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original Author: David S. Henderson, FSA Scot.  Updated by Joe Henderson, RC, South Pacific Region

This information is intended to be a starting point to entice people to do further study.

Robert Henryson  b. 1420/1430 – d.1506

Robert Henryson (or  Henrysoun) is one of the great names in medieval literature in general, and Scottish literature in particular. Little is known about his life. He lived in the second half of the fifteenth century, dying sometime before 1508. He possibly attended the University of Glasgow, and he is later associated with the town of Dunfermline, where he may have been a schoolmaster, or a notary public, or both.

His poetry supports the image of him as both a teacher and a lawyer. His versions of Aesop’s Fables (‘The Morall Fabillis of Esope the Phrygian’) reveal a writer with a powerful moral purpose and a detailed grasp of the mechanisms of the law.

Henryson’s major poems, besides the Fables, include ‘The Testament of Cresseid’, a sequel to Chaucer ’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’;  ‘Robene  and  Makyne’,  a  comic  dialogue;  and ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’, a version of the classical tale which was printed by Chepman and Millar in 1508.

Alexander Henderson  b. 1583 Creich, Scotland – d. 1646 Edinburgh, Scotland

Alexander Henderson was a Scottish Presbyterian divine and diplomatist born circa 1583. In Criech parish, Fifeshire. He was a Henderson of Fordell, with descent from James Henderson, First Laird of Fordell, Lord Advocate, in 1494.

His father was a tenant farmer (feuar) and a cadet (a younger son) of the Henderson of Fordell House. In December 1599, Alexander matriculated at the college of St. Salvator, St. Andrews, and graduated in 1603. Soon afterwards he joined the faculty and he was licensed to preach in 1611 and between 1613 and 1631 he was put in parochial charge of Leuchars, in Fifeshire, by the archbishop of St. Andrews. The Presbyterian parishioners resented this appointment.

In a few years his views began to agree with the prevailing sentiment around him with regard to church government. In August 1616 he took the Presbyterian side at the Aberdeen Assembly.

In 1630 a royal mandate necessitated the adoption in Scotland of the English prayer book and church order. Henderson’s opposition to these innovations resulted in his promotion to Stirling in September of 1631 and to Dumbarton in 1632. In 1635, after King Charles’ visit to Scotland, a service book and cannons, on the English model were drawn; but the new prayer book was finally adjusted in December 1636; and the attempt to enforce its use caused an outburst of popular feeling, placing Henderson the head of a strong movement for Presbyterianism.

John Spotiswood, Archbishop of St. Andrews, carrying out an English Parliament order, charged the clergy of his diocese to use copies of the service book in public and directed moderators of the several presbyteries to comply. In the presbytery of St. Andrews, Henderson, with two others, refused to obey. They were served with an order to use the book within fifteen days under penalty of imprisonment. Henderson petitioned the government to suspend the order on the ground that the book had not been ratified by the General Assembly or by Parliament.

The government  relented  and  addressed the king on the subject regarding the discontent, asking him to summon a deputation to London. Charles’ answer was to issue a peremptory injunction mandating conformity. The Earl of Sutherland made a protest to the government and soon many petitioners, including nobles, clergy and burgesses who had gone to Edinburgh, followed Henderson’s example of disobedience.

Communications  between  Edinburgh and  London  served only to make clearer the unyielding attitude of Charles. Henderson advanced objection to the government’s position, not simply to the service book, but to the presence of bishops in the government as inimical to liberty. At a meeting of the petitioners in October while the populace of Edinburgh was in dangerous ferment, this document was adopted and signed.

On 20 February 1638, the government was to meet at Stirling and proclaim the petitioners’ meeting as treasonable. The petitioners immediately protested the government’s proclamation; and this event was repeated on the 22nd at Edinburgh. On the next day, amid great turmoil, Henderson proposed a renewal of the solemnity of national subscription to a bond of common faith and action, which caused a response of popular enthusiasm which spread over the whole country.

