Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kincaid, Jean

KINCAID, Mrs. JEAN (1579–1600), murderess, daughter of John Livingstoun of Dunipace, was born in 1579. She married John Kincaid of Warriston, who was a man of influence in Edinburgh, being nearly connected with the ancient family of Kincaid of that ilk in Stirlingshire, and possessed of extensive estates in Midlothian and Linlithgowshire. Owing to alleged maltreatment, the young wife conceived a deadly hatred for her husband, and a nurse who lived in her house urged her to take revenge. A servant of her father, a youth named Robert Weir, was admitted by Mrs. Kincaid into her husband's chamber in his house at Warriston at an early hour on the morning of Tuesday, 1 July 1600, and he killed Kincaid with his fists. News of the murder quickly reached Edinburgh, and ‘the Lady Warristoun,’ ‘the fause nourise,’ and her two ‘hyred women,’ were arrested ‘red-handed.’ Weir escaped, refusing to allow Mrs. Kincaid to accompany him in his flight. The prisoners were immediately brought before the magistrates of Edinburgh, and sentence of death was passed upon them. No official records of the trial are extant. ‘Scho was tane to the girth-crosse, upon the 5 day of July, and her heid struck fra her bodie, at the Cannagait-fit; quha deit very patiently. Her nurische was brunt at the same tyme, at 4 houres in the morneing, the 5 of July’ (Birrel, Diary, p. 49). According to Calderwood, ‘the nurse and ane hyred woman, her complices, were burnt in the Castell Hill of Edinburgh’ (Calderwood, History of the Kirk of Scotland, vi. 27). In the brief interval between the sentence and execution Mrs. Kincaid was brought, by the efforts of a clergyman, from a state of callous indifference to one of religious resignation. An authentic and interesting ‘memorial’ of her ‘conversion,’ ‘with an account of her carriage at her execution,’ by an eye-witness, was privately printed at Edinburgh in 1827, from a paper preserved among Wodrow's MSS. in the Advocates' Library, by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe. The youth and beauty of Mrs. Kincaid were dwelt upon in numerous popular ballads, which are to be found in Jamieson's, Kinloch's, and Buchan's collections. Weir, who was arrested four years afterwards, was broken on the wheel (26 June 1604), a rare mode of execution in Scotland.

[Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, ii. 445–50; Chambers's Domestic Annals of Scotland, i. 316–17; Memorial of the Conversion of Jean Livingston, 1827.]

G. S-h.