James Sharp

A Presbyterian who nonetheless supported the Royalty.

James Sharp was born in Banff, and educated in Aberdeenshire. He left for England on the formation of the National Covenant, in 1638. In Scotland, the good citizens were for the most part full of resentment against the crown, ever since Charles's accession in 1625; he had repeatedly threatened to resume possession of all property which the old church had possessed in 1540. Very few secular landowners would have remained unaffected.

Worse, in 1636 and 1637 the crown published details of a new ecclesiastical policy. It made no reference to extempore prayer, no reference to the General Assembly, no reference to the Presbytery or kirk-session, and it would have forced the Scots to accept a new prayer book which recalled the mass and the much more Catholic practices of the Anglican church. Revolt was inevitable, against such changes totally out of sympathy with current practice in Scotland.

Sharp was a Presbyterian, but also had sympathies with the Royalist cause. He returned to Scotland in 1632, to become Professor of Philosophy at St Andrews, then minister of the east coast fishing village of Crail in 1649. Because of his royalist leanings he was imprisoned in London in 1651, but released by Cromwell in order to represent Scottish Church grievances to General Monk in 1660.

At the Restoration, Charles II rewarded him with the Archbishopric of St Andrews, and used him during the persecution of the Covenanters. Sharp seemed quite content to go along with the harsh government methods, leading to an assassination attempt in 1668, when he was shot at in Edinburgh by an opposing extreme Covenanter.

Ironically, he was killed by mistake in 1679, while crossing Magus Moor near St Andrews. He was riding in his comfortably ostentatious coach, with his daughter, when set upon by a band of zealous Fife Covenanters who were waiting for another target. They probably hesitated for a moment only.