George Heriot and his Bequest

George Heriot was the eldest son of a goldsmith of the same name, who was descended from the Heriots of Traboun, a St Giles Cathedral and Goldsmiths' Hallfamily of some antiquity in East Lothian. The date and place of the Founder's birth are not accurately known but Heriot is believed to have been born in Edinburgh in June 1563. Goldsmiths were then, and for a long period, the principal money lenders in Scotland and ranked among the wealthy citizens of Edinburgh. The young George Heriot learned his father's trade and established his own business in a "buith" near St. Giles Cathedral. He was admitted as a member of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths in 1588 and in 1597 was appointed by James VI Goldsmith to his Queen, Anne of Denmark.

James VI
James VI
(artist unknown)
Anne of Denmark
(attributed to Adrian Vanson)
Portraits courtesy of Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

In April 1601 he was made Jeweller and Goldsmith to James VI, with a right to all the profits and emoluments of that lucrative office. During this time of his life he laid the foundation of a fortune such as few Scotsmen attained in that age.

Anne Letter

After the accession in 1603 of James to the English throne, Heriot followed the Court to London, where he resided permanently afterwards. As Jeweller and Goldsmith at the Court of St James, he also attained eminence as a landowner and man of considerable substance.

Heriot died childless in London on 12th February 1624 and was buried in St. Martin-in-the-Fields. After payment of considerable private legacies of about £6,826, he bequeathed the remainder of his estate for the purpose of founding in his native city a hospital for the upbringing and education of "puire fatherless bairnes, friemenes sones of that Toune of Edinburgh". His bequest amounted to some £23,625 10s 3 1/2d (Sterling) and represented a small fortune in those days.