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WILLIAM KIRKCALDY
(1520 - 1573)

Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange (c.1520 – August 3, 1573), was the eldest son of Sir James Kirkcaldy of Grange (died 1556).

Sir James was lord high treasurer of Scotland (1537-1543) and a political enemy of Cardinal Beaton. Father and son bore the shared responsibility for his murder in 1546, St Andrews; and the French who responded by storming the castle here, took Sir William to Normandy as their prisoner. He escaped in 1550, staying in France to become a secret agent for the advisers of Edward VI, and later to serve in the French Army where he acquired a reputation for skill and bravery. His sentence for assisting in the murder of Cardinal Beaton was removed in 1556 and he returned to Scotland the following year.

As a proponent of the Reformation, he was one of the leaders of the Lords of the Congregation in their opposition to the Regent, Mary of Guise, and involved with assaults on French troops in Fife.

He was implicated in the murder of Rizzio, secretary to Mary Queen of Scots though not involved it seems in the plot against Darnley her husband, who was also assassinated at this time.

He joined the revolt of the nobles against the Queen and her third husband James Bothwell, defeating their troops at Carberry Hill (1567), after which the Queen surrendered herself to Kirkcaldy.

Following the murder of Moray, Kirkcaldy distanced himself from his former allies and took up the cause of the imprisoned Queen. His political tactics at this time, which included releasing one of his own supporters from imprisonment, earned him the scorn of his former friend John Knox who openly regarded him as a murderous thug.

Following Mary’s abdication, Kirkcaldy began to strengthen the fortifications of Edinburgh Castle, of which he was governor, and in 1573 he opposed regent Morton on a peace agreement, because the terms did not favour a section of his supporters and friends.

In May that year the English came to the assistance of the Scots and forced the Castle to surrender. Kirkcaldy was taken prisoner and despite strenuous efforts to save him from the retribution of his enemies, was publicly hung on 3rd August 1573.

 


 
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