Whitelaw, Archibald.


Whitelaw, Archibald, ecclesiastic and administrator, was born in the second decade of the fifteenth century: in a supplication to the papacy of 5 July 1475 he described himself as in his sixtieth year of age. He entered the University of St Andrews in the 1430s and emerged as a licentiate in arts in 1439, having subsequently reappeared in Cologne as a teacher. 

By 1459 Whitelaw was certainly in royal service, employed as a diplomat, to conclude a treaty with Richard, duke of York, and as tutor to the heir to the throne. Under the regency government of the king's widow, Mary of Gueldres, he was clerk register during 1461 and 1462, and by August 1462 he was already acting as royal secretary for James III, a post which he was to retain for an astonishing thirty-one years. During that time he was regular in attending council meetings and in witnessing royal charters. He also carried on his work as a diplomat, he helped negotiate the unusual Stewart-York treaty that preceded the siege of Roxburgh. In 1474 was one of the commissioners who negotiated a treaty with England. 

Whitelaw was one of fifteenth-century Scotland's most notable humanists, and the surviving evidence reveals many facets of his classical scholarship, as a teacher at Cologne and St Andrews, as the collector of a fine library, including volumes by Lucan, Horace, Appianus, Sallust, Asconius, and Albertus Magnus; perhaps above all as the senior diplomat on the Scottish embassy to meet Richard III at Nottingham in September 1484, when Whitelaw delivered an elegant Latin oration at the outset of negotiations for an Anglo-Scottish truce. This Oratio, which praises Richard III for his martial exploits in spite of his small stature, is liberally endowed with cleverly phrased references to Cicero, Statius, Virgil, Seneca, Sallust, and Livy, and has long been admired as the work of a Christian humanist. Behind the elegant rhetoric, however, lies the tough diplomatic message that the beleaguered English king needed peace more than the Scots; and, as Dunbar and Berwick were still in English hands, there may be an implied rebuke to King Richard in the statement that every prince should be content within the bounds of his own kingdom.

Archdeacon of Lothian, subdean of Glasgow 1470 to 1498. The Archdeacon of Lothian was the head of the Archdeaconry of Lothian, a sub-division of the Diocese of St Andrews. The position was one of the most important positions within the medieval Scottish church; because of his area's large population and high number of parish churches, the Archdeacon of Lothian may have exercised more power than many Scottish bishops before the decline in archdiaconal powers after the 13th century. 

Whitelaw resigned from the secretaryship shortly before Christmas 1493, when he was already in his late seventies. In his time he had been the survivor of more political crises than any other royal servant, remaining in office both when James III was placed under constraint by his subjects in 1482 and 1483 and after that king was overthrown in 1488. He had served three kings, and he may eventually have found the rude transition from James III's static kingship in Edinburgh to the young James IV's hectic itineraries, embracing sea voyages to Dunstaffnage and pilgrimages to Whithorn and Tain, too much for him. He died, possibly at Glasgow, on 23 October 1498.

Biography Date: c.1415 -1498

Biography References: ESL 159. https://www.revolvy.com/ http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/54336

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