Chambers, David (DNB00)

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CHAMBERS, DAVID, Lord Ormond (1530?–1592), Scottish historian and judge, was born in Ross-shire and educated at Aberdeen, where he took orders. He completed his studies in theology and law in France and Italy, probably at Bologna, and on his return home obtained the offices of parson of Suddy, provost of Crichton, and chancellor of the diocese of Ross. Preferring the legal branch of the clerical profession, he was made an ordinary lord or judge of the court of session on 26 Jan. 1565, in room of Henry Sinclair, bishop of Ross, and also a privy councillor. In December 1566 he received a grant of the lands of Castleton for his services to Queen Mary ‘not only in this realme, but in sic foreyn cuntries as it plesit hir hienes to command him, and that therthrow baith he put his persoun in perill, but alsua grethe superexpendit himself.’

Buchanan in his ‘Detectio’ calls Chambers a client of Bothwell, and alleges that Bothwell got access to the queen's lodgings in the exchequer through his house, the gate of which was near the garden of that of the queen prior to the murder of Darnley. He was named in one of the tickets placed on the Tolbooth door on 16 Feb. 1567 as privy to the murder. ‘I, according to the proclamation,’ it ran, ‘have made inquisition for the slaughter of the king, and do find the Earl of Bothwell, Mr. James Balfour, parson of Flisk, Mr. David Chambers, and black Mr. John Spens, the principal devisers thereof, and if this be not true, speir at Gilbert Balfour.’ The truth of this anonymous accusation is doubtful, but it is certain that Chambers was an ardent partisan of the queen. He was with her at the battle of Langside, for his part in which he was forfeited by parliament on 19 Aug. 1568. He then took refuge in Spain, and after a short stay at the court of Philip II, by whom he was well received, went to France. In 1572 he presented to Charles IX, but it is doubtful whether he then published, his abridgment in French of the ‘History of Scotland, France, and England,’ and in 1579, having added to it an account of the popes and emperors, this work was printed at Paris with a dedication to Henry III under the title ‘Abbregé des Histoires de tous les roys de France, Escosse et Angleterre, avec l'Epitome des Papes et Empereurs joincts ensemble en forme d'harmonie.’ In the same volume is contained a tract entitled ‘Descours de la Succession des Femmes aux possessions de leurs parens et aux publics gouvernements,’ which he had written and dedicated to Catherine de Medicis in 1573, and another ‘La Recherche des singularités plus remarquables touchant l'estat d'Escosse,’ dedicated to Queen Mary. The history of Chambers in its earlier portion is mainly taken, so far as Scotland is concerned, from Boece, and has little independent value, though he mentions some other authorities he had consulted, and excites curiosity or scepticism by his reference to Veremund the Spaniard's ‘epistle to his book of the historians of Scotland dedicated to Malcolm III,’ from which he makes a singular quotation defending the credibility of the early annals of Scotland by the assertion that the Druids were diligent chroniclers before, and the monks after, the reception of christianity, and that their monuments and antiquities had been preserved in the islands of Man and Iona. Though chiefly known as one of the curiosities of literature, the work of Chambers deserves note as an early specimen of a chronological abridgment of the comparative history of Europe. It had been his intention, he says, to have included Spain, but the number of its separate kingdoms led him to postpone this for another occasion, and it was never published. He returned to Scotland after the close of the regencies, and was restored from his forfeiture by James at Falkland on 4 Sept. 1583, and by parliament on 20 May 1584, with a proviso that it should not extend to the ‘odious murtherer of our soverane ladis dearest fader and twa regentis.’ But this was merely a formal exception, and on 21 June 1586 he resumed his seat on the bench of the court of session, which he held to his death in 1592.

[Acta Parl. Scot. iii. 98, 314; Books of Sederunt of Court of Session; Mackenzie's Lives of Scottish Writers, iii. 391; Haig and Brunton's Senators of the College of Justice, p. 123; Michel's Les Ecossais en France, ii. 211.]

Æ. M.