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George Buchanan (humanist)

George Buchanan (humanist)

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George Buchanan was a Scottish
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 and humanist
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

 scholar. He was part of the Monarchomach movement.

Early life

His father, a younger son of an old family, owned the farm of Moss, in the parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

 of Killearn
Killearn is a small village of approximately 1700 people in the Stirling council area of Scotland. The village name stems from the Gaelic Cill Earnain, meaning Ernan's Church; the Ernan in question presumably being one of the canonised individuals of that name who were both relatives and followers...

, Stirling
Stirling (council area)
Stirling is one of the 32 unitary local government council areas of Scotland, and has a population of about 87,000 . It was created under the Local Government etc Act 1994 with the boundaries of the Stirling district of the former Central local government region, and it covers most of the former...

, but he died young, leaving his widow and children in poverty. George's mother, Agnes Heriot, was of the family of the Heriots of Trabroun, East Lothian
East Lothian
East Lothian is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, and a lieutenancy Area. It borders the City of Edinburgh, Scottish Borders and Midlothian. Its administrative centre is Haddington, although its largest town is Musselburgh....

, of which George Heriot
George Heriot
George Heriot was a Scottish goldsmith and philanthropist. He is chiefly remembered today as founder of George Heriot's School, a large private school in Edinburgh; his name has also been given to Heriot-Watt University, as well as several streets in the same city.Heriot was the court goldsmith...

, founder of Heriot's Hospital, was also a member. Buchanan, a native speaker of Scottish Gaelic is said to have attended Killearn school, but not much is known of his early education. In 1520 he was sent by his uncle, James Heriot, to the University of Paris
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

, where he first came in contact with the two great influences of the age, the Renaissance and the Reformation. There, according to him, he devoted himself to the writing of verses "partly by liking, partly by compulsion (that being then the one task prescribed to youth)."

In 1522 his uncle died, and Buchanan was unable to stay in Paris; he returned to Scotland. After recovering from a severe illness, he joined the French auxiliaries who had been brought over to Scotland by John Stewart, Duke of Albany, and took part in an unsuccessful siege of Wark Castle
Wark on Tweed
Wark on Tweed is a village in the English county of Northumberland. It lies about south west of Berwick-upon-Tweed...

 on the border with England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in late 1523. In the following year he entered the University of St Andrews
University of St Andrews
The University of St Andrews, informally referred to as "St Andrews", is the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in the English-speaking world after Oxford and Cambridge. The university is situated in the town of St Andrews, Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. It was founded between...

, where he graduated B.A. in 1525. He had gone there mainly to attending the lectures of John Mair
John Mair
John Mair was a Scottish philosopher, much admired in his day and an acknowledged influence on all the great thinkers of the time. He was a very renowned teacher and his works much collected and frequently republished across Europe...

 on logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

; and when Mair moved to Paris, Buchanan followed him in 1526. In 1527 he graduated B.A., and in 1528 M.A. at the Scots College in Paris. Next year he was appointed regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

, or professor, in the College of Sainte-Barbe, and taught there for over three years. In 1529 he was elected "Procurator of the German Nation
Nation (university)
Student nations or simply nations are regional corporations of students at a university. Once widespread across Europe in medieval times, they are now largely restricted to the ancient universities of Sweden and Finland...

" in the University of Paris, and was re-elected four times in four successive months. He resigned his regentship in 1531, and in 1532 became tutor to Gilbert Kennedy, 3rd Earl of Cassilis
Gilbert Kennedy, 3rd Earl of Cassilis
Gilbert Kennedy, 3rd Earl of Cassilis was a Scottish peer, the son of Gilbert Kennedy, 2nd Earl of Cassilis.He succeeded to the titles of 5th Lord Kennedy and 3rd Earl of Cassillis in August 1527. On 6 February 1540/41 he had a charter of the Fief of Cassilis...

, with whom he returned to Scotland early in 1537 having acquired a great reputation for learning.

At this period Buchanan assumed the same attitude toward the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 as Erasmus: he did not repudiate its doctrines, but considered himself free to criticise its practice. Though he listened to the arguments of the Protestant Reformers
Protestant Reformers
Protestant Reformers were those theologians, churchmen, and statesmen whose careers, works, and actions brought about the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century...

, he did not join their ranks until 1553. His first production in Scotland, when he was in Lord Cassilis's household in the west country, was the poem Somnium, a satirical attack on the Franciscan friars and monastic life generally. This assault on the monks was not displeasing to James V
James V of Scotland
James V was King of Scots from 9 September 1513 until his death, which followed the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Solway Moss...

