Mackgill, James (DNB00)
|←McKewan, David Hall||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 35
MACKGILL or MACGILL, JAMES (d. 1579), of Nether Rankeillour, clerk register or Scotland, was the eldest son of Sir James Macgill, lord provost of Edinburgh, by Helen Wardlaw, daughter of Wardlaw of Torrie in Fifeshire. He was educated at the university of St. Andrews, having been incorporated in the college of St. Leonard's in 1532. Probably he afterwards studied at a foreign university, for it was not till 1 March 1649-50 that he was admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates. On 4 March 1663-1554 he was confirmed in possession of the lands of Nether Rankeillour, Fife (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1546-80, entry 900). On 25 June 1554 he was appointed clerk register, and on 20 Aug. following was made an ordinary lord of session. He was one of the commissioners for the treaty of Upsettington, Berwickshire, on 21 May 1569 (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1558-9, entry 717).
Mackgill seems to have remained faithful to the queen regent in her contest with the lords of the congregation, and in 1560 took refuge with her in the castle of Edinburgh. By 1661 he had, however, 'fallen in familiarity' with Knox, and publicly professed 'the religion' (Knox, Works, ii. 157). During the absence of Lord James Stewart, afterwards Earl of Moray, on an embassy from the lords to Queen Mary in France, he 'travelled earnestly and stoutly ' that nothing should be done against her authority in Scotland (ib.) On the return of Mary to Scotland he was chosen a member of the new privy council, and continued in the office of clerk register (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 158). Subsequently he offended Knox by the support he gave to the moderate policy of Lord James and William Maitland [q. v.], and at a meeting convened. At his own house shortly after the queen's return opposed the proposal to deprive the queen of the mass (Knox, Works, ii. 291). He was one of a commission appointed on 24 Jan. 1561-2 to inquire into the rental of the benefices (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 196), and of a subsequent commission for modifying the ministers' stipends (Knox, Works, ii. 310). He accompanied Lord James, created Earl of Moray, and the queen during their progress in the north in 1562, which was signalised by the rebellion, defeat, and death of George Gordon, fourth earl of Huntly [q. v.]
Although generally faithful to Moray, Mackgill did not join him in his rebellion in 1565, on account of the queen's marriage to Darnley, but was concerned in the plot for the murder of Rizzio, and on the return of the queen to Edinburgh from Dunbar escaped to the highlands. On 19 March 1665-6 he was summoned to appear before the council to answer for the murder, and failing to do so was put to the horn (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 437). He was also deprived of the office of clerk register, which was bestowed on Sir James Balfour. Shortly before the baptism of the young prince James in June 1566 he was, however, restored to favour (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1666-8, entry 723).
Mackgill sat on the assize which exculpated Bothwell from the murder of Darnley, but after Bothwell's marriage to the queen was one of the most active in contriving means of revenge for the murder. When the Queen had been deposed at Lochleven, he was deputed, along witn Sir James Melville [q. v.], to meet Moray at Berwick, and ask him to undertake the government. He was restored by Moray to tne office of clerk register in December 1667, and gradually superseded Maitland of Lethington in his confidence. After Mary's flight to England he accompanied Moray to the York and Westminster conferences. From York he was in November 1568 sent to have a special conference with Elizabeth, being selected by the regent to accompany Maitland, 'not so much to assist him, as to watch over him and to spv what would be his carriage' (Calderwood, ii.447).
When the question of the divorce of Queen Mary came before the parliament at Perth in July 1569, a violent debate took place between Maitland and Mackgill, Mackgill asserting that to grant the queen's request would in the circumstances be treason and blasphemy (Hudson to Cecil, 5 Aug. 1569, in Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1569-71, entry 368). The bitterness with which Mackgill was regarded by the Maitlands may be gathered from the pretended 'Conference' of the regent, written by Thomas Maitland [see under Maitland, Sir Richard]. There the regent is represented as keeping Mackgill to speak last because he was ' a wylie cheild,' and the advice he gives the regent is to ' put them out of the way that may or hath desire to hinder you' (Calderwood, ii. 524 ; Richard Bannatyne, Memorials, p. 12). After the assassination of Moray, Mackgill, at a conference held at the instance of James Douglas, fourth earl of Morton, with the English ambassadors, acted as chief spokesman, and assured them that if Elizabeth would, as formerly, secure their religion, and assist them to resist the invasion of the country by foreigners, they would be as faithful to her as Moray had been (Hudson to Elizabeth, 30 Jan. 1669-70, quoted in Tytler's History of Scotland, ed. 1864, iii. 324). He also proposed that she should agree to the selection of the Earl of Lennox as regent (ib.)
In 1570 Mackgill accompanied Morton on a special mission to England, in regard to the custody of Queen Mary. He continued one of the most steadfast of her opponents, and was supposed to have been chiefly instrumental in preventing an agreement between Morton ana Sir William Kirkcaldy [q. v.] of Grange in 1671 (Drury to Cecil, 25 Jan. 1570-1, in Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1569-1571, entry 1614). On 28 April his house in Edinburgh was entered by a force from the castle under Captain Melville, and some of his servants carried away captive (Richard Bannatyne, Memorials, p. 113; Calderwood, iii. 70, who erroneously states that Mackgill's wife, instead of the wife of a neighbour, was slain). Shortly afterwards Mackgill resolved to remove his plate and other valuables to Pinkie, but in the transit they were in May 1571 captured by a party from the castle (Bannatyne, p. 119; Drury to the frivy council, 13 May, in Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1569-71, entry 1698). In 1572 his house was destroyed by the garrison to procure firewood (Bannattne, p. 234).
Mackgill was, along with George Buchanan, chosen an extraordinary member of the new council, elected on 24 March 1577-8, after the fall of Morton, to manage affairs till the meeting of parliament. In April he was selected to answer the reasoning of David Lindsay [q. v.], bishop of Ross, in reference to 'the liberty of the kirk,' the result being, according to Calderwood, that 'good men began to look for little good of this new council (History, iii. 401). He was also one of the new council chosen after the ratification by parliament of the king's acceptance of the government. He died before 15 Aug. 1579. by his wife Janet Adamson he had two sons: James Mackgill of Nether Rankeillour, from whom descended the Mackgrills, viscounts of Oxford; and David Mackgill of Nisbet, who Was king's advocate and a lord of session.
[Reg. P. C. Scotl. vols. i-iv.; Cal. State Papers, For. Ser., during the reign of Elizabeth; Histories of Knox, Calderwood, and Buchanan; Hist. of James the Sext, Richard Bannatyne's Memorials, and Sir James Melville's Memoirs (all Bannatyne Club); Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, pp. 99-100; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 345.]