28th of February

Martyrs who died of the great pestilence in Alexandria, 261-3. St Romanus, about 460, and St Lupicinus, abbots, 479. St Proterius, patriarch of Alexandria, martyr, 557.

Born. – Michael de Montaigne, essayist, 1533, Perigord; Dr Daniel Solander, naturalist, 1736, Nordland, Sweden
Died. – George Buchanan, historian, 1582, Edinburgh; Christian IV. (of Denmark), 1646.


On the 28th of February 1783, George III. signed at St James’s the statutes constituting the Order of St Patrick. The forming of this order of knighthood was prompted by the recent appearances of a national Irish spirit which would no longer sit patiently under neglect and misgovernment. It was thought by the new cabinet of Lord Shelburne a good policy to seek to conciliate the principal peers of Ireland by conferring marks of distinction upon them. The whole arrangements were after the model of those of the Order of the Garter. Besides the King as ‘Sovereign,’ there were a Grand Master, and fifteen Companions (since extended to twenty-two), besides a Chancellor, a Registrar, a Secretary, a Genealogist, an Usher, and a King-at-Arms, a Prelate being afterwards added. The first companions elected were the Prince |Edward (afterwards Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria), the Duke of Leinster, and thirteen Earls of Ireland, amongst whom was the Earl of Mornington, afterwards Marquis Wellesley, eldest brother of the Duke of Wellington. Proper dresses and insignia were ordered for the knights and officers, and the hall of Dublin Castle, under the new name of ST PATRICK’S HALL, was assigned as their place of meeting. It was designed, of course, as a concession to the national feelings, that the order was named from St Patrick (a red saltire), and a golden harp, the ancient Irish ensign, together with the national badge, the shamrock or trefoil, to which the saint had given celebrity, were made its principal symbols. 

It will surprise no one, not even amongst the people of the sister island itself, and probably it will amuse many, that a few anomalous circumstances attended the formation of the order of St Patrick. First, the saint’s ‘day’ was not chosen for the institution of the order, and is not celebrated by them. Second, the Grand Master, though entitled to preside in absence of the sovereign, is not necessarily a member of the order. Further, the secretary has no duties (though he draws fees); the letters patent of foundation are not known to exist (no one can tell if they ever passed the great seal either of England or Ireland); and there are no arrangements for degradation or expulsion.1


The following instance speaks for itself. ‘Wednesday last,’ says the Edinburgh Courant of May 3, 1766, ‘the lady of Sir William Nicolson, of Glenbervy, was safely delivered of a daughter. What is very singular, Sir William is at present ninety-two years of age, and has a daughter alive of his first marriage, aged sixty-six. He married his present lady when he was eighty-two, by whom he has now had six children.’ If the infant here mentioned had survived to ninety-two also, she might have said at her death, in 1858, ‘My father was born a hundred and eighty-four years ago, in the reign of Charles II.’ 

Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty and his wife Helen Abernethy – the grandparents of that singular genius Sir Thomas Urquhart, the translator of Rabelais – are stated to have had thirty-six children, twenty-five of them sons, and they lived to see the whole of this numerous progeny well provided for. ‘The sons were men of great reputation, partly on account of their father’s, and partly for their own personal merits. The daughters were married in families not only equal to their quality, but of large, plentiful estates, and they were all of them (as their mother had been) very fruitful in their issue.’ Thomas Urquhart, who lived in the early part of the sixteenth century, built for himself a lofty, many-turreted castle, with sundry picturesque and elegant features, which Hugh Miller has well described in his account of Cromarty, but which was unfortunately taken down in 1772. It was also remembered of this many-childed laird, that he used to keep fifty servants. The entire population of Cromarty Castle must therefore have been considerable. Notwithstanding the great expense thus incurred, the worthy laird died free of debt, and transmitted the family property unimpaired to his posterity. 

The late Earl of Aberdeen had enjoyed the honours of his family for the extraordinary period of sixty years, – a fact not unexampled, however, in the Scottish peerage, as Alexander, ninth Earl of Caithness, who died in 1765, had been peer for an equal time, and Alexander fourth Duke of Gordon, was duke for seventy-five years, namely from 1752 to 1827. It is perhaps even more remarkable that for the Gordon dukedom, granted in 1684, there were but four possessors in a hundred and forty-three years, and for the Aberdeen earldom, granted in 1682, there were but four possessors in a hundred and seventy-eight years!

1  Nicholas’s History of the Orders of Knighthood of the British Empire, iv. 3-92.

On this Day in Other Sources.

On the last day of February, 1539, Thomas Forret, Vicar of Dollar, John Keillor and John Beveridge, two black-friars, Duncan Simpson a priest, and a gentleman named Robert Forrester, were all burned together on the Castle Hill on a charge of heresy; and it is melancholy to know that a king so good and so humane as James V. was a spectator of this inhuman persecution for religion, and that he came all the way from Linlithgow Palace to witness it.

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.79-87.

From another in the beginning of the seventeenth century we learn that there was “gifen upon the xxviii day of Feb. 1609 to John Neill, cordoner, younger, for fute ballis to the toune at fasterins evin conforme to the ald use xxvis. viid.”

– Old Glasgow, pp.276-289.

2368. A Trve Relation of the Proceedings against Iohn Ogilvie, a Iesuit, executed at Glasgow, the last of Februarie, anno 1615. Edinburgh, 1615.

– Memorial Catalogue, Gallery 1.

Feb. 28 [1615.] – This day, John Ogilvie, a Jesuit, was hanged in Glasgow, being the first priest who had suffered in that way in Scotland since the execution of the Archbishop of St Andrews at Stirling in 1571.

– Domestic Annals, pp.177-227.

Feb. 28 [1638.] – This day commenced at Edinburgh the signing of the NATIONAL COVENANT. After the document had been subscribed by the congregation at the Greyfriars’ Church, before whom it was first presented, it went through the city, every one contesting who might be first, many blindly following the example of others – not only men, but ‘women, young people, and servants did swear and hold up their hands to the Covenant.’ Many copies written out on parchment, and signed by the leading nobles, were carried into the country, and laid before the people of the several towns and districts.

– Domestic Annals, pp.257-277.

   “A Bill is ordered into Parliament for taking away or abolishing the heritable Jurisdiction in that Part of Great Britain called Scotland, and for reserving such Jurisdiction to the Crown; and for making more effectual Provision for the Administration of Justice throughout that Part of the united Kingdom by the King’s Courts and Judges there, and for rendering the Union more compleat.”  

– Ipswich Journal, Saturday 28th February, 1747.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1700-1750.

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