12th February 1624

Philanthropist George Heriot dies

George Heriot’s name lives on in Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University. The Watt in its name is taken from engineer and inventor James Watt.

Born in Edinburgh in June 1563, Heriot made his money as the jeweller of King James VI of Scotland (later to also become James I of England and Ireland) and his wife, Anne of Denmark. As a jeweller, he was following in the footsteps of his goldsmith father.

Lending money to the king

However, he was also a particularly savvy businessman, who multiplied his income by lending the money the king was paying for these jewels back to the king and queen themselves. He charged a hefty 10% interest on these loans, which even in the 1600s amounted to several tens of thousands of pounds.

When the king moved to London upon inheriting the throne of England and Ireland, he took Heriot with him. Although he travelled back to Edinburgh during his tenure, Heriot died in London and was buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Hospital for orphans

He bequeathed the bulk of his estate – around £23,600 – to the city of Edinburgh to establish a hospital for orphans, which exists to this day in the shape of Edinburgh’s George Heriot’s school. It accepted its first pupils a little over 30 years after Heriot’s death. George Heriot’s Hospital was initially a residential school but started accepting day students in the 1880s.

The trust that oversees the school was also involved in the establishment of Heriot-Watt University when it collaborated with the Watt Institution in the mid-1880s.



Other events that occured in February

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