Primrose, Gilbert (DNB00)

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PRIMROSE, GILBERT, D.D. (1580?–1641), divine, born about 1580, was son of Gilbert Primrose, principal surgeon to James VI, and Alison Graham, his wife. The family belonged to Culross, Perthshire, and his father was elder brother of Archibald Primrose, from whom the earls of Rosebery descend. Gilbert was educated at St. Andrews University, where he took the degree of M.A. He then went to France, and was received as a minister of the reformed church there. His first charge was at Mirambeau, Charente-Inférieure, from which he was transferred in 1603 to the church of Bordeaux.

Primrose was not unmindful of the country from which he came, and it was mainly through his influence that John Cameron (1579?–1625) [q. v.], the great theologian, was made regent in the new college of Bergerac. The national synod of the reformed church, which met at Rochelle in March 1607, and of which Primrose was a member, appointed him to wait upon John Welsh [q. v.] and other Scots ministers who had been banished, and to inquire into their circumstances, with the view of rendering them such pecuniary help as might be necessary. At this synod Primrose presented letters from King James and from the magistrates and ministers of Edinburgh, recalling him home to serve the church in that city. The synod entreated him to consider the interests of his present charge, ‘which, by his most fruitful preaching and exemplary godly conversation, had been exceedingly edified;’ and he was induced to remain at Bordeaux. In the latter part of the same year he visited Britain, when he was commissioned by the reformed congregation at Rochelle to ask King James to set at liberty Andrew Melville [q. v.], who was then a prisoner in the Tower of London, and to allow him to accept a professorship in their college. The request was refused, and the application gave offence to the French court. On his return Primrose was called before the king of France, and the people of Rochelle were reprimanded for communicating with a foreign sovereign without the knowledge or consent of their own.

In 1608 John Cameron became Primrose's colleague at Bordeaux, and they ‘lived on the most cordial terms and governed the church with the greatest concord for ten years,’ when Cameron left for a professorship at Saumur. In the end of 1615 and beginning of 1616 the church at Bordeaux was closed on account of the action of the government towards the reformed congregation, and the ministers were sent away to insure their safety; but they were recalled and resumed their duties when matters became more settled.

In 1623 an act was passed forbidding ministers of other nations to officiate in France, and at the national synod which met at Charenton in September of that year the royal commissioner presented letters from the French king intimating that Primrose and Cameron were no longer to be employed, ‘not so much because of their birth as foreigners as for reasons of state.’ Deputies were sent to the king to intercede on their behalf, but he would only consent to their remaining in France on the condition that they should resign their offices. Primrose was obliged to quit the country. His banishment was mainly due to the jesuits, to whom he had given special offence.

On returning to London, he was chosen one of the ministers of the French church founded in the time of Edward VI, an appointment which he held till his death; and he was also made chaplain-in-ordinary to James I.

On 18 Jan. 1624–5 he was incorporated in the university of Oxford, receiving the degree of D.D. on the same day on the recommendation of the king, ample testimony having been borne to his high character and eminence as a theologian. Four years later his royal patron, with whom he was a great favourite, preferred him to a canonry of Windsor. He died in London in October or November 1642. An engraved portrait of Primrose is mentioned by Bromley. He had four sons—James (d. 1659) [q. v.], David, Stephen, and John.

His published works were: 1. ‘Le vœu de Jacob opposé aux vœux de Moines,’ 4 vols., Bergerac, 1610; translated into English by John Bultiel, London, 1617. 2. ‘La Trompette de Sion’ (18 sermons), Bergerac, 1610, of which a Latin edition was published at Danzig in 1631. 3. ‘La Defense de la Religion Reformée,’ Bergerac, 1619. 4. ‘Panegyrique à très grand et très puissant Prince Charles, Prince de Galles,’ Paris, 1624. 5. ‘The Christian Man's Tears and Christ's Comforts,’ London, 1625. 6. ‘Nine Sermons,’ London, 1625. 7. ‘The Table of the Lord,’ London, 1626.

[Wodrow's Lives in MSS. Univ. of Glasgow; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Quick's Synodicon; m'Crie's Life of Andrew Melville; Wood's Fasti, i. 419; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.]

G. W. S.