The Church changed radically in the period 1485 – 1603. In the Middle Ages, it was the one area of life where merit really could take a man to the top. Many of the notable churchmen who became Chancellors were from humble beginnings. Thomas Wolsey, son of a butcher, was not the first to rise.
It was also a handy place for illegitimate sons. Before clerical matrimony was permitted it was a way of making sure rival dynasties did not crop up. James IV’s bastard son, Alexander Stewart, was Archbishop of St Andrews. The permitting of clerical marriage also changed the clergy, and created a whole new role – that of the Vicar’s Wife.
Before the Reformation, the Church was almost the only source of education, which was geared towards training new priests. After the 1540s in England and 1560s in Scotland, schools began to be founded by lay patrons.