Bishop James Kennedy lived from 1408 to 24 May 1465. He served as Bishop of Dunkeld and Bishop of St Andrews and played a leading role in governing Scotland on two occasions. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
James Kennedy was the third and youngest son of Sir James Kennedy of Dunure, Ayrshire, and Princess Mary second daughter of King Robert III of Scotland. James received his education in canon law and theology on the continent. On his return to Scotland he took up a post at Dunkeld Cathedral, rising through the ecclesiatical ranks to become sub-deacon. On 1 July 1437, James Kennedy was elected to become Bishop of Dunkeld, probably while still in his late 20s.
Bishop Kennedy established himself as a reforming bishop, travelling to meet Pope Eugenius IV at the Council of Florence in 1440 to obtain approval of the changes he proposed. His proposals were overtaken when the Pope was informed of the death of Henry Wardlaw the Bishop of the most important Scottish see, St Andrews. In his absence Bishop Kennedy had been elected to replace Bishop Wardlaw, and on 8 June 1440, Pope Eugenius IV formally appointed James Kennedy as Bishop of St Andrews.
At St Andrews, Bishop Kennedy became an active and successful bishop. During the minority of James II, Kennedy took a leading role in wider Scottish politics, being appointed Chancellor of Scotland in May 1444, a post he quickly gave up when it interfered with his ability to discharge his religious duties. In the 1440s and 1450s Kennedy made at least two trips to Rome to attempt to repair the growing schism in the Papacy. In 1450 Bishop Kennedy founded St Salvator's College at the University of St Andrews.
Kennedy returned to the national political stage in the 1460s, serving as one of the seven Regents of Scotland during the minority of James III. He died in 1465 and was buried in a magnificent tomb he had built for the purpose in St Salvator's Chapel in St Andrews.