John Wood of Tullidavie and the ‘Casket Letters’

A grandson of the celebrated Scottish hero, Admiral Sir Andrew Wood of Largo who founded the present successor chiefly family, John attached himself to the service of James Stewart, a natural son of King James V and half-brother to the ill-fated Mary. John accompanied Stewart, in 1558, to attend the wedding of Queen Mary of Scotland to the sickly Dauphin of France who, as King Francois II, died two years later. (But for the continuing Reformation, a child from that union would have inherited the crowns of both Scotland and France – probably of England, too.) Like Stewart, John Wood joined the Reformist cause and at the first General Assembly marking the Scottish Church’s rift with Rome in 1560, his name occurs among those considered qualified for ministering and teaching.

The widowed queen returned to Scotland the following year, having lived in France since infancy. With secretary John Wood at his shoulder, Stewart, now Earl of Murray (aka Moray), was her chief adviser and John Wood was nominated an extraordinary Lord of Session. On 9th December 1562, John was created a Senator of the College of Justice. In 1566, we find him bearing a letter from Murray to Sir William Cecil, Lord Chancellor of England. When the Roman Catholic Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate her throne in 1567 in favour of her infant son James VI, Protestant Murray became Regent of Scotland. John’s name appears alongside the momentous articles resolved upon by the General Assembly held that same year. John was a frequent visitor to England in the period leading up to the indictment of Mary, and was carrier of the infamous, so-called ‘Casket Letters’ that were claimed to show her complicity in the murder of her second husband, Lord Darnley. Conversely, Queen Elizabeth and Cecil (later Lord Burghley) entrusted to his care State papers intended for Scottish eyes. The Regent used him as his mouthpiece at the Assembly which sat in July 1569.

Divided by conflicting ideas and beset with various religious factions struggling violently for supremacy, Scotland was a land in turmoil. The Regent was shot as he passed along a Linlithgow street in January 1570. On 15th April, John Wood was likewise assassinated.


This article was kindly supplied by Nick Wood of the Clan Wood Society


About Amanda Moffet

I run with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

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3 thoughts on “John Wood of Tullidavie and the ‘Casket Letters’

  1. Judith Wood Sherrod

    My family has chased our ancestry to Patrick Co. Virginia to a Richard A Wood. That had four wives and twenty-two children. My grandfather was Jeremiah Gabriel Wood m. Mary Pauline (Polly) Hill. Not certain if the John Wood that sailed to America in 1700’s is an ancestor or not. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.

  2. Debra Aruffo

    Judith i am the ancestor of the Patrick County Wood’s we are trying to find out if we are connected to Sir Admiral William Wood. I believe we are connected to your ancestry. Please contact me if possible.


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