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George Wishart lived from 1513 to 1 March 1546. He was a religious reformer and Protestant martyr. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
George Wishart was born and brought up near Montrose. He graduated from King's College, Aberdeen, before studying at the University of Leuven in the Belgium. He then returned to Montrose, where he worked as a schoolmaster, until his decision to teach the New Testament in Greek led to his being investigated on charges of heresy by the Bishop of Brechin in 1538. Wishart fled to England, only to have a similar charge brought against him there the following year. He escaped prosecution by recanting some of what he had said while being questioned by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. He seems to have spent 1539 and 1540 in Germany and Switzerland, and in 1542 he became a student and a teacher at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
Wishart returned to Scotland in 1543, and again took up the teaching of scripture in Montrose. In 1544 he may have become involved in an unsuccessful plot against Cardinal David Beaton. What is more clearly established is that in the same year Wishart began to travel around Scotland, preaching the Protestant cause. A constant companion was John Knox, who had been converted by Wishart and became his close associate and bodyguard. Their travels took them as far afield as Ayr, Montrose, Perth and Haddington. While in Dundee, Wishart only narrowly escaped an attempt on his life.
December 1545, Wishart was preaching at Ormiston in East Lothian when he was seized by the Earl of Bothwell on Cardinal Beaton's orders. He was transferred to Edinburgh Castle in January 1546, and then handed over to Cardinal Beaton for a show trial prosecuted by John Lauder, Scotland's Public Accuser of Heretics. The outcome was fairly predictable, and on 1 March 1546, George Wishart was executed by being burned at the stake in St Andrews. According to John Knox, Wishart predicted Cardinal Beaton's death before he himself died, and on 29 May 1546 Cardinal Beaton was himself murdered in St Andrew Castle, in retaliation for the execution of Wishart. St Andrew Castle became a rallying point for Scottish Protestants, and John Knox was among those who took up residence there. The forces of Catholicism won at St Andrews Castle, but Wishart's follower John Knox was to play a central role in the Scottish Reformation which followed in 1560.