ONE of the best-known pubs in Edinburgh is the Jinglin’ Geordie in Fleshmarket Close in the Old Town.

Haunt of journalists and printers and other staff from The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News for generations as it is sited behind their former offices, the Jinglin’ Geordie is named after one of Edinburgh’s most famous citizens, George Heriot, who died 400 years ago tomorrow.

By anyone’s standards, Heriot was a remarkable figure, a crucial player in one of the truly turbulent times in Scottish history, the Union of the Crowns in 1603. He also left a legacy that has played a role in Scottish education for nearly four centuries.

READ MORE: Few Scots know about this major turning point on road to Union

Heriot was born on June 15, 1563, the eldest of 10 children of an Edinburgh goldsmith also named George and his first wife Elizabeth, née Balderstone. Heriot senior was a goldsmith who served as a member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh and he was also prominent in the crafts or guilds of the city. George followed his father into the trade of goldsmith and jeweller, and quickly proved adept.

He married his first wife, Christian, daughter of Simon Marjoribanks, a wealthy merchant and burgess in the city. As a wedding present, his father gave Heriot money to establish his own business in the city near St Giles’ Cathedral (below). Heriot and his wife would have two sons.

The National: St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, where the world's first pension scheme was created (Picture: Getty/istockphoto)

Heriot’s business flourished and at the age of 24, he was elected a burgess of Edinburgh and joined the Incorporation of Goldsmiths. He would rise to become Deacon of the Incorporation and later was Deacon Convener of all the trades of the capital.

Becoming a burgess gave him trading rights in the city and Heriot was soon acting for two very important clients, King James VI and his Queen, Anne of Denmark.

READ MORE: Lanark: Where Wallace ‘first drew his sword to free his native land’

The latter’s love of jewellery was renowned and she directed much of her custom to Heriot, so much so that in 1597, Heriot was appointed her official goldsmith. Heriot also began to lend money to the king and queen and royal records show that he earned substantial sums in interest from the royal couple, with the loans being secured on the jewellery that Heriot had supplied to them. Some of the payments came from the funds supplied to James by Queen Elizabeth of England.

In 1601, Heriot was appointed goldsmith to James VI, and by that time, he had become a crucial member of James’s Court, which saw him become banker to many of Scotland’s most prominent people. He was appointed to a commission that would bring in a new Scottish coinage, and also became a senior figure in the king’s customs.

The National:

On Elizabeth’s death in 1603, James VI (above) went to London to become King James I of England. This presented his courtiers with a problem – should they follow the king to England or stay in Scotland and lose influence as it was soon clear that James was determined to make London his capital of a truly United Kingdom. Indeed he only ever came back to his native land once, in 1617.

In November 1603, Heriot chose to move to London, and set up business in the city. It may have been during the family’s move to London that his wife and sons died – some reports suggest the two boys drowned.

READ MORE: Edward I will be turning in his grave to see the Scottish Borders now

James VI and I appointed Heriot to be one of his three jewellers with a salary of £150 per annum. His position at court gave Heriot entry into the highest ranks of English society, and unlike many of the Scots who came south with King James, he appears to have been well-respected and he became very wealthy by lending money and providing jewellery to the nobility. He also acquired his nickname “jingling” from his habit of carrying a purse full of coins.

In 1609, he married again, this time to Alison Primrose the 16-year-old daughter of a prominent Edinburgh lawyer, James Primrose, the clerk to the Scottish privy council. Tragedy struck when Primrose died in pregnancy in 1612, and Heriot never re-married.

He continued to serve James VI and I and Anne whose love of jewellery never abated. In London, Heriot provided her with items that some estimates calculate would be worth millions in today’s terms, some of which have survived and can be seen in museums. Heriot was recorded as one of the official mourners at the queen’s funeral in 1619.

Moving into property, Heriot had a townhouse in The Strand and a country estate at Roehampton, while he had kept numerous investments in property in Scotland.

George Heriot died in London on February 12, 1624, at the age of 60. He was buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Heriot’s last will and testament is in the care of the National Records of Scotland. It states that he was leaving the bulk of his wealth to “the provost, bailiffs, ministers, and ordinary council, for the time being, of the said town of Edinburgh, for and towards the founding and erecting of an hospital within the said town of Edinburgh, in perpetuity, and for and towards purchasing of certain lands in perpetuity to belong unto the said hospital, to be employed for the maintenance, relief, bringing up, and education of so many poor fatherless boys, freeman’s sons of the town of Edinburgh, as the means which I give, and the yearly value of the lands purchased by the provost, bailiffs, ministers, and council of the said town shall amount, or come to.”

Heriot’s bequest of more than £23,600 – equivalent to about £4 million today – was used to establish the Hospital, as it was originally called, named after him with construction beginning in 1628. The building was occupied by Oliver Cromwell’s troops after the disastrous Scottish loss at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 but was able to be refurbished in time to open for the initial 30 sickly orphans in 1659.

Transformed into an educational institution, George Heriot’s is the oldest independent school in Edinburgh. Jinglin’ Geordie is also commemorated in the name of Heriot-Watt University.