Archbishop of Canterbury. Born in Edinburgh, Tait was educated at the Edinburgh Academy, the University of Glasgow and Balliol College, Oxford, where he became a Fellow in 1834. Although raised a Presbyterian, Tait decided to become a priest in the Church of England (1836). He protested against the Oxford Movement, a ritualistic school of Anglican theology, which adopted practices from Roman Catholicism. By 1842, he had become headmaster of Rugby School and was created Dean of Carlisle (1849), then Bishop of London in 1856.
In 1868 he was the first Scot to be created Archbishop of Canterbury. In this position he did much to strengthen the Anglican church in overseas. He became well-known through his sermons delivered in the open-air and his tactful and broad-minded approach to dealing with controversial matters of church ritual and liturgy, despite his helping to frame the Public Worship Regulation Act (1874), which proscribed certain aspects of church ritual, and he had to deal with resentment over its introduction. He also had to smooth the path of the Burials Act (1880), which allowed non-conformist burials in parish churchyards.
Tait was buried in Canterbury Cathedral (Kent), but is remembered by a memorial within the precincts of the Medical School of the University of Edinburgh in Bristo Place (Edinburgh) close to where he was born.