7. The Wolf of Badenoch


Below the Cameronian memorials lies the recumbent figure of the notorious Alexander Stewart, Earl of Badenoch, third son of King Robert II and youngest by his first wife, Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan.

Alexander was notorious for his great cruelty and rapacity and became known as The Wolf of Badenoch. From 1365 to 1390 Alexander was in dispute over the control of lands in Badenoch and Strathspey with the Bishop of Aberdeen and Bishop Bur, Bishop of Moray.

In 1389 Alexander sought the intervention of Bishop Bur to bring his marriage to an end. Bur however, came down on the side of Alexander’s wife Eupheme, and when Alexander then expelled her to make way for his mistress of the moment, Bishop Bur excommunicated him.

In April 1390 John, Earl of Carrick was crowned King as Robert III, and Bishop Bur aligned with Alexander’s rival, the Earl of Moray.

Finally, in May of that year Alexander Stewart’s fury exploded and fell upon the church. He descended on Moray at the head of a large number of “wild, wykked Hieland-men.” Alexander sacked the town of Forres, before heading east, destroying Pluscarden Abbey en route to Elgin where he arrived on the 17th of June 1390.

As well as Elgin Cathedral, the monastery of the Greyfriars, St Giles parish church and the Hospital of Maison Dieu were all put to flame by Alexander’s men.

His destruction of the church possessions in Elgin was complete.

Elgin Cathedral, the second largest cathedral in Scotland, widely known as the Lantern of the North, was reduced to ruin.

Church and state now came together to oppose him. Excommunicated by Bur, Alexander was ordered to appear at the Blackfriars Monastery in Perth. Before his brothers, King Robert III of Scotland and the Earl of Fife, and the Bishops of Dunkeld, Dunblane and St Andrews, he pleaded forgiveness and publicly confessed his sins.

The humiliation and subjugation of such a fierce and influential personage vividly portrays the power of the Church of Rome in the 14th century.

Absolution was granted by bishop Walter Trail, the Bishop of St Andrews.

Alexander Stewart died in 1394 at peace with the church as indicated by the clasped hands on the breast of the statue. The statue is in armour with a lion at the feet and a lamb in its clutches.

Next to the Wolf of Badenoch is the mutilated statue of Bishop Sinclair, Bishop of Dunkeld from 1309-1337.

He was responsible for much of the work on the Choir of the Cathedral. He accompanied William Wallace and was chaplain to Robert the Bruce. The figure is particularly notable for the exquisite drapery carving of the vestments that he would have worn when celebrating mass. There is a small hole in his chest where it is believed a chalice would have rested. He is buried in the Nave, but at the time of the Reformation he lost his head and the statue was moved.

If you exit to through the left you can find the next talk.