Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/390

This page has been validated.
Spens
Spenser
384

present at the parliament held by James III at Edinburgh. On 28 March of this year he was included in a year's safe-conduct (repeated on 8 Sept.) with other ambassadors to confer as to the treaty of peace with England; the negotiations came to a close at the end of the year (Rymer, x. 541). In 1468 he was reappointed keeper of the privy seal, and held the office to 1471. In September 1471 he was engaged at Alnwick in treating with English commissioners for a permanent peace, and the suppression of the incessant raiding on the borders (ib. x. 716, 749). Next year negotiations were resumed, and a truce was proclaimed on 25 May 1472, and on 28 Sept. 1473 a treaty was signed (ib. p. 758). When in the course of the same year Sixtus IV elevated St. Andrews into a metropolitan see, in opposition to that of York, Spens obtained, on 14 Feb. 1473–4, a papal bull exempting his diocese for his lifetime from the jurisdiction of the new metropolitan. In 1474 he was engaged in negotiating the betrothal of the infant Prince James (afterwards James IV) with the Princess Cecilia, youngest daughter of Edward IV (ib. pp. 814 seq.). The terms of the betrothal, with a treaty of peace between the two kingdoms, were solemnly agreed to in the Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh, on 26 Oct. 1474. Thereupon Spens's diplomatic career closed (cf. Rymer, x. 850).

Meanwhile the bishop did not neglect either the duties of his diocese or home politics. When in Scotland he was always sedulous in his attendance at parliament, and until 4 Oct. 1479 was almost invariably elected a ‘lord of the articles.’ As a lord of council in civil causes, he was equally attentive to his public duties. To St. Machar's Cathedral at Aberdeen Spens was a munificent benefactor. In pursuance of the work carried on by his predecessors, he filled the windows with stained glass, set up the stalls in the choir, the bishop's throne, and richly carved tabernacle work over the high altar, to which, besides some gifts, he presented a frontal with his effigy, arms, and title embroidered on it. He rebuilt the bishop's palace, and founded a chaplaincy, latterly incorporated with King's College, as well as (in 1479) St. Mary's Hospital at Leith Wynd, Edinburgh, for twelve bedesmen. He was a wise and patriotic churchman, and the friend of peace both at home and abroad in an age of strife and civil dissension. His activity is proved by the existence of over four hundred charters under the great seal to which he was a witness; many others are lost or damaged.

Spens's death at Edinburgh on 14 April 1480 is said to have been hastened by the threatened outbreak of hostilities he had long laboured to avert. He was interred the next day in the collegiate church of the Holy Trinity, founded by Mary of Gueldres twenty-one years previously. The last rites were attended by James III, six bishops, and a large concourse of the nobility. There is an effigy of Bishop Spens at Roslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, and an engraving is extant, representing him with crozier and mitre.

[Acta Parl. Scot.; Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot.; Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer; Exchequer Rolls; Rotuli Scotiæ; Cart. Sanctæ Crucis; Epis. Register and Inventory of Aberdeen; Rymer's Fœdera; Boece's Lives of the Bishops of Aberdeen; Keith's Catalogue; Leslie's Hist. of Scotland; Michel's Les Ecossais en France; Chron. of Enguerrand de Monstrelet; Stevenson's Letters and Papers illustrative of the Wars between England and France, &c.]

W. G.

SPENSER. [See also Despenser and Spencer.]

SPENSER, EDMUND (1552?–1599), poet, was a Londoner by birth. ‘Merry London’ he described as

                   ‘my most kindly nurse
That to me gave this life's first native source,
Though from another place I take my name,
An house of ancient fame’

(Prothalamion). His father migrated to London from the neighbourhood of Burnley in north-east Lancashire, not far from the foot of Pendle Hill. As early as the close of the thirteenth century there was a freehold held by a Spenser at Hurstwood in the township of Worsthorne, some three miles to the south-east of Burnley. This seems to have been the original settlement of the family, and its head in the reign of Elizabeth bore the Christian name of Edmund. This Edmund Spenser died in 1587, having been twice married, and leaving a son John by each wife; both of these John Spensers had sons named Edmund. In course of time Spensers settled in other places in the vicinity. Lawrence (a name which the poet gave one of his sons) resided in the poet's lifetime at Filly Close, where a farm is still known as Spenser's; Robert and John Spenser lived in 1586 at Habergham Eaves, near Townley Hall; one John Spenser was a farmer at the time, at Downham, near Clitheroe. The poet's hereditary connection with the Burnley district is corroborated by his dialect. We find many traces of the north-eastern Lancashire vocabulary and way of speaking in the ‘Shepherd's Calendar’ and other of his early pieces (cf. Grosart, i. 408–21). Spenser's Lancashire kinsmen held their own with the Towneleys, the Nowells, and other old families of the district. Law-