Thomas Spens

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Thomas Spens
Bishop of Aberdeen
Church Roman Catholic Church
See Diocese of Aberdeen
In office14571480
Predecessor Ingram Lindsay
Successor William Forbes
ConsecrationNovember 1399
Personal details
Died(1480-04-15)15 April 1480
Previous post(s) Bishop of Galloway
Archdeacon of Moray
Archdeacon of Galloway

Thomas Spens [de Spens] (c. 141515 April 1480), Scottish statesman and prelate, received his education at Edinburgh, was the second son of John de Spens, custodian of Prince James of Scotland, and of Lady Isabel Wemyss.


By his exceptional abilities, he attracted the notice the Scottish king, James II, who sent him on errands to England and to France, where he negotiated several treaties. About 1450 he became bishop of Galloway; soon afterwards he was made Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland, and in 1459 he was chosen bishop of Aberdeen. [1]

Much of his time, however, was passed in journeys to France and to England, and in 1464 he and Alexander Stewart, duke of Albany, a son of James II, were captured at sea by some English sailors. Edward IV, to whom the bishop had previously revealed an assassination plot, set him at liberty, and he was perhaps partly responsible for the treaty of peace made about this time between the English king and James III. [1]

He also helped to bring about the meeting between Edward IV and Louis XI of France at Picquigny, and another treaty of peace between England and Scotland in 1474. Spens was a frequent attender at the Scottish parliaments, and contributed very generously to the decoration of his cathedral at Aberdeen. In 1479 Spens founded a hospital dedicated to Mary at the foot of Leith Wynd in Edinburgh, catering for up to 12 poor men. A chapel later attached and dedicated to St Paul brought about the name of Paul's Hospital. [2]

He died in Edinburgh on 15 April 1480 and was buried in the north aisle of Trinity College Kirk close to the hospital which he founded. [1]

In 1582 Edinburgh council forbade "papists" from operating Paul's Hospital and in 1619 had the building rebuilt under the new name of "Paul's Work" which had a function both as hospice and as college. Five Dutchmen were brought to teach production of "coarse woollen stuffs" but this was not a success and around 1621 the building became a house of correction. [3]

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  1. 1 2 3 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Spens, Thomas de". Encyclopædia Britannica . Vol. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 639.
  2. Grant's Old and New Edinburgh vol.2 p.300
  3. Grant's Old and New Edinburgh vol.2 p.301
Political offices
Preceded by
William Turnbull
Bishop of Glasgow
Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland
Succeeded by
Preceded by
James Lindsay
Provost of Lincluden
Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland
Succeeded by
William Tulloch
Bishop of Orkney
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Robert de Tulloch
Archdeacon of Moray
14441447 x 1448
Succeeded by
Patrick Fraser
Preceded by
Not known
Last known archdeacon:
John Benyng
Archdeacon of Galloway
x 1450
Succeeded by
Not known
Next known archdeacon:
John Otterburn
Preceded by Bishop of Galloway
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Aberdeen
Succeeded by