Historical Figure
John Knox
History's John Knox
Biographical Information
Real Name: John Knox
Born: 1513
Death: 24 November 1572
Age: 58/59
Religion: Protestant Reformation
Gender: Male Male
Originally From: Haddington, Scotland
Parents: William Knox (Father)

Mrs. Sinclair (Mother)

Wife: Margery Bowes

Margaret Stewart

Children: Nathaniel Knox (Bowes)

Eleazar Knox (Bowes)
Martha Knox
Margaret Knox
Elizabeth Knox

Affiliations: Kingdom of Scotland
Burial: St. Giles
TV Character Information
First appearance: Intruders
Portrays: John Knox
Portrayed by: Jonathan Goad

John Knox was a Scottish clergyman, theologian, and writer who was a leader of the Protestant Reformation. He was born in 1513 and lived to be 59. In 1564 he married Margaret Stewart a distant relative of Mary, Queen of Scots.


John Knox was born between 1505 and 1515 near Haddington, the county town of East Lothian. His father, William Knox, was a merchant. His mother's maiden name was Sinclair and she died when John Knox was a child. Their eldest son, William, carried on his father's business, which helped in Knox's international communications.

Knox was educated at the grammar school in Haddington. In this time, the priesthood was the only path for those whose inclinations were academic rather than mercantile or agricultural. He proceeded to further studies at the University of St. Andrews or at the University of Glasgow. He studied under John Major, one of the greatest scholars of the time.

Knox first appears in public records as a priest and a notary in 1540. He was still serving in these capacities as late as 1543 when he described himself as a "minister of the sacred altar in the diocese of St. Andrews, notary by apostolic authority" in a notarial deed dated 27 March. Rather than taking up parochial duties in a parish, he became tutor to two sons of Hugh Douglas of Longniddry. He also taught the son of John Cockburn of Ormiston. Both of these lairds had embraced the new religious ideas of the Reformation.

Later in lifeEdit

August 19, 1561, cannons were fired to announce Mary, Queen of Scots' arrival in Scotland. When she attended Mass in celebration in the royal chapel at Holyrood Palace five days later, this prompted a protest in which one of her servants was jostled. The next day she issued a proclamation that there would be no alteration in the current state of religion and that her servants should not be molested or troubled. Many nobles accepted this, but not Knox. The following Sunday, he protested from the pulpit of St Giles'. As a result, just two weeks after her return, Mary summoned Knox. She accused him of inciting a rebellion against her mother and of writing a book against her own authority. Mary noted that he had written against the principle of female rule itself.

On 13 December 1562, Mary sent for Knox again after, she charged that Knox spoke irreverently of the Queen in order to make her appear contemptible to her subjects. After Knox gave an explanation of the sermon, Mary stated that she did not blame Knox for the differences of opinion and asked that in the future he come to her directly if he heard anything about her that he disliked. Despite her friendly gesture, Knox replied that he would continue to voice his convictions in his sermons and would not wait upon her.

Easter in 1563, some priests celebrated Mass, thus defying the law. Some Protestants tried to enforce the law themselves, this prompted Mary, Queen of Scots to summon Knox for the third time. She asked Knox to use his influence to promote religious toleration. He defended their actions and noted she was bound to uphold the laws and if she did not, others would. Mary surprised Knox by agreeing that the priests would be brought to justice.

The most dramatic interview between Mary and Knox took place on 24 June 1563. Mary summoned Knox to Holyrood after hearing that he had been preaching against her proposed marriage to Don Carlos, the son of King Philip II of Spain. Mary began by scolding Knox, then she burst into tears. "What have ye to do with my marriage?" she asked, and "What are ye within this commonwealth?" He noted that though he was not of noble birth, he had the same duty as any subject to warn of dangers to the realm. When Mary started to cry again, he said, "Madam, in God's presence I speak: I never delighted in the weeping of any of God's creatures. He added that he would rather endure her tears, however, than remain silent and "betray my Commonwealth". At this, Mary ordered him out of the room.

Knox's final encounter with Mary was prompted by an incident at Holyrood. While Mary was absent from Edinburgh, Scotland on her summer progress in 1563, a crowd forced its way into her private chapel as Mass was being celebrated. During the altercation, the priest's life was threatened. As a result, two of the ringleaders, burgesses of Edinburgh, were scheduled for trial on 24 October 1563. In order to defend these men, Knox sent out letters calling the nobles to convene. Mary obtained one of these letters and asked her advisors if this was not a treasonable act. James Stuart and William Maitland, wanting to keep good relations with both The Kirk and The Queen, asked Knox to admit he was wrong and to settle the matter quietly. Knox refused and he defended himself in front of Mary and the Privy Council. After he left, the councilors voted not to charge him with treason.


  • John Knox was married twice. First, to Margery Bowes than to Margaret Stewart.
    • Margery Bowes was his very rich English first wife against her family's wishes. She died in 1560.
    • Margaret Stewart was his 17-year old Scottish second wife, and related to Mary, Queen of Scots, however, they married without her permission. The couple had 3 daughters.

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