The political works of John Lesley, Bishop of Ross (1527-96)
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John Lesley saw himself as a humanist, devoted to the common weal and especially to his Queen; to others he was `a busie man', `seed-man of all treasons'. Educated in the Renaissance Scotland of James V and trained in France for a career in the law and the Church, he was `a great doer' with Queen Mary and, briefly, at the heart of government in Scotland, as Lord of Session, Bishop and trusted Counsellor. In 1568 his priorities were transformed. Charged with defending Mary's innocence at York and her interests at the court of Elizabeth, he failed to secure her rehabilitation in Scotland or her release from England. What he could not do in court by his pleading he attempted to do, covertly, by his pen, in an attempt to convince the English nobility and the Spanish King that Mary was Elizabeth's natural heir, in no way disqualified by her own character and conduct or her gender or by English laws of succession. These three topics and Lesley's handling of them are discussed in Chapters Two to Four. Chapter One uses his own, often mutually contradictory, accounts of these years to indicate the circumstances in which his polemic, and the Histories discussed in Chapter Six, were composed. Chapter Five argues that A Treatise of Treasons should not be ascribed to him. In the past century, Lesley has attracted little notice, usually overshadowed by stronger or more flamboyant characters; from his writings, Mary's `learned and most faithful servant' can appear to have the consistency of a chameleon. This study is concerned with his political works, in Latin, Scots and English; it tries to explain those discrepancies which it cannot reconcile, and to examine Lesley's ideas, and their influence, on political issues which included resistance, union with England and the rights of women.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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