotland would become a French province. At the time, England was Protestant, France was Catholic.

In 1546, Cardinal Beaton had preacher George Wishart executed. Rebels seized Beaton's castle and murdered him. They were joined by rebel priest John Knox, who would become a large figure in the Reformation. They held out in the castle until 1547 when they were forced to surrender by a French squadron.

While Mary, Queen of Scots, left for France, Scotland was under regime of her mother, the regent Mary of Guise, from 1554-1559. The French were put in charge of the treasury, the Great Seal, and the Privy Council was occasionally attended by the French Ambassador. Mary of Guise needed to maintain the support of the pro-French policies, as they would have no help from England. England was now being ruled by a Catholic Queen, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII. Mary Queen of Scots married the dauphin in 1558, which heightened fears of Scotland becoming a French province.

Local communities sought out Protestant ministers as plans for the Reformation emerged. In 1558, the Regent called for Protestant preachers to answer for their teachings, but backed down on the threat of revolt. As Queen Elizabeth rose to the throne in England, hope was again granted to the reformers, as she was Protestant.

In May 1559, Mary of Guise summoned the Protestant preachers to Stirling. The preachers were accompanied by the men of Angus. They were joined by the Lords of Congregation and John Knox. The mob took religious houses along the way. The Regent was forced to withdraw and negotiate after another group of reformers arrived from the west. Edinburgh also fell to the rebels, and Mary retreated to Dunbar. She was reinforced there by French troops and drove the rebels back to Stirling. The protestant rebels received help from an English fleet in the Firth of Forth in January 1560, causing the French to retreat to Leith. Negotiations began.

The Treaty of Berwick was an agreement between the Lords of Congregation and the English to join together to get rid of the French. Mary of Guise died in June 1560 resulting in the Treaty of Edinburgh which was a negotiation to withdrawal both French and English troops from Scotland. The French commissioners allowed the Scots certain privileges from King Francis and Queen Mary, including the right to summon a parliament according to custom. This left power in the hands of the Protestants.

The Scots Parliament met in Edinburgh July 10, 1560. In August, Parliament approved a Reformed Confession of Faith and three acts were passed that destroyed the old faith in Scotland. All previous acts that did not conform to the Confession were annulled. Knox influenced the reformed congregations. Local Protestant patrons helped to shape the church. It shares several themes of Catholic creeds, but rejected any meritorious virtue. It rejects all religious works that have no scriptural merit, including rites of the Roman Church. Sacraments were reduced to two and Mass was made punishable by severe penalties. Traditional functions of the old clergy were terminated, but the clerical estate remained legally intact. The Queen did not acknowledge the acts that were passed by Parliament, and they were not officially approved until the first parliament of King James VI in 1567. Scotland was now a Protestant State.

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