Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Young, Peter

YOUNG, Sir PETER (1544–1628), tutor to James VI, was the second son of John Young, burgess of Edinburgh and Dundee, and of Margaret, daughter of Walter Scrymgeour of Glasswell, and was born at Dundee on 15 Aug. 1544. His mother was closely related to the Scrymgeours of Dudhope (afterwards ennobled with the title of Earl of Dundee), and his father settled in Dundee at the time of his marriage (1541). It has been reasonably conjectured that John Young was descended from the Youngs of Ouchterlony, who held lands in Forfarshire early in the fourteenth century. John Young's eldest son, John (1542–1584), was provost of the collegiate church of Dysart; the third son, Alexander, usher of the king's privy chamber to James VI, died on 29 Dec. 1603. From Isabella, the elder daughter, descended the Youngs, baronets, of Baillieborough Castle, co. Cavan, to which family belonged John Young, baron Lisgar [q. v.]

Peter Young was educated at the Dundee grammar school, and probably matriculated at St. Andrews University, though no record of his attendance there has been found. When he was admitted burgess of Dundee he was designated ‘Magister,’ a title exclusively used by masters of arts. In 1562 he was sent to the continent to complete his studies under the care of his uncle, Henry Scrymgeour [q. v.], by whom he was recommended to Theodore Beza, then professor of theology at Geneva. Scrymgeour was appointed to the newly founded chair of civil law at Geneva in 1563, and Young resided with him until in 1568 he returned to Scotland. His reputation as a scholar was so great that in the beginning of 1569–70 the regent Moray appointed him joint-instructor of the infant James VI along with George Buchanan (1506–1582) [q. v.] As Buchanan was then advanced in years, it is probable that the chief share of teaching the infant king fell upon Young; and he is referred to in complimentary terms in Buchanan's ‘Epistolæ.’ From the account given by Sir James Melville of Halhill (Memoirs, 1735 ed. p. 249), it appears that while Buchanan was ‘wise and sharp,’ Young was more of the courtier and ‘was loath to offend the king at any time, carrying himself warily, as a man who had mind of his own weal by keeping of his majesty's favour.’ This attitude won the affection of the king, and Young was his favourite counsellor up till the king's death. An interesting relic of the education of the king was discovered in the British Museum (Addit. MS. 34275) in 1893, in the form of a fragment of the king's books written in Young's handwriting, interspersed with exercises by the royal pupil. This manuscript was published in the ‘Miscellany’ of the Scottish History Society in 1893, with notes by Mr. George F. Warner. On 25 Oct. 1577 Young was made master almoner, and received numerous gifts and pensions, several of which are recorded in the acts of parliament. In August 1586 he was sent on his first embassy to Frederick II of Denmark ‘to treat on business concerning Orkney,’ and he was so successful that on his return he was admitted to the privy council (7 Nov. 1586). From that date until July 1622 he was a faithful attendant at the meetings of the council. In June 1587 he was sent with Sir Patrick Vans [q. v.] of Barnbarroch on a second embassy to Denmark, partly in connection with the question of the Orkneys, but chiefly to ‘spy everything with curious eyes, and make searching inquiry regarding the king's daughters,’ with a view to the marriage of one of them with James VI. In the royal archives of Denmark at Copenhagen there are numerous letters from Young, and also from Frederick II and Christian IV, relating to this embassy, which were examined and reported upon by Dr. W. Dunn Macray in 1886. Young recommended Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Frederick II, as the most suitable match; but in 1588 the overtures for the hand of this princess were declined as she ‘had been promised to another.’ It was then suggested that the king should wed the second daughter, the Princess Anne, but the death of Frederick in 1588 delayed the negotiations. At length, early in 1589, Young was sent once more to Denmark to complete the marriage negotiations, and on his return he set out with James VI on 23 Oct. 1589 to attend the nuptials of that monarch at Oslo (now Christiania) in Norway. In 1593 Prince Henry, the first son of this marriage, was born, and among the letters of Christian IV preserved at Copenhagen there is one dated 12 May 1594, acknowledging the arrival of Young as ambassador sent to convey official information of this event. In 1595, when the king found it expedient to commit the charge of his affairs to eight councillors (hence called Octavians), Young was one of the number. When James VI was invited to Denmark in May 1596 to attend Christian's coronation, but found it inexpedient to leave the kingdom, he sent Lord Ogilvy and Young as his ambassadors, and they were accredited by Christian in a letter dated 6 Aug. 1596. The question of the succession to the throne of England was then agitating the mind of James VI, and as he was anxious to gain the support of his brother-in-law Christian, he sent David Cunningham, bishop of Aberdeen, and Young on a special embassy for this purpose in 1598, and the king of Denmark's reply to them, dated 6 Aug. in that year, is still preserved at Copenhagen. While on their way thither the ambassadors met, at Rostock, David Chytræus (1530–1600), who had published an attack on Queen Mary, founded principally on Buchanan's ‘Detectio,’ and by the king's instructions Young remonstrated with Chytræus and obtained a recantation. Dr. Smith asserts that when Young returned to Scotland he wrote an abridged ‘Life of Queen Mary,’ which he sent to Chytræus.

