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The Octavians were a financial commission of eight in the government of Scotland first appointed by James VI in January 1596.[1] James's minister John Maitland, 1st Lord Maitland of Thirlestane had died a few months earlier, and his financial situation was troubled. They were a reforming body, eager to bring order to the royal finances and bear down on patronage. They imposed a 5% import tax and promoted an expedition into the Highlands to recover tax revenue.[2]

The initial commission lasted only one year, and was much disliked; Presbyterians attempted a coup at the end of 1596, and one demand was that the Octavians should be disbanded.[3] When renewed in 1597, it faced disabling opposition from vested interests, and some of the Octavians were suspect as sympathetic to Catholics.[4] But the concept of the commission as an extension of the exchequer into government persisted, and under the name of New Octavians it played a part in Scottish administration into the reign of Charles I.

Octavians of 1596[edit]

New Octavians of 1611[edit]


  1. ^ Julian Goodare, The Government of Scotland, 1560-1625 (2004), p. 157.
  2. ^ Mark Nicholls, A History of the Modern British Isles, 1529-1603: The two kingdoms (1999), p. 306.
  3. ^ Julian Goodare, The Scottish Witch-hunt in Context (2002), p. 52.
  4. ^ Felicity Heal, Reformation in Britain and Ireland (2005), p. 415.
  5. ^ Goodare, Julian. "Octavians". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/69937. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney, eds. (1890). "Hamilton, Thomas (1563-1637)" . Dictionary of National Biography. 24. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  7. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1894). "Murray, Gideon" . Dictionary of National Biography. 39. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  8. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1896). "Preston, John (d.1616)" . Dictionary of National Biography. 46. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  9. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1898). "Spottiswood, John (1565-1637)" . Dictionary of National Biography. 53. London: Smith, Elder & Co.