Michael Naesmith of Posso, Peeblesshire, and Elizabeth Baird. The family trace their descent to a stalwart knight, who while in attendance on Alexander III was unable to repair his armour, but so atoned for his lack of skill as a smith by his bravery in the fight that after its conclusion he was knighted by the king with the remark that, although ‘he was nae smith, he was a brave gentleman.’ Sir Michael, who was chamberlain to the Archbishop of St. Andrews, came into the possession of Posso, with the royal eirie of Posso Craig, by his marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of John Baird. He was an adherent of Mary Queen of Scots, and fought for her at Langside. The second son, John, was surgeon to King James. He was with other attendants of the king in Holyrood Palace when on 27 Dec. 1591 Bothwell [see Hepburn, Francis Stewart, fifth Earl of Bothwell] made an attempt to capture the king there. David Moysie says: ‘He was committed to ward within the castle of Edinburgh, and found thereafter to have been the special plotter and deviser of that business’ (Memoirs, pp. 87–8). On Wednesday, 16 Jan. 1591–2, he was brought to Glasgow, ‘where,’ says Calderwood, ‘he was threatened with torments to confess that the Earl of Murray was with Bothwell that night he beset the king in the abbey. But he answered he would not damn his own soul with speaking an untruth for any bodily pain’ (History, v. 147). Subsequently he was confined in Dumbarton Castle, and on 8 April caution was given for him in one thousand merks ‘that within twenty days after being released from Dumbarton Castle he shall go abroad, and shall not return without the king's license’ (Reg. P. C. Scotl. iv. 741). This caution was, however, deleted by warrant of the king 1 Aug. 1593 (ib.) Naysmith was riding with the king while he was hunting at Falkland on 5 Aug. 1600, the morning of the Gowrie conspiracy, and was sent by the king to bring back Alexander Ruthven, with whom the king determined to proceed to Perth (Calderwood, vi. 31). He was one of those to whom in 1601 the coinage was set in tack (Reg. P. C. Scotl. vi. 314).
Naysmith accompanied James to London on his accession to the English throne in 1603, and appears to have received from him a yearly gift of 66l. (Nichols, Progresses of James I, ii. 44). He attended Prince Henry during his fatal illness in 1612 (ib. p. 483). On 12 July 1612 Home of Cowdenknowes sold to him the lands of Earlston, Berwickshire, under reversion of an annual rent of 3,000l. Scots (Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. pt. viii. p. 120), and the sale was confirmed by the king 17 June 1613 (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1609–20, entry 861). He died some time before 12 June 1619, when Helen Makmath is referred to as his widow (ib. entry 1962). Among other children he left a son Henry, to whom on 12 Feb. 1620 the king conceded the lands of Cowdenknowes (ib. entry 2130). On 10 Nov. 1626 Charles I, among other instructions to the president of the court of session, directed him ‘to take special notice of the business of the children of John Nasmyth, so often recommended to your late dear father and us, and an end to be put to that action’ (Balfour, Annals, ii. 151). Nasmyth devoted special attention to botany, and is referred to in terms of high praise by the botanist Lobel, who acknowledges several important communications from him (Adversaria, 1605, pp. 487, 489, 490).
[Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot.; Reg. P. C. Scotl.; Histories of Spotiswood and Calderwood; David Moysie's Memoirs (Bannatyne Club); Nichols's Progresses of James I; Birch's Life of Prince Henry; Chambers's History of Peebles; Anderson's Scottish Nation; Pulteney's Hist. and Biog. Sketches in the Progress of Botany.]
NASMYTH, ALEXANDER (1758–1840), portrait and landscape painter, second son of Michael Nasmyth, a builder, and his wife, Mary Anderson, was born in the Grassmarket, Edinburgh, on 9 Sept. 1758. He was educated in the high school, receiving instruction from his father in mensuration and mathematics; and he studied art in the Trustees' Academy under Alexander Runciman, having been apprenticed to Crichton, a coachbuilder, by whom he was employed in painting arms and decorations upon the panels of carriages. His work of this kind attracted the notice of Allan Ramsay the portrait-painter, while he was on a visit to Edinburgh, and he induced Crichton to transfer to himself the indentures of his apprentice. Removing to London, the youth was now employed upon the subordinate portions of Ramsay's portraits, and he diligently profited by the study of a fine collection of drawings by the old masters which the artist possessed.
In 1778 Nasmyth returned to Edinburgh and established himself as a portrait-painter. His works were usually cabinet-sized full-lengths, frequently family groups, and introducing landscape backgrounds and views of the mansions of the sitters. One of his best subjects of this kind is his group of Professor Dugald Stewart with his first wife and their child; and other examples are in the possession of the Earls of Minto and