When commissioners were appointed in 1598 to report upon the state of the Scottish universities, Young was chosen as one of the number. He accompanied the king to London in 1603, and before they reached the capital James desired to mark his appreciation of Young's services by appointing him dean of Lichfield, but he soon found that the office was not in his free gift. Young retained his post in the royal household as chief almoner, but resigned his office of keeper of the privy purse to the queen. In November 1604 he was made tutor and ‘chief overseer’ in the establishment of Prince Charles. The latter post carried with it a pension of 200l., which was increased to 300l. when Young was knighted on 19 Feb. 1604–5. In November 1616 Young was appointed master of St. Cross Hospital, Winchester, a special license being granted to permit him to hold the office though he was not in holy orders nor resident. Either in 1620 or 1623 Young desired to ‘retrait home into Scotland, there to dye where his barnes may see him buried in the land of his forefathers,’ and at this time the king exerted himself to procure the payment of the arrears of pension due to Young. He had purchased the estate of Easter Seaton, near Arbroath, Forfarshire (not Haddingtonshire, as stated by Chambers), in 1580, and three years afterwards built a mansion there, of which only one stone, with the date and the initials of himself and his first wife, is in existence, built into the farmhouse that occupies its site. In this place he spent his declining years, and here he died on 7 Jan. 1628, in his eighty-fourth year. He was buried in the vault of St. Vigean's Church, near Arbroath, where a mural tablet bearing a Latin inscription is still preserved. It is a remarkable fact that from the birth of his father (1497) till his own death the period of 130 years had intervened.

Young was thrice married. By his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of John Gibb, a gentleman of the king's bedchamber (m. 1577, d. 1595), he had twelve children, seven sons and three daughters. The fifth son was Patrick Young [q. v.]; another son, John (1585–1655), graduated B.A. from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in 1600–1, M.A. in 1604, and B.D. in 1611, being incorporated at Oxford on 9 July of that year; he held various livings, a canonry in Wells cathedral from 1611, and the deanery of Winchester from 1616. His gift of ground for the erection of a school in St. Andrews has erroneously been credited to his brother Patrick.

Sir Peter's second wife was Dame Joanna Murray, widow of Lord Torphichen, who survived her marriage for only six months, dying in November 1596. In 1600 Sir Peter married his third wife, Marjory, daughter of Nairne of Sandfurd, Fifeshire, by whom he had four daughters. She survived him, and in 1642 made application to the House of Lords for payment of arrears of pension amounting to 2,850l. (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 65). Previous to this time (in 1631) Charles I had directed that a pension of two hundred marks conferred on Young should be paid to his son, Sir Peter Young (ib. 9th Rep. p. 244). It is stated that besides the ‘Life of Queen Mary,’ Young wrote a ‘Life of George Buchanan;’ but Dr. Smith, writing in 1707, could find no trace of it.

[The principal authority for the life of Young is Smith's Vitæ quorundam Eruditissimorum et Illustrium Virorum, in which several extracts from Young's Diary are given. A translation of the article on Young, along with other particulars of his career, was published by Hugh W. Young in a privately printed book, ‘Sir Peter Young, Knt., of Seaton,’ in 1896, the frontispiece being a reproduction of a portrait that appeared in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. See also P. Hume Brown's George Buchanan, Humanist and Reformer; Irving's Memoirs of Buchanan; Reg. P. C. Scotl. ed. Masson, passim; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1603–1625; Millar's Roll of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee, p. 78; Miscellany of the Maitland Club, i. 15; Miscellany of Scot. Hist. Soc. vol. i.; Reports of Deputy Keeper of Public Records, 43, 45, 46; Calderwood's Hist. of Kirk, ed. Wodrow Soc. v. 60, 365, 393, vi. 581.]

A. H. M.