William Carstares

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William Carstares
William Carstares about 1700.jpg
William Carstares c.1700
Born(1649-02-11)February 11, 1649
DiedDecember 28, 1715(1715-12-28) (aged 66)
The Carstares grave, Greyfriars Kirkyard The Carstares grave, Greyfriars Kirkyard.jpg
The Carstares grave, Greyfriars Kirkyard
The grave of William Carstares (detail), Greyfriars Kirkyard The grave of William Carstares, Greyfriars Kirkyard.jpg
The grave of William Carstares (detail), Greyfriars Kirkyard
Plaque to William Carstares, St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh Plaque to William Carstares, St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh.jpg
Plaque to William Carstares, St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh

William Carstares (also Carstaires) (11 February 1649 – 28 December 1715), [1] was a minister of the Church of Scotland, active in Whig politics.

Church of Scotland national church of Scotland

The Church of Scotland, also known by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is the national church of Scotland. It is Presbyterian and adheres to the Bible and Westminster Confession; the Church of Scotland celebrates two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, as well as five other rites, such as confirmation and matrimony. It is a member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.


Early life

Carstares was born at Cathcart, near Glasgow, Scotland, the son of the Rev. John Carstares, a Covenanter. [1] He was educated at the University of Edinburgh, and then at the University of Utrecht. [1] In the Netherlands he had an introduction to Gaspar Fagel. Through Fagel he met the Prince of Orange, the future King William III of Great Britain, and began to take an active part in politics. [2]


Cathcart is an area of Glasgow between Battlefield, Mount Florida, King's Park, Muirend and Newlands. The White Cart Water flows through Cathcart, downstream from Linn Park. In 2014, it was rated one of the most attractive postcode areas to live in Scotland.

Glasgow City and council area in Scotland

Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland, and the third most populous city in the United Kingdom, as of the 2017 estimated city population of 621,020. Historically part of Lanarkshire, the city now forms the Glasgow City council area, one of the 32 council areas of Scotland; the local authority is Glasgow City Council. Glasgow is situated on the River Clyde in the country's West Central Lowlands. Inhabitants of the city are referred to as "Glaswegians" or "Weegies". It is the fourth most visited city in the UK. Glasgow is also known for the Glasgow patter, a distinct dialect of the Scots language that is noted for being difficult to understand by those from outside the city.

Scotland Country in Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, by the North Sea to the northeast and by the Irish Sea to the south. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

During the Third Anglo-Dutch War, Carstares acted as an intelligence agent for the Prince of Orange, making journeys to England as "William Williams". He corresponded with Pierre du Moulin (d. 1676), who ran the Prince's espionage. He was suspected by the English, and arrested by warrant in September 1674 on English soil. [2]

Third Anglo-Dutch War conflict

The Third Anglo-Dutch War or the Third Dutch War was a military conflict between the Kingdom of England and the Dutch Republic, that lasted between April 1672 and early 1674. It was part of the larger conflict between the Dutch Republic and her allies and France, and the third of a series of naval wars between the English and the Dutch.

1674 to 1689

Carstares was then committed to the Tower of London; the following year, 1675, he was transferred to Edinburgh Castle. He was believed to be concerned with Sir James Stewart in the authorship of a pamphlet An Account of Scotland's Grievances by reason of the D. of Lauderdale's Ministrie, humbly tendered to his Sacred Majesty (1674). John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale himself got Carstares to admit he had been involved in printing the pamphlet. Lauderdale used the threat of the torture of the boot, which could be employed legally in Scotland; but Carstares was not tortured. In August 1679 he was released, one of the government sops to Scottish opinion after the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. [2] He cannot therefore have been the William Carstares who was the chief prosecution witness at the trial of William Staley (the first of the Popish Plot trials) in November 1678, although that Carstares was also a Scotsman, and like his namesake is said to have acted as an intelligence agent.

Tower of London A historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London

The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard I, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.

Edinburgh Castle castle in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland from its position on the Castle Rock. Archaeologists have established human occupation of the rock since at least the Iron Age, although the nature of the early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until 1633. From the 15th century the castle's residential role declined, and by the 17th century it was principally used as military barracks with a large garrison. Its importance as a part of Scotland's national heritage was recognised increasingly from the early 19th century onwards, and various restoration programmes have been carried out over the past century and a half. As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century to the Jacobite rising of 1745. Research undertaken in 2014 identified 26 sieges in its 1100-year-old history, giving it a claim to having been "the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world".

Sir James Stewart (Lord Advocate) Scottish lawyer, Lord Advocate of Scotland

Sir James Stewart or Steuart (1635–1713) was a Scottish lawyer, political opponent of the Stuarts, and reforming Lord Advocate of Scotland.

After this, Carstares visited Ireland, joined nonconformist circles in London, and then in 1681 became pastor to a congregation at Theobalds, near Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. The aftermath of the Exclusion Crisis saw him directly involved in conspiracy with the Whig faction. Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll in the Netherlands was in touch with Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury. Carstares provided liaison, while his brother-in-law William Dunlop was able to use his colonial project in the Province of Carolina as cover for Shaftesbury's preparations for rebellion. [2]

Ireland Island in north-west Europe, 20th largest in world, politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK)

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

Nonconformist Protestant Christians in Wales and England who did not follow the established Church of England

In English church history, a Nonconformist was a Protestant who did not "conform" to the governance and usages of the established Church of England. Broad use of the term was precipitated after the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, when the Act of Uniformity 1662 re-established the opponents of reform within the Church of England. By the late 19th century the term specifically included the Reformed Christians, plus the Baptists and Methodists. The English Dissenters such as the Puritans who violated the Act of Uniformity 1559—typically by practising radical, sometimes separatist, dissent—were retrospectively labelled as Nonconformists.