The instrument henceforth known as the “national league and covenant” was prepared on 27 February and consisted of a document known as the “king’s confession” or the “negative confession,” followed by a recital of numerous acts of Parliament against “superstitious and papistical rites” and concluded with an elaborate oath to maintain “the true reformed religion.” In the afternoon of Wednesday, 18 February 1638, this covenant was read in the Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh, after prayer by Henderson and an address by Lord Ludon. The Earl of Southerland was the first to sign it.

In March a copy was sent for signature to every parish in Scotland. The Universities of St. Andrews and Aberdeen formerly condemned the document. Henderson’s diplomatic ability was conspicuous in the skill and firmness with which he met the tactics of James Hamilton, third marquis of Hamilton, sent as the king’s commissioner to procure renunciation of the covenant. King Charles was ready to put down the movement by force of arms.

The burgh of Dundee made Henderson a burgess on the basis of his public services. His name is given as “Henrysoune” on the burgess document.

Henderson was elected moderator of the General Assembly on 23 November 1638, at which the presbyterian organization of the Scottish church was reconstituted on existing lines. Royal commissioner Hamilton left the Assembly declaring it to be dissolved. However, proceedings were continued on the constitutional ground that the king’s right to convene did not interfere with the church’s independent right to hold assemblies.

King Charles issued a proclamation on 27 February 1639, treating the Assembly’s attitude as inimical to monarchy and took up arms, reaching Berwick on May 28th. Henderson was one of the commissioners who arranged the pacification of Berwick, after much personal discussion with King Charles. King Charles was satisfied with Henderson’s loyalty and spoke highly of his ability and prudence. As a result, the Assembly was left an open question, but its policy was confirmed and King Charles promised to convene an Assembly each year.

By this time, Henderson had an Edinburgh charge;  and on 4 May 1638, the town council elected him as one of its city ministers. He was promoted to the charge of the high kirk in January 1639. At the Edinburgh General Assembly in August of 1639, Henderson was again proposed as a moderator but declined.

On 21 August 1640, Henderson was with the covenanting army, crossing the border to New Castle-on-Tyne and Durham before the end of the month. Disclaiming war, he petitioned the King to relieve their grievances. Representatives of the covenanting army and the King met at Ripon on 1 October, then the meeting was adjourned to Westminster. On 14 November, Henderson reached London where he laid before Charles a plan for subsidizing the Scottish universities from the bishops’ rents. He had been elected as rector of Edinburgh University by the town council and he was annually re-elected until his death. His work on behalf of the education of his country, both in the colleges and parochial schools, was great and successful. He introduced the teaching of Hebrew and honor classes and secured a monopoly in the teaching of Greek and logic.

A treaty with  covenanters was ratified  7 August 1641, which promised conformity of church government in the two kingdoms, by which Henderson understood a uniform presbyterianism; but King Charles had taken care not to commit himself against a uniform episcopacy.

In July, he proposed a confession of faith, a catechism and a directory for worship. He pleaded that these forms should be binding on both kingdoms. The General Assembly placed the burden of drafting these forms on Henderson. He saw the necessity of cooperation with England. He did not conceive that England would embrace his form; therefore, a new form must be set upon for all of us, he said.

On 15 August 1642, King Charles was at Holyrood; and Henderson preached before him. He was made royal chaplain and paid close attendance on Charles, who conceded all the covenanters’ demands. The most rigid covenanters were offended by the favors paid to Henderson by King Charles.

The General Assembly appointed Henderson to frame their answer to a communication from the English Parliament; and in doing so, he urged his proposal upon an ecclesiastical uniformity. The English Parliament replied by inviting the General Assembly to send deputies to an Assembly of divines in England in November; but this meeting was delayed because the civil war had now broken out.

At this crisis, Henderson exercised all his diplomacy in the interest of neutrality. He even suggested that the queen should come from Holland to Scotland as a mediator.

Henderson was sent by the General Assembly to Oxford in February 1643, to urge the King to call a Parliament in Scotland. This negotiation was fruitless, but protracted until early May.

