Alexander Rose

Alexander Rose (1647–1720) was a Scottish scholar, minister and bishop. He was a Church of Scotland minister before becoming Professor of Divinity at the University of Glasgow and Principal of St Mary's College, St Andrews. He rose to become Bishop of Moray and then Bishop of Edinburgh. He was responsible for failing to convince King William III of England that the Scottish bishops could be trusted, leading to the abolition of Episcopacy in Scotland. Rose continued as a nonjuring bishop, eventually becoming leader of the informal and embryonic Scottish Episcopal Church.

The Right Reverend

Alexander Rose
Bishop of Edinburgh
Portrait of Alexandri Rofsaei (4673829) (cropped).jpg
Portrait of Alexander Rose by Pierre Lombart
ChurchScottish Episcopal Church
In office1687-1720 (From 1689 as a bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church)
PredecessorJohn Paterson
SuccessorJohn Fullarton
Other postsMetropolitan of the Scottish Episcopal Church 1704–1720
Consecration8 March 1687
by Arthur Rose
Personal details
Born1645 or 1646
Died20 March 1720
Canongate, Edinburgh
Previous postBishop of Moray
Professor of Divinity, University of Glasgow;
Principal of St Mary's College, St Andrews

Early life and careerEdit

Alexander was born in either 1645 or 1646, a year that can be calculated because we know that he was 74 years old at his death in March 1720. The Rose [Ross] family originally came from Kilravock near Inverness. His father had been Prior of Monymusk. He entered the University of Aberdeen for a Master of Arts, but moved to the University of Glasgow to study divinity under Dr. Gilbert Burnet, later Bishop of Salisbury.

Rose received his licence as a minister from the Presbytery of Glasgow on 20 April 1670. He became a minister at Perth in August 1672, but only after the town had unsuccessfully tried to secure the appointment of Alexander's uncle, Arthur Rose. He was ordained in the following October after the necessary trials. In 1682 Alexander became Professor of Divinity at Glasgow, almost certainly with the help of his uncle, now Archbishop of Glasgow. On 22 October 1686 he got a royal presentation to be principal of St Mary's College, St Andrews.

Bishop of Moray and EdinburghEdit

Rose's career rise continued. In December of this year (1686), he was recommended by the king to be selected as the new Bishop of Moray. The royal mandate for his consecration was issued on 8 March 1687. However, before even taking possession of the diocese of Moray, he was translated to the diocese of Edinburgh, after his name had been put forward by Colin Lindsay, 3rd Earl of Balcarres. He was elected on 21 December, and despite the protests of some dissenting ministers, was appointed to the position on 31 December.

In December 1688, Bishop Rose and Bishop Andrew Bruce were chosen by the Scottish bishops to travel to London, but Bishop Bruce fell ill and Rose was compelled to continue alone. The situation he found himself in was having to decide on behalf of all the Scottish bishops whether to support William of Orange or James VII and II. William was prepared to retain Episcopacy in Scotland if the bishops would acknowledge him. Probably on 30 January 1689, Bishop Rose met with King William.

Bishop Rose was sympathetic to King James, and though William's cause had already clearly triumphed, he was not sure about committing the other Scottish bishops. When asked for his support, Bishop Rose gave a highly ambiguous reply:

Sir, I will serve you as far as law, reason, or conscience shall allow me.[1]

Rose returned to Scotland without having committed either the bishops to King William, nor King William to the bishops. Later in the year, Rose was almost certainly one of the seven Scottish bishops who voted against renouncing their oaths to King James and offering the Scottish crown to William. This was probably enough to convince King William that the Scottish bishops were too sympathetic to Jacobitism, and there were more than enough hard-line Presbyterians in Scotland who hated the existence of bishops. It was thus that, on 20 July 1689, Episcopacy in Scotland was declared abolished and all bishops were deprived of their sees within the Church of Scotland.

The nonjuring bishop and metropolitanEdit

Rose continued to act as a nonjuring bishop, privately acknowledging the primacy of his uncle, now Archbishop of St Andrews. Though deprived of any formal authority, Rose gained informal influence over the embryonic Scottish Episcopal Church. After the death of Arthur Rose in 1704 and then John Paterson in 1708, Archbishop of Glasgow, Alexander Rose was regarded as the senior nonjuring bishop in Scotland. In 1705, along with Bishop Douglas of Dunblane, he performed the consecration of John Fullarton and John Sage. He consecrated five more bishops between 1709 and 1718.

Routinely suspected of Jacobitism, under severe pressure, and suffering declining number of sympathising ministers, Rose quietly led as the metropolitan of Scottish Episcopalians. He also tried to obtain the help of Church of England and Queen Anne. He was involved in the Jacobite rising of 1715, as a trustee of the "Old Pretender", James Francis Edward Stuart.

Death and familyEdit

He died on 20 March 1720 of apoplexy, and was buried in the grounds of Restalrig church. He married once, to a woman named Euphan, the daughter of the provost of Perth, Patrick Threipland of Fingask. His son John Rose fought in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, and was captured at the battle of Sheriffmuir, though he obtained clemency partly due to his father's influence.


  1. ^ Quoted in Clarke, "Rose, Alexander (1645/6–1720)".


  • Clarke, Tristram, "Rose, Alexander (1645/6–1720)", in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 6 May 2007
  • Keith, Robert, An Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops: Down to the Year 1688, (London, 1924)
Religious titles
Preceded by
Colin Falconer
Bishop of Moray
Succeeded by
William Hay
Preceded by
John Paterson
Bishop of Edinburgh
since 1689 nonjuring bishop
Succeeded by
John Fullarton