Secretary of State (Kingdom of Scotland)

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The Secretary of Scotland or Lord Secretary was a senior post in the government of the Kingdom of Scotland.

The office appeared in the 14th century (or earlier) when it was combined with that of Keeper of the Privy Seal. Called Clericus Regis (although some have applied that to the Lord Clerk Register), he was regarded as an Officer of State. The Secretary was constantly to attend the King's person, receive the petitions and memorials that were presented to him, and write the King's answers upon them. All Letters Patent passed through his hands, and were drawn up by him as with all the King's letters and dispatches, warrants, orders, &c. In the case of lengthy documents a short docket was also subscribed by the Secretary for the King's perusal, as a summary; and as all the writings signed by the King came through his hands, he was answerable for them if they contained anything derogatory to the laws or the dignity of The Crown.[1]

From 1626 until their respective deaths, King Charles I divided the duties between two Secretaries, the Earl of Glencairn and Sir Archibald Achison of Glencairn.

The Secretary did not invariably sit in the Parliament of Scotland after 1603, because his duties normally involved his attendance upon the monarch who was thereafter resident in England. Between 1608 and 1640 there were often two Secretaries, which became normal practice after 1680, although only one could sit in Parliament.

The office was abolished as such in 1709, though from then until 1725 and again from 1742 to 1746 there was a third Secretary of State with particular responsibility for Scottish affairs, for those posts, see Secretary of State for Scotland.

Secretaries of StateEdit

Secretary From To Monarch
Nicholas Malcolm IV
Duncan Pecoce 1380 Robert II
Andrew de Hawick, Rector of Linton 1410 James I
John Stewart, Earl of Buchan 1418
John Cameron (later Bishop of Glasgow) 1424
William Foulis 1429
John Methven 1432
John de Ralston, Bishop of Dunkeld 1442 1448 James II
Nicholas Otterburn 1449 1452
George Shoreswood, Chancellor of Dunkeld (later Bishop of Brechin) 1453 1454
Thomas Vaus, Dean of Glasgow 4 December 1456 21 October 1458
John Arous, Archdeacon of Glasgow 9 November 1458 24 July 1459
George Ledale, Parson of Forest 18 September 1459 10 February 1462 James II / James III
Archibald Whitelaw, Archdeacon of Lothian 27 August 1462 1493 James III / James IV
Richard Muirhead, Dean of Glasgow 4 August 1493 4 March 1506 James IV
Patrick Panter, Abbot of Cambuskenneth 22 November 1506 18 November 1519 James IV / James V
Thomas Hay, Parson of Rathven 1 April 1517 1 August 1524 James V
Patrick Hepburn, Prior of St Andrews 8 March 1525 15 June 1526
Sir Thomas Erskine of Haltoun 5 October 1526 10 January 1543 James V / Mary, Queen of Scots
David Paniter, Bishop of Ross 20 January 1543 28 February 1543 Mary, Queen of Scots
Henry Balnaves of Halhill 28 February 1543 4 May 1543
David Paniter, Bishop of Ross 4 May 1543 1558
William Maitland of Lethington 1558 16 May 1571 Mary, Queen of Scots / James VI
Robert Pitcairn, Commendator of Dunfermline Abbey 28 August 1571 1583 James VI
Sir John Maitland of Thirlestane 1584 1591
Sir Richard Cockburn of Clerkington 1591 1596
Sir John Lindsay of Balcarres 1596 1598
James Elphinstone 1598 1609
Sir Alexander Hay of Whitburgh 1608 1612
Sir Thomas Hamilton 1612 1626 James VI / Charles I
William Alexander, 1st Earl of Stirling 1626 1640 Charles I
Sir Archibald Acheson of Glencairnie 1626 1634
William Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Hamilton 1641 1649
Sir Robert Spottiswood of New Abbey 1644 1644
William Kerr, 1st Earl of Lothian 10 March 1649 Parliament
John Maitland, 2nd Earl of Lauderdale 19 January 1661 1680 (dismissed) Charles II
Charles Middleton, 2nd Earl of Middleton 26 September 1682 1684
Alexander Stewart, 5th Earl of Moray 11 October 1680 1688
John Drummond, 1st Earl of Melfort 15 September 1684 1689 Charles II / James VII /
William II and Mary II
George Melville, 1st Earl of Melville 13 May 1689 1691 William II and Mary II
John Dalrymple, Master of Stair 1 January 1691 1695 William II and Mary II
(later, only William II)
James Johnston 3 March 1692 1696
John Murray, Earl of Tullibardine 15 January 1696 31 March 1698 William II
James Ogilvy, 1st Earl of Seafield 5 February 1696 21 November 1702 William II / Anne
John Carmichael, 1st Earl of Hyndford 31 January 1699 6 May 1702
James Douglas, 2nd Duke of Queensberry 6 May 1702 16 October 1704 Anne
George Mackenzie, 1st Viscount Tarbat 21 November 1702 17 October 1704
John Ker, 5th Earl of Roxburghe 16 October 1704 5 June 1705
James Ogilvy, 1st Earl of Seafield 17 October 1704 March 1705
William Johnstone, 1st Marquess of Annandale 10 March 1705 September 1705
Hugh Campbell, 3rd Earl of Loudoun 5 June 1705 1 May 1707 (and then Secretary of State for Scotland to 25 May 1708)
John Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar 19 September 1705 1 May 1707 (and then Secretary of State for Scotland to February 1709)

For the equivalent position after the 1707 Treaty see Secretary of State for Scotland


  1. ^ Scot of Scotstarvet, Sir John, Director of Chancery, The Staggering State of the Scots' Statesmen, 1550 - 1650, Edinburgh, 1754, xxvii - xxviii