Charles Jackson, Merchant Burgess of Edinburgh, c1650-1722

Money and power

17th century Edinburgh
Edinburgh around the time Jackson became a burgess.

Charles Jackson was a well-connected, well-to-do Edinburgh merchant. From this distance in time he might seem rather like all the other wealthy citizens who traded, litigated and inter-married, but for one distinguishing quirk. He believed he had a special connection with royalty. When he laid on an outdoor party to celebrate a royal anniversary, the unusual occasion was reported in the press. Read about it here.

Charles jackson merchant burgess
1671 entry for Charles Jackson in the Edinburgh Burgess Roll.

You could think of him as “Charles Jackson Merchant Burgess” since he is so often referred to that way. Born in Perth around 1650, he seems to have settled smoothly into the trading and civic elite of Edinburgh. Before he became a burgess around the age of twenty he was a “servitor” to James Currie, burgess, who later became Provost of Edinburgh. In his early twenties he married Rachel Wilkie, daughter of the Dean of Guild.[ref]There is no record of the marriage but records of christenings of their several children start in 1773.[/ref] Later, several prominent citizens were witnesses at the christening of his son, Andrew, by his second wife Isobell Wood, herself the daughter of a bailie.

Records of his dealings are patchy but it is clear that he lent money, chased debts, acquired property, and had funds to spend on an open-doors party, and on a “vanity” edition of a book to which he wished to add a foreword. (See below.) At one time he paid tax on sixteen hearths[ref]Late seventeenth-century Edinburgh: a demographic study, Helen M. Dingwall, Scolar Press, 1994, p.104[/ref], though there is no reason to assume these were all in his family home. He invested in the unlucky Darien scheme without apparently finding the £300 loss disastrous, was involved in various complex legal-financial proceedings, and when he died an inventory showed his heirs were due to collect £2000 (Scots pounds) from various debtors.

Jackson’s contacts with well-placed citizens may have helped with deals like this one in 1687:

Charles Jackson, merchant burgess of Edinburgh, is granted a tack [lease] of a piece of waste ground on the south side of Parliament House to  make a yard, free of duty, on his offering to keep it in a clean and handsome condition.[ref]Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh[/ref]

Charles Jackson and royalty

Jackson had a special interest in royalty. His sense of a personal connection to Charles II is partly explained in an introduction he wrote for a book about the king. He addressed himself to Queen Anne in a special extra edition published in 1709 and paid for by Jackson himself.[ref]The book was Boscobel: or The compleat history of Charles II. most miraculous preservation, after the Battle of Worcester, 3d September 1651. The fourth edition. Edinburgh: printed by James Watson, for Charles Jackson Merchant. 1709.[/ref]

The Design of my Re-printing this Book, was upon several Accounts; but chiefly, that I might have an Opportunity of Addressing Your Majesty, for Relief in an Affair of my Grand-father’s, who was a Faithful Subject to King Charles the Second, as may be seen by His Majesty’s Letter. I had the Honour to have His Majesty stand my god-father at Perth: also the King in his Troubles assumed the Name of Jackson.[ref]For part of his escape, Charles used the name William Jackson, according to the king’s own account dictated to Samuel Pepys.[/ref]

Queen Anne
Queen Anne

This “explanation”, disappointingly not accompanied by details of his grandfather’s story, came after a reference to the queen’s “Royal Unkle”, and many complimentary flourishes, as would have been expected then. It ended:

Your Majesty is of such a Gracious, Generous and Benign Temper, that I Hope and Pray, That You would be pleased to take my case into your Royal Consideration. That Your Royal Majesty may long Prosper and Reign to be a Continual Blessing to the World, is the Sincere Prayer, Great Madam, of Your Majesty’s most Dutiful and Loyal Subject and very Obedient Servant, Charles Jackson

Was he really Charles II’s godson?

Archibald Tod's tomb
Charles Jackson lies somewhere here at the foot of Tod’s tomb of 1656. To the right is part of the tomb of his first wife’s grandfather, John Jackson.

He died in 1722, according to Edinburgh parish records, which also say he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in March, “at the foot of the north through stone of Tod’s Tomb”. He was said to be either 72 or in his 72nd year. His christening could possibly have overlapped with Charles II’s time in Scotland, which included stays at Scone Palace near Perth. One small reason to believe the king was at the christening is that several of the king’s godchildren were called Charles, or Charlotte. And would Jackson have published that message to Queen Anne unless he believed himself to be Charles’ godson?

The Perth connection[ref]Some reports say he was christened in Keith, but this must be a mistake, as his own edition of Boscobel says Perth.[/ref] is reinforced by written records showing connections between Charles Jackson and people from Perth,[ref]”David Jackson merchant in Perth” was a witness at Charles’ second son’s baptism. One chunk of Jackson’s investment in the Darien scheme was on behalf of John Threpland, merchant in Perth.[/ref] including his own “prentis” (apprentice), John Jackson, son of David Jackson, deceased bailie of Perth.

References and pictures

  • The Darien papers: being a selection of original letters and official documents relating to the establishment of a colony at Darien by the Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies. 1695-1700. pub. Constable, 1849
  • Boscobel: or The compleat history of Charles II. most miraculous preservation, after the Battle of Worcester, 3d September 1651. The fourth edition. Edinburgh: printed by James Watson, for Charles Jackson Merchant. 1709.
  • Testament Dative and Inventory for Charles Jackson, 4 May 1726
  • Feu Charter by William Dick of Grange, with consent of Anna Seton, his spouse, to Charles Jackson, merchant in Edinburgh, March 1713
  • Late Seventeenth-century Edinburgh: A Demographic Study , Helen M. Dingwall, Scolar Press, 1994
  • Edinburgh Parish Records
  • Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh: 1681-1689, ed. Wood and Armet, Scottish Burgh Records Society, 1954
  • Roll of Edinburgh Burgesses 1426-1700, ed. Charles Boog Watson, Scottish Record Society, 1898
  • Register of Edinburgh Apprentices, 1666-1700, ed. Charles Boog Watson, Scottish Record Society, 1929
  • The Citie of Edinburgh from the South (detail) by Wenceslas Hollar (1670) – from Wikimedia
  • Portrait of Queen Anne by Charles Jervas, date approx. 1702-1714 – from Wikimedia

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