, who engaged Buchanan as tutor to one of his natural sons, Lord James Stewart (not the son who was afterwards regent), and encouraged him in a more daring effort. The poems Palinodia and Franciscanus et Fratres remained unpublished for many years, but made the author hated by the Franciscan order.

Humanist in exile

In 1539 there was persecution in Scotland of the Lutherans, and Buchanan among others was arrested. Although the King had withheld his protection, he managed to escape and made his way to London, and then Paris. In Paris, however, he found an enemy, Cardinal David Beaton
David Beaton
The Most Rev. Dr. David Cardinal Beaton was Archbishop of St Andrews and the last Scottish Cardinal prior to the Reformation.-Career:...

, who was there as ambassador, and on the invitation of André de Gouveia
André de Gouveia
André de Gouveia was a Portuguese humanist and pedagogue during the Renaissance.André de Gouveia became one of the first Portuguese to study in the Collège Sainte-Barbe, in Paris, which was then directed by his uncle Diogo de Gouveia...

, he moved to Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

. Gouveia was then principal of the newly-founded College of Guienne
College of Guienne
The Collège of Guienne was a school founded in 1533 in Bordeaux. The collège became renowned for the teaching of liberal arts between the years 1537 and 1571, attracting students such as Michel de Montaigne.-History:...

 there, and by his influence Buchanan was appointed professor of Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

. During his time there several of his major works, the translations of Medea
Medea is a woman in Greek mythology. She was the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis, niece of Circe, granddaughter of the sun god Helios, and later wife to the hero Jason, with whom she had two children, Mermeros and Pheres. In Euripides's play Medea, Jason leaves Medea when Creon, king of...

and Alcestis
Alcestis is a princess in Greek mythology, known for her love of her husband. Her story was popularised in Euripides's tragedy Alcestis. She was the daughter of Pelias, king of Iolcus, and either Anaxibia or Phylomache....

, and the two dramas, Jephthes (sive Votum) and Baptistes (sive Calumnia), were completed.

Michel de Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne
Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne , February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592, was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularising the essay as a literary genre and is popularly thought of as the father of Modern Skepticism...

 was Buchanan's pupil at Bordeaux and acted in his tragedies. In the essay Of Presumption he classes Buchanan with Jean d'Aurat, Theodore Beza
Theodore Beza
Theodore Beza was a French Protestant Christian theologian and scholar who played an important role in the Reformation...

, Michel de l'Hôpital
Michel de l'Hôpital
Michel de l'Hôpital was a French statesman.-Biography:De l'Hôpital was born near Aigueperse in Auvergne ....

, Pierre de Montdoré and Adrianus Turnebus
Adrianus Turnebus
Adrianus Turnebus was a French classical scholar.-Life:Turnebus was born at Les Andelys in Normandy. At the age of twelve he was sent to Paris to study, and attracted great notice by his remarkable abilities...

, as one of the foremost Latin poets of his time. Here also Buchanan formed a lasting friendship with Julius Caesar Scaliger
Julius Caesar Scaliger
Julius Caesar Scaliger was an Italian scholar and physician who spent a major part of his career in France. He employed the techniques and discoveries of Renaissance humanism to defend Aristotelianism against the new learning...

; in later life he won the admiration of Joseph Scaliger, who wrote an epigram
An epigram is a brief, interesting, usually memorable and sometimes surprising statement. Derived from the epigramma "inscription" from ἐπιγράφειν epigraphein "to write on inscribe", this literary device has been employed for over two millennia....

 on Buchanan which contains the couplet
A couplet is a pair of lines of meter in poetry. It usually consists of two lines that rhyme and have the same meter.While traditionally couplets rhyme, not all do. A poem may use white space to mark out couplets if they do not rhyme. Couplets with a meter of iambic pentameter are called heroic...

, famous in its day: "Imperii fuerat Romani Scotia limes; Romani eloquii Scotia limes erit?"

In 1542 or 1543 he returned to Paris, and in 1544 was appointed regent in the Collège du cardinal Lemoine. Among his colleagues were Muretus
Muretus is the Latinized name of Marc Antoni Muret , a French humanist who was among the revivers of a Ciceronian Latin style and is among the usual candidates for the best Latin prose stylist of the Renaissance.-Biography:He was born at Muret near Limoges...

 and Turnebus.

In 1547 Buchanan joined the band of French and Portuguese
Portuguese people
The Portuguese are a nation and ethnic group native to the country of Portugal, in the west of the Iberian peninsula of south-west Europe. Their language is Portuguese, and Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion....

 humanists who had been invited by Gouveia to lecture in the Portuguese University of Coimbra. The French mathematician Elie Vinet
Élie Vinet
Élie Vinet was a French Renaissance humanist, known as a classical scholar, translator and antiquary.-Life:Vinet was born at Vinets, in the commune of Saint Médard, near Barbezieux in what is now Charente. Brought up at Barbezieux, he studied at Angoulême, then at Poitiers, where he graduated M.A....

