Bishop George Wishart 


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Dr. George Wishart was born in 1599, the elder son of Thomas Wishart of Logie-Wishart, Forfarshire.  He is said to have studied at the University of Edinburgh, but may have completed his studies at St. Salvator's College, University of St. Andrews as there is a record of a George Wishart who graduated there in 1613.  On 26th August 1624 he was presented by James VI at the parish of Monifieth, Forfarshire and ordained at Dairsie by Archbishop John Spottiswood in 1625 whereupon he became the minister at Monifieth.  In 1626 he moved to St. Andrews as second charge, and it has been conjectured that is was there that he first met the Earl of Montrose who matriculated at the University of St. Andrews in 1627.

By 1631 George Wishart was minister at the Parish Church of St. Andrews, and he received his degree of D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) from St. Andrews prior to October 1634.  When the Presbyterians obtained the ascendancy, Dr. Wishart fled to England with Archbishop Spottiswood.  On 19th October 1639, he was appointed to a lectureship of All Saints Church, Newcastle, and in 1640 he was presented at St. Nicholas Church, Newcastle.  When Leslie and the Scots army took Newcastle on 19th October 1644, Wishart was taken prisoner, and, on the charge of corresponding with royalists, was imprisoned in the Thieves' Hole, Edinburgh.  In 1645, the Estates of Parliament agreed to support his wife and five children.

After 7 months in prison, Wishart was liberated when the Marquis of Montrose arrived in Edinburgh after his victory at Kilsyth on 15th August 1645.  Wishart joined the royal army at Bothwell, and was appointed private chaplain to the Marquis of Montrose.  In this capacity he accompanied the Marquis in his campaign both at home and abroad, and his narrative of Montrose's campaign is that of an eye-witness and biographer.  It was first published in Amsterdam under the following title and dated 1647:

"I. G. De Rebus Auspiciis Serenissimi & Potentissimi Caroli Dei Grati, Magnae Britanniae, Franciae & Hiberniae Regis, &c. Sub imperio illustrissimi Jacobi Montisrosarum Marchionis, Cometis de Kincardin, &c. Supremi Scotiae Gubernatoris, Anno CICICCXLIV, & duobus sequentibus, praeclare gestis, Commentarius.Interprete A. S. Anno Domini CICICCXLVII"

When the Scottish Parliament tried Montrose in abstentia in 1649, Wishart's book was brought as evidence against him.  A bounty was pledged by Parliament and the Church of Scotland for his capture, and he was sentenced in abstentia to be hanged with Wishart's book around his neck. The sentence was carried out in the following year after Montrose was captured and brought to Edinburgh.

There is a mural in the corridor of the House of Commons which depicts Montrose's execution on 21st May 1650 in Edinburgh.  After he was hanged, Montrose's head was stuck on a spike at the Edinburgh Tolbooth, and his body was quartered - the arms and legs being despatched for display at 4 other Scottish cities.  His torso was buring under the gallows on the Boroughmuir, from which his sister Lady Margaret Napier is said to have procured his heart which she kept in a gold casket.

After the fall of Montrose, Dr George Wishart became chaplain to a Scottish regiment of the Prince of Orange, and minister at Schiedam.  At the restoration of the monarchy he was appointed rector of Newcastle in 1660.  In 1661, following the reconciliation of the Scottish Parliament with the king's supporters, Montrose's body parts were collected together and he was given a grand funeral in St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh.  Beside his crypt there is a stained glass window bearing the arms of Montrose's principal supporters, including the full matriculated Wishart Arms in honour of his chaplain and biographer, Dr George Wishart.  On 1st June 1662 Dr Wishart was finally recognised in the Scottish capital, when he was consecrated as the Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh.

Dr Wishart's book, first published in 1647 in Amsterdam, was reprinted in 1648 in Edinburgh and London.  He subsequently added a second part, taking it to Montrose's death in 1650.  It is written in Latin, and was translated into English in 1819 by Archibald Constable, and in 1893 by Murdoch and Simpson in their Deeds of Montrose.  There are copies in the National Library of Scotland.

Dr George Wishart died on 25th July 1671 aged 72, and his epitaph in Latin can be seen on a mural tablet in the Church of Holyrood House, Edinburgh (the Queen's Palace).  It has been freely translated by Dr Charles Rogers in his Memoir of George Wishart, as follows:

"Here rest the remains of the distinguished Doctor George Wishart, the third bishop of his name.  Gifted with superior wisdom and piety, he by his eloquence and learning moved the stubborn and reclaimed the vicious.  A pattern of honour, he maintained a consistent and upright life.  For four hundred years, the members of his House were remarkable both in Church and State.  William Wishart was Chancellor of the kingdom and Bishop of St. Andrews.  Robert Wishart was Bishop of Glasgow, and a zealous supporter of King Robert the Bruce, and an upholder of the national cause.  Bishop George equalled Bishop William in his love of peace, and Bishop Robert in his patriotic valour.  He celebrated the exploits of the great Montrose.  In his deportment, dignity was unallied with pride.  The poor shared largely in his bounty.  His generous emotions neither misplaced confidence nor misfortune might arrest or overcome.  Loyal to his sovereign, he was devoted to his country.  Thrice deprived of his substance, he faithfully endured impeachment, imprisonment, and exile.  Having long suffered adversity, he was privileged on the restoration of the monarchy to experience comfort.  In the city where he was cruelly imprisoned, he was for nine years an honoured bishop.  He attained the venerable age of seventy two.  Edinburgh wished that he might reach the years of Nestor, and Scotland bewailed his death."

Above the memorial tablet are Dr Wishart's Arms and Crest , which incorporate the Wishart Arms in a half, the earliest known example still in existence.  The Wishart Society has obtained a copy of Dr Wishart's book, as translated by Archibald Constable in 1819, and you can view the contents here.  We hope to add further material from this important book, as time permits.