Gilbert of Moray (DNB00)

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GILBERT of Moray (d. 1245), bishop of Caithness, and the last Scotsman enrolled in the Kalendar of Saints, was a member of the noble family of Moray, and son of William, lord of Duffus and Strabrook, who had vast estates in the north. Fordun (bk. viii. ch. xxvi.), in his account of the council of Northampton in 1176, gives at length the speech of a young canon named Gilbert, who defended with great eloquence the rights of the church of Scotland. It has been sought by Bower, Spotiswood, and others to identify this Gilbert with the bishop of Caithness; but it is absurd to suppose that if, as they say, he thus made a brilliant reputation, he would have waited nearly half a century for a bishopric. After a good religious and secular education, Gilbert became archdeacon of Moray, in which capacity his name occurs in several charters dated between 1203 and 1221 (given with facsimiles in Registrum de Moravia). He was elected bishop of Caithness by the assent of all the clergy and people in 1223. It does not appear that he was ever, as has been asserted, chamberlain of Scotland, for he is never mentioned with that title in the charters which he granted or witnessed, nor does any chamberlain named Gilbert appear in any authentic document till long after St. Gilbert's death. Probably, however, he administered the property of the crown in the north, and was employed in the guardianship and repair of castles. Through the position which he thus held and through the influence of his family he was able to play a great part in civilising his province, winning popularity where his two predecessors had both been murdered. He built the cathedral of Dornoch at his own cost, and drew up for its chapter a constitution, preserved in the records of his bishopric. According to Dempster (vii. 663) he wrote ‘Exhortationes ad ecclesiam suam,’ and ‘De libertate Scotiæ.’ He died on 1 April 1245; he was soon afterwards canonised, and was held in great reverence till the Reformation.

[Kalendar of Scottish Saints, p. 355; Breviary of Aberdeen; Registrum de Moravia, p. xliii, all published by the Bannatyne Club; Records of the Bishopric of Caithness in Bannatyne Miscellany, vol. iii.]

C. L. K.