A Jesuit missionary in Scotland in the time of the persecutions, b. in 1532; d. at Braunsberg, in Prussia, 27 April, 1613
Abercromby, ROBERT, sometimes known as Sandel’s and as Robertson, a Jesuit missionary in Scotland in the time of the persecutions, b. in 1532; d. at Braunsberg, in Prussia, April 27, 1613. He was brought into prominence chiefly by the fact that he converted the Queen of James I of England, when that monarch was as yet James VI of Scotland. The Queen was Anne of Denmark, and her father, an ardent Lutheran, had stipulated that she should have the right to practice her own religion in Scotland, and for that purpose sent with her a chaplain named John Lering, who, however, shortly after his arrival, became a Calvinist. The Queen, who abhorred Calvinism, asked some of the Catholic nobles for advice, and it was suggested to call Father Abercromby, who, with some other Jesuits, was secretly working among the Scotch Catholics and winning many illustrious converts to the Church. Though brought up a Lutheran, Queen Anne had in her youth lived with a niece of the Emperor Charles V, and not only knew something of the Faith, but had frequently been present at Mass with her former friend. Abercromby was introduced into the palace, instructed the Queen in the Catholic religion, and received her into the Church. This was about the year 1600. As to the date there is some controversy. Andrew Lang, who merely quotes Mac Quhirrie as to the fact of the conversion, without mentioning Abercromby, puts it as occurring in 1598. Intelligence of it at last came to the ears of the King, who, instead of being angry, warned her to keep it secret, as her conversion might imperil his crown. He even went so far as to appoint Abercromby Superintendent of the Royal Falconry, in order that he might remain near the Queen. Up to the time when James succeeded to the crown of England, Father Abercromby remained at the Scottish Court, celebrating Mass in secret, and giving Holy Communion nine or ten times to his neophyte. When the King and Queen were crowned sovereigns of Great Britian, Anne gave proof of her sincerity by absolutely refusing to receive the Protestant sacrament, declaring that she preferred to forfeit her crown rather than take part in what she considered a sacrilegious profanation. Of this, Lang in his “History of Scotland” says nothing. She made several ineffectual attempts to convert the King. Abercromby remained in Scotland for some time, but as a price of 10,000 crowns was put upon his head he came to England, only to find that the King’s kindly dispositions towards him had undergone a change. The alleged discovery of a Gunpowder Plot (q.v.) in 1605, and the attempts made to implicate the Jesuits in the conspiracy had excited in the mind of the King feelings of bitter hostility to the Society. He ordered a strict search to be made for Abercromby, who consequently left the country and betook himself to Braunsberg, in Eastern Prussia, where he died, in his eighty-first year.