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Cardinal David Beaton – last Archbishop of St. Andrews

Cardinal David Beaton

Cardinal David Beaton was a prominent figure during the Scottish reformation, and was effectively the last Archbishop of St. Andrews, appointed to this position in 1539.

Opposed by protestants like John Knox, for having a steady stream of mistresses and fathering some 20 illegitimate children, David Beaton personified everything that was corrupt and in need of change in the Church.

In December 1545, Beaton arrested George Wishart, a Protestant preacher famous for turning back the plague from Dundee.

Following a mock trial, Beaton had Wishart burned at the stake in front of St Andrews Castle on 1 March 1546.

Outraged by this act, a group of Protestant lairds from Fife including Norman Leslie, master of Rothes, William Kirkaldy of Grange and James Melville entered the casle at daybreak on 29 May 1546 disguised as stonemasons.

The lairds found Beaton in bed with his mistress, Marion Ogilvy, and dragged him screaming from the bedchamber.

James Melville, pointed his sword at Beaton, saying, “Repent thee of thy former wicked life, but especially of the shedding of the blood of that notable instrument of God, Master George Wishart, which albeit the flame of fire consumed before men, yet cries it a vengeance upon thee, and we from God are sent to revenge it.” Melville thrust Beaton through with the sword before the group threw his body out of the window.

St Andrews Castle then became a gathering place for Protestants from all over the country, including John Knox, who held it in defiance of Marie de Guise’s troops.

They had hoped for support from Henry VIII, but none came.