Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kennedy, James (1406?-1465)

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KENNEDY, JAMES (1406?–1465), bishop of St. Andrews, was third and youngest son of Sir James Kennedy of Dunure, Ayrshire, by Lady Mary (Stewart), countess of Angus, and daughter of Robert III. His eldest brother was Gilbert, first lord Kennedy. James was born about 1406, and was sent to the continent to complete his studies in canon law and theology. In 1437 he was preferred to the bishopric of Dunkeld, and he was consecrated in 1438. He set himself to reform abuses, and attended the general council of Florence, in order to obtain authority from Pope Eugenius IV for his contemplated reforms. Eugenius did not encourage him in his schemes, but gave him the presentation to the abbacy of Scone in commendam. While he was at Florence, Henry Wardlaw, bishop of St. Andrews, died (6 April 1440), and upon his return to Scotland in 1441 he was installed in the see. He celebrated his first mass in his cathedral of St. Andrews 30 Sept. 1442, and at once resumed his efforts in reform. During the minority of James II, Kennedy took a leading part in political affairs, and was frequently able to reconcile contending noblemen. He was made chancellor in May 1444 after the expulsion of Sir William Crichton [q. v.], but resigned the office a few weeks later on finding that his duties interfered with his ecclesiastical work. When the schism in the papacy assumed a very critical character, Kennedy undertook a journey to Rome with the intention of promoting a reconciliation. He obtained a safe-conduct through England from Henry VI, dated 28 May 1446 (see Rymer, Fœdera, xi. 128). His efforts were unsuccessful, and he probably soon returned home. Another safe-conduct for himself and others ‘coming to England,’ dated 20 May 1455 (ib. p. 365), probably marks the termination of another visit to the continent. In 1450 he founded St. Salvator's College in St. Andrews, endowing it liberally with the teinds of four parishes that had formerly belonged to the bishopric. His foundation was confirmed by Pope Nicholas V by a bull dated 27 Feb. 1451, and a few years later some alterations made in the foundation-charter received the approval of Pope Pius II by bulls dated 13 Sept. and 21 Oct. 1458. Shortly afterwards Kennedy established the Grey Friars monastery in St. Andrews. He also built a large vessel called the Saint Salvator, which was frequently used by royal personages, and regarded as a marvel, until it was wrecked near Bamborough while on a voyage to Flanders in 1472. After the death of James II in 1460, Kennedy was chosen one of the seven regents during the minority of James III, and to him was committed not only the charge of the kingdom, but the pacification of the nobles associated with him in the government. He died on 10 May 1465. The date is usually given as 1466, but a charter belonging to the abbey of Arbroath, dated 13 July 1465, speaks of him as lately deceased, and of his see as vacant (Liber S. Thome de Aberbrothoc—Regist. Nigr. 1329–1536, pp. 144–5). Kennedy was buried in a magnificent tomb which he had caused to be built in St. Salvator's Chapel. He had, it is believed, procured the design and materials from Italy. The ruins are still visible. In 1683 Kennedy's tomb was opened, and there were found hidden in it six splendidly decorated maces secreted there at the time of the Reformation. Three of these were retained at St. Andrews, while the others were presented to the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen. It is stated by Bishop Lesley that Kennedy's college, ship, and monument each cost an amount equivalent to 300,000l. in modern money. Kennedy was highly esteemed during his lifetime, both as an ecclesiastic and a politician. Even George Buchanan says that he excelled all his predecessors and successors in the see, and praises his zeal for reform.

Kennedy is said to have left behind him several treatises. The only titles preserved are ‘Historia sui Temporis’ and ‘Monita Politica.’

[Notes and Queries, 5th ser. iii. 181–2; Crawfurd's Officers of State, p. 31; Spotiswood's History; Gordon's Scotichronicon, i. 213; Bishop Lesley's Historie of Scotland, p. 37; Theiner's Vetusta Monumenta, p. 382; Reg. Mag. Sig.]

A. H. M.