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Ross, Alexander (1647?-1720) (DNB00)

ROSS or ROSE, ALEXANDER (1647?–1720), bishop of Edinburgh, second son of Alexander Ross (d. 1678), afterwards minister of Monymusk, Aberdeenshire, was born at Kinnairney, Aberdeenshire, about 1647. His father, the elder brother of Arthur Ross [q. v.], married Anna, second daughter of John Forbes of Balfling Corsendae, by whom he had ten children. Rose graduated M.A. at King's College, Aberdeen, on 2 July 1667. He then seems to have gone to Glasgow, where his uncle Arthur was beneficed. Here he attended (1669–1670) the divinity lectures of Gilbert Burnet [q. v.] He was licensed by Glasgow presbytery in 1670, and, having been ordained in October 1672, he was admitted on 14 Dec. to the second charge in the Old Church of Perth. In 1678 he was translated to the first charge. He was poor, and had to aid in the support of his father's family, seven of whom were unprovided for. On 7 May 1683 he was demitted from Perth, having been elected to the divinity chair at Glasgow. From this point his preferments were rapid. He was soon promoted to be principal of St. Mary's College, St. Andrew's, and made D.D. On the death (11 Nov. 1686) of Colin Falconer, bishop of Moray, Rose was nominated by the king (17 Dec.) as his successor. The patent was issued on 7 April 1687, and Rose was consecrated at St. Andrews on 11 May. He held in commendam, as Falconer had done, the first charge in the collegiate church of Elgin. The see of Edinburgh had been vacated by the nomination (21 Jan. 1687) of John Paterson (1632–1708) [q. v.] to the archbishopric of Glasgow, in the place of Alexander Cairncross [q. v.] arbitrarily deprived. At the instance of Colin Lindsay, third earl of Balcarres [q. v.], Rose was nominated in the congé d'élire for Edinburgh. When the chapter met (22 Dec.) for the election, several members, headed by Andrew Cant (d. 1730), minister of Trinity collegiate Church, and grandson of Andrew Cant [q. v.], declared that they elected Rose only in compliance with the royal mandate. He was appointed on 22 Jan. 1688.

With the fall of James II, Rose became an important figure in ecclesiastical politics. On 3 Nov. 1688 the Scottish bishops met at Edinburgh, and drew up a loyal address to the king. A month later they commissioned Rose, with Andrew Bruce (d. 1700), bishop of Orkney, to go up to London in support of James's cause, and to confer with Sancroft on the position of affairs. Bruce's illness caused some delay. Rose took the journey alone, and, reaching London, found that James had fled.

Rose's account of the negotiations that followed is given in his letter of October 1713 to the nonjuring bishop, Archibald Campbell (d. 1744) [q. v.] He acted with unblemished propriety, but he was not the man to cope with the crisis. His position was isolated, and in the absence of instructions he would not speak for his party. The presbyterian interest was in the strong hands of William Carstares [q. v.], whom he does not seem to have approached. Sancroft told him the English bishops were too much perplexed about their own situation to be able to advise others. Francis Turner, bishop of Ely, did all he could for him. William Lloyd (1627–1717) [q. v.], bishop of St. Asaph, though a personal friend, showed him no sympathy. Hearing of the Cameronian outbreak at Christmas in the west of Scotland, Rose sought the interposition of William, through Burnet, who told him that he ‘did not meddle with Scottish affairs.’ Henry Compton (1632–1713) [q. v.], bishop of London, counselled a direct address to William. The same advice was urged by George Mackenzie, viscount Tarbat [q. v.], and other Scottish peers. It would have been necessary to congratulate William on coming to deliver the country from ‘popery and slavery.’ Rose neither felt authorised to do this, nor did it fall in with his own scruples. After the vote of abdication (28 Jan. 1689) he was for returning at once to Scotland, when he found a pass from William was necessary. Compton undertook to introduce him to William. He was accompanied to Whitehall by Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh [q. v.], who suggested a deputation from the Scottish nobility and gentry to wait upon William in the episcopalian interest. William declined to see more than two, lest the presbyterians should take umbrage. At the same time he intimated to Rose, through Compton, that he understood that the bulk of the Scottish nobility and gentry were for episcopacy. Next day Rose was admitted to see William, who hoped he would be ‘kind’ to him ‘and follow the example of England.’ Rose answered, ‘Sir, I will serve you so far as law, reason, or conscience will allow me.’ Upon this, ‘instantly the prince, without saying any more, turned away from me and went back to his company.’ The opportunity was lost. William Douglas, third duke of Hamilton [q. v.], who presided at the Scottish convention of estates, told Rose from William that ‘nothing should be done to the prejudice of episcopacy in Scotland, in case the bishops could by any means be brought to befriend his interest.’ At the opening of the convention (14 March 1689) Rose prayed for the safety and restoration of King James, a proceeding rebuked by resolution of the house. He did not sign the declaration (16 March) that the convention was a free and lawful meeting. The declaration (11 April) against prelacy was followed (13 April) by the enactment enjoining all ministers to pray for William and Mary. Refusing to transfer their allegiance, the Scottish bishops no longer took their seats in the convention, which became a parliament on 5 June. The act for the abolition of prelacy was passed on 22 July 1689; that for establishing presbyterian government on 7 June 1690.

