George Heriot (1563-1624)

George Heriot (1563-1624)

Jeweller and philanthropist

George Heriot was probably born in Edinburgh, where he followed his father into a career as a goldsmith. His premises consisted of a booth near St.Giles in Edinburgh. In 1588 he was made a member of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths and was elected their Deacon in 1593. He became very wealthy through money lending, and his clients included King James VI. James appointed George goldsmith to his queen, Anne of Denmark, in 1597 and, in 1601, he was appointed jeweller and goldsmith to the king himself. When James succeeded to the English throne, George set up at the Court of St James in London. He was widowed twice. He married Christian Marjoribanks in 1586. She died about 1603. His second wife, Alison, the 16 year old daughter of Archibald Primrose, writer in Edinburgh, whom he married in 1609, died during her first pregnancy in 1612. He died in February 1624 and was buried at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London. His legendary wealth inspired the character of 'Jinglin' Geordie' in Sir Walter Scott's novel 'Fortunes of Nigel' (1843).

Testament of George Heriot

National Records of Scotland, CC8/8/53 pp 100-107

He left no surviving legitimate children, but bequeathed a substantial amount for the provision of a hospital and school in his home city for 'puir faitherless bairns'. His hospital is now George Heriots School, and Heriot-Watt University also perpetuates his name.

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