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Wishart, George


Protestant reformer; b. c. 1510; d. St. Andrews, March 28, 1545 or 1546. Nothing is known with certainty of the parentage and early life of Wishart. He is probably the "George Wishart of St. Andrews" who was promoted in arts at the Château College of Louvain in 1532. In 1534 he was schoolmaster in Montrose, but, when summoned by John Hepburn, Bishop of Brechin, to answer a charge of heresy, he fled to England (1538). At Bristol he was accused of preaching against the worship and mediation of Our Lady and made public recantation in the church of St. Nicholas (1539). He spent the next two years in Germany and Switzerland. During this time he translated into English the Swiss Confession of Faith, drawn up at Basel in 1536; however, it remained unpublished until after his death. By 1543 Wishart had returned to England and was resident at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where his pupil, Emery Tylney, describes him as a man of scholarly, earnest, and frugal life.

Wishart seems to have returned to Scotland in 1543 and is possibly to be identified with "a Scotishman called Wyshart," who was the bearer of letters between disaffected Scots nobles and Henry VIII of England, concerning a plot to assassinate Cardinal David Beaton. Protestant historians reject this identification, claiming that it is out of keeping with the character of Wishart, whom J. Knox describes as "an innocent lamb." The destruction of altars and other furnishings of churches, associated with the violent phase of the Scottish Reformation, started seriously only with the arrival of George Wishart. During the years from 1543 to 1545, wherever he preached under the protection of local Protestant lairds, in Ayrshire, Angus, and elsewhere, he left a trail of pillaged churches. On Jan. 16, 1546, he was arrested at the house of the laird of Ormiston in East Lothian and was tried, convicted, and burned for heresy in front of the archiepiscopal castle of St. Andrew's. Within three months, partly in revenge for Wishart and partly for political reasons, Cardinal David Beaton was assassinated, and the castle of St. Andrew's was occupied by his murderers.

Bibliography: d. mcroberts, ed., Essays on the Scottish Reformation, 15131625 (Glasgow 1962). c. rogers, Life of George Wishart (Edinburgh 1876). j. knox, Works, ed. d. laing, 6 v. (Edinburgh 184664); History of the Reformation in Scotland, ed. w. c. dickinson, 2 v. (New York 1949). m. schmidt, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen 195765) 6:177576. a.j. g. mackay, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 (London 18851900) 21:719722.

[d. mcroberts]

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