Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wyntoun, Andrew of

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WYNTOUN, ANDREW of (1350?–1420?), Scottish historian, was a canon regular of St. Andrews, and was elected, as he modestly says, by favour of his brethren and not for his own merits, prior of St. Serf's Inch in Loch Leven, a dependent house of the priory of St. Andrews. In St. Serf's priory Wyntoun probably wrote his chronicles. The few facts we know of his life are to be found in his own metrical chronicle of the history of Scotland, which he called ‘The Oryginale,’ because it commences with the beginning of the world. It concludes with the accession of James I of Scotland in 1406, but it appears from a passage in book ix. ch. xxvi. l. 100, that the author lived till after the death of the regent Robert, duke of Albany, on 3 Sept. 1420. He probably died about 1422 (Dunbar, Scottish Kings, p. 187). As he was an old man when he wrote his chronicle, it has been conjectured that he was born about, and probably before, 1350. His name appears in several documents in the register of the priory of St. Andrews between 1395 and 1411 which so far confirm this conjecture, for he is not likely to have been made prior of so important a house as St. Serf's till he had attained middle age. These documents prove Wyntoun to have been a strenuous defender of the rights of the priory, and consist of a perambulation of the boundaries of the baronies of Kirkness and Lochore in 1395, and a process at his instance against William de Berkley, lord of Collairney, for the annual rent of the lands of Bolgyne in the court of Walter Trail [q. v.], archbishop of St. Andrews, which lasted from 1400 to 1411. It has been conjectured that he was connected with Alan of Wyntoun, whose marriage to the young lady of Seton is referred to by him (bk. viii. ch. xli. l. 5), but he does not himself claim relationship, and only tells us that Andrew of Wyntoun was his baptismal name. It was at the request of his patron, Sir John of Wemyss, on the east coast of Fife, that Wyntoun wrote his chronicle, one of the best manuscripts of which is still preserved in the library of Wemyss Castle, but has not yet been printed. The lines in bk. ix. chap. xxvi.—

Sa fyfftene yere he [i.e. Robert III] held that state
And in the sextend yere he wrate—

have been understood to mean that Wyntoun wrote in the sixteenth year of Robert III (1406), as that king survived his fifteenth year, and it has been further inferred that he revised it and added the twenty-seventh chapter after 1424, as he mentions the marriage of John of Bavaria, bishop of Liège, who was deposed from his see by the council of Constance, and is believed to have married in 1424. But these inferences are based upon lines which look corrupt and a date by no means certain (Macpherson's note to the last line of the Chronicle as to the date of John of Bavaria's marriage).

With Wyntoun's chronicle Scottish history made a good beginning. Its great merits are that at so early a date it was written in the vernacular and not in Latin, and that when he comes in his sixth book to the history of Scotland and the reign of Malcolm Canmore and down to the close of the work he relates it in plain and simple verse according to the best authorities at his command. He knows the importance of chronology, and is, for the age in which he wrote, singularly accurate as to dates. The earlier books are of less value, except as showing the conception of universal history by a Scottish monk of the fifteenth century. It may be claimed for him and his contemporary John of Fordun that they were the fathers of true Scottish history, which became much corrupted by subsequent writers, especially by Boece and Buchanan. His chronicle has been edited by David Macpherson, by whom it was published for the first time in 1795 from the manuscript in the Royal Library, and by David Laing for the ‘Series of Scottish Historians’ (Edmonston and Douglas, 1872; Paterson, Edinburgh, 1879). Laing had access to the Wemyss manuscript before he completed his edition, but did not make much use of it; it is about to be published by the Scottish Text Society. These two manuscripts are among the earliest specimens of a vernacular Scots book extant, though it must be observed that Wyntoun calls the dialect in which he wrote ‘Ynglis Sawe’ (Prologue, l. 30). It is in fact northern English, and has philological value as showing the close resemblance of that dialect to the language used between the Tweed and the Tay in the early part of the fifteenth century.

[Register of the Priory of St. Andrews and the editions of Wyntoun's Chronicle before referred to. Laing in his preface gives an account of the manuscripts, which has been supplemented and corrected by Mr. W. A. Craigie, Scottish Review, July 1897, Anglia, 1898, vol. viii., where textual questions which cannot be discussed here are ably considered.]

Æ. M.