Ross, Thomas (1575?-1618) (DNB00)


ROSS, THOMAS (1575?–1618), libeller, born about 1575, was the third son of John Ross of Craigie in Perthshire, and his wife, Agnes Hepburn. The family had been established at Craigie since the days of David Bruce (Nisbet, Heraldry, i. 416). Thomas studied at Edinburgh University, where he graduated M.A., and was laureated on 10 Aug. 1595. Having resolved to enter the ministry, he was licensed by the presbytery of Perth before November 1602, and was presented by James VI on 26 July 1606 to the parish of Cargill in Perthshire. He continued to hold this charge till about 1615, when he resigned it, and went to England, bearing letters from some of the lords of secret council and the bishops, recommending him to James for a scholarship at Oxford. But he was disappointed in his hopes, and, being in a state of great destitution, and perhaps crazed by his misfortunes, in July 1618 he affixed a Latin thesis to the door of St. Mary's, Oxford, to the effect ‘that all Scotsmen ought to be expelled from the court of England, with the exception of his majesty himself, the prince, and a very few others.’ This main thesis was accompanied by ten appendices still more violent in their wording. The paper was instantly taken down by a scholar and conveyed to the vice-chancellor, who readily recognised the writing, because Ross had repeatedly solicited him for a license to beg money to carry him to Paris. Ross was arrested, and by James's order was sent to Edinburgh to be tried. His trial took place on 20 Aug. 1618, and, in spite of a plea of insanity, he was found guilty, and sentenced to have his right hand struck off, and afterwards to be beheaded at the market cross. He was respited till James's pleasure was known, but, as no reprieve was received, the sentence was carried out on 11 Sept. His head was set up on the Nether Bow Port, and his hand on the West Port. A copy of his thesis, translated for the benefit of James I, exists in the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh among Sir James Balfour's manuscripts.

Ross has been identified with Thomas Rosa or Ross who published an extremely eulogistic work on James I, entitled ‘Idæa, sive de Jacobi Magnæ Britanniæ Galliæ et Hyberniæ præstantissimi et augustissimi Regis, virtutibus et ornamentis, dilucida enarratio,’ London, 1608, 12mo (British Museum and Bodleian). The evidence as to the identity of the two cannot be considered conclusive.

[Masson's Reg. of the Scottish Privy Council, 1616–19, p. 447; Scott's Fasti Eccles. Scot. II. ii. 797; Pitcairn's Crim. Trials, iii. 445, 582; Calderwood's Hist. of the Kirk, vii. 336; Balfour's Historical Works, ii. 70; Arnot's Crim. Trials, p. 70.]

E. I. C.