Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Napier, Archibald (1534-1608)

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NAPIER, Sir ARCHIBALD (1534–1608), seventh of Merchiston, master of the Scottish mint, born in 1534, was eldest son of Alexander Napier, sixth of Merchiston, who was killed at the battle of Pinkie in 1547. His mother was Annabella, youngest daughter of Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenurchy. His paternal grandfather was Sir Alexander, fifth of Merchiston, who was killed at Flodden Field on 9 Sept. 1513 (Cambuskenneth Charters, p. 207; see art. Napier, Sir Alexander, (d. 1473?)). Archibald was infeft in the barony of Edenbellie as heir to his father on 8 Nov. 1548, a royal dispensation enabling him, though a minor, to feudalise his right to his paternal barony in contemplation of his marriage with Janet Bothwell, which took place about 1549. He soon began to clear his property of encumbrances. On 1 June 1555 he redeemed his lands of Gartnes, Stirlingshire, and others from Duncan Forester, and on 14 June 1558 he obtained a precept of sasine for infefting him in the lands of Blairwaddis, Isle of Inchcolm (Reg. Mag. Sig. 1546–80, entry 1285). In 1565 he received the order of knighthood. He seems to have sided with Queen Mary after her escape from Lochleven Castle (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 637). During the siege of Edinburgh Castle, held by Kirkcaldy of Grange for the queen, he was required on 1 May 1572 to deliver up his house of Merchiston (ib. ii. 730) to the king's party, who placed in it a company of soldiers to prevent victuals being carried past it to the castle. On this account the defenders of the castle made an attempt to burn it, which was unsuccessful (Calderwood, History, iii. 213). Napier's name appears with those of others in a contract with the regent for working for the space of twelve years certain gold, silver, copper, and lead mines (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 637). He was appointed general of the cunzie-house (master of the mint) in 1576 (Patrick, Records of Coinage of Scotland, i. 216), and on 25 April 1581 he was directed, with others, to take proceedings against John Achesoun, the king's master-coiner (Reg. P. C. Scotl. iii. 376). In May 1580 he received a payment of 400l. for the expenses of his mission to England. On 24 April 1582 he was named one of the assessors to prepare the matters to be submitted to the general assembly of the kirk of Scotland (Book of the Universal Kirk, ii. 548), and his name frequently occurs in following years as an ordinary member of assembly, and also as acting on special commissions and deputations. On 8 Feb. 1587–8 the king granted to him, Elizabeth Mowbray, his second wife, and Alexander, their son and heir, the lands called the King's Meadow (Reg. Mag. Sig. 1580–93, entry 1455). On 6 March 1589–90 he was appointed one of a commission for putting the acts in force against the jesuits (Reg. P. C. Scotl. iv. 463). On 25 March 1591 his double claim for the assize of gold and silver as master of the cunzie-house was disallowed by the council, the money being ordered to be distributed to the poor (ib. p. 603); but on 15 Feb. 1602–3 the decision was declared to ‘in no way prejudge him and his successors anent their right to the whole gold, silver, and alloy which shall be found in the box in time coming’ (ib. vi. 540).

In January 1592–3 Napier was appointed by a convention of ministers in Edinburgh one of a deputation to wait on the king to urge him to more strenuous action against the catholic nobles (Calderwood, v. 216), and he was appointed one of a similar commission at a meeting of the general assembly of the kirk in April (ib. p. 240), and also by a convention held in October (ib. p. 270). On 16 Nov. 1593 he obtained a grant of half the lands of Laurieston, where he built the castle of Laurieston. On account of the non-appearance before the council of his son Alexander, charged with a serious assault, he was on 2 July 1601 ordained to ‘keep ward in Edinburgh’ until the king declared his will (Reg. P. C. Scotl. vi. 267). In September 1604 he went to London to treat with English commissioners ‘anent the cunzie,’ when, according to Sir James Balfour, ‘to the great amazement of the English, he carried his business with a great deal of dexterity and skill’ (Annals, iii. 2). He continued till the end of his life to take an active part in matters connected with mining and the currency. On 14 Jan. 1608 he was appointed along with two others to repair to the mines in succession to try the quality of the ore (Reg. P. C. Scotl. viii. 34). He died on 15 May 1608, aged 74.

By his first wife Janet (d. 20 Dec. 1563), only daughter of Sir Francis Bothwell, lord of session, he had two sons—John (1550–1617) [q. v.], the mathematician; and Francis, appointed assayer to the cunzie-house 1 Dec. 1581—and one daughter, Janet. By his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Mowbray of Barnbougle, Linlithgowshire, he had three sons—Sir Alexander of Laurieston, appointed a senator of the College of Justice 14 Feb. 1626; Archibald, slain in November 1600 in revenge for a murder committed in self-defence; William—and two daughters: Helene, married to Sir William Balfour; and Elizabeth, married, first, to James, lord Ogilvie of Airlie, and, secondly, to Alexander Auchmoutie, gentleman of his majesty's privy chamber.

[Information from W. Rae Macdonald, esq.; Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot.; Reg. P. C. Scotl.; Calderwood's Hist. of the Kirk of Scotland; Sir James Balfour's Annals; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 288–9.]

T. F. H.