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Re: A new subject for discussion?
A great idea, Tim !
I have been off the list for a weeks while visiting Japan with my wife
(anyone for cherry blossom photos?) and going through genealogy withdrawals.
I have seen a bit of nonsense about William also sailing to the New World
and building the Oak Island contraption.
Here is a copy of my notes about Earl William to start the ball rolling:
"A complex and intriguing individual in his own right, I don't know of any
studies of Earl William. A small mountain of ink is being spilled attempting
to explain his motives and design for Rosslyn Chapel.
In 1470 , jealous over the semi-royal Chief of the Orkney Earldom , James
III compelled the exchange of Orkney for the Castle of Ravenscraig at Fife.
James further whittled the Sinclairs down to size by decreeing William
divide his lands among 3 sons. Oliver received Roslin; William; Caithness,
and the eldest William (s/o Elizabeth Douglas) got the remainder. The
brothers , as Scots will do, commenced to squabbling, as James hoped they
would. (courtesy Niven Sinclair)
William was also known as Earl of Orkney , Knight of the Cocquille St.
Jacques; and Knight of the Golden Fleece(FMS p.102). You can toss in 11th
Lord of Rosslyn, and , he found time to be Grand Admiral of Scotland ,
Chancellor , and Chief Justice of Scotland. (HP Cummings).
A description of the time has William "a very fair man, great stature, broad
bodied, yellow haired, and well proportioned". (L. A. Morrison 38-9)He also
adds William was a great fan of the high life. He was served on vessels of
gold and silver, with Lords as his cup bearer, master of the household and
carver. Father Hay, a member of a later Sinclair household, refers to him as
a "prince" and also to his "palace of the castle of Roslin".His first wife
Elizabeth had 75 gentlewomen to attend her, 53 the daughters of nobles and
all clothed in velvets and silks. 200 riding gentlemen accompanied her on
her journeys, and 80 lighted torches were carried before her at night. (LAM
Andrew Sinclair quotes a ' family biographer' as saying William was " more
refined and less ignorant than the contemporary herd of nobles, who
suspected his studies of subjects unearthly and unholy" (The Sword and the
He is the one who built the famous chapel at Rosslyn (Or the Collegiate
Chapel of St, Mathew*) , started between 1446-1456. Immortalized by Sir
Walter Scott in "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" :
"O'er Roslin all that dreary Night
A wondrous blaze was seen to gleam
Twas broader than the watch fire's light
And redder than the bright moon-beam"
According to tradition , the chapel appeared in flames the night before the
death of a family member of "the lordly line of high St.Clair" ^
It is believed that aloe and maize (corn) are carved in the chapel,
representing Prince Henry's voyage.
Whatever is there , William spared no expense so that " he might not seem
unthankful to God for the benefices he received from him" ("A geneolgie of
the Sainteclaires of Rosslyn" Fr. Richard Hay 1835) He even had the masons
build themselves the town of Rosline as he thought there no place suitable
for them to live, giving each a house and lands. The Master Mason received
£40 a year, the rest , £10. (ibid @ www.rosslynchapel.org.uk -check here for
Only part of the choir was actually completed. William intended a crucifix
shaped building. Foundations of the nave were said to have been uncovered in
the 1800's and extend 91' beyond the original west door. Unique in design in
that it's "variety and eccentricity are not to be defined by any words of
common acceptance". ("Architectural Antiquities of Britain" Britton 1812)
During his time , Sinclair starts to become the standard spelling.
William also was appointed hereditary Patron and Protector of the Scottish
Masons in 1441. A 1475 charter reads in part:
"We deacons ,masters and freeman of the Masons within the realm
"It has been observit among us that the Lairds of Roslin have
ever been Patrons and Protectors of us and our privileges...."
Rosslyn became Lodge Number One in Edinburgh in 1475 of the Freemasons. (FMS
Which brings us the the Templars. In "The Hiram Key", authors Knight and
Lomas argue that Roslin Chapel was built to house treasures the Templars
unearthed in Jerusalem, including scrolls that deal with the early followers
of Jesus. The Templar/Sinclair connection goes back to Hugues de Payen
marrying Catherine de St. Clair. They would visit Roslin, and the Sinclairs
would grant the Templars land to build on south of Edinburgh. Legend has it
fleeing Templars deposited their treasure with the Sinclairs. William's
chapel is a replica of Herod's temple. Spared by Cromwell during the Civil
War. An interesting read, although they do delve into the fabulous and
Andrew Sinclair believes Roslin is the resting place of many of Scotland's
sacred treasures and relics, hidden by a later William from the Reformation
mobs. (see page 180 "Sword & the Grail")
The Clan Sinclair website adds William was senior of 4 candidates for the
Norwegian crown in 1449.The Hansa League of northern Germany blocked this ,
hoping for someone more amenable. He was created Lord Sinclair in 1449.
Adding to his laurels (a hardy lot), he was High Chancellor 1454-9, and
Ambassador to England 1471-3."
I also feature some photos in my file which came from the following
Roslin interior photo and exterior detail from Clan Sinclair website.
Girnigoe from www.caithness.org
Exterior photo and Templar initiation photo from
Aloe and Corn from
Arms and Badge from http://www.designsofwonder.com/index.shtml
Castle & Chapel photo from
Hope this fuels an interesting discussion about a truly noteworthy
Take care, Kevin
* some 37 'Collegiate Chapels' were built during 1406-1513. Secular
institutions that were to spread intellectual and spiritual knowledge.
^ Pertinent lines tell of how this "brave St. Clair" family :
was born where restless
Howl round the storm-swept
Where erst St. Clairs held
O'er isle and islet,
strait and bay;--
Still nods their palace
to its fall,
Thy pride and sorrow, fair
This completes the "O'er Roslin stanza started above:
It glar'd on Roslin's
It ruddied all the copse
'Twas seen from Dryden's
groves of oak
And seen from cavern'd
Seem'd all on fire within,
Deep sacristy and altar s
Shone every plllar foliage
And glimmer'd all the dead
Blaz'd battlement and pinnet
Blaz'd every rose-carved
So still they blaze when fate
The lordly line of high St.
There are twenty of Roslin's
Lie buried within that proud
Each one the holy vault doth
And each St. Clair was buried
With candle, with book, and
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