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COLVILLE, JOHN (1542?–1605), Scotch divine and politician, was the second son of Robert Colville of Cleish, Kinrossshire, by Margaret, daughter of James Lindsay of Dowhill. He was educated in the university of St. Andrews, where he graduated M.A., probably in 1561. He became a presbyterian minister, and was parson of Kilbride in Clydesdale in 1567, and two years later he was appointed chantor or precentor of Glasgow. In 1571, when new arrangements were introduced into the church and sanctioned by the general assembly, he was chosen to act as representative of the archdeacon of Teviotdale in the election of a titular archbishop. In the register of ministers for 1574 Colville is entered as minister of the united parishes of Kilbride, Torrens, Carmunnock, and Egleschame, his stipend extending to 200l, being the 'haill Chantorye of Glasgow, and thrid of the pension furth of the same; he paying his Reider at Kilbryde,' and readers to officiate at the three other parishes. Complaints were made about him several times to the general assembly on account of his non-residence and neglecting his churches. In answer to an inquiry, the assembly stated in 1570 that ' he was presently at the point of excommunication.' He contrived, however, to ingratiate himself at court, and in November 1578 he was appointed master of requests. At this period he became acquainted with the English ambassadors, and for many years he furnished secret information to Queen Elizabeth's government concerning the political affairs of Scotland. After the execution of the Earl of Morton in June 1581, Colville attached himself to the protestant faction of which the Earl of Gowrie was the leader. He took part in the raid of Ruthven in August 1582, and to his pen has been attributed the manifesto issued in vindication of the enterprise that was published under this title : 'Ane Declaration of the just and necessar Caussis moving us of the Nobillitie of Scotland, and utheris, the Kingis Maiesties faithful Subiectis, to repair to his Hienes presence, and to remane with him, &c. Directit from Striuiling. Anno 1582,' 8vo (reprinted in facsimile at Edinburgh in 1822). By his party, who looked to Queen Elizabeth as their chief support, Colville was employed on two successive missions to the English court, and by his zealous efforts he rendered himself peculiarly obnoxious to the catholic party (Tytler, Hist. of Scotland, viii. 124). When the king recovered his liberty, Colville, on 15 July 1583, entered himself in ward in the castle of Edinburgh, to abide his trial (Bowles, Correspondence, p. 503), but he soon succeeded in obtaining his liberty, and a license 'to pass furth of this realm' except to England and Ireland, and to remain absent for three years. Regardless of the conditions of this license he retired to England, and was consequently forfeited by act of parliament, the offices he held being declared vacant. After Arran had been driven from court, the act of Colville's forfeiture was doubtless repealed, and he was restored to royal favour, for in two special grants by the king (November 1586) he continues to be styled chantor of Glasgow, and payment is ordered of three years' arrears of his pension as master of requests.

On 2 June 1587 he was admitted a senator of the College of Justice in the room of his uncle, Alexander Colville, commendator of the abbey of Culross, but in less than three weeks he resigned his seat on the bench ' in favour of his uncle foresaid ' (Brunton and Haig, Senators of the College of Justice, pp. 161, 212). In the same year he was returned to the Scottish parliament as commissioner for the borough of Stirling. He was employed as a collector of the taxation granted by parliament to the king for his marriage. Subsequently he associated himself with the turbulent Earl of Bothwell, and he was one of those who, on 27 Dec. 1591, attacked Holyrood Palace with the view of seizing the king and Chancellor Maitland. It is uncertain whether he also accompanied Bothwell on 28 June 1592, when another unsuccessful attempt was made to seize the person of the king. For his treasonable acts he was again forfeited in parliament. On 24 July 1593 he accompanied Bothwell to Holyrood Palace, when they both fell on their knees and craved pardon of their offences (Calderwood, Historie of the Kirk of Scotland, ed. 1844, v. 256). On 11 Dec. in the same year they were both declared outlaws.

Colville withdrew himself from his connection with Bothwell when that nobleman entered into alliance with the catholic faction; and he treacherously gave assurance of his life to Bothwell's natural brother, Hercules Stewart, who nevertheless was executed in 1595 (Moysie, Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland, ed. 1830, p. 124; Calderwood, Historie, v. 364). This base action secured for him the royal favour, though it discredited him in the estimation of his countrymen. In July 1597 Colville was in Holland 'with his Majesties good lyking, under his hand and Great Seall for his lawfull affairs.' Whether he ever revisited his native land is uncertain. In 1599 he was in London in a state of destitution, offering his services in vain to Sir Robert Cecil. Leaving his wife in England, he withdrew to France, and arrived at Paris on 5 Feb. 1599-1600. Soon afterwards he renounced protestantism, but the sincerity of his conversion has not unnaturally been questioned. With a view to induce his countrymen to follow his example, he wrote his 'Parsenesis.' He made a pilgrimage to Rome and wrote the 'Palinode,' which he represented to be a refutation of a former work of his own against James's title to the English crown. Archbishop Spotiswood asserts, however, that Colville was 'not the author of that which he oppugned; only to merit favour at the king's hands he did profess the work that came forth without a name to be his' (History of the Church of Scotland, iii. 80). Colville caused a copy of his pretended recantation to be forwarded to King James, who received it with great satisfaction.

Dempster states that Colville died while on a journey to Rome in 1607 (Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. 1829, i. 197). In reality he died at Paris in November 1605. He married in 1572 Janet, sister of John Russell, an advocate of some note, and had several children.

He is the author of: 1. 'Notes to be presentit to my speciall good Lord my Lord Hunsdon,'&c. 1584; in the 'Bannatyne Miscellany,' i. 85. 2. 'The Palinod of John Colvill, wherein he doth penitently recant his former proud offences, . . . ,' Edinburgh, 1600, 8vo; reprinted with Colville's ' Original Letters.' 3. 'Parænesis Ioannis Colvilli Scoti (post quadraginta annorum errores in gremium Sanctse Catholicae Romanes Ecclesiae quasi postliminio reuersi) ad suos Tribules & Populares,' Paris, 1601, 8vo; it also appeared in lowland Scotch under the title of 'The Paraeneseor admonition of lo. Col uille,' Paris, 1602, 8vo. 4. 'Oratio Funebris exequiis Elizabethae nuperae Anglise, Hiberniae, &c., Reginae, destinata,' Paris, 1603, 8vo. 5. 'In Obitv Beatiss. Papae Clementis Octaui Lacrymae Joannis Colvilli Scoti. Eiusdem in felicissima Assumptione Beatiss. PapaeLeonis Vndecimi Gaudia,' Paris, 1605, 4to. 6. 'Original Letters, 1582-1603,' edited for the Bannatyne Club (Edinb. 1858, 4to) by David Laing, who has prefixed an admirable memoir of Colville, and who conjectures that he was also the author of 'The Historie and Life of King James the Sext' (edited for the Bannatyne Club by Thomas Thomson, 1825), embracing the period from 1556 to 1596 with a short continuation to 1617. This anonymous work was first published, with unjustifiable interpolations and omissions by David Crawfurd, as 'Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland, containing a full and impartial account of the Revolution in that kingdom, begun in 1567. Faithfully publish'd from an authentick MS.,' London, 1706, 8vo; reprinted in 1753 and 1757. It was not till 1804 that the genuine work, from 1566 to 1582, was printed under the editorship of Malcolm Laing.

[Memoir by David Laing; authorities quoted above.]

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