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Melville, Sir James

MELVILLE, SIR JAMES (1535-1617), Scottish diplomatist and memoir writer, was the third son of Sir John Melville, laird of Raith in the county of Fife, who was executed for treason in 1548. One of his brothers was Robert, 1st Baron Melville of Monimail (1527-1621). James Melville in 1549 went to France to become page to Mary Queen of Scots. Serving on the French side at the battle of St Quentin in 1557 Melville was wounded and taken prisoner. He subsequently carried out a number of diplomatic missions for Henry II. of France. On Mary's return to Scotland in 1561 she gave Melville a pension and an appointment in her household, and she employed him as special emissary to reconcile Queen Elizabeth to her marriage with Darnley. After the murder of Darnley in February 1567, Melville joined Lord Herries in boldly warning Mary of the danger and disgrace of her projected marriage with Bothwell, and was only saved from the latter's vengeance in consequence by the courageous resolution of the queen. During the troubled times following Mary's imprisonment and abdication Melville conducted several diplomatic missions of importance, and won the confidence of James VI. when the king took the government into his own hands. Having been adopted as his heir by the reformer Henry Balnaves, he inherited from him, at his death in 1579, the estate of Halhill in Fife; and he retired thither in 1603, refusing the request of James to accompany him to London on his accession to the English throne. At Halhill Melville wrote the Memoirs of my own Life, a valuable authority for the history of the period, first published by his grandson, George Scott, in 1683. Sir James Melville died at Halhill on the 13th of November 1617. By his wife, Christina Boswell, he had one son and two daughters; the elder of these, Elizabeth, who married John Colville, de jure 3rd Baron Colville of Culross, has been identified with the authoress of a poem published in 1603, entitled A ne Godlie Dreame.

See the Memoirs mentioned above, of which the most modern edition is that prepared by T. Thompson for the Bannatyne Club (Edinburgh, 1827).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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