Collection of Correspondence relating to James Sharp (1613-1679), Archbishop of St. Andrews

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-488
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Latin, and English.
  • Physical Description
      4 volumes manuscript, 1 volume typescript, 1 part volume Access to records in a fragile condition may be restricted.
  • Location
      Dc.1.16; Dc.1.38; Dc.9.10/3, ff.6v-8v; Dk.3.29-30; Gen. 80

Scope and Content

The correspondence includes: copies of letters from Archbishop Sharp to the Duke of Lauderdale, 1660-1678, for the Bannatyne Club in 1838; a collection of documents and letters relating to the murder of Sharp, 1679-1680; nineteenth century transcripts of correspondence relating to Sharp; verses relating to Sharp; and, a thesis on Sharp presented for the degree of Ph.D at Edinburgh University, 1946.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Sharp was born at Banff Castle on 4 May 1613. It was the intention that the young Sharp should enter the Church and so he was educated at King's College, Aberdeen, where he graduated with the degree of MA in 1637. He may have been expelled however in 1638, during continued study, for refusing to adhere to the Covenant, and he went briefly to Oxford. In 1643 he was appointed Professor of Philosophy at St. Andrews University, and in 1649 became the Minister of nearby Crail in Fife. In 1650 he was elected as a Minister in Edinburgh but a dispute arose about that within the presbytery there and in any case the invasion of Scotland by Cromwell prevented his acceptance. By this time the Kirk (Church) in Scotland had become divided into the 'resolutioners' wing and the 'protesters' wing, and Sharp adhered to the former. The more liberal resolutioners supported the proposal or resolution that those who repented their non-adherence to the Covenant should be allowed to defend the country against Cromwell. Indeed, Sharp became the leader of the 'resolutioners' and he was seized by Cromwellian forces at Alyth in Perthshire in 1651 and taken to the Tower of London. By 1652 he had returned to Scotland. When Charles II was restored to the throne, Sharp was rewarded with the Archbishopric of St. Andrews and set about the toppling of Presbyterianism in the country rather than attempting to unite Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Regarded as a zealot who had once been a prominent leader of the Kirk, Sharp was shot at by James Mitchell in the High Street of Edinburgh in July 1668. Ten years or so later, in 1679, the year after Mitchell had been captured and executed for the assassination attempt, a band of Fife Covenanters ambushed Sharp near St. Andrews and murdered him.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Le,, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 17. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1909. (2) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins, 1994.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to Sharp related material (check the Indexes for more details): letters of Sharp, mostly to the Duke of Lauderdale, 1660-1678, at La.III.784, and another transcript at Dc.2.61; Latin poem and an elegy at La.II.358/9; and, poem on the murder of Sharp at La.III.432/100. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspondence of and papers relating to Buckminster Park, 1663-1679, NRA 23003 Tollemache; correspondence with Lauderdale and others, 1658-1679, British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Add MSS 23114-138, 23242-3; letters (82) to Duke of Lauderdale, 1660-1678, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MS 2512; and, letters to the laird of Wormiston, 1660-1675, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD203/8 NRA 34281 Lindesay-Bethune.