Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britain: From the Picts to Alexander III

By Dauvit Broun | Go to book overview

5

Whose Independence? Bishop Jocelin of
Glasgow (1175–99) and the Achievement of
Ecclesiastical Freedom

The ecclesiastical freedom of the Scottish kingdom had been secured for all time by Cum universi (usually dated to 1192, but 1189 should be seriously considered).1 This did not, however, take the usual form of recognising the kingdom as a province of the Church under its own archbishop. Instead, each bishop was directly answerable to Rome. What had been established was not an independent entity corresponding (roughly) to the kingdom, but a group of independent dioceses. In this chapter the origins of this unique arrangement will be explored. It will be argued that the kingdom's ecclesiastical freedom was very far from being inevitable: Cum universi can be regarded as the brainchild of one man, Bishop Jocelin of Glasgow, who may personally be credited with changing the course of Scotland's history by this achievement. An examination of his motives, however, shows that the issue of independence, both in a Scottish and an ecclesiastical context, was much less straightforward than has previously been imagined.

The key to the background of Cum universi and an appreciation of Bishop Jocelin's achievement is an understanding of the aspirations of the bishops of Glasgow and their clergy during the second half of the twelfth century. The most obvious source for this is the Life of Kentigern by the expert hagiographer, Jocelin of Furness, at the behest of his namesake, Bishop Jocelin of Glasgow (1175–99).2 There can be no doubt that Jocelin of Furness represented his patron's views, and presumably the views of the cathedral establishment, among whom he evidently spent some time while writing his work. There is also the account of St Kentigern's conception and birth written for Bishop Herbert (1147–64), often referred to as the ‘Fragmentary Life’.3 Another important source is the complete Office with Proper chants and readings for celebrating the feast of St Kentigern (13 January) preserved in a manuscript of the end of the thirteenth century known as the ‘Sprouston Breviary’.4 This allows

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