Scheves, William (DNB00)

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SCHEVEZ or SCHIVES, WILLIAM (d. 1497), archbishop of St. Andrews, is supposed to have descended from a family that adopted the name from the estate of Schevez in Aberdeenshire. One John de Schevez was clerk to James I in 1426, and may have been the patron through whose influence William Schevez was introduced to the court. Schevez was educated at Louvain under Spiricus the astrologer, and, according to Dempster, ‘he made such progress in astrology, theology, and medicine that he had scarcely his equal in France or Britain.’ His name appears in a charter by James III in 1459, when he is described as archdeacon of St. Andrews; but in a later document he is referred to as ‘formerly Master of the Hospital of St. Mary of Brechin,’ an office inferior to that of the archdeaconry, and probably his first official post. Schevez had become a favourite with James III through his knowledge of astrology, and the king appointed him archdeacon against the advice of Patrick Graham [q. v.], first archbishop of St. Andrews. This opposition made Schevez the enemy of Graham, and it is said that he forged accusations against the archbishop, and ultimately by a bribe of eleven thousand merks induced the king to have Graham suspended from his office. In 1477 Schevez signed himself as ‘Coadjutor of St. Andrews’ when witnessing a charter. He continued his machinations against Graham, and at length Sixtus IV issued a mandate empowering Schevez to depose Graham, who was confined in various prisons and died in 1478. Schevez was raised to the archbishopric and invested with the pall at Holyrood House in 1478, and on 4 Dec. of that year attested a charter as ‘Archbishop of St. Andrews, in the first year of our consecration.’ Before this time he had been frequently chosen by James III as ambassador to foreign courts, visiting England twice in 1476 as commissioner to arrange the dowry of Princess Cecilia, daughter of Edward IV, who was betrothed to James Stewart, duke of Rothesay [q. v.]; and during the remainder of his life Schevez was often sent on political missions to England, France, and Rome. Though he had received many favours from the king, he entered into conspiracy with the nobles against James III, and latterly supported the prince (afterwards James IV) when the revolt occurred which led to the death of the king on the field of Sauchieburn. Schevez retained his power under the new king, and was also employed by him as ambassador. He undertook his last journey in April 1491, when he had a safe-conduct from Henry VII for himself and retinue, to continue in force for one year. It seems likely that he then visited the continent, as an astronomer, Jasper Loet de Borchloen, dedicated to Schevez a work descriptive of the eclipse of 8 May 1491, and referred to him as ‘proficient in every kind of literature.’ Schevez left no writings that have survived. His death took place on 28 Jan. 1496–7, and he was buried before the high altar in the cathedral of St. Andrews. When the area of this ruined cathedral was cleared in 1826 three stone coffins were found, supposed to be those of Schevez and two other archbishops, but they appear to belong to a much earlier period. Henry Schevez, brother of the archbishop, was proprietor of Kilquiss, Fifeshire, previous to 1467, and founded the family of Schevez of Kemback, which became extinct about 1667. William Schevez is invariably described by historians as a scheming, time-serving prelate, who obtained ascendency over James III by astrological quackery.

[Lyon's Hist. of St. Andrews, i. 235, 238–44; Keith's Catalogue of Bishops, p. 20; Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, vol. iv.; Reg. Mag. Sig. 1426–90; Gordon's Scoti-chronicon, i. 232 et seq.; Millar's Fife, Pictorial and Historical, i. 171, 291.]

A. H. M.