George Buchanan

1506 - 1582

Poet, author, latin scholar, politician and teacher of Mary, Queen of Scots and King James VI. Born at Moss, near Dumgoyne (Stirling), his father died when he was seven and the family moved to Cardross. Buchanan was brought up by his widowed mother, yet given a good education for the time. He studied at the Universities of Paris and St. Andrews. Buchanan became a tutor to a son of King James V (1512-42). However, he was denounced as a heretic following a work he wrote about Cardinal Beaton (1494 - 1548), and was forced to flee to France, where he taught the essayist Michel de Montaigne, and then Portugal, where he became highly regarded as a poet. In the latter country he was imprisoned during the Inquisition, but released in 1553, travelled in France and Italy before returning to Scotland in 1561 to become tutor to Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87).

In 1566, Buchanan was appointed as Principal of St Leonard's College in St Andrews and Poet Laureat. Buchanan was an early supporter of the Reformation, joining Knox's General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. His support for the Protestant cause and his distaste at the murder of Mary's second husband, Lord Darnley (1545 - 1567), turned Buchanan into a bitter enemy of his Queen and he took part in her prosecution for treason. He became Moderator of the General Assembly in 1567, the only layman ever to hold this office. In 1570, the Earl of Moray appointed Buchanan tutor to the James VI (1566 - 1625) a position he held until 1578, teaching the young king in a room in Stirling Castle. His teaching included stern lessons in Buchanan's views on kingship and poisoning James against his mother. However, Buchanan was later to hold high political office under James.

He wrote several works, all in Latin, including the notorious De Maria Scotorum Regina (1571), in which he levelled various charges against Mary, De jure regni apud Scotos (1579), which supported James' rule and a 20-volume history of Scotland Rerum scoticarum historia (1582).

He died in Edinburgh, is buried in Greyfriars' kirkyard there but is remembered by a large obelisk in Killearn, erected in 1788.

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