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George Buchanan lived from February 1506 to 28 September 1582. He was a historian and scholar who was persecuted for his Protestant views. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
George Buchanan was the son of a farmer and was born at Moss, near Killearn in Stirlingshire. His father died when he was young, and he was brought up by his mother, Agnes Heriot and her family at Trabroun in East Lothian. In 1520, Buchanan was sent by his uncle to study at the University of Paris, where he stayed for two years until his uncle died in 1522. In 1523 he became a student at the University of St Andrews, and graduated in 1525. He then returned to the University of Paris, where he gained a BA in 1527 and an MA the following year.
In 1529 he was appointed a Professor at the College of Sainte-Barbe in Paris, a post he held for three years until being appointed tutor to Gilbert Kennedy, 3rd Earl of Cassilis, in 1532. On returning to Scotland in 1537, Buchanan was briefly employed in the household of James V, but in 1539 found himself in danger of arrest during a period of persecution of Lutheran Protestants. He fled to France, though in Paris encountered Cardinal Beaton, who had been behind his persecution in Scotland. Buchanan instead went to Bordeaux, where he was appointed Professor of Latin at the College of Guienne. It was while he was at Bordeaux that he produced some of his best known writing, including translations of Greek mythology and two dramas.
After another spell in Paris, in 1547 Buchanan took up a post as a lecturer at the Portuguese University of Coimbra. Here his Reforming Protestant views (and possibly the long reach of Cardinal Beaton) led to his arrest by the inquisition. After a period of imprisonment, Buchanan was released in early 1552 and made his way back to Paris via England. In 1560 he returned to a post Reformation Scotland. In 1566 was appointed Principal of St Leonard's College, St Andrews. In 1567 he served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Buchanan later served as tutor to the young James VI of Scotland, and was also appointed Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland. Late in life he published two of his most influential works, The Powers of the Crown in Scotland (1579) and A History of Scottish Matters (1582).
Buchanan died in Edinburgh in 1582 and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. He is remembered in the 31m high Buchanan Monument which sits in a railed enclosure in the centre of Killearn. The monument was erected by public subscription in 1789 and was designed by the Edinburgh architect James Craig, who gave his services free to the project. The marble tablet now found on the north side of the base was added during restoration of the monument in 1850.