History

George Buchanan (1506-82) was a Scottish Renaissance humanist, poet and reformer. He is widely regarded as the finest writer in Latin of his century and the leading scholar among the Scots reformers. Born near Killearn, Stirlingshire, at the age of 14 Buchanan was sent to study in Paris. He then went on to study and teach at several European universities, including Paris, Bordeaux and Coimbra. Among his students at Bordeaux was Montaigne. Buchanan, a Calvinist, was Scotland’s foremost humanist scholar of the period and was well-known in Europe. He wrote poetry, plays and literary translations, as well as historical and political works. In the 1560s he returned to Scotland and became tutor to Mary, Queen of Scots. On his return to Scotland he lent his support to the reformers, often at grave personal risk.

Buchanan accused Mary Queen of Scots of complicity in Darnley’s murder, and following her subsequent abdication he was appointed Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland. In 1570 he became tutor to the young James VI of Scotland (James I of England and Ireland). Buchanan died in Edinburgh on 28 September 1582 and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard the following day. Buchanan’s posthumous reputation is remarkable: he was a craftsman of unusual accomplishments and instrumental to integrating Scotland into European culture. He is considered to be the last major Neo-Latin poet who remains a model for future generations.