Henderson was elected as moderator to the Edinburgh General Assembly in August of l643 for the third time.  Henderson drafted the “solemn league and covenant” which was introduced to the Assembly on 17 August and unanimously adopted. Unlike the National Covenant of 1638, which applied to Scotland only, this document was common to both kingdoms, Scotland and England. It is an instrument of impressive power and singular skill vowing the extirpation of prelacy, but leaving the future question of church government to be determined by “the example of the best reform churches.”

 Henderson worked to draft a directory for worship and, with his scheme of uniformity, drafted an authorized psalm-book, a metrical version.

At the Uxbridge conference on 30 January 1645, Henderson was commissioned both by the Scottish Assembly and the English Parliament as manager of the proposed religious settlement.

On 27 April 1646, King Charles left Oxford for the Scottish army, reaching New Castle on 13 May. In hope of inducing the King to take the “league and covenant” Henderson was sent for. He proposed a personal correspondence between himself and the King with regard to the divine institution of episcopacy and the obligation of the coronation oath.  Henderson failed in this attempt and this failure broke his health. He was said to be “dying of heartbreak.”

He went back to Edinburgh and died there on 19 August 1646, at his dwelling house.  He was buried in St. Giles’ churchyard, near the grave of John Knox. When the churchyard was formed into the Parliament Square, his body was removed to the ground of the Hendersons of Fordell in the Greyfriars’ churchyard.  George Henderson, his nephew; erected a monument but it was demolished by an order of Parliament in July of 1662 but was restored during the revolution of 1689 and still stands today.

Alexander Henderson has had considerable influence on the history of Great Britain.  He is one of the greatest men in the history of Scotland and, next to Knox, is certainly the most famous of Scottish ecclesiastics. He had great political genius; he made a deep mark on the history, not only in Scotland, but also of England.  The existing Presbyterian churches in Scotland are largely indebted to him for the form of their dogmas and their ecclesiastical organization. He is thus justly considered the second founder of the reformed church in Scotland.

There  are  several  portraits  of  Alexander  Henderson  in Scotland; one is a portrait at Fordell Castle.

Thomas Henderson  b. 1798 Dundee, Scotland – d. 1844 Edinburgh, Scotland

Thomas Henderson was royal astronomer of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. He was the first to measure the parallax of a star (Alpha Centauri). He delayed in announcing it however and this achievement was overshadowed when two others claimed the feat before himself. He returned to Scotland and was also appointed the first Astonomer Royal of Scotland.

Arthur Henderson  b. 1863 Glasgow, Scotland–d. 1935, London, England

Arthur Henderson was a key organizer of the British Labour Party. He served both as Britain’s home secretary and secretary of state for foreign affairs from June 1929 to August 1931. He won a Nobel Prize for Peace in 1934 for his work of disarmament in an unfortunately futile attempt to stop a second World War.

Sir Nevile Meyrick Henderson b. 1882, Horsham, England – d. 1942, London, England

Sir Nevile was a British ambassador serving most prominently as ambassador to Germany prior to World War II. He was believed influential in the shortsighted appeasement policy exercised by many European countries prior to Nazi aggressiveness. After the invasion of Czechoslovakia he tried to dissuage Hitler from invading Poland thus forcing Britain and France to declare war on Germany. Unfortunately soon after returning to England after the outbreak of war he became ill, but was able to write his memoirs prior to his death.

Archibald Henderson  b. 1783, Colchester, VA – d. 1859, Washington,   D.C.

Archibald Henderson was a Brevet Brigadier General who was the fifth Commandant of the Marine Corps. He  served in that  capacity for 38 years which is longer than any other person in history. He also captained the marine detachment on the US  Frigate  Constitution during the War of 1812 which brought him to prominence. He is called “The Old Man (or Granddaddy) of the Marines” by the Corps to this day and is still celebrated as their most influential leader.

