Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

BOTHWELL, James Hepburn, Earl of, in the peerage of Scotland, only son of Patrick, third earl of Bothwell, was born about 152G. Nothing is known of his life up to the date of his father s death, 1556, when he was served heir to his vast estates. For the next few years notices of his doings are few and obscure ; he undoubtedly held posts of high dignity, such as the wardenship of the Scottish Borders, and the office of Lord Admiral ; and it is certain that he was a vigorous opponent of the " lords of the congregation." In the end of 1560 he appears to have been one of the lords who went over to France to meet their new queen (Mary). In 1562 occurred the singular and obscure episode of the conspiracy between Bothwell and Arran to carry off the queen. Arran was well known to be deeply enamoured of Mary, and Bothwell apparently intended to use this passion as a means of furthering his own designs against Murray. The plot, or the germ of it was discovered ; Arran was found to be all but insane, and an indictment was laid against Bothwell, who fled to France and remained there till 1565, when he returned to Scotland. The charge, however, was not forgotten ; it was renewed by the earl of Murray, and the day of trial was fixed. But Murray s forces were too numerous to make it safe for Bothwell to make his ap pearance, and he again fled. He reappeared at court in a ehort time after the marriage of the queen with Daniley, and began to rise rapidly into favour. He escaped from the palace after the murder of Rizzio, and with great promptitude drew together some forces fcr the queen s defence. From this time onwards he was in the highest favour with the queen, and all powerful at court. In 1566 he was dangerously wounded when on a judicial tour in Liddesdale. Here the queen paid him a visit, riding all the way from Jcdburgh, where she was holding a justice eyre. The fatigues of this ride of forty miles brought on a severe illness, during which her life was despaired of. After her recovery the project of a divorce from Darnlcy was mooted, but was declined by her, and Bothwell seems then to have resolved on the removal of her husband by any means. On the evening of the 9th of February the famous crime was committed of Darnley s murder. Public opinion, expressing itself in placards and outcries, fastened the guilt upon Bothwell and his associates, but he was too powerful to be dealt with by the law. On the 24th April he played his last move, carrying off Mary to Dunbar Castle, which had been granted him by the Queen. A divorce from his former wife was easily procured, the dispensation in their favour not being produced at the trial, and on the 15th May the royal marriage was completed. Mary had a few days previously pardoned Bothwell for his abduction of her, and had raised him to the rank of duke of Orkney. The fancied security in which they passed the few days after their marriage was soon and rudely dispelled. The great lords collected their forces and seized Edinburgh, Bothwell and the queen escaping with the greatest difficulty to Dunbar. At Carberry Hill the opposing parties met ; Mary surrendered to the lords, and Bothwell fled to Dunbar and thence to Orkney. Being closely pursued he took ship, was captured by a Danish cruiser, and confined for a time at Copenhagen. He was removed to Malmo and afterwards to Draxholm Castle, where he died in 1575. He is said to have made a death-bed confession exonerating the queen, but the authenticity of the report is more than doubtful. There is hardly a redeeming point in Bothwell s character ; he was utterly selfish and brutal, and did not even treat with courtesy or kindness the woman who had risked so much for his sake. (See Tytler and Burton s histories of Scotland-)