John Melville, 4th of Raith

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Sir John Melville of Raith, Kt.

Birthdate: (43)
Birthplace: Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
Death: December 13, 1548 (43)
Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland (Executed for treason)
Immediate Family:

Son of John Melville of Raith and Janet Bonar
Husband of Margaret Wemyss and Helen Napier
Father of Janet Melville of Raith; John Melville, 5th of Raith; Katherine Melville of Raith; Sir Robert Melville of Murdochcairnie, 1st Lord Melville of Monimail; William Melville, Commendator of Tongland and 3 others
Brother of Marjory Melville

Occupation: 4th Laird of Raith, Master of Ordinance
Managed by: Rebecca Wyckoff
Last Updated:

About John Melville, 4th of Raith

From Peerage (Accessed Dec. 13, 2017)

Sir John Melville [1]

  • M, #357051,
  • d. 13 December 1548
  • Last Edited=23 Mar 2015
  • Sir John Melville was the son of unknown Melville of Raith.[2]
  • He married, secondly, Helen Napier, daughter of Sir Alexander Napier, 5th of Merchistoun and Janet Chisholm.[1]
  • He died on 13 December 1548, executed for treason.[1]
  • He held the office of Master-General of Ordnance.[1]
  • He held the office of Captain-General of Dunbar Castle.[1]
  • He lived at Raith, Fife, Scotland.[1]

Child of Sir John Melville and Isobell Weems

  • 1. Alison Melville+[2]

Children of Sir John Melville and Helen Napier

  • 1. John Melville+[1] d. 13 Jan 1605
  • 2. unknown son Melville [1]
  • 3. Sir James Melville [1] d. 1617
  • 4. William Melville [1]
  • 5. Sir Andrew Melville [1]
  • 6. David Melville [1]
  • 7. Janet Melville+[1]
  • 8. Margaret Melville [1]
  • 9. Robert Melville, 1st Lord Melviille of Monymaill+[1] b. c 1527, d. 1621


  • 1. [S37] BP2003 volume 2, page 2312. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • 2. [S6306] Charles Graham, online unknown url, Charles Graham (unknown location), downloaded 3 Aug 2012.

Married: 1st married the daugher of Sir John Wemyss of that Ilk, July 1503

Married 2nd: Helen Napier of Merchiston about 1525. Helen survived her husband, and in 1569 obtained from David Hamilton, Son of Regent, a charter to herself and her son John, of the lands the Abthanery of Kinghorn Easter, now abden, of which she is probably died about 1588.

John Melville had by his 1st wife sons and daughters but the sons died. By his 2nd wife Helen, he has said to have 9 sons, who are said to have died young and two daughters.


From the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 37,_John_(DNB00)

MELVILLE, Sir JOHN (d. 1548), laird of Raith in Fife, was the eldest son of John Melville the younger of Raith and Janet Bonar, his wife, probably a daughter of the neighbouring laird of Rossie. He succeeded his grandfather, William Melville, as laird of Raith in 1502, and was knighted by James IV in the following year, probably on the occasion of that king's marriage in August to Princess Margaret Tudor. He is said to have accompanied James IV to Flodden, but if so he returned in safety, and was more or less actively engaged in the many disputes of the regency during James V's minority. He was appointed master of the artillery for life in October 1526, but a few months later he took part with John, earl of Lennox, in his unsuccessful attempt to free the king from the control of the Earl of Angus, and had to sue to Angus for mercy. Yet within a brief space the Douglases were in exile, and for intercommuning with them Melville had to beg a remission from the crown.

With James V, whose banner he followed in several of his expeditions to the borders and elsewhere, Melville stood in considerable favour, and the king took a personal interest in the staunching of a blood-feud between him and his neighbour, Moultray of Seafield. He was on the juries who tried Janet Douglas, lady Glamis, and Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, respectively for conspiring the death of the king. About 1540 he was made captain of the castle of Dunbar, and had the custody of several important state prisoners.

Melville was early impressed by the principles of the Reformation, and associated himself closely with the movement; and he was one of the three hundred noblemen and gentlemen whom Cardinal Beaton pressed James V to pursue as heretics. During the minority of Queen Mary, Melville was a steady favourer of the policy of the ‘English’ party in Scotland, who sought to consolidate the interests of the two nations by uniting the crowns in the marriage of Edward VI and Mary. He had a natural son in England, John Melville, with whom he regularly corresponded while the two countries were at war. One of his letters fell into the hands of the Scottish governor, Arran, and he was arrested, carried prisoner to Edinburgh, and, being convicted of treason, was executed there on 13 Dec. 1548. His estates were forfeited, but this forfeiture was rescinded in favour of his widow and children in 1563. Many believed that Melville suffered more on account of his religion than of treachery to the country. John Johnston, D.D. [q. v.], places him among his Scottish heroes (Heroes ex omni Historia Scotica lectissimi, 1603, pp. 28, 29).

Melville was twice married, first to Margaret, daughter of John Wemyss of that ilk, and secondly to Helen Napier, of the family of Merchiston, and he had a family of nine sons and three daughters.

  • John, the eldest son of his second marriage, succeeded to the family estates; others of his sons were
  • Robert, first lord Melville [q. v.],
  • Sir James Melville of Hallhill [q. v.],
  • Sir Andrew Melville of Garvock, master of the household to Queen Mary,
  • William Melville, commendator of Tungland, and
  • Captain David Melville of Newmill.
  • A daughter of his first marriage, Janet, became the wife of Sir James Kirkcaldy of Grange [q. v.]

[Sir W. Fraser's Melvilles of Melville and Leslies of Leven, i. 38–81.]

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John Melville, 4th of Raith's Timeline

Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
Age 20
Raith, Fife, Scotland
Age 21
Fife, Scotland
Age 22
Age 26
Tongland, Dumfries-shire, Scotland
Age 30
Hallhill, Fife, Scotland
December 13, 1548
Age 43
Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland