St Mary's Abbey, Melrose is a part ruined monastery of the
Cistercian order in Melrose, Roxburghshire, in the Scottish Borders.
It was founded in 1136 by Cistercian monks on the request of
King David I of Scotland, and was the chief house of that order in
the country, until the Reformation. It was headed by the Abbot or
Commendator of Melrose. Today the abbey is maintained by Historic
Melrose Abbey, like the other three Borders Abbeys of Dryburgh,
Kelso and Jedburgh, was badly damaged during the "Rough Wooing" of
1544-45, during which the English, at the instigation of Henry VIII
led a series of punitive expeditions against the Scots for refusing
to agree to the marriage of the infant Queen Mary Stuart to Henry's
son. During the raid against Melrose Abbey, the Douglas tombs were
The belief that the physical remains retain a
connection with the person to whom they belonged is a very ancient
one. Although the practice of dismembering parts of the body to use
as talismans or objects of worship was banned by the Church in 1299,
it was not a custom which would die out easily. The earliest
instance comes from France and there is evidence that it was very
common for the French and English royal families to bury the hearts
of their dead separately.
In Scotland, there are fewer examples, but
one of the most famous is the burial of the heart of Robert the
Bruce. The other two are the heart burial of John Balliol by his
devoted wife Dervorgilla, Lady of Galloway, and the heart burial of
Sir James Douglas, companion
to Robert I. Douglas
died fighting in Spain carrying his king's heart to the Holy Land, but
both hearts were allegedly rapatriated
to Scotland by Sir William Keith. The casket believed to contain
Robert the Bruce's heart was originally excavated in 1921 in the
Chapter House and subsequently re-buried. The casket was once again
brought up during the 1997 excavations to be re-buried once more.
In the chancel are the tombs of
Sir William Douglas, the Knight
of Liddesdale (1300-1353) and James 2nd earl of Douglas (1358-1388),
the victor of Otterburn.
In 1545, as a result of the
destruction of the Douglas tomb at Melrose, the
Earl of Angus with
Scott of Buccleugh(1) and Lesley of Rothes defeated and slaughtered the
English at Ancrum Moor near Jedburgh.
There were 100 monks, without including the abbot and
dignitaries. The last abbot was James Stewart, natural son of
James V, who died in 1559. The privileges and possessions of the
abbey were very extensive, and it was endowed by its founder,
David, with the lands of Melrose, Eildon, and other places; the
right of fishery on the Tweed; and succeeding monarchs increased
its property. In 1542, the revenue of the abbey was, "£1758 in
money, 14 chalders nine bolls of wheat, 56 chal. 5 bolls of
barley, 78 chal. 13 bolls of meal, 44 chal. 10 bolls of oats, 84
capons, 620 poultry, 105 stone of butter, 8 chal. of salt, 340
loads of peats, and 500 carriages;" besides 60 bolls of corn,
300 barrels (48 m3) of ale, and 18 hogsheads of wine, for the
service of the mass: a large quantity for the entertainment of
strangers; £4,000 for the care of the sick; and £400 to the
barber. These were given up at the commencement of the
reformation in 1561. The lands were either seized by the crown,
or divided amongst the nobles. A large portion fell into the
hands of the Scotts of Buccleuch.
James Douglas of Lochleven was Commendator 1569-1620
See also:Abbot Douglas (of Melrose)
Flemish manuscript of
Sir James burial in Melrose
Possibly Walter Scott of Branxholme and Buccleuch, 3rd of Buccleuch (d.
1552), a predecessor of the current Duke of Buccleugh, Richard Walter
John Montagu Douglas Scott, 10th Duke of Buccleuch and 12th Duke of
Queensberry KBE DL (born 14 February 1954).
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