James McHenry  b. 1753, Antrim,  Ireland  – d. 1816, Baltimore, Maryland

James McHenry as an immigrant found himself in pre-Revolutionary America. He studied and became a doctor prior to the outbreak of war. After many different assignments, including Gen. Washington’s assistant secretary, he was assigned as a major to Gen. Lafayette staff. After the war he spent time in Congress and served as a staunch federalist at the Constitutional Convention. President George Washington also appointed him as Secretary of War. During his tenure he established a standing army and constructed Fort McHenry, his namesake which came to fame as the subject of Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Richard Henderson   b. 1735, Hanover Co, VA – d. Kentucky, 1785

Richard Henderson was a colonizer and judge. He was born in Hanover County, Virginia but became a judge in North Carolina. He created the Transylvania Company to colonize the American West, which at that time was Kentucky and Tennessee. After making a treaty with the Cherokees for 17 million acres of Kentucky land, He  hired Daniel Boone to  cut the Old Wilderness Road and help establish his colony.  However, the Virginia legislature, who claimed Kentucky as a county of Virginia, reduced this to only 200,000 acres. This still places him as one of the most important figures in founding Kentucky.

John Brooks Henderson   b. 1826, VA – d. 1913,  Washington,   D.C.

John B. Henderson was the writer of the thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution which abolished slavery. He was a Senator   from Missouri, who grew up as a humble indentured servant, following his parents untimmely deaths. He became a lawyer by age 20 and joined the Missouri legislature by age 22. His career as a United States Senator spans seven years in which he was a very influential member. In addition to authoring the amendment he was also an advocate against the secession of Missouri from the union, as well as voting to acquit President Andrew Johnson in his impeachment hearing. This latter act ended his political career. However, his legacy lives on in the absolute freedom that we appreciate to this day.

Alexander Henderson   b.1738, Scotland – d. 1815, Virginia

Alexander Henderson immigrated to Colchester, Virginia from Scotland around 1756. He was father to Archibald Henderson of Marine Corps fame. He served in the Virginia militia during the American Revolution. After the war he moved to Dumfries, Virginia and opened up a store. His enterprises grew and he is considered the father of the American “chain store” after opening up outlets in Colchester, Occoquan, and Alexandria.

Archibald Henderson   b. 1877 – d. 1963

Archibald Henderson was a professor of Mathematics at the University of North Carolina. He is related to the same family as Richard Henderson, the colonizer. Archibald’s works include biographies of George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain. While going over to England to meet with Shaw, Archibald met Mark Twain on the ship he was travelling on sparking Henderson’s interest in that great man. He is still honored for his mathematics as well including a prize given at UNC for mathematical excellence.

 Mary Henderson Eastman b. 1818, Warrenton, VA – d. 1887, Washington,   D.C.

Mary Henderson Eastman was a writer best known works involved Native American culture. She gained first hand knowledge of her subject after marrying Lt. Seth Eastman, who was an Army officer and being stationed in outposts in the Old Northwest. Her works prove an interesting insight into the American opinion of Native American cultures during the time period of their greatest persecutions. She also penned Aunt Phillis’s Cabin which was an answer to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Caroline Boa Henderson  b.1889 – d. 1965

Teacher and writer whose letters and articles were published in the us Atlantic Monthly. In her “Letters from the Dustbowl,” she provided a portrait of the farmers who faced the stark conditions on the southern plains, and the harsh realities of eking out an existence in a land of dust and Depression. She was the wife of Wilhelmine Eugene Henderson.

George David Henderson b.1909 – d.1999  Scotland

G.D. Henderson, clergyman, historian. and writer, was known as The Right Reverend Professor and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  His writings were: The Claims of the Church of Scotland, The Scots Confession 1560 and Negative Confession 1561 (St. Andrews Press, 2007), The Church of Scotland, A short history, and James Gordon’s Diary, 1692-1710.  See www.librarything.com/author/hendersongd

Thomas Henderson 1798-1844

Scotland’s First Astronomer Royal

Of all the Astronomers Royal for Scotland, only 3 were Scots, and of these 2 were born in Dundee – Thomas Henderson and Malcolm Longair. Henderson was born on 28 December 1798, the younger son of a tradesman, and educated at Dundee Academy under Thomas Duncan, rector, (later Professor of Mathematics at St Andrews) where he showed a great aptitude for mathematics and science. At 15 he entered a Dundee law office, was promoted to Edinburgh, and eventually became Secretary to the Earl of Lauderdale then to the Lord Advocate.

