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"THE QUEEN'S KNICHT" 1490-1513

[Dunbar's Poems]

SIR JOHN SINCLAIR of Dryden, the subject of this sketch, was one of King James the Fourth's attendants or courtiers, and may have been of descent from the Edward Saintclair of Dryden of 1447. Sir John's name occurs in the Treasurer's Accounts as early as 1490, and it frequently appears down to 1512-13. In 1503 he was furnished with clothes preparatory to the king's marriage, and was one of his attendants. He probably afterwards became the "Queen's knicht", as the poet Dunbar styles him. The king and he frequently played at "rowbowlis" and "the curtis". On 3rd November 1506, he had a gratuity of £28 by the king's command. His wife received £10 as a New Year's gift, 1511-12, and a similar sum next January. Dr. West, the English ambassador, writing 13th April 1513, to King Henry, describes an interview with James V, and states when he went to see Queen Margaret at Linlithgow Palace he was "fetched by Sir John Sinclair on Sunday". [from The Sinclairs of England]

Sir John may have fallen at Flodden, as notices of him cease about that date. Dunbar refers to him thus in the first verse of his poem "Of a Dance in the Queen's Chalmer":

Sir John Sinclair begouth to dance,
For he was new come out of France;
For ony thing that he do micht,
The ane foot gaed aye unricht,
And to the tother wald not gree.
Quoth aile, Tak up the Queen's knicht:
A merrier dance micht na man see.


On the exit of Sir John Sinclair of Dryden a PATRICK SINCLAIR enters on the scene. Margaret Tudor, Queen-Dowager of Scotland, in a letter of 1520 refers to her "man of law," PET SYNGLAR, and for the next few years he figures in connection with her English correspondence and embassies. In the State Papers of Henry the Eighth there are many letters written to, by, and about him, the notices being quite voluminous. Scotland was then disturbed by the contentions of two factions which had developed after the battle of Flodden, a French party headed by Alexander, Duke of Albany, and an English party which rallied round the Queen Dowager. Surrey writes Wolsey from the Borders, "Sinclair says that Albany must invade England or send the Frenchmen (6,000 upwards) home, for Scotland cannot support them. During the absence of the Regent Albany in France, Queen Margaret effected a coup-d'etat by which her son King James, then in his thirteenth year, was declared of age, and proclamations were instantly issued in his name, while the Lords of Scotland in Council recognised him by a Profession of Obedience at Edinburgh, 31st July 1524. The letter written to Henry in the name of the young king, informing him of his assumption of the government, was sent by Patrick Sinclair, whom Cardinal Wolsey denominates a right trusty servant of James, and at the same time describes as a spy of Dr. Magnus - the English ambassador - and a constant friend of England.

Queen Margaret in one of her letters to Patrick, commends herself heartily to him, and signs her strange literature, "Yours ze vyt," - "Yours ye know". Patrick Sinclair, as she writes her brother, was her "trusty and true servant, and ever hath been to the king my husband". In 1526 (1528?) he was ambassador to England, and many letters testify to his kind reception. The one by Cardinal Wolsey is especially remarkable, recommending Patrick Sinclair as "right trusty" to Henry, then at Winchester: and reciting long and faithful services to his sister's party. Bishop Clerk's letter thence telling of the king's imperturbable silence as to what passed privately between himself and Patrick is a study as to secular wisdom baulking clerical curiosity.

