Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wishart, John

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WISHART, Sir JOHN (d. 1576), Scottish judge, was the eldest son of James Wishart of Cairnbeg in the parish of Fordoun, Kincardineshire, and grandson of James Wishart of Pittarrow in the same parish, clerk of the justiciary court and king's advocate. He succeeded his uncle, John Wishart, in the lands and barony of Pittarrow.

Wishart, like his grandfather, studied law at Edinburgh. It is conjectured with some probability that he was identical with the Wishart employed as an envoy to the English court in the conspiracy against Cardinal Beaton. John was connected by marriage with James Learmont of Balcomie, the cardinal's avowed enemy, and it is surmised that while at Edinburgh he became acquainted with Alexander Crichton of Brunston, Norman Leslie [q. v.], and others who were engaged in the plot. The whole question of the identity of the envoy, however, is involved in doubt [see Wishart, George, 1513?–1547]. After succeeding to his paternal estates in 1545 he took no great share in public affairs for the next twelve years. On 14 March 1556–7 he joined Archibald Campbell, fourth earl of Argyll [q. v.], Alexander Cunningham, fifth earl of Glencairn [q. v.], Lord James Stewart (afterwards Earl of Mar and Earl of Moray) [q. v.], and John Erskine of Dun (1509–1591) [q. v.], in signing a letter to John Knox, who was then at Geneva, inviting him to return to Scotland (Knox, History, 1846, i. 267–74). Knox accepted the invitation, but on reaching Dieppe in October he learned that the zeal of the reformers had considerably abated. He resolved to return to Geneva, but before leaving Dieppe he addressed letters of exhortation to the leading reformers and private epistles to Wishart and Erskine. On the receipt of these letters the two men called together the heads of the reforming party and urged them to immediate action. In consequence the reformers on 3 Dec. 1557 signed the ‘band,’ or first covenant, and confederated themselves under the name of the congregation for the destruction of the Roman catholic church in Scotland (cf. Harl. MS. 289, f. 7 a).

During the next few years Wishart continued one of the leading members of the congregation. When, on 24 May 1559, they met at Perth to concert resistance to the queen regent, Wishart and Erskine were deputed to assure the royal envoys that, while the members of the congregation cherished no disloyal intentions, they would firmly assert their privileges. On 4 June Wishart and Erskine had a conference at St. Andrews with Argyll and Lord James Stewart, who had been suspected of leanings towards the regent's party since the spoiling of the monasteries by the rabble in May. The result was favourable to the reformers, and Knox commenced an open onslaught on catholicism at St. Andrews, which was immediately followed by renewed iconoclastic outbreaks. Soon afterwards Wishart and William Cunningham of Cunninghamhead were appointed to negotiate with the queen regent, Mary of Guise, on the subject of liberty of worship. A second deputation, of which Wishart was one, failed to obtain more than vague promises, and they proceeded to demand the banishment of her French supporters from the kingdom. Finding it impossible to gain satisfactory assurances from her, the protestant lords met at Edinburgh in October and elected a council of authority, to which Wishart was chosen (Cal. State Papers, Scottish, 1547–63, p. 255). The members of this body drew up and subscribed a manifesto in which, in return for her duplicity, it was declared that Mary had forfeited the office of regent. In February 1559–60 he attended as commissioner the convention of Berwick, where the Duke of Norfolk, on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, agreed to support the congregation against the power of France, and terms of treaty were arranged (ib. pp. 313, 324). In April the English army reached Edinburgh, and Wishart was prominent in welcoming it and promising cordial co-operation (ib. p. 349). On 11 April he took part in a conference with the English envoys (ib. p. 357).

Wishart was named one of the commissioners of burghs in the parliament held at Edinburgh on 1 Aug. 1560 (Acts of Scottish Parl. ii. 526), and on 10 Aug. he was chosen a temporal lord of the articles (Cal. State Papers, Scottish, 1547–63, p. 458). This parliament ratified the confession of faith. The government of the state in the interval between the death of the queen regent and the arrival of Mary Stuart was entrusted to a body of fourteen chosen from twenty-four persons nominated by parliament, of whom six, including Wishart, were selected by the nobility, and eight by Mary. On 24 Jan. 1561–2 he was appointed a commissioner to value ecclesiastical property, with a view to compelling the Roman catholic clergy to surrender a third of their revenues. On 8 Feb. 1561–2 he was knighted on the occasion of the marriage of the Earl of Mar, and on 1 March he was appointed comptroller and collector-general of teinds, in which capacity he became a member of the privy council (Reg. Scott. Privy Council, ed. Burton, 1545–69, p. 21), where, however, he had sat as early as 6 Dec. 1660 (ib. Addenda, 1545–1625, p. 300). In this capacity he became paymaster of the reformed clergy, many of whom resented the scantiness of their stipends. According to Knox, the saying was current, ‘The good laird of Pittarro was ane earnest professour of Christ; but the mekle Devill receave the comptrollar’ (Knox, Hist. ii. 311).

