25th October 1514

Death of the founder of the University of Aberdeen

William Elphinstone was the Bishop of Aberdeen, and founder of the city’s university. He was born and educated in Glasgow, and ordained there, but later travelled to France to continue his education.

He represented Scottish king James III in the court of kings Louis XI of France and Edward IV of England, and was eventually installed as bishop of Aberdeen, in which position he would establish King’s College.

Papal order

Elphinstone obtained a papal order authorising the founding of the college, which he set up in 1495 along similar lines to the university of Paris, where he had studied in the 1470s. It was later joined – in the 1590s – by Marischal College, and when the two merged in the 1860s they formed what we would now know as the University of Aberdeen.

This move wasn’t universally supported, and the Dunfermline Press of 5 July 1860 carried a short piece on “the appeal by the Town Council of Aberdeen and other bodies against the ordinances of the Scottish Universities Commissioners, uniting Marischal and King’s Colleges, Aberdeen, into one institution, and virtually extinguishing the latter College, as the appellants hold [being] refused. At the Privy Council meeting, on Saturday, the ordinances appealed against were confirmed; and appeal by King’s College Senatus against the clause transferring the endowments of the Murray Lectureship in that college along being granted, and the ordinance in that point disallowed.”

“Spoiling a whole college”

Two days later, the Aberdeen Herald and General Advertiser announced the “Doom of Marischal College” after the Privy Council “gave a full hearing to parties, and [refused] to arrest the monstrous act of spoiling a whole College.”

As well as being a rector, bishop and founder of a university, Elphinstone was briefly Lord Chancellor of Scotland, and Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland. A monument in his honour can now be found outside the university’s King’s College, and his coat of arms appears in the lower left quadrant of the university’s own coat of arms.



Other events that occured in October

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