John Knox


John Knox was born in Scotland, attended the University of Glasgow, and became a priest. He worked largely as a private tutor, but was also known as an inspiring preacher. He lived during the great upheavals of the Reformation in England, but did not become personally involved until he was nearly forty. The incident which plunged him into the public eye was the murder of Cardinal Beaton at the Cathedral of St. Andrews. He was killed by reformers in retribution, because Beaton had ordered the death of Wishart, a protestant preacher who was a friend of Knox's. As a result, Knox joined the reformers who had taken over the Cathedral, and became of their leaders. The reformers were ultimately captured and set to work as galley slaves.

Eventually Knox was released and invited back to preach in Scotland by the Protestant Archbishop Cranmer. His return to Scotland was short lived, however. When Mary Tudor came to the throne in England he went into exile in Europe and ended up in Geneva, where he was strongly influenced by the austere theology of Calvin. In Geneva, the reformers had taken hold of every aspect of daily life, and the city was run as a theocracy. Knox found this appealing, and when he returned to Scotland, he promoted a Scottish version of Calvinism that came to be known as Presbyterianism. When Knox returned to Scotland, the throne was essentially empty, and the Protestants and Catholics were fighting each other everywhere. Into this power vacuum Knox arrived with his forceful personality, and his strong Calvinistic convictions. Within a few years he was able to bend much of Scotland to his will, and essentially controlled Parliament. By the time Mary arrived from France, they saying of mass had been outlawed and she found herself the Catholic Queen of a protestant country.

The country however, was not as united as it first appeared. Many people were dissatisfied with the austere regime of the Calvinist parliament, and Mary was able to insist on some compromises, and held fast to her faith, but she dared not do to much. At this critical time, however, she made a series of very poor personal choices regarding marriage and romance that destroyed her credibility, and resulted in her forced abdication. With Mary in exile, and her infant son under the control of a Protestant parliament, the Catholic cause in Scotland was all but lost. Knox died a few years after Mary's exile, confident that he had steered Scotland permanently into Protestant waters.

Key events during the life of John Knox:

John Knox Born
Protestant Reformation begins in Germany.
Attends the University of Glasgow.
Henry VIII dissolves the monasteries in England
Murder of Cardinal Beaton. Knox arrested with reformers.
  Served as a galley slave.
Appointed to preach at Newcastle by Protestant Archbishop Cranmer.
Catholic Mary I ascends to the throne. Knox goes to exile.
Elizabeth I ascends to the throne. Knox returns from exile.
Mary, Queen of Scots, returns to Scotland.
Marriage of Mary and Darnley.
Darnley is murdered, and Mary is abducted by Bothwell.
Mary forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son.
Death of Knox

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Return to Scotland  in  Mary Queen of Scots  by  Jacob Abbott
Knox, 1505-1572  in  Saints and Heroes Since the Middle Ages  by  George Hodges
Reformation: England and Scandinavia  in  The Story of Europe  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall

Image Links

John Knox
 in Saints and Heroes Since the Middle Ages
John Knox
John Knox
 in Back Matter

Queen Mary and Knox had many talks together
 in Scotland's Story
The Queen's advocate reading the charge of treason brought against Knox
The Queen's advocate reading the charge of treason brought against Knox
 in The Tudors and the Stuarts

Short Biography
Mary Stuart Queen of Scotland. Deposed and exiled. Held captive and executed by Queen Elizabeth.
Wishart Protestant friend of Knox who tried as a heretic and burned at the stake.
Cardinal Beaton Scottish Cardinal who was killed by Protestant reformers.
James I First Stuart king of England. Intelligent and competent, but unable to work effectively with Parliament.