|Archbishop of St Andrews|
|Consecration||between 26 July – 13 August 1538|
|Created Cardinal||20 December 1538|
|Rank||Cardinal priest of S. Stefano in Monte Celio|
(probably Balfour), Fife, Scotland
|Died||29 May 1546 (aged c. 52
St Andrews Castle, Fife, Scotland
|Denomination||Roman Catholic Church|
|Parents||John Beaton and Isobel Monypenny|
|Previous post||Coadjutor Archbishop of St Andrews 1537–1539|
Cardinal Beaton was a younger son of John Beaton of Balfour in the county of Fife, and is said to have been born in 1494. He was educated at the universities of St Andrews and Glasgow, and in his sixteenth year was sent to Paris, where he studied civil and canon law. He began his political career at the French court. He was Rector and Prebendary at Cambuslang from 1520. He became Commendator of Arbroath in 1524. On the death in 1539 of Archbishop James Beaton, his uncle and patron who had given him the prebend of Cambuslang, the Cardinal became Archbishop of St. Andrews. In 1544, he was made Papal legate in Scotland.
Between 1533 and 1542 he acted several times as King James V of Scotland's ambassador to France. He took a leading part in the negotiations connected with the King's marriages, first with Madeleine of France, and afterwards with Mary of Guise. In December 1537 Beaton was made Bishop of Mirepoix in Languedoc on the recommendation of King Francis I, and in 1538 he was appointed a Cardinal by Pope Paul III, under the title of St Stephen in the Caelian Hill. He was the only Scotsman named to that office by an undisputed right, Cardinal Wardlaw, Bishop of Glasgow, having received his appointment from the Antipope Clement VII about 160 years earlier. He was naturalised as a French subject. During 1542 he served as Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland for a matter of months.
Politically, Beaton was preoccupied with the maintenance of the Franco-Scottish alliance, and opposing Anglophile political attitudes, which were associated with the clamour for Protestant reform in Scotland ('the whole pollution and plague of Anglican impiety' as he called it). He was afraid that James V might follow Henry VIII's policy of appropriating monastic revenues.
Relations became strained between James V and his uncle, Henry VIII of England, who sought to detach Scotland from its allegiance to the Holy See and bring it into subjection to himself. Henry sent two successive embassies to Scotland to urge James to follow his example in renouncing the authority of the Pope in his dominions. King James declined to be drawn into Henry's plans and refused to leave his kingdom for a meeting with Henry. Hostilities broke out between the two kingdoms in 1542. The Cardinal was blamed by many for the war with England that led to the defeat at Solway Moss in November 1542.
In Mary's reign
James V died at Falkland Palace on December 14, 1542. Beaton tried to become one of the regents for the infant sovereign Mary, Queen of Scots. He based his claim on an alleged will of the late King; but the will was generally regarded as forged, and James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, heir presumptive to the throne, was declared regent. A copy of the alleged will was preserved by Regent Arran. Dated 14 December 1542 in the king's bedchamber at Falkland Palace, it was witnessed by James Learmonth of Dairsie, Master Household; Henry Kemp of Thomastoun, Gentleman of the Chamber; Michael Durham, the king's doctor; John Tennent, William Kirkcaldy of Grange, Master Michael Dysart, Preceptor of St Anthony's at Leith; John Jordan, Rector of Yetham; Francis Aikman, perfumerer,and others at the bedside. However, the clerk who wrote the instrument, Henry Balfour, a canon of Dunkeld was not a recognised notary.
By order of the Regent, he was committed to the custody of Lord Seton. With Beaton out of power, the Anglophile party persuaded Regent Arran to make a marriage treaty with England on behalf of the infant Queen, and to appoint a number of Protestant preachers. The treaties signed at Greenwich in July 1543, resulted in an surge in the popularity of the French faction and the release of Beaton from prison. In 1543 Beaton regained power, cancelled the treaty (having earlier drawn up the Secret Bond) and proceeded to prosecute a number of those whom he saw as heretics. Two English invasions followed - and for these many blamed Beaton.
In December 1545 Beaton arranged for the arrest, trial and execution by burning of Protestant preacher George Wishart, who was prosecuted by Beaton's Private Secretary, Archdeacon John Lauder. Wishart, though, had many sympathisers, and this led to the assassination of the Cardinal soon afterwards.
Plots against Cardinal Beaton had begun circulating as early as 1544. The conspirators were led by Norman Leslie, master of Rothes, and William Kirkcaldy of Grange. The Leslies had suffered from the expansion of Beaton's interest in Fife. Kirkcaldy's uncle, James Kirkcaldy of Grange, held Protestant sympathies and had been removed in 1543 as treasurer of the realm, through Beaton's influence. They were joined by John Leslie of Parkhill, one of the Fife lairds angered at the execution of Wishart. Leslie and Kirkcaldy managed to obtain admission to St Andrews Castle at daybreak of 29 May 1546, killing the porter in the process. They then murdered the cardinal, mutilating the corpse and hanging it from a castle window. At the time it was widely believed that his death was in the interests of Henry VIII of England, who regarded Beaton as the chief obstacle to his policy in Scotland; the Cardinal's murder was certainly a significant point in the eventual triumph of Protestantism north of the Border.
At the time of his death, David Beaton was Lord Chancellor of Scotland, Archbishop of St Andrews, and Cardinal Legate in Scotland.
Like many medieval prelates, Beaton had a long-term mistress. Though the Gregorian Reforms of the 11th Century had tried to put an end to clerical marriage, Nicolaitism continued through most of medieval Europe. These claims are strenuously denied by Bellensheim and others.
His mistress, Marion Ogilvy, was born in 1500, the youngest daughter of James Ogilvy, 1st Lord Ogilvy of Airlie. After the deaths of her parents, she managed the family estates in Angus. Around 1520 she met and fell in love with David Beaton. They lived in Ethie Castle and produced eight children. According to Margaret H. B. Sanderson, their relationshhip, which appeared little different from marriage, offended those who wanted serious reform of the church, and who deplored the double standard by which prelates punished those who advocated the marriage of the clergy yet lived in open concubinage in violation of the rule of clerical celibacy.
Beaton's oldest surviving son, David later became master of the household to James VI. His daughter, Margaret married David Lindsay, 10th Earl of Crawford and Agnes married George Gordon, 4th Earl of Gight, and was an ancestress of the poet George Gordon Byron.
Beaton was arguably the most able administrator in Scottish history and his stance against Henry VIII has generally been seen as patriotic. Of course the hard-line Protestant reformers[who?] dismissed him as 'the best Frenchman' in Scotland but his actions over many years were invariably beneficial to Scottish interests. His brutal murder was the spark that led to subsequent religious warfare in Scotland.
He was succeeded as Archbishop of Saint Andrews by Dr. John Hamilton.
- Cardinal Beaton (play) based on his life.
- Hunter-Blair, Oswald. "David Beaton." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 15 Nov. 2013
- HMC, 11th Report, part VI, Manuscripts of the Duke of Hamilton, London (1887), pp.205,219-220
- "Cardinal David Beaton", Undiscovered Scotland
- Merriman, Marcus. "Castilians in St Andrews (act. 1546–1547)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 15 Nov 2013
- Lamont, Stewart. "Murder comes to the Archbishop", Christian History and Biography, 1 July 2008
- Herkless, John. Cardinal Beaton, Priest and Politician, William Blackwood & sons, Edinburgh, 1891
- Sanderson, Margaret H. B., "Ogilvy, Marion (d. 1575)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2005 accessed 15 Nov 2013
- David Beaton retrieved 27 may 2007
- Gordons of Gight
- 1546 - Cardinal Beaton assassinated
- John Knox, History of the Reformation in Scotland, ed. David Laing (1846–1864)
- John Spottiswoode, archbishop of St Andrews, History of the Church of Scotland (Spottiswoode Soc., 1847–1851)
- Article in Dictionary of National Biography and works there quoted;
- Andrew Lang History of Scotland, vols. i. and ii. (1900–1902)
- Cameron M et al. (eds) Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology T&T Clark, Edinburgh 1993.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Sanderson, Margaret. Cardinal of Scotland: David Beaton, c. 1494—1546. Edinburgh: John Donald, 2001.
- Extract from John Knox's account of Beaton's murder
|Catholic Church titles|
|Cardinal priest of S. Stefano in Monte Celio
|Archbishop of St. Andrews
Archbishop of St Andrews
|Chancellor of the University of St Andrews
Archbishop of St Andrews
|Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland
Archbishop of Glasgow
|Lord Chancellor of Scotland
4th Earl of Huntly