The deprived bishops made no attempt to maintain their diocesan jurisdiction, but they remained faithful to their order, with the exception of John Gordon (1644–1726) [q. v.], the last survivor of the deprived hierarchy, who left the country, and ultimately became a Roman catholic. Of the thirteen others, only five were left at the death (13 June 1704) of the primate, Arthur Ross.

At this juncture the surviving bishops (practically four, as William Hay (d. 1707), bishop of Moray, was paralysed) resolved upon continuing the episcopal order by consecrating two clergymen selected by themselves, and without conveyance of jurisdiction or assignment of dioceses. It seems doubtful whether George Haliburton (1628–1715) [q. v.], bishop of Aberdeen, took any part in this measure. John Sage [q. v.] and John Fullarton (d. 1727) were consecrated, with great privacy, on 25 Jan. 1705, by Archbishop Paterson, Rose, and Robert Douglas (1625–1716), bishop of Dunblane, in an oratory within Paterson's house at Edinburgh. Rose, in the deed of Sage's consecration, describes himself as vicar-general of St. Andrews (‘sedis Sancti Andreæ nunc vacantis vicarii’), a claim which was not in accordance with ancient right. The vicarial powers of jurisdiction were exercised during a vacancy by the dean and chapter of St. Andrews, and by statute of 1617 the bishop of Dunkeld was vicar-general for convening the electing clergy. The statement that Rose further assumed the title of ‘primus Scotiæ episcopus’ is dismissed by Grub as groundless. On Paterson's death he had precedence of the remaining bishops, and the death of Douglas left him the sole prelate with right of jurisdiction. Hence he virtually possessed ‘an ecclesiastical authority in his own communion unlike anything which had been known in Scotland since the time of the first successors of St. Columba’ (Grub). He pursued the policy of consecrating bishops without jurisdiction, presiding at the consecration, on 28 June 1709, of John Falconer (d. 1723) and Henry Christie (d. 1718) in Douglas's house at Dundee. The subsequent consecrations of Archibald Campbell (d. 1744) [q. v.] at Dundee, 1711, in which Rose took part, and of James Gadderar [q. v.] in London, 1712, which Rose promoted, exhibit his strong sympathies with the English nonjurors, whose episcopal succession was continued by help of Campbell and Gadderar. When asked by Oxford divines, in 1710, whether the Scottish bishops were in communion with the established church of England, he characteristically replied that he could give no answer ‘without a previous conference with my brethren.’

Neither on occasion of the union (1707) nor of the rebellion of 1715 did Rose emerge into public politics. His quiet life was devoted to his clerical duties. He seems never to have used the Book of Common Prayer in his public services, though its use was legalised by the Toleration Act of 1712. James Greenshields (not a nonjuror), who in 1710 incurred a prosecution for introducing the English prayer-book at his chapel in Edinburgh, was not licensed by Rose. When consulted by Falconer about the validity of baptism by clergymen not episcopally ordained, he declined (July 1713) to express an opinion, recommending conditional baptism if any doubted the validity of their previous baptism. In the administration of the eucharist (held usually in private) he used the English communion office. When in 1712 George Seton, fifth earl of Wintoun, reprinted the Scottish office, and introduced it in his chapel at Tranent, it was against the strong remonstrances of Rose. Led by Falconer, he restored the rite of confirmation, practically disused in Scotland since the reformation. His last important official act was to preside at the consecration in Edinburgh (22 Oct. 1718) of Arthur Millar (d. 1727) and William Irvine (d. 1725). Rose died of apoplexy at Edinburgh on 20 March 1720, in his seventy-fourth year, and was buried amid the ruins of Restalrig church, near Edinburgh, a religious edifice dismantled by authority in 1560 as a monument of idolatry, and used as a burial-place by episcopalians, a service at the grave being prohibited in the city churchyards.

In person Rose was tall and graceful. He was a man of character, accomplishment, and respectable abilities, but of no great sagacity. Perhaps it was well for the peaceful conduct of affairs that those who opposed the presbyterian settlement had no more formidable ecclesiastic than Rose to direct them. So long as he lived, the studious moderation of his personal bearing preserved the unity of his communion; but his policy of creating bishops at large, dictated no doubt by a scrupulous reverence for the royal right of nomination to sees, proved a legacy of division and strife. He published only ‘A Sermon [Acts xxvi. 28] preached before … the Lords Commissioners of His Majesties … Privy Counsel, at Glasgow,’ &c., Glasgow, 1684, 4to.

[Hew Scott's Fasti Eccles. Scotic.; Keith's Historical Cat. (Russell), 1824; Lathbury's Hist. of the Nonjurors, 1845, pp. 412–66; Grub's Eccles. Hist. of Scotland, 1861, iii. 284 seq.]

A. G.