The 'Admirable Crichton'. Son of Robert Crichton, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, Crichton was most likely born at Clunie (Perth and Kinross), although some sources suggest he was born at Eliock House in Dumfries. What is certain is that he was educated at St. Andrews University, where he was taught by poet and politician George Buchanan (1506-82). He entered the University aged ten, and completed his degree at the remarkable age of just fourteen. He was noted for his mental and physical prowess, together with his good looks. By the age of twenty, he could speak ten languages, was an accomplished musician, horseman, swordsman and noted for his social graces, as well as having a reputation as an orator, debater and scholar.
He travelled to Europe, serving in the French army for two years before arriving in Italy, where he challenged professors in Genoa, Venice and Padua to test his knowledge. He then entered the service of the Duke of Mantua but, unfortunately, Crichton was killed in a street brawl by the Duke's jealous son, who he had been charged with tutoring.
Crichton's reputation comes largely from the enthusiastic account of his life and exploits written by Sir Thomas Urquhart (c.1611-60) and published in 1652. His sobriquet became synonymous with the ideal man and was used by J.M. Barrie to describe a perfect butler, The Admirable Crichton, in his play of 1902, and in the 1957 film of the same name, starring Kenneth More.