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William Barclay

Scottish Jurist (1546-1608)

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Barclay, WILLIAM, Scottish Jurist, b. 1546; d. at Angers, France, July 3, 1608. He was of a good Aberdeenshire family, and studied first at Aberdeen University and later, having emigrated to France like so many of the Catholic youth of Scotland at that time, under eminent teachers at Paris and Bourges. In 1578, on the recommendation of his uncle, Edmund Hay, first rector of the newly founded University of Pont-ii-Mousson, he was appointed to the chair of civil law there by the Duke of Lorraine, who made him also dean of the faculty of law and a councillor of state. Three years later he married Anne de Malleviller, a lady of an honorable Lorraine family. Barclay published in 1600 his largest work, “De Regno et Regali potestate”, in defense of the rights of kings, against Buchanan and other writers. The doctrines laid down in this book, which was dedicated to Henry IV, are discussed at length by Locke in his “Civil Government”. After twenty-five years’ tenure of his professorship, Barclay resigned his chair in 1603 and returned to England, where the new monarch, James I, was inclined to welcome with favor one who had so learnedly asserted the views on the Divine right of kings which he himself held. Barclay’s fidelity, however, to the Catholic religion stood in the way of his advancement, and, rejecting the king’s offer of a lucrative appointment on condition that he renounced his faith, he returned to France. An offer was immediately made to the renowned jurist to accept the professorship of law in the University of Angers, which had been vacant for some years. In 1605 he published at Paris an elaborate work on the Pandects, dedicated to King James. Barclay mentions in this work his intention to write a book about the king, but he never lived to publish it. He was buried at the Cordeliers Church at Angers. His most famous work, “De Potestate Papae”, directed against the pope’s authority over kings in temporal matters, appeared in 1609, with a preface written by his son. Cardinal Bellarmine published a rejoinder to it. (See John Barclay.)


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