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

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MELVILLE, Sir JOHN (d. 1548), laird of Raith in Fife, was the eldest son of John Melville the younger of Raith and Janet Bonar, his wife, probably a daughter of the neighbouring laird of Rossie. He succeeded his grandfather, William Melville, as laird of Raith in 1502, and was knighted by James IV in the following year, probably on the occasion of that king's marriage in August to Princess Margaret Tudor. He is said to have accompanied James IV to Flodden, but if so he returned in safety, and was more or less actively engaged in the many disputes of the regency during James V's minority. He was appointed master of the artillery for life in October 1526, but a few months later he took part with John, earl of Lennox, in his unsuccessful attempt to free the king from the control of the Earl of Angus, and had to sue to Angus for mercy. Yet within a brief space the Douglases were in exile, and for intercommuning with them Melville had to beg a remission from the crown.

With James V, whose banner he followed in several of his expeditions to the borders and elsewhere, Melville stood in considerable favour, and the king took a personal interest in the staunching of a blood-feud between him and his neighbour, Moultray of Seafield. He was on the juries who tried Janet Douglas, lady Glamis, and Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, respectively for conspiring the death of the king. About 1540 he was made captain of the castle of Dunbar, and had the custody of several important state prisoners.

Melville was early impressed by the principles of the Reformation, and associated himself closely with the movement; and he was one of the three hundred noblemen and gentlemen whom Cardinal Beaton pressed James V to pursue as heretics. During the minority of Queen Mary, Melville was a steady favourer of the policy of the ‘English’ party in Scotland, who sought to consolidate the interests of the two nations by uniting the crowns in the marriage of Edward VI and Mary. He had a natural son in England, John Melville, with whom he regularly corresponded while the two countries were at war. One of his letters fell into the hands of the Scottish governor, Arran, and he was arrested, carried prisoner to Edinburgh, and, being convicted of treason, was executed there on 13 Dec. 1548. His estates were forfeited, but this forfeiture was rescinded in favour of his widow and children in 1563. Many believed that Melville suffered more on account of his religion than of treachery to the country. John Johnston, D.D. [q. v.], places him among his Scottish heroes (Heroes ex omni Historia Scotica lectissimi, 1603, pp. 28, 29). Melville was twice married, first to Margaret, daughter of John Wemyss of that ilk, and secondly to Helen Napier, of the family of Merchiston, and he had a family of nine sons and three daughters. John, the eldest son of his second marriage, succeeded to the family estates; others of his sons were Robert, first lord Melville [q. v.], Sir James Melville of Hallhill [q. v.], Sir Andrew Melville of Garvock, master of the household to Queen Mary, William Melville, commendator of Tungland, and Captain David Melville of Newmill. A daughter of his first marriage, Janet, became the wife of Sir James Kirkcaldy of Grange [q. v.]

[Sir W. Fraser's Melvilles of Melville and Leslies of Leven, i. 38–81.]

H. P.