Papers of William Carstares (1649-1715)

Scope and Content

The Carstares collection consists of 17th and 18th century correspondence and papers, as well as the notice of ratification and new gift of the rents of the Chapel Royal in Scotland in favour of William Carstares, February 1693. There is also a sermon preached by Carstares in the High Kirk (St. Giles), Edinburgh, February 1707.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Carstares was born in Cathcart, Glasgow, on 11 February 1649, during the Cromwellian wars in Scotland. When still a child, he was sent to board in the Latin-speaking home of the Minister of Ormiston, East Lothian. From 1663, he studied at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1667. Because of the stand taken by his father during the Civil War, Carstares was sent to the Netherlands for safety and while there he studied Hebrew and Divinity at the University of Utrecht. In 1672 he visited London, studying there before returning to Scotland where he was arrested and imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle for five years. He was released in1679 and then lived in England, and also visited Ireland before returning to Utrecht in 1683 where he met with many Scottish and English exiles. When he returned to England he was again arrested and questioned before being sent to Edinburgh and imprisoned in the city's Tolbooth. Carstares again visited the Netherlands staying in Cleve and Leiden, and he was appointed Minister to the Scottish Congregation and Chaplain to William of Orange. When William landed at Brixham, Torbay, in 1688, Carstares accompanied him and conducted a service of thanksgiving on the beach. It was through the counsel and advice he gave to William that a revolution settlement was reached in Scotland. The Scottish Act of Settlement established the presbyterian church in Scotland. In 1691, Carstares accompanied William on his campaign in Flanders, and again on the Continent in 1695-1696. With the accession of Queen Anne in 1703, Carstares' direct political influence ceased, but he was appointed Principal of Edinburgh University. He was also the Minister of Greyfriars' Church in the city. In 1705 he was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and he used his influence to procure the passage of the Treaty of Union, 1707, which had been one of William's ambitions. In 1708 and 1711 he was again Moderator, and on the death of Queen Anne, Carstares was sent by the General Assembly to congratulate George I on his accession. He was elected as Moderator, yet again, in 1715. William Carstares died on 28 December 1715, and he was buried in Greyfriars' Churchyard.

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) Stephen Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.3. Brown-Chaloner. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908.

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.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to Carstares related material (check the Indexes for more details) in the Laing Collection: letters and other material at La.II.407; letters, 1707-1715, at La.II.577; notes and correspondence, 1694-1710, La.II.685; mention in a letter, 1715, at La.II.511; and, an elegy on his death, 1716, at La.II.91. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: letters, 1687-1697, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD158 NRA 8151 Hume-Campbell, and letters (41) to Lords Leven and Melville, 1694-1700, Ref. GD26/13/91 NRA 29368 Leslie Melville, and letters to Duke of Montrose, 1715, Ref. GD 220/5 NRA 32572 Graham ; miscellaneous correspondence, c.1711-1712, Mount Stuart Trust Archive, Ref. NRA(S)0631 NRA 15459 Crichton-Stuart; letters (7) to William Dunlop, 1690-1691, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, and 1692-94: correspondence with the 1st and 2nd Marquesses of Tweeddale, 1692-1694, Ref. MSS 7014-7028 Passim.

Corporate Names