George Buchanan

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Buchanan, George (1506–82). The most distinguished Scottish humanist of his era, Buchanan was born near Killearn in Stirlingshire and educated primarily at Paris, where he quickly gained a reputation as a neo-Latin poet and dramatist of rare distinction. Deeply influenced by Erasmus, his strongly anticlerical views led to frequent brushes with authority culminating in imprisonment by the Portuguese Inquisition. The date of his conversion to protestantism is unknown, but on his return to Scotland in 1561 he was associated both with the court of the catholic Mary Stuart and with the new protestant kirk. Following the queen's deposition in 1567, he emerged as the most influential of Mary's detractors, justifying resistance to tyranny in his elegant dialogue De jure regni apud Scotos (1579) and his monumental Rerum Scoticarum historia (1582). Both were dedicated to Mary's son James VI, whose education at Buchanan's hands profoundly influenced the king's own belief in his divine right to rule.

Roger A. Mason

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George Buchanan, 1506–82, Scottish humanist. Educated at St. Andrews and Paris, he became (1536) tutor to James V's illegitimate son James Stuart (later earl of Murray). He was imprisoned (1539) for satirizing the Franciscans but escaped to the Continent. He taught at Bordeaux, where Montaigne was among his pupils, and at Coimbra and became highly regarded as a Latin poet. Returning to Scotland in 1560, Buchanan declared himself a Protestant. He became an opponent of Mary Queen of Scots after the murder (1567) of Lord Darnley and in 1571 published the Detectio Mariae Reginae, a bitter attack on the queen. From 1570 to 1578 he was tutor of the young king James VI (later James I of England). Buchanan's Rerum Scoticarum historia (1582) is a useful source for his time, but his most influential work was the De jure regni apud Scotos (1579), which argued that the king rules by popular will and for the general good.

See I. D. McFarlane, Buchanan (1981); P. J. Ford, George Buchanan: Prince of Poets (1982).