Cheshunt town in Hertfordshire, England

Cheshunt is a town in the Borough of Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, lying entirely within the London Metropolitan Area and Greater London Urban Area. It is 12 miles (19 km) north of central London and has a population of around 52,000 according to the United Kingdom's 2001 Census.

During 1682 Carstares was in the Netherlands, but the following year he was again in London. He was implicated in the Rye House Plot, and arrested in July 1683 at Tenterden, Kent, using an assumed name. He denied knowing any of the plot, though he had heard assassination rumours from Robert Ferguson. He was again threatened with torture in London, this time by Sir George Mackenzie. Once more he was transferred to Edinburgh. [2]

Rye House Plot

The Rye House Plot of 1683 was a plan to assassinate King Charles II of England and his brother James, Duke of York. The royal party went from Westminster to Newmarket to see horse races and were expected to make the return journey on 1 April 1683, but because there was a major fire in Newmarket on 22 March, the races were cancelled, and the King and the Duke returned to London early. As a result, the planned attack never took place.

Tenterden town and civil parish in the Ashford district of Kent, England

Tenterden is a town with a large conservation area in the Ashford District of Kent, England. It stands on the edge of the remnant forest The Weald, overlooking the valley of the River Rother. It was a member of the Cinque Ports Confederation. Its riverside today is not navigable to large vessels and its status as a wool manufacturing centre has been lost. Tenterden has several voluntary organisations, some of which are listed below, seven large or very old public houses within its area and has long distance walking and cycling routes within its boundaries.

Robert Ferguson was a Scottish presbyterian minister, conspirator and political pamphleteer, known as "the Plotter".

In July 1684 the Privy Council of Scotland tortured William Spence, Argyll's agent, and Carstares was implicated. Carstares himself, who had seen poor health in his detention, was tortured in September, with the thumbikins, and then the boot, clumsily applied. The next day John Drummond, Secretary of State in Scotland, made a deal with Carstares that his answers would not be used in court, and had a doctor see him. Carstares then replied to the questions of the Council. He signed a statement, managing to conceal the covert links to Dutch supporters, and the government published it. Later that month he was moved to Stirling Castle. [2]

In the trial of Baillie of Jerviswood, Mackenzie as Lord Advocate found a way to use the statement by Carstares to secure a conviction; Baillie was hanged, drawn and quartered in December 1684. Carstares was freed, and went to London, and then to The Hague shortly before the Monmouth Rebellion, as an adviser to the Prince of Orange. [2]

Under William III

Carstares was court chaplain to William as Prince of Orange, and at the time of the Williamite Revolution sailed with the Prince to Torbay. He continued as royal chaplain for Scotland, once William was king in Great Britain. He was the confidential adviser of the king, especially with regard to Scottish affairs. He advocated that a Presbyterian polity should replace the Scottish bishops, and the immediate events of the Williamite conflicts bore out his opinion in practical terms. [2] His subsequent influence on matters concerning the Kirk, as a courtier, earned him the nickname "Cardinal Carstares". [3] He also manipulated the Parliament of Scotland, helped by being able to read James Johnston's mail. [2] He was Queenberry's man at court in 1700. [4]

Later life

On the accession of Queen Anne, Carstares retained his post as royal chaplain, but resided in Edinburgh, having been elected principal of the University of Edinburgh in 1703. He was a reforming administrator, introducind the Dutch professorial system of teachong He was also minister of Greyfriars Kirk, and afterwards of St Giles'. [2] He was four times chosen Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in 1705, 1708, 1711 and 1715. [5]

He took an important part in promoting the Union, and was consulted by Harley and other leading Englishmen concerning it. During Anne's reign, the chief object of his policy was to frustrate the measures which were planned by Lord Oxford to strengthen the Episcopalian Jacobites, especially a bill for extending the privileges of the Episcopalians and the bill for replacing in the hands of the old patrons the right of patronage, which by the Revolution Settlement had been vested in the elders and the Protestant heritors.

On the accession of George I, Carstares was appointed, with five others, to welcome the new dynasty in the name of the Church of Scotland. [1] He was received graciously, and the office of royal chaplain was again conferred upon him. A few months after he was struck with apoplexy, and died on 28 December 1715. [1]

He is buried at Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh. The grave lies amongst the large monuments on the outer walls of the original churchyard, towards the south-west, slightly north-west of the Adam mausoleum.


On 6 June 1682 Carstares married Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Kekewich of Trehawk in Cornwall, who died in 1724. They had no children. [6]

He was uncle by marriage to William Dunlop (1692-1720). [7]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Carstares, William"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Clarke, Tristram. "Carstares, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4777.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. A. J. Youngson (2001). The Companion Guide to Edinburgh and the Borders. Companion Guides. p. 98. ISBN   978-1-900639-38-5.
  4. P. W. J. Riley (1979). King William and the Scottish Politicians. John Donald. p. 144. ISBN   0 85976 040 5.
  5. John Warrick, The Moderators of the Church of Scotland from 1690 to 1740 (1913), p. 158; archive.org.
  6. Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1887). "Carstares, William"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 9. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  7. Inscription on the Carstares grave, Greyfriars Kirkyard

Preceded by
Gilbert Rule
Principals of Edinburgh University
Succeeded by
William Wishart (primus)