John Knox

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John Knox (ca. 1514–1572) was a Scottish theologian known for his hostility towards women and his leading role in founding the Reformed Church of Scotland.


Knox was born c. 1514, traditionally in the sleepy market town of Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland. He may have studied in Haddington and then possibly at the University of St Andrews or the University of Glasgow (there were 3 universities in Scotland at the time, so there's a good chance). It's not clear why he got interested in church reform or Protestantism.[1]

Things get a little more certain in the 1540s when he seems to have been the private tutor to two boys in Longniddry, East Lothian. He soon became involved in Protestant circles in the town of St Andrews, but Scotland was slipping into civil war, and the town was attacked by the French. He was forced to become a galley slave, rowing French armies around Europe for 19 months, but in 1549 was freed under mysterious circumstances and took refuge in Protestant England.

He became a clergyman in the north of England and married Margery Bowes; she was 16 or 17 and he was around 30 or 35.[2] In 1553, Mary Tudor became queen and reimposed Catholicism, so he hot-footed it to Europe. He spent some time in Geneva with John Calvin where he published The first blast of the trumpet against the monstruous regiment of women. Elizabeth I became queen of England in 1558 and re-established Protestantism. But because she was a woman and had heard of his book, she was a bit reluctant to let him back into England.

He finally got to Scotland in May 1559. The wars of religion rolled on until 1560, but when the war ended he was able to become a top dog in the Church of Scotland, helping draft the confession of faith and organise the church on presbyterian lines. Then the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots came back to Scotland in 1561. She and Knox shouted at each other for a while, and there was some more civil war but, on a lighter note, in 1564 he married the 17-year-old Margaret Stewart, a distant relative of the queen.

Mary abdicated in 1567, but the civil war continued. Knox died in 1572 and the war finally ended a year later. Hurray! He is buried in the centre of Edinburgh, in parking space 23 outside St Giles Cathedral.[3]


One atheist blogger called Knox "the most extreme misogynist in the Christian tradition".[4] Yet people argue whether he really hated women.

He did marry two of them although both were rather young. It's unclear if that is evidence for or against. Before marrying his first wife, he had another close relationship with a married woman, Elizabeth Bowes, which may have been more than friendly.[2]

Mainly he hated Roman Catholic women in public office, of which there were quite a few in Europe at the time: Mary of Guise,[5] Mary Tudor, and Mary, Queen of Scots. But he seems to have based his views on more general principles, saying: "To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature."[4]


You can visit John Knox's House in Edinburgh, although there's little evidence that he ever lived there. Records indicate it was owned by a Catholic at the time, goldsmith James Mothman Mosman. He was involved in an armed uprising to restore the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, for which he was executed in 1573, so he was highly unlikely to provide lodging to his patron's enemy.[6][7][8] But John Knox probably did live in a house. Somewhere. Almost certainly in Edinburgh. Probably quite a long time ago. There's a plaque in Warriston Close.

Incidentally, the alleged John Knox's House is now the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Which is jointly owned by the Church of Scotland. Because religion and storytelling go together.

See also[edit]


  1. This informative paragraph is sourced from Wikipedia: See the Wikipedia article on John Knox.
  2. 2.0 2.1 John Knox,
  3. John Knox Grave, Urban Ghosts, 2015
  4. 4.0 4.1 That Monstrous Regiment, Daylight Atheism,, March 2003
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Mary of Guise.
  6. See the Wikipedia article on John Knox House.
  7. John Knox House, Edinburgh World Heritage
  8. John Knox House: Step Inside History, TRAC Scotland