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Encyclopedia > Cardinal David Beaton
Cardinal David Beaton
Cardinal David Beaton

Cardinal David Beaton (c. 1494 - May 29, 1546) was Archbishop of St Andrews and the last Scottish Cardinal prior to the Reformation. Download high resolution version (571x611, 318 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Download high resolution version (571x611, 318 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... 1494 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... May 29 is the 149th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (150th in leap years). ... // Events Spanish conquest of Yucatan Peace between England and France Foundation of Trinity College, Cambridge by Henry VIII of England Katharina von Bora flees to Magdeburg Science Architecture Michelangelo Buonarroti is made chief architect of St. ... St Andrews cathedral ruins. ... Motto: (Latin for No one provokes me with impunity)1 Anthem: Multiple unofficial anthems Capital Edinburgh Largest city Glasgow Official language(s) English, Gaelic, Scots2 Government Constitutional monarchy (as part of the UK)  - Queen Queen Elizabeth II  - Prime Minister of the UK Tony Blair MP  - First Minister Jack McConnell MSP... A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official in the Roman Catholic Church, ranking just below the Pope and appointed by him as a member of the College of Cardinals during a consistory. ... The Protestant Reformation was a movement which began in the 16th century as a series of attempts to reform the Roman Catholic Church, but ended in division and the establishment of new institutions, most importantly Lutheranism, Reformed churches, and Anabaptists. ...

He 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 became Commendator of Arbroath in 1524, bishop of Mirepoix in Languedoc in December 1537 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. 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. Fife (Fìobh in Gaelic) is a council area of Scotland, situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, with landward boundaries to Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire. ... The University of St Andrews is the oldest university in Scotland and third oldest in the English-speaking world, having been founded between 1410 and 1413. ... The University of Glasgow, founded in 1451, is the largest of the three universities in Glasgow, Scotland. ... Canon Law is the ecclesiastical law of the Roman Catholic Church. ... The ruined Arbroath Abbey, built from local red sandstone. ... Coat of arms of the province of Languedoc, now being used as an official flag by the Midi-Pyrénees region as well as by the city of Toulouse Languedoc (Lengadòc in Occitan) is a former province of France, now continued in the modern-day régions of Languedoc... Francis I (François Ier in French) (September 12, 1494 – March 31, 1547), called the Father and Restorer of Letters (le Père et Restaurateur des Lettres), was crowned King of France in 1515 in the cathedral at Reims and reigned until 1547. ... Paul III, né Alessandro Farnese (February 29, 1468 – November 10, 1549) was pope from 1534 to 1549. ... The Caelian Hill (Latin Collis Caelius, Italian Celio) is one of the famous Seven Hills of Rome. ... Henry Wardlaw (d. ... For the other Clement VII who was Pope from 1523 to 1534, see Pope Clement VII. Robert of Geneva (1342-16 September 1394) was elected to the papacy by the French cardinals who opposed Urban VI, thereby becoming the first antipope of the Western Schism, as Pope Clement VII. He... James Beaton, or Bethune (1473-1539), was a Scottish church leader, the uncle of Cardinal David Beaton. ... Cambuslang (Scottish Gaelic: Camas Long) is a village in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. ... A Papal Legate -from the Latin, authentic Roman title Legatus- is a personal representative of the Pope to the nations, or rather to some part of the universal church. ...

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. He was naturalised a French subject. James V (April 10, 1512 – December 14, 1542) was king of Scotland (September 9, 1513 – December 14, 1542). ... Marie de Guise (in English, Mary of Guise) (November 22, 1515 – June 1560) was the Queen Consort of James V of Scotland and the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. ...

A portrait of Beaton from a collection in Arbroath Abbey
A portrait of Beaton from a collection in Arbroath Abbey

Politically, Beaton was preoccupied with the maintenance of the Franco-Scottish allience, 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. On the death of James in December 1542, Beaton attempted to assume office as one of the regents for the infant sovereign Mary, founding his claim on an alleged will of the late king; but the will was generally regarded as forged, and the Earl of Arran, heir presumptive to the throne, was declared regent. The cardinal, blamed by many for the war policy that led to the defeat at Solway Moss, was, by order of the regent, committed to the custody of Lord Seaton. With Beaton out of power, the Anglophile party persuaded Arran to make a marriage treaty with England on behalf of the infant queen, and to appoint a number of Protestant preachers. In 1543 Beaton regained power, cancelled the treaty and proceeded to prosecute a number of those whom he saw as heretics. Two English invasions followed - and for these many blamed Beaton. Arbroath Abbey, showing distinctive sandstone colouring. ... For the play, see Henry VIII (play). ... Mary, Queen of Scots redirects here. ... Solway Moss is a moss (lowland peat bog), in Cumbria, England, lying next to the River Sark which marks the Scottish border. ...

In March 1546, perhaps to divert attention from these criticisms, Beaton arranged for the arrest trial and execution by burning of George Wishart, who was prosecuted by Beaton's Private Secretary, John Lauder. Wishart, though, had many sympathisers, and this led to the assassination of the Cardinal soon afterwards. The conspirators, led by Norman Leslie, master of Rothes, and William Kirkaldy of Grange, managed to obtain admission at daybreak of 29 May 1546, and murdered the cardinal in his own castle of St Andrews. 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. Burning of two sodomites at the stake outside Zürich, 1482 (Spiezer Schilling) Execution by burning has a long history as a method of punishment for crimes such as treason and for other unpopular acts such as heresy and the practice of witchcraft. ... George Wishart George Wishart (c. ... John Lauder (born c1488, died between 1551 - 1556) was Scotlands Public Accuser of Heretics. ... May 29 is the 149th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (150th in leap years). ... // Events Spanish conquest of Yucatan Peace between England and France Foundation of Trinity College, Cambridge by Henry VIII of England Katharina von Bora flees to Magdeburg Science Architecture Michelangelo Buonarroti is made chief architect of St. ... Ruins of St Andrews castle overlooking the North Sea St Andrews castle is a picturesque ruin located in the coastal town of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland. ...

The murder of Beaton was certainly a significant point in the eventual triumph of Protestantism in Scotland, and yet even at the time it was not necessarily condoned even among his opponents. His contemporary Sir David Lyndsay, statesman, poet and strong critic of Beaton's, wrote soon after The Tragedie of the Cardinal, which concluded: Sir David Lyndsay (c. ...

As for the Cardinal, I grant,
He was the man we weel could want'
And we’ll forget him soon!
And yet I think, the sooth to say,
Although the loon is well away,
The deed was foully done.

Beaton was little interested in Church reform, living, like many pre-Reformation prelates, in open concubinage, providing lavishly for his children from ecclesiastical property. Certainly, he was an able statesman, and some saw his stance against Henry VIII as patriotic, but others, recalling his assets and interests in France called him 'the best Frenchman' in Scotland.

He was succeeded as Archbishop of Saint Andrews by John Hamilton


  • 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 the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Sanderson, Margaret. Cardinal of Scotland: David Beaton, c.1494—1546. Edinburgh: John Donald, 2001.
Religious Posts
Preceded by:
James Beaton
Archbishop of St. Andrews
Succeeded by:
John Hamilton



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