, and the Portuguese historian, Jerónimo Osório, were among his colleagues; Gouveia, called by Montaigne le plus grand principal de France, was rector of the university, which had reached the summit of its prosperity under the patronage of King John III
John III of Portugal
John III , nicknamed o Piedoso , was the fifteenth King of Portugal and the Algarves. He was the son of King Manuel I and Maria of Aragon, the third daughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile...

. But the rectorship had been coveted by Diogo de Gouveia
Diogo de Gouveia
Diogo de Gouveia , known as Diogo de Gouveia, the Elder to distinguish him from contemporary homonyms such as his nephew, was a leading Portuguese teacher, theologian, diplomat and humanist during the Renaissance...

, uncle of André and formerly head of Sainte-Barbe. It is probable that before André's death at the end of 1547 Diogo had urged the Inquisition
The Inquisition, Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis , was the "fight against heretics" by several institutions within the justice-system of the Roman Catholic Church. It started in the 12th century, with the introduction of torture in the persecution of heresy...

 to investigate him and his staff; up to 1906, when the records of the trial were first published in full, Buchanan's biographers generally attributed the attack to the influence of Cardinal Beaton, the Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

s, or the Jesuits, and the whole history of Buchanan's residence in Portugal was extremely obscure.

A commission of inquiry was appointed in October 1549 and reported in June 1550. Buchanan and two Portuguese, Diogo de Teive
Diogo de Teive (humanist)
Diogo de Teive was a Portuguese humanist during the Renaissance.Diogo de Teive was a humanist, a latinist and a typical scholar of his day: a traveller, who spent most of his formative years abroad, in Europe...

 and João da Costa (who had succeeded to the rectorship), were committed for trial. Teive and Costa were found guilty of various offences against public order, and the evidence shows that there was ample reason for a judicial inquiry. Buchanan was accused of Lutheran and Judaistic practices. He defended himself, admitting that some of the charges were true. About June 1551 he was sentenced to abjure his errors, and to be imprisoned in the monastery of São Bento
São Bento
São Bento is the name of several parishes:-In the Azores:*São Bento, a parish in the district of Angra do Heroísmo-In Brazil:*Pinhal de São Bento, Paraná*São Bento, Maranhão*São Bento, Paraíba...

 in Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

. Here he listened to edifying discourses from the monks, whom he found "not unkind but ignorant." In his leisure he began to translate the Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

into Latin verse, completing the greater part of a magnificent work. After seven months he was released, on condition that he remained in Lisbon; and on 28 February 1552 this restriction was lifted.

Buchanan then sailed for England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, but soon made his way to Paris, where in 1553 he was appointed regent in the College of Boncourt. He remained in that post for two years, and then accepted the office of tutor to the son of the Maréchal de Brissac. It was almost certainly during this last stay in France, where Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 was being repressed by King Francis I
Francis I of France
Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death. During his reign, huge cultural changes took place in France and he has been called France's original Renaissance monarch...

, that Buchanan took the side of Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...


Return to Scotland

In 1560 or 1561 he returned to Scotland, and by April 1562 was installed as tutor to the young Mary, Queen of Scots, who read Livy
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

 with him daily. Hitherto, though a supporter of the new learning and a merciless exposer of the vices of the clergy, he had remained in the ancient faith, but he now openly joined the Protestant Reformed Church
The Covenanters were a Scottish Presbyterian movement that played an important part in the history of Scotland, and to a lesser extent in that of England and Ireland, during the 17th century...

, and in 1566 was appointed by the earl of Murray
James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray
James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray , a member of the House of Stewart as the illegitimate son of King James V, was Regent of Scotland for his nephew, the infant King James VI of Scotland, from 1567 until his assassination in 1570...

 principal of St Leonard's College, St Andrews
St Andrews
St Andrews is a university town and former royal burgh on the east coast of Fife in Scotland. The town is named after Saint Andrew the Apostle.St Andrews has a population of 16,680, making this the fifth largest settlement in Fife....

. Two years before he had received from the queen the gift of the revenues of Crossraguel Abbey
Crossraguel Abbey
The Abbey of Saint Mary of Crossraguel is a ruin of a former abbey near the town of Maybole, South Ayrshire, Scotland.-Foundation:Founded in 1244 by Donnchadh, Earl of Carrick, following an earlier donation of 1225, to the monks of Paisley Abbey for that purpose. They reputedly built nothing more...