Wishart distinguished himself at the battle of Corrichie, near Aberdeen, on 5 Nov. 1562, by his services against the followers of the Earl of Huntly [see Gordon, George, fourth Earl]. In the parliament held at Edinburgh on 5 June 1563 he was one of those appointed to determine who should be included in the act of oblivion for offences committed between 6 March 1558 and 1 Sept. 1560 (Acts of Scottish Parl. ii. 536).

While thus employed in state affairs Wishart did not neglect his private interests. Between 1557 and 1565 he obtained liberal grants of lands in Kincardineshire and Aberdeenshire. But his fortunes met with a sudden reverse. According to Knox, the queen hated him ‘because he flattered her not in her dancing and other things.’ In August 1565 he joined the Earl of Moray in opposing Mary's marriage with Lord Darnley, was denounced as a rebel, and compelled to fly to England, where he remained until the assassination of David Rizzio on 9 March 1565–6 and the alienation of Mary from Darnley enabled him to return. He received a royal pardon on 21 March, but he did not recover the office of comptroller, which was held by Sir William Murray (d. 1583) [q. v.] In 1567 he joined the confederacy against the Earl of Bothwell, and on 25 July subscribed the articles in the general assembly. On 19 Nov. he was appointed an extraordinary lord of session, and in October 1568 accompanied the regent Moray to York to support his charges against Mary (Memoirs of Sir James Melville, Bannatyne Club, 1527, p. 205). He preserved his loyalty during the Earl of Huntly's rebellion in 1568 [see Gordon, George, fifth Earl], and was appointed an arbitrator in regard to the compensation to be made to those who had suffered by it (Reg. Scott. Privy Council, 1545–69 pp. 645, 665, 667, 1569–1578 p. 9). Before Moray's assassination in 1570, however, he had left his party, and attached himself to that of the Duke of Châtelherault [see Hamilton, James]. In 1570 he was protected from debts incurred during his term of office as comptroller by an act of the privy council (ib. Add. 1545–1625, p. 320). In February 1572–3 he was appointed in the pacification between Châtelherault and the Earl of Morton [see {{sc|Douglas, James}, fourth Earl] one of the arbitrators to see that the conditions were carried out north of the Tay (ib. 1569–78, p. 195). He joined Sir William Kirkcaldy [q. v.] in Edinburgh Castle, and became constable of the fortress. He was one of the eight persons by whose assistance Kirkcaldy undertook to hold the castle against all assailants, and on the capitulation to Morton in May 1573 he became a prisoner (Spottiswoode, Hist. of Church of Scotland, Bannatyne Club, ii. 193). On 11 June he was denounced as a rebel, and his lands and goods conferred on his nephew John Wishart, ‘son to Mr. James Wishart of Balfeeth.’ He was also deprived of his judicial office, but on 18 Jan. 1573–4 he was reappointed an extraordinary lord of session, and on 20 March took his seat in the privy council (Reg. Privy Council, 1569–1578, p. 346). Wishart died without issue on 25 Sept. 1576. He married Janet, sister of Sir Alexander Falconer of Halkerton in Kincardineshire. He was succeeded in his estates by his nephew John Wishart, eldest son of James Wishart of Balfeith. In 1573 John Davidson (1549?–1603) [q. v.] dedicated to Wishart his poem on Knox, ‘Ane Brief Commendatiovn of Vprichtnes.’ The English ambassador, Thomas Randolph (1523–1590) [q. v.], had a very high opinion of Wishart, whom he described as ‘a man mervileus wyse, discryte, and godly, withowte spotte or wryncle’ (Cal. State Papers, Scottish, 1547–1563, p. 513). Wishart was one of those wittily portrayed in Thomas Maitland's squib representing a conference of the lords with the regent Moray [see under Maitland, Sir Richard, Lord Lethington].

[Rogers's Life of George Wishart, 1876, pp. 82–8; Register of the Scottish Privy Council, ed. Burton, 1545–78; Corresp. of Randolph in Cal. State Papers, Scottish, 1547–1563, ed. Bain; McCrie's Life of Knox, 1855, pp. 99, 185, 407, 430, 448; Knox's Works, ed. Laing, 1846, vols. i. ii.; Keith's Hist. of Scotland, 1734, pp. 96, 117–19, 315; Bannatyne's Memoriales (Bannatyne Club), pp. 911, 149, 308; Calderwood's Hist. of Scotland (Wodrow Soc.), vols. i–iii.; Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, 1832, pp. 137–8.]

E. I. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.283
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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253 ii 13f.e. Wishart, Sir John: after John insert Lord Pittarrow