- Calendar of Papal Letters relating to Great Britain and Ireland, Volume XX, 1513–1521, Leo X, Lateran Registers, Part I
This latest volume in the impressive series the Calendar of Papal Letters starts with the opening of Leo X’s pontificate in 1513 and goes down to 1521. It brings us one step closer to being able to utilise to the full the remarkable riches that lie within the Vatican archives. Although only 11 per cent of the items within this substantial tome directly concern Scotland, those items are comparatively longer and more helpful than the majority of entries dealing with English and Welsh affairs. Being part of the routine business of papal administration, the documents produced by the Papal Chancery produce few surprises in their content. Their great value lies in the biographical and topographical information they contain, and the editor’s marvellous decoding and indexing skills have made sense of the fascinating ways in which Italian scribes have rendered the names of Scottish people and places. What this meticulously produced volume reveals in remarkable detail is the highly competitive world of ecclesiastical benefice-hunting. By coincidence, the earliest and latest items in the chronological sequence relating to Scotland feature that wily careerist Patrick Paniter. Thanks to the heavy backing of James IV for his royal secretary, Paniter secured the abbey of Cambuskenneth [Items Nos 97–102, 6 April 1513]. The provision that he should take the Augustinian habit and vows within a year was subsequently ignored. Paniter held a substantial collection of other [End Page 338] benefices and was equally negligent about proceeding through the sacramental orders, merely progressing to the sub-diaconate in 1517 and never being priested. The final Scottish entry [No. 241, 20 Oct 1519] concerns the wrangle over the deanery of Brechin, vacant following Paniter’s death. It reveals an earlier death date than had been suspected for Paniter and that Alexander Stewart, who secured the benefice in 1522, had suffered a reverse three years earlier at the hands of another secretary to the ruler of Scotland, this time Regent Albany. Each of the jigsaw pieces concerning Scottish dealings in Rome will be of great use when carefully placed within their full context in Scottish affairs. This is one of those volumes that furnish the building blocks of history and soon we will be wondering how we ever managed without this important series.