Andrew Melville Scotland France

Biography of Andrew Melville

Andrew Melville
Andrew Melville

The theologian Andrew Melville (1545-1622) was Principal of the University from 1574 to 1580. He reformed and revitalised teaching there, placing a special emphasis on the liberal arts and taking on the major part of the teaching duties himself. The result was a surge in the number of students seeking to study at the University. In 1577 King James VI granted a charter, the Nova Erectio, which re-founded the College. Many of the reforms to the government of the University are believed to have been suggested by Melville.

Melville was born near Montrose and graduated MA from St Andrews. He studied and taught abroad for many years before returning to Scotland and becoming Principal of the University. He brought with him the latest intellectual ideas from Europe, and an appreciation of humanism. Melville is believed to have been the architect of the Nova Erectio, which not only granted to the College the substantial income from the parsonage and vicarage of Govan but revised the government of the institution, placing greater authority in the hands of the Principal and clearly defining his duties. In 1580 he was appointed Principal of St Mary's College, St Andrews.

Melville was one of the leading lights of the Scottish Reformation and was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1578, April and June 1582, 1587 and 1594. He was closely involved in writing the Second Book of Discipline which confirmed that the Church of Scotland would adopt a Presbyterian system of government. His implacable hostility to episcopacy and to Royal interference in the affairs of the church incurred the wrath of King James VI, whom Melville famously but recklessly described as "God's sillie vassal". Melville was locked up in the Tower of London for five years, and banned from returning to Scotland on his release five years later. He went instead to France where he spent the last ten years of his life teaching theology at the University of Sedan.


Andrew Melville
Theologian and University Principal

Born 1 August 1545, Scotland.
Died 1622.
GU Degree:
University Link: Principal
Occupation categories: clergy
Search for this person in the DNB
Record last updated: 5th Mar 2013

Country Associations

Scotland Scotland
Place of Birth

France France, Sedan

University Connections

University Roles