A name which is intimately connected with the history of Freemasonry in Scotland. For the particulars of his life, we are principally indebted to the writer, said to have been Sir David Brewster, Lylon's History of Lodge of Edinburgh, page 55, of Appendix Q. 2, in the Constitutions, 1848, of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. William Schaw was born in the year 1550, and was probably a son of Schaw of Sauchie, in the Shire of Clackmannon.
He appears from an early period of life to have been connected with the royal household. In proof of this we may refer to his signature attached to the original parchment deed of the National Covenant, which was signed by King James VI and his household at Holyrood Palace January 28,1580-1, old style. it not being until an Act of the Privy Council in Scotland, 1599, made January 1 New Year's Day, from 1600. In 1581, Schaw became successor to Sir Robert Drummond of Carnock, as Master of Works. This high Official appointment placed under his superintendence all the royal buildings and palaces in Scotland; and in the Treasurer's accounts of a subsequent period various sums are entered as having been paid to him in connection with these buildings for improvements, repairs, and additions. Thus, in September, 1585, the sum of 315 was paid "to William Schaw, his Majestie's Maister of Wark, for the reparation and mending of the Castell of Striueling," and in May, 1590, 400, by his Majesty's precept, was "delyverit to William Sehaw, the Maister of Wark, for reparation of the house of Dumfermling, before the Queen's Majestic passing thereto."
Sir James Melville, in his Memoirs, mentions that, being appointed to receive the three Danish Ambassadors who came to Scotland in 1585, with overtures for an alliance with one of the daughters of Frederick II, he requested the King that two other persons might be joined with him, and for this purpose he named Schaw and James Meldrum, of Seggie, one of the Lords of Session. It further appears that Schaw Wad been employed in various missions to France. He accompanied James VI to Denmark in the winter of 1589, previous to the King's marriage with the Princess Anna of Denmark, which was celebrated at Upslo, in Norway, on the 23d of November. The King and his attendants remained during the winter season in Denmark, but Schaw returned to Scotland on the 16th of March, 1589-90, for the purpose of making the necessary arrangements for the reception of the wedding-party. Schaw brought with him a paper subscribed by the King, containing the "Order set down be his Majestic to be effectuate be his Hienes Secret Counsel, and prepared again his Majestic's return in Scotland," dated in February, 1589-90.
The King and his royal bride arrived in Leith on the 1st of May, and remained there six days, in a building called the King's Work, until the Palace of Holylood was prepared for their reception. Extensive alterations had evidently been made at this time at Holyrood, as a Warrant was issued by the Provost and Council of Edinburgh to deliver to William Schaw, Maister of Wark, the sum of 1000, "restante of the last taxation of 20,000" granted by the Royal Buroughs in Scotland, the sum to be expended "in biggin and repairing of this Hienes Palice of Halyrud-house,'' 14th March, 1589-90. Subsequent payments to Schaw occur in the Treasurer's accounts for broad scarlet cloth and other stuff for burde claythes and coverings to forms and windows bayth in the Kilk and Palace of Halyrud-house."
On this occasion various sums were also paid by a precept from the King for dresses, etc., to the ministers and others connected with the royal household. At this time William Schaw, Maister of Wark, received 133 6s. 8d. The Queen was crowned on the 17th of May, and two days following she made her first public entrance into Edinburgh. The inscription on Schaw's monument states that he was, in addition to his office of Master of the Works, Sacris ceremoniis praepositus and Reginae Quaestor, which Monteith has translated as Sacrist and Queen's Chamberlain. This appointment of Chamberlain evinces the high regard in which the Queen held him; but there can be no doubt that the former words relate to his holding the office of General Warden of the ceremonies of the Masonic Craft, an office analogous to that of Substitute Grand Master as now existing in the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
William Schaw died April 18, 1602, and was buried in the Abbey Church of Dunfermline, where a monument was erected to his memory by his grateful mistress, the Queen. On this monument is his name and monogram cut in a marble slab, which, tradition says, was executed by his own hand, and containing his Freemason's Mark, and an inscription in Latin, in which he is described as one imbued with every liberal art and science, most skillful in architecture, and in labors and business not only unwearied and indefatigable, but ever assiduous and energetic. No man appears, from the records, to have lived with more of the commendation, or died with more of the regret of others, than this old Scottish Freemason.
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