[from The Sinclairs of England; State Papers; and Tytler]

Dr. Magnus, the English ambassador at the Northern court, writes Wolsey that Patrick is one of the six nobles then wholly devoted as "right good Englishmen". He is never tired of praising him as "an honest gentleman", "our good friend and special lover", and as "very forward" in the cause "Patrick Sinclair and Mr. John Chisholm are nightly with us", writes the ambassador. Queen Margaret's letter in favour of Patrick to her brother of England is a highly historical document, part of which runs: "Wherefore I beseech your grace kindly to be his good prince for my sake, and that you shall give commandment to the Earl of Surrey and the Lord Dacres, that he may be received and well treated in your said realm, if he has need: And this you will do at my request". Later on he was eclipsed by Henry Stuart, second son of the Earl of Avondale, and whose sister Barbara was married to Sir James Sinclair of Sanday, Orkney. His eclipse is well illustrated in a letter from the Duke of Norfolk in reply to a query from Wolsey. The Duke writes the Cardinal that Patrick Sinclair and Henry Stuart, who was becoming the favourite, were at variance, and he could not write letters by Patrick as bearer, because Patrick "cannot please her now". Henry Stuart, he informs the Cardinal, is made lieutenant to Lord Maxwell of some 200 men of special dignity, and "he doth put in and out at his pleasure, which Patrick Synclere did before". He says for final, "To please Henry Stuart she quarreled with Patrick Synclere for not bringing a letter from me". By and bye Patrick regained his position. On the escape of James V from the custody of the Earl of Angus (a warm partisan of the English) in 1528, he despatched Patrick Sinclair to the English court with a message to Henry, informing him of the change which had taken place, and the assumption of the supreme power by the voting monarch, and one of the charges against Angus was that he had used the royal authority against those border barons who declined to enter into bonds of man-rent with him, "so that the king would not be able to have domination above him and his lieges". Manuscript Caligula, h.ii., 224. Articles and Credence to be shewn to Patrick Sinclair, July 13th 1528. Signed by James the Fifth.

Patrick was a natural son of Edward Sinclair of Dryden.


[From Tytler]

The abdication of Mary Queen of Scots in 1567 was obtained by violent means. Lord Lindsay being admitted to audience, his stern demeanour at once terrified her into compliance. He laid the instrument before her, and with eyes filled with tears and a trembling hand, she took the pen and signed the papers without even reading their contents. It was necessary, however, that they should pass the Privy Seal, and here a new outrage was committed. The keeper, THOMAS SINCLAIR, remonstrated, and declared that the Queen being in ward, her resignation was ineffectual. Lindsay attacked his house, tore the seal from his hands, and compelled him by threats and violence to affix the seal to the resignation. [Blackwood's Magazine, October 1817]



[from Scottish Expedition of 1612; Strickland’s Queens; The Sinclairs of England; Arabella Stuart; Danish Royal Archivist]

Sir Andrew [See page 304] was third son of Henry III, sixth Lord Sinclair. Passing to Denmark at the close of the 16th century, in 1611 he appears as Governor of the castle and town of Calmar, in 1611 as member of the "Rigsraad", and in 1621 as ambassador to England. In 1606 he accompanied King Christian and acted as mediator between the king and Lady Nottingham, wife of aged Armada hero, who had misconstrued an action of the royal Dane. A great friendship existed between Sir Andrew and the Lady Arabella Stuart, which letters still extant testify. The queen’s jeweller received £320 for a diamond bought by His British Majesty to bestow on his "trusty and well-beloved servant, Sir Andrew Sinclere, knight". He died in 1625. In 1607 he received from King James a pension of £1,000, and in 1610 urged Robert, Earl of Salisbury, to send him his pension, and also to obtain a loan from King James as he had bought lands [Saintclersholme] in Denmark of the value of 40,000 crowns, part of which he still owed. He also asked Lord Salisbury to be godfather and give his Christian name to a son born in that year. Many of his letters to Lord Salisbury written between 1610-1627 are in the Record Office, London. The Lyon Register of Genealogies has it that Sir Andrew of St.Clair, Lord thereof. Councillor of Denmark and Lord of Ghadsey, married a daughter of Stewart of Grandtully, and had a daughter Isabel, who married Andrew Bruce of Muness.

NOTE - About 1611 Captain Andreas Sinckler commands a company 600 strong. Aarsberetninger fra det Kongelige Geheimearchiv, vol.6.

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