. Though a layman
A layperson or layman is a person who is not an expert in a given field of knowledge. The term originally meant a member of the laity, i.e. a non-clergymen, but over the centuries shifted in definition....

, he was made Moderator of the General Assembly
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
The Moderator of the General Assembly of Church of Scotland is a Minister, Elder or Deacon of the Church of Scotland chosen to "moderate" the annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which is held for a week in Edinburgh every May....

 of the Church of Scotland
Church of Scotland
The Church of Scotland, known informally by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is a Presbyterian church, decisively shaped by the Scottish Reformation....

 in 1567. He had sat in the assemblies from 1563. He was the last lay person to be elected Moderator until Alison Elliot
Alison Elliot
Alison Elliot OBE is the Associate Director of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2004 she became the first woman ever to be elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland...

 in 2004, the first female Moderator.

Buchanan accompanied the regent Murray to England, and his famous Detectio Mariæ Reginæ—a scathing exposure of the Queen's relations to Darnley and the circumstances leading up to his death, published in 1572—was produced to the commissioners at Westminster
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons...

. In 1570, after the assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 of Murray, he was appointed one of the preceptor
A preceptor is a teacher responsible to uphold a certain law or tradition, a precept.-Christian military orders:A preceptor was historically in charge of a preceptory, the headquarters of certain orders of monastic Knights, such as the Knights Hospitaller and Knights Templar, within a given...

s of the young king, and it was through his strict tuition
Tuition payments, known primarily as tuition in American English and as tuition fees in British English, Canadian English, Australian English, New Zealand English and Indian English, refers to a fee charged for educational instruction during higher education.Tuition payments are charged by...

 that James VI acquired his scholarship
A scholarship is an award of financial aid for a student to further education. Scholarships are awarded on various criteria usually reflecting the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award.-Types:...

. While royal tutor he also held other offices: he was for a short time director of chancery, and then became Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland
Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland
The office of Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland, one of the Great Officers of State, first appears in the reign of David II. After the Act of Union 1707 its holder was normally a peer, like the Keeper of the Great Seal...

, a post which entitled him to a seat in the parliament
Parliament of Scotland
The Parliament of Scotland, officially the Estates of Parliament, was the legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland. The unicameral parliament of Scotland is first found on record during the early 13th century, with the first meeting for which a primary source survives at...

. He appears to have continued in this office for some years, at least till 1579.

His last years were occupied with completion and publication of two of his major works, De Jure Regni apud Scotos (1579) and Rerum Scoticarum Historia (1582). He died in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 in 1582 and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is located at the southern edge of the Old Town, adjacent to George Heriot's School. Burials have been taking place since the late 16th century, and a number of notable Edinburgh residents are interred at...



For mastery of the Latin language
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, Buchanan has seldom been surpassed by any modern writer. His style is not rigidly modelled on that of any classical author, but has a freshness and elasticity of its own. Hugh Trevor-Roper called him "by universal consent, the greatest Latin writer, whether in prose or in verse, in sixteenth century Europe." He wrote Latin as if it were his mother tongue. Buchanan also had a rich vein of poetical feeling, and much originality of thought. His translations of the Psalms and of the Greek plays are more than mere versions; his two tragedies, Baptistes and Jephthes, enjoyed a Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an reputation for academic excellence. His Pompae verses were written for performance at the court entertainments of Mary, including the Offering of the Rustic Gods sung during a masque devised by Bastian Pagez
Bastian Pagez
Bastian Pagez was a French servant and musician at the court of Mary, Queen of Scots. He devised part of the entertainment at the baptism of Prince James at Stirling Castle in 1566. When Mary was exiled in England, Bastian and his family continued in her service...

 for the baptism of King James.

In addition to these works, Buchanan wrote in prose Chamaeleon
Chamaeleon is a small constellation in the southern sky. It is named after the chameleon, a form of lizard. It was first defined in the sixteenth century.-History:...

, a satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 in Scots
Scots language
Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster . It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language variety spoken in most of the western Highlands and in the Hebrides.Since there are no universally accepted...

 against Maitland of Lethington, first printed in 1711; a Latin translation of Linacre
Thomas Linacre
Thomas Linacre was a humanist scholar and physician, after whom Linacre College, Oxford and Linacre House The King's School, Canterbury are named....

's Grammar (Paris, 1533); Libellus de Prosodia (Edinburgh, 1640); and Vita ab ipso scripta biennio ante mortem (1608), edited by R. Sibbald (1702). His other poems are Fratres Fraterrimi, Elegiae, Silvae, two sets of verses entitled Hendecasyllabon Liber and Iambon Liber; three books of Epigram
An epigram is a brief, interesting, usually memorable and sometimes surprising statement. Derived from the epigramma "inscription" from ἐπιγράφειν epigraphein "to write on inscribe", this literary device has been employed for over two millennia....

