John Lindsay of Balcarres, Lord Menmuir

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John Lindsay of Balcarres (1552–1598) was secretary of state in Scotland.


He was second son of David Lindsay, 9th Earl of Crawford, by his wife Catherine Campbell, daughter of Sir John Campbell of Lorn. Along with his brother David Lindsay, lord Edzell, he was sent under the care of James Lawson to complete his education on the continent. The French Wars of Religion meant they had to return rapidly from Paris to Dieppe, then moving to the university of Cambridge;[1] John may have returned to Paris subsequently.

Menmuir, Lethnot, and Lochlee, in the gift of the Edzell family, were settled on him; later, under a writ of the privy seal, 11 July 1576, various teinds and a pension also given, and the small estate of Drumcairn, Forfarshire. He was on 5 July 1581 appointed a lord of session under the title Lord Menmuir. In 1586 he purchased the lands of Balcarres (near Colinsburgh in Fife), Balniell, Pitcorthie, and others in the county of Fife, which on 10 June 1592 were united into a free barony. In 1595 he put up the mansion of Balcarres House, which he made his principal residence.

Menmuir was an ally in James VI’s programme of reforms. In 1587 he was employed in framing several acts relating to the constitution of parliament. In April 1588, and again in April 1589, he was appointed one of a commission to inquire into disorders in the University of St Andrews. In November 1589 he began to sit as a member of the privy council. He acquired political influence chiefly on account of his financial ability. On 14 October 1591 he was appointed one of the four financial managers for Anne of Denmark. In July 1593 he was named one of a special council for the management of the queen's revenues, and in January 1595 he was chosen one of the eight commissioners of the exchequer, known as Octavians. He was reputed the ablest financier of the eight; and he was in March appointed lord keeper of the privy seal, and on 28 May secretary of state for life.

Menmuir was also one of the chief advisers of the king in his policy for establishing episcopacy. In 1596 he drew up a scheme for the planting of kirks throughout Scotland with perpetual local stipends, with representation of each presbytery in parliament by a commissioner. After an attempt to modify it by an act of the estates passed in August, but was badly received by the church, he gave up the plan as before its time. Shortly afterwards his lenient attitude towards the Catholic nobles brought him into collision with the kirk. He was with the king when besieged in the Tolbooth on 17 December 1696, and he was attacked as a 'plain mocker of religion'. Menmuir drew up the 55 points to be submitted to the general assembly which met at Perth on 28 February 1597. He was the Chancellor of the University of St Andrews from 1597 to 1598.

Besides conducting important negotiations with foreign powers, on 4 March 1597 Menmuir was appointed ambassador to France. It was his intention during the visit to Paris to undergo an operation for the stone, but bad health prevented him from making the journey, and in February 1598 he resigned the office of secretary of state. He died at Balcarres, Fife, 3 September 1598, and in accordance with his will he was buried in the parish kirk of Kilconquhar.


By his first wife, Marion, daughter of Alexander Guthrie, town clerk of Edinburgh, and widow of David Borthwick of Lokhill, lord advocate, he had two sons—John, lord Menmuir, who died unmarried in January 1601, and David Lindsay, 1st Lord Balcarres—and three daughters: Catherine, married first to Sir John Lindsay of Woodhead, and secondly to John Brown of Fordel; Margaret, to Sir John Strachan of Thornton; and Janet, to Sir David Auchmutie of Auchmutie. By his second wife, Jane, relict of Sir James Forrester of Corstorphine, and John Campbell of Calder, he had no issue.


  1. There is no record of him in Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain[ "Lindsay, John, Lord Menmuir" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Academic offices
Preceded by
Lord Maitland of Thirlestane
Chancellor of the University of St Andrews
Succeeded by
3rd Earl of Montrose