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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
John Knox

Leader who secured the early successes of the presbyterian *Church of Scotland at the time of the *Reformation. Ordained a Catholic priest, he was converted to Protestantism by Scotland's first great reformer, George Wishart (c.1513–46), who was burnt at the stake in St Andrews in 1546. It was at St Andrews, the following year, that Knox emerged as a religious leader. He was among the Protestants besieged there after the prolonged turmoil following Wishart's death, and his preaching to the beleaguered town revealed his powerful qualities. When the town fell to the Catholics and their French allies, he was sentenced to serve as a galley slave on French ships. It was 19 months before he was released.

After being closely involved in England in the Protestant policies of *Edward VI's reign, Knox avoided the Roman Catholic backlash under *Mary I by escaping to the Continent. He spent the happiest years of his life (1556–9) as pastor to the community of English exiles in *Calvin's Geneva, which he called a 'perfect school of Christ'. It was there that he wrote his unfortunate tract on The *Monstrous Regiment of Women, which accidentally prevented his ever returning to England. But he was back in Scotland in 1559 to take part in the closing stages of the uprising by Protestants against Scottish and French Catholic forces.

With English support the Protestants won, and Knox spent his remaining years establishing the structure of Scotland's reformed church and writing his History of the Reformation in Scotland. But those final years included one famous personal clash which held great potential danger. In 1561 the 19-year-old Roman Catholic *Mary Queen of Scots returned from France to Edinburgh. There was a famous series of encounters in *Holyroodhouse between the wilful young queen and the outspoken reformer, ending in deep personal animosity between the two. In the event the other troubles which engulfed Mary left Knox free to continue with the work of reform.

The John Knox House on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is kept as a museum. It is one of the earliest surviving domestic buildings in the Old Town (15C with additions up to the 17C). Knox is believed to have lived here during the last decade of his life, when he was minister at *St Giles'.

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