The History of Leith

August 23, 2007

Sandilands, James, of Calder, first Lord Torphichen (d. 1579), nobleman

Sandilands, James, of Calder, first Lord Torphichen (d. 1579), nobleman, was the second son of Sir James Sandilands of Calder (d. 1559) and Margaret or Marion (d. 1562), daughter of Archibald Forrester of Corstorphine. The family originally owned the lands of Sandilands in Lanarkshire and through marriage acquired the barony of West Calder in Edinburghshire. Before 1537 Sandilands entered the order of the hospital of St John of Jerusalem. On 5 April 1540 he obtained permission from James V to travel to Malta, the order’s headquarters, where he remained until 1542. On 17 February 1541 he acquired the right to succeed to the preceptorship of Torphichen on the recommendation of the preceptor and head of the order in Scotland, Sir Walter Lindsay, whom he succeeded as Lord St John of Jerusalem. The appointment was not confirmed, however, by either Pope Paul III or Juan d’Omedes, the grand master of the order, until 29 March and 3 June 1547 respectively. In 1556 Sandilands was granted a licence to travel to Malta, where in the following year he was authorized to reclaim possessions of the order which had been misappropriated by neighbouring landowners. During his absence his affairs were handled by John Spottiswoode, the family parson at Calder and subsequently superintendent of Lothian.

James Sandilands and his father were strong supporters of the Reformation, and patrons of two leading Scottish reformers, George Wishart and John Knox. As preceptor of the hospitallers, Sandilands was a long-serving member of parliament and privy councillor, alike during the reigns of Mary and James VI and during the regencies of Mary of Guise and the earls of Arran and Moray. In 1550 he accompanied Mary of Guise to France, but later joined the protestant lords of the congregation and fought against her at Cupar Muir in 1559. In the following year he again visited France, this time on the orders of parliament, in order to give Queen Mary an account of its proceedings, but returned to Edinburgh having failed to obtain ratification of its legislation. Mary later complained to the English ambassador, Nicholas Throckmorton, about the size of the delegation sent to her compared with that sent to Elizabeth. To the ambassador’s explanation that Sandilands was a prior of the hospitallers she replied, ‘I do not take him for Great Prior for he is married’ (Tytler, 6.194). Sandilands was a signatory of the act of 27 January 1561 approving the first Book of Discipline.

On account of debts owed to his friend Timothy Cagnioli, a Genoese banker living in Scotland, Sandilands was forced to sell some of his lands. On 24 January 1564 he resigned the possessions of the hospitallers to Mary in return for a payment of 10,000 crowns, an annual pension of 500 merks, and the temporal lordship of Torphichen. The grant did not include the title of Lord Torphichen, but in 1606 it was accepted as evidence of the creation of the lordship and the right to use that title. In 1565 his wife, Janet, daughter of William Murray of Polmaise, whom he had married in 1559, renounced to him her interest in various properties. He was later accused of forging the renunciation, but in 1577 obtained a declarator absolving him.

Torphichen was involved in the downfall of Mary, joining the rebel army which forced her to surrender at Carberry Hill on 15 June 1567. On 25 July he attended the coronation of James VI, but thereafter played a lesser role in national affairs. His health declined, and on 31 May 1570 he obtained a licence from Elizabeth to travel to England to visit the baths to cure his ailments. In 1572 an action was raised against him to recover items formerly belonging to Queen Mary, including a number of books. He returned the books to the privy council, but denied having any other item. Later in the year he was granted another licence to travel to the continent and was probably in France on 25 November 1575, when Henri III made him a gentleman of his chamber. Torphichen died on 29 September 1579 of a ‘deidlie seikness of apoplexie, quilk tuk the haill strenth of his body and use of his speiche frome him’ (Reg. PCS, 3.238), and was survived by his wife, Janet, from whom he had been separated since 1571. Following his death she successfully raised an action against the regent, the earl of Morton, to regain possession of Hallbarns and Hallyards to which he claimed to be infeft. In 1586 she was also successful in an action against George Dundas of that ilk, who was ordered to deliver to her a box of Torphichen’s personal effects, including amounts of gold and silver, less the funeral expenses. She lived until 1596. Torphichen and his wife had no children and the title passed to his grandnephew, also James Sandilands of Calder.



NA Scot., Torphichen writs, GD 119 · inventory of Torphichen writs, NA Scot. · Reg. PCS, 1st ser., vols. 1–3 · M. Livingstone, D. Hay Fleming, and others, eds., Registrum secreti sigilli regum Scotorum / The register of the privy seal of Scotland, 8 vols. (1908–82), vol. 4, nos. 882, 3191, 3314; vol. 6, no. 1717 · J. M. Thomson and others, eds., Registrum magni sigilli regum Scotorum / The register of the great seal of Scotland, 11 vols. (1882–1914); facs. repr. (1984), vol. 4, no. 1499 · P. F. Tytler, History of Scotland, 6 (1837), 190–95 · T. Thomson, ed., A diurnal of remarkable occurrents that have passed within the country of Scotland, Bannatyne Club, 43 (1833), 280 · Scots peerage · CSP Scot., 1547–63, 463ff. · F. J. Grant, ed., The commissariot record of Edinburgh: register of testaments, 1, Scottish RS, old ser., 1 (1897), 243 · I. B. Cowan, P. H. R. Mackay, and A. Macquarrie, eds., The knights of St John of Jerusalem in Scotland, Scottish History Society, 4th ser., 19 (1983), 201 · A. Macquarrie, Scotland and the crusades, 1095–1560 (1997), 117–18, 133

by Michael J. Yellowlees

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