JAMES I, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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JAMES I (1566-1625). King of England, Scotland (as James VI) and Ireland.
Letter Signed ('James R' at the head) to Alexander Seton (1556-1622), lord chancellor of Scotland, 1 page folio with address-leaf, Theobalds, 12 November 1618. Asking him to investigate the claim of Donald Campbell to the Abbacy of Icolinekill and to restore its rent and profits to him during the life of his father, Alexander Campbell.

Alexander Campbell was the commendator of Iona Abbey from 1581 until 1615, when the abbey estates were annexed to the Bishopric of the Isles. It is unclear when he died, although he was still alive in 1619. His family had at various times been commendators of the Abbey lands, starting with Alexander's great grandfather, Eoin Campbell in 1499. They were a branch of the Campbell Earls of Argyll and had been used by the Earls to control the lucrative revenues of the abbey, although as clear from the letter, by 1618 these had been rendered relatively negligible.

The letter expresses Donald Campbell's efforts to reclaim control of the estates from the bishopric, back to his father Alexander so he might enjoy what was left of the income. He seems to have persuaded King James in his effort, on the promise that he will make the lands profitable and efficient again, from which the crown would benefit through its cut. James is keen for the lands not to come under direct crown control, using the delightful expression that 'it would be but a naked name without any commodity'.

However Donald's effort does not seem to have succeeded. This letter seems to express one of King James' more subtle political techniques. Instead of denying a plea given to him outright and potentially incurring his subjects' displeasure, James would often lightly agree and simply delegate the problem to his subordinates, knowing that they would have to eventually deny the request.

The letter is addressed to Alexander Seton (1555 to 1622) who was Chancellor of Scotland from 1604 until his death. Secretly a Roman Catholic, he was one of the most accomplished men in Jacobean Scotland, with a passion for architecture (Pinkie and Fyvie), the arts and philosophy.

James R
Righte trustie and righte welbeloved cosen & counsellor and other our right trustie & welbeloved counsellors. Wee greete you well. We hereas Mr Donald Campbelle hath undoubted righte to the Abbacie of Icolinekill with all rentes proffites and commodities thereof during the naturall life of Alexander Campbell commendatar of the same. And because the said benefice is so dilapidated as is it should not falle in our hands it wold be but a naked naime witheute aine commoditie (the whole proffittes thereof being enjoyed by divers persons under prohceudid rightes partlie of tackes and partlie also of feues) the said Mr Donalde in-tendeth so far as possiblie he may to restore the said beneifice be the integritie. And therefor wee have thought good by these presents moste earnestlie to require you so far to assesse his honest ender-vor in that mater as withoute offence to equitie yee may And that all unnecessary delayes sette aside he may have Justice administred with convieinent expedition. With knowing that he shall readily finde in respecte of this our recommendation. Wee bid you farewell. Given at our Mannour of Theebaldes thexii th of November 1618
To our righte trustie & right welbeloved cosen & counsellor the earle of dumefermeline our chancellor and to our righte trustie & welbeloved counsell or the romainnit senators of our colledge of justice in our kingdome of Scotland.
[later hand] a letter of K. James.
K. James letter Calder

Terms Explained
Cosen. Cousin, a metaphorical term used when the King addressed a member of the nobility.
Icolinekill. The lands and estates belonging to the Abbey of Iona. The name closely related to the nearby Inchcolm Abbey.
Commendator. Someone who manages the lands and estates of a specific Abbey or Priory.
Dilapidated. Meaning the estates are disorganised and inefficient.
Prohceudid. Meaning purchased or acquired.
Tackes. Leases of Lands.
Feus. Land leased for money.
Theebaldes. Theobalds House, Hertfordshire, the favourite country seat of King James.
[No: 25695]

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