In Edinburgh he had access to the Observatory of the Astronomical Institution on Calton Hill, which was frequented by various city notables and gentry, and was encouraged by Professors William Wallace and John Leslie to use the modest instruments. On frequent visits to London on legal business he made friends with several astronomers including G. B. Airy, John Herschel and Sir James South who gave him full use of his observatory at Camden Hill. But Henderson had poor eyesight, perhaps a squint, and decided to concentrate on mathematical astronomy rather than observing. In a number of papers he demonstrated computational methods used in Germany but not then common in Britain, and began to be noticed by the astronomers of the Nautical AlmanacBoard of Longitude and the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1830 he compiled a list of moon-culminating stars (for determining longitudes by lunar distances) for Sir John Ross’s Arctic expedition.

He was turned down as a candidate for the vacant Chair of Astronomy at Edinburgh, (it was under threat of abolition, the previous incumbent, Robert Blair, having treated it as a sinecure for 42 years) and as Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac, but friends persuaded him to accept the post of Astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope. From April 1832 to May 1833, with one assistant, Lieutenant Meadows, and with indifferent instruments, he carried out a prodigious observing programme including a catalogue of the positions of southern stars, estimates of the distance of the sun and moon and observations of comets.

At the Cape he began observations of the exact position with respect to the surrounding stars of the bright star Alpha Centauri which a fellow astronomer had pointed out to him had an unusually high Proper Motion, i.e. its movement against the sky background, although in itself this was very tiny. Henderson surmised that it might be a close star. However, he resigned in 1833 with his health shattered and having had enough of the “dismal swamp” among “slaves and savages”.

He returned to Edinburgh, subsisting on a small pension from his legal firm, and calculated his Cape results. The position of Alpha Centauri showed a residual error of about one second of arc (1/3600 of a degree, or 1/1800 of the moon’s angular diameter) which was confirmed by observations of the star at the Cape by his successor Thomas Maclear. This was concluded to be the angle of parallax of the star against the background of distant stars, caused by the motion of the earth round the sun, and therefore the first estimate of the distance of a star at about 3.25 light years. (A later measurement gave 0.75 seconds of arc, at about 4.5 light years.) However, the great German mathematician Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel of Konigsberg, working independently and with a much superior instrument and a different method, announced a parallax for 61 Cygni, a somewhat more distant star in the northern hemisphere, 2 months before Henderson, and thereby got the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society and all the credit. Henderson had been cautious because his instrumentation was suspect, he needed confirming observations and he feared ridicule because false parallaxes had been announced before. Despite this Henderson and Bessel became friends and even holidayed in Scotland together.

In 1834 the Astronomical Institution of Edinburgh was in financial trouble. It was arranged that the Calton Hill Observatory be taken over by the government to run as a state establishment with the Observer to be jointly Regius Professor in Edinburgh University and Astronomer Royal for Scotland. Henderson was duly elected, supported by his many distinguished friends, and during the last 10 years achieved another prodigious workload with the help of his assistant Alexander Wallace, although he did very little teaching. He made some 60,000 observations, which amazed his successor Charles Piazzi Smyth, and many were published in the first volumes of The Edinburgh Astronomical Observations, but later errors were found, caused by the irregular thermal expansion of the stone pillars of the Fraunhofer transit telescope. He was a Fellow of the Royal Societies of Edinburgh and of London, but never took a degree.

But the daily climb up the hill from his official residence at 1 Hillside Crescent, and the death of his wife in 1842, were too much for a frame already weakened by heart disease. He died on 23 November 1844 and is buried in an almost forgotten corner of Greyfriars Churchyard. There is a memorial tablet to him on the west side of the Playfair Building. No proper portrait of him is known to exist.