acceded, and Alexander Vaux, bishop of Galloway, having resigned in his favour, Spens was promoted to that see. He first appeared as a lord of parliament in 1451, when in July he attested the great series of charters, marking the restoration of William Douglas, eighth earl of Douglas [q. v.], to the royal favour. In July 1451 Spens was one of the commissioners for arranging a treaty of peace with England, for which he had a three months' safe-conduct (5 July); the negotiations took place in August, at St. Nicholas Church, Newcastle, where the treaty was ratified on the 24th of that month (Rymer, Fœdera, x. 286–7). On 1 Sept. he attested at Falkland charters of James II to the bishop and chapter of Brechin, and apparently followed the court during the winter months to Stirling and Edinburgh (cf. Reg. Mag. Sigillum Scotiæ, passim). On 29 Oct. 1451 Henry VI gave him and twelve companions a year's safe-conduct to enable them to go on pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury and other holy places in England (Rymer, x. 303). In October 1452 he witnessed a charter granted to Thomas Lauder, bishop of Dunkeld. After that date, until 30 April 1458, he was chiefly on the continent, acting in behalf of the Scottish princesses (Michel, Les Écossais en France). He was present at Gannat in the Bourbonnais, with the French king, when Annabella's engagement to Louis, count of Geneva, was broken off. She returned to Scotland under the care of Spens, reaching Kirkcudbright in the spring of 1458.
Spens was now appointed chamberlain of Galloway (Excheq. Rolls) and keeper of the privy seal, and on the death of Ingelram de Lindsay in 1459 was translated to Aberdeen, when he resigned the keepership of the privy seal (Reg. Mag. Sig.; cf. Brady, Episc. Succession, i. 158). There is great difficulty in determining the exact date of his consecration. On 16 April 1459 he witnessed the charter granted by Mary of Gueldres founding Trinity College Church, Edinburgh (Holyrood Charters, pp. 146, &c.), and the same summer he presided over the general council held at Perth on 19 July, being ex officio conservator of the Scottish church. On 2 June 1460 he received a safe-conduct for himself and the bishop of Glasgow to go to York, Durham, Newcastle, or other convenient place on matters connected with the truce (Rymer, ix. 453, x. 453, 476). At Aberdeen Cathedral on 3 Feb. 1461 he examined and confirmed all the donations and annexations made to the common fund of the chapter (Reg. Aberd. V. ii. 85), and on 19 March confirmed the privileges of the common churches, granting also to the canons, &c., exemption from mortuary and testamentary dues. In a safe-conduct granted by Edward IV on 24 Sept. 1461 he was included with other Scottish ambassadors on a diplomatic errand (Rymer, p. 476). On 25 June 1463 he had a year's safe-conduct from Edward IV for himself and James Lyndsay, cantor of Moray, &c., and seems to have been absent from Scotland for some time (ib. x. 504). Boece states that after his translation to Aberdeen he had incurred the animosity of Edward IV through his efforts to aid Henry VI, and that Edward offered a reward for his capture. Accordingly, when on his way to Flanders on a mission to Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, he was chased by English pirates, and only escaped to be wrecked on the Dutch coast. In miserable plight, he made his way to the Duke of Burgundy, who received him magnificently, and agreed to various concessions in favour of Scottish merchants. At Bruges he learned of an assassination conspiracy against Edward IV, in which two of his chamberlains and certain exiled nobles at Bruges were concerned. Going straight to the English court, Spens laid his information before Edward, who, completely conciliated, gave him an annual allowance of a thousand rose nobles. The bishop returned to Bruges, where he received orders from James III to bring home his brother, the Duke of Albany, then resident in Gueldres [see Stewart, Alexander, (1454?–1485)]. Spens paid a special visit to the English court to obtain a passport for the duke to Scotland. Securing an armed escort, they sailed in two vessels, but when within twenty miles from the Scottish shores they encountered five English warships on their way south from Ultima Thule. The English at once attacked and took the Scottish ships. The bishop was thrown into chains, and, with the Duke of Albany, carried to London (Boece). Edward IV treated both prisoners with every mark of friendship, and, contrary to the advice of some of his nobles, set them at liberty, with their companions and the two ships. On Spens's return to Scotland James III sent him back on an embassy to England, requesting that the treaty of peace between the two nations might be extended and placed on a more secure basis.
Spens had thus gained the cordial esteem of the French, English, and Scottish kings, and ‘his pre-eminent honesty, his ripe sagacity, and his marvellous general ability’ made him ‘one of the most trusted advisers of all the three.’ To him was chiefly due the meeting between Edward IV and Louis XI at the bridge of Pecquigny, near Amiens, and also the unbroken peace between James III and Edward IV. In October 1464 he was