John Lauder lived from 1488 to about 1560. He was a churchman best remembered as Scotland's Public Accuser of Heretics. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
John Lauder was the illegitimate son of Sir Robert Lauder of The Bass, Governor of the Castle at Berwick-upon-Tweed and a Member of the Scottish Parliament. That much is known from a document dated 15 February 1532 in which James IV granted Lauder "Letters of Legitimacy" that were later confirmed by Pope Clement VII. Lauder studied at the University of St Andrews before becoming ordained as a priest in about 1518. Among the appointments he held were those of Archdeacon of Tweeddale, and of Teviotdale.
He was also frequently used as a Royal envoy. In 1533, he took a letter from James V to Pope Clement VII in Marseilles. In November 1534 he set off from Scotland for Rome with a letter from James V congratulating Pope Paul III on his appointment.
Lauder also had two further positions, which may have been related to one another. At some point before 1542 he became the secretary of Cardinal David Beaton, and at some point before August 1534 he was appointed to be Scotland's Public Accuser of Heretics. This post involved him in the prosecution of those accused by the state or by the Roman Catholic Church to be heretics: in other words, active Protestants.
In August 1534, Norman Gourlay and David Strattoun were both burned at the stake for heresy following a prosecution conducted by Lauder. In 1539 Lauder conducted the prosecution of Dean Thomas Forrest, Vicar of Dollar and three other men in front of a court comprising Cardinal Beaton and William Chisholm, Bishop of Dunblane. All four were found guilty and burned at the stake on Castle Hill in Edinburgh in February 1539. The most famous - or infamous - trial in which he acted as prosecutor was that of George Wishart, who having been found guilt of heresy was burned in St Andrews on 1 March 1546. Cardinal Beaton was killed in reprisal by Protestants at St Andrews Castle on 29 May 1546.
John Lauder last appears on the record as secretary to Cardinal Beaton's successor, Archbishop Hamilton, in February 1551. He then disappears altogether. It is tempting to think that he was either killed in the Reformation of 1560 or left the country to seek refuge in a Catholic country which might be more sympathetic to his record of dealing with Protestants.