Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/25

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RUTHVEN, ALEXANDER (1580?–1600), master of Ruthven, third son of William, fourth lord Ruthven and first earl of Gowrie [q. v.], and Dorothea Stewart, was born probably in December 1580, and was baptised on 22 Jan. 1580–1. Like his brother John, third earl of Gowrie [q. v.], he was educated at the grammar school of Perth, and afterwards, under the special superintendence of Principal Robert Rollock [q. v.], at the university of Edinburgh. He became a gentleman of the bedchamber to James VI, and was a favourite and even the reputed lover of the queen. According to tradition, he received on one occasion from the queen a ribbon she had got from the king, and having gone into the garden at Falkland Palace on a sultry day, and fallen asleep, his breast became accidentally exposed, and the ribbon was seen by the king, in passing, about his neck below the cravat (Pinkerton's ‘Dissertation on the Gowrie Conspiracy’ in Malcolm Laing's Hist. of Scotland, 1st edit. i. 533). For whatever reason, Ruthven, either before or after the return of his brother to Scotland in May 1600, left the court, and he was present with his brother during the hunting in Strabran in the following July. If we accept the genuineness of the correspondence of the earl with Robert Logan [q. v.], the master was also at the time engaged in maturing a plot for the capture of the king. According to the official account of the conspiracy, the visit of Ruthven to the king at Falkland on the morning of 5 Aug. was totally unexpected; but the entries in the treasurer's accounts seem rather to bear out the statement that he went to Falkland on the summons of the king. Gowrie's chamberlain, Andrew Henderson, ‘the man in armour,’ stated that Ruthