Thomas Craig (jurist)

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Thomas Craig, from an 1823 book.

Sir Thomas Craig (c. 1538 – 26 February 1608) was a Scottish jurist and poet.


His father was Robert Craig, an Edinburgh merchant, and his uncle was the Scottish theologian John Craig.[1]

Craig was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and at the University of St Andrews, where he took the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1555. From St. Andrews he went to France, to study canon law and civil law. In Paris from 1555 to 1561, he studied civil law under François Baudouin. His work on feudal law shows the influence of François Hotman, which must be later.[2]

Craig returned to the Kingdom of Scotland about 1561, and was admitted advocate in February 1563. In 1564, he was appointed justice-depute by the justice-general, Archibald Campbell, 5th Earl of Argyll; and in this capacity he presided at many of the criminal trials of the period in Edinburgh, and in 1606 was made procurator for the church. He never became a lord of session, a circumstance that was unquestionably due to his own choice.

He is said to have refused the honour of knighthood which James VI conferred on him in 1604. He had come to London as one of the Scottish commissioners regarding the personal union between the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England, the only political object he seems to have cared about. But in accordance with James's command he has always been styled and reputed a knight.


Except his poems, the only one of Craig's works which appeared during his lifetime was his Jus feudale (1603; editions by R. Burnet (1655); Lüder Mencke, Leipzig, 1716; and James Baillie (1732). The object of this treatise was to assimilate the laws of England and Scotland, but, instead of this, it was an important factor in building up and solidifying the law of Scotland into a separate system.

Other works were

  • De unione regnorum Britanniae tractatus, English translation (1910) by Charles Sanford Terry;
  • De jure successionis regni Angliae, written to answer Robert Parsons, and translated as Concerning the Right of Succession to the Kingdom of England by James Gadderar;[3][4]
  • De hominio disputatio. This was translated by George Ridpath as Scotland's Sovereignty asserted; being a dispute concerning Homage (1695).[5]

Craig's first poem, an epithalamium in honor of the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Darnley, appeared in 1565. Most of his poems have been reprinted in the Delitiae poetarum Scotorum.


Craig had numerous family connections, and was married twice. His first wife Helen Hamilton of 1573, who died in 1575, was the niece or granddaughter of Robert Richardson. His second wife of 1578 was Helen, daughter of Robert Heriot of Lumphoy in Midlothian, by whom he had four sons and three daughters; she was also the step-daughter of Edward Henryson, her mother Helen Swinton's second husband.[6]


  1. ^ Sanderson, Margaret H.B., A Kindly Place?, Tuckwell (2008), 108
  2. ^ J. G. A. Pocock (24 April 1987). The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: A Study of English Historical Thought in the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-521-31643-9. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  3. ^ James; Charles Howard McIlwain (1 March 2002). The Political Works of James I [1918]. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. pp. xxxvi note 1. ISBN 978-1-58477-222-4. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  4. ^  "Gadderar, James". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  5. ^  "Ridpath, George (d.1726)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  6. ^ Cairns, John W. "Craig, Thomas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/6580.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ Henry, John. "Craig, John (d. 1620?)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/6575.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. ^  "Gibson, Alexander (d.1644)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  9. ^  Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1887). "Craig, Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography. 12. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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