Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gordon, William (d.1577)

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673334Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 22 — Gordon, William (d.1577)1890James Cooper

GORDON, WILLIAM (d. 1577), last pre-reformation bishop of Aberdeen, was fourth son of Alexander Gordon, third earl of Huntly [q. v.], by his wife Johanna Stewart, daughter of John, earl of Atholl, and was uncle of George Gordon, fourth earl of Huntly [q. v.] who fell in 1562 at Corrichie. Educated first at Aberdeen and afterwards at Paris, he obtained on taking orders the rectory of Clatt, Aberdeenshire, and chancellorship of Moray. An effort to have him consecrated as coadjutor to William Stewart, bishop of Aberdeen, came to nothing, but on the death of that prelate (1545) he was nominated his successor, through the influence of Cardinal Beaton, and was consecrated in 1546. In the autumn of 1552 he was at Paris on public business, but he took no active part in politics. While he was bishop the church of Scotland was converted from Roman catholicism to protestantism. At first Gordon resisted the conversion, but he did not persevere. The dean and chapter of Aberdeen exhorted him (January 1558) 'for reformation to be made, and stanching of heresies pullulant within the diocie of Aberdeen … to shew good example … in special in removing … the gentlewoman by whom he was greatly slandered … without which being done,' they add, 'divers that are partners' (in similar guilt) 'say they cannot accept correction of one who will not correct himself.' Thirteen years later Gordon, with consent of his chapter, granted a charter of lands to Janet Knowles (probably the gentlewoman aforesaid) and to six persons who bear his surname, and were certainly his children. He made some efforts to protect the cathedral plate and jewels, and many of his alienations of the lands and revenues of the see were perhaps meant only to put them in safe keeping till the storm had blown over. He survived the Reformation (1560) seventeen years till his death, and exercised the temporal functions of his office. He gave charters of church lands, and sat in the Scottish parliament of 1567. When he died (6 Aug. 1577) he was buried in his cathedral. He was immediately succeeded by David Cunningham, sub-dean of Glasgow, the first protestant bishop of Aberdeen, who was consecrated 11 Nov. 1577. Spotiswood says of Gordon that 'he gave hopes at first of a virtuous man, but afterwards turned a very epicure, spending all his time in drinking and whoring.'

[Regist.Ep. Aberdon.; Cart. Eccles. S. Nicholai Aberdon.; Leslie; Spotiswood; Grub's Eccl Hist. of Scotland; Keith's Catalogue, &c.]

J. C.