James Henrisoun: Positive Visionary for Union



This is the third in our chronological series examining the Scottish Origins of British Unionism, written by John Provan who has an MA (Hons) in History. Here we look at the work of the Scotsman James Henrisoun, "a Scottish patriot who deeply loved his native land, whose British unionism arose firmly from his 'earnest zeale and vnfained affeccion towardes my countrey' ."


We don't have a date of birth for him, but as "early as 1527 he appears to have owned land on the south side of the High Street" [Edinburgh] and he died "apparently, by 1570" (Merriman at p.103, p.86 and p.103).


His two main works, which we describe below, were published in 1547 and 1548.


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James Henrisoun (also referred to in some places as Henrison, Harrison, and also as Harrysone) was among the first champions of British unionism.


Despite being a Scotsman of rather mundane origins, his polemical skills and remarkable vision catapulted him into the circles of the kings and political leaders of his day. His tumultuous life would encompass experiences of exile, imprisonment, war, religious revolution, dynastic intrigue and poison plots that would match the drama of any work of fiction.


All this was a remarkable career for a man who began his working life as an ordinary merchant, trading between his native Edinburgh and the Low Countries.