; a book of miscellaneous verse
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

; De Sphaera (in five books), suggested by the poem De sphaera mundi
De sphaera mundi
De sphaera mundi is a medieval introduction to the basic elements of astronomy written by Johannes de Sacrobosco c. 1230...

of Joannes de Sacrobosco, and intended as a defence of the Ptolemaic
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 theory against the new Copernican
Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance astronomer and the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe....


There are two early editions of Buchanan's works: (a) Georgii Buchanani Scoti, Poetarum sui seculi facile principis, Opera Omnia, in two vols. fol. edited by Thomas Ruddiman
Thomas Ruddiman
Thomas Ruddiman was a Scottish classical scholar.-Life:He was born at Raggal, Banffshire, where his father was a farmer, and educated at the University of Aberdeen. Through the influence of Dr Archibald Pitcairne he became an assistant in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh...

 (Edinburgh, Freebairn, folio, 1715): (b) edited by Burman
Burman may refer to:People:*Barry Burman , English figurative artist*Ben Lucien Burman , American author and journalist*Bob Burman , American racecar driver...

, quarto 1725. The Vernacular Writings.

The first of his important late works was the treatise De Jure Regni apud Scotos, published in 1579. In this famous work, composed in the form of a dialogue
Dialogue is a literary and theatrical form consisting of a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people....

, and evidently intended to instil sound political principles into the mind of his pupil, Buchanan lays down the doctrine that the source of all political power is the people, that the king is bound by those conditions under which the supreme power was first committed to his hands, and that it is lawful to resist, even to punish, tyrant
A tyrant was originally one who illegally seized and controlled a governmental power in a polis. Tyrants were a group of individuals who took over many Greek poleis during the uprising of the middle classes in the sixth and seventh centuries BC, ousting the aristocratic governments.Plato and...

s. The importance of the work is proved by the persistent efforts of the legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

 to suppress it during the century following its publication. It was condemned by act of parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 in 1584, and again in 1664; and in 1683 it was burned by the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...


The second of his larger works is the History of Scotland
History of Scotland
The history of Scotland begins around 10,000 years ago, when humans first began to inhabit what is now Scotland after the end of the Devensian glaciation, the last ice age...

, Rerum Scoticarum Historia, completed shortly before his death (1579), and published in 1582. It is remarkable for the power and richness of its style, and of great value for the period personally known to the author, which occupies the greater portion of the book. The earlier part is based, to a considerable extent, on the legendary history of Boece
Boëcé is a commune in the Orne department in north-western France.-Changes in population:-See also:*Communes of the Orne department*...

. Buchanan's purpose was to "purge" the national history "of sum Inglis lyis and Scottis vanite" (Letter to Randolph). He said that it would "content few and displease many"; in fact, its matter gave so much offence that a proclamation was issued calling in all copies of it, as well as of the De Jure Regni, that they might be purged of the "offensive and extraordinary matters" which they contained.

Buchanan holds his great and unique place in literature not so much for his own writings as for his strong and lasting influence on subsequent writers.

Modern publications and influence

Polygon Books have published the poet Robert Crawford
Robert Crawford
Robert Crawford was a footballer who played for Liverpool Football Club during the early part of the 20th century.-Life and playing career:...

's selection of Buchanan's verse in Apollos of the North: Selected Poems of George Buchanan and Arthur Johnston (ISBN 1-904598-81-1) in 2006, the 500th anniversary of Buchanan's birth.

In the lead-up to the anniversary Professor Roger Mason of the University of St Andrews
University of St Andrews
The University of St Andrews, informally referred to as "St Andrews", is the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in the English-speaking world after Oxford and Cambridge. The university is situated in the town of St Andrews, Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. It was founded between...

 has published A Dialogue on the Law of Kingship among the Scots, a critical edition and translation of George Buchanan's 'De Iure Regni apud Scotos Dialogus (ISBN 1-85928-408-6).

The Stirling Smith Museum and Art Gallery
Stirling Smith Museum and Art Gallery
Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum is an institution based in Stirling, Central Scotland, dedicated to the promotion of cultural and historical heritage and the arts, from a local scale to nationally and beyond. It is also known locally by its original name of "The Smith Institute"...

 hosted an exhibition and event programme over winter 2006-7 to commemorate the anniversary, including performances of musical settings of Buchanan's psalms, due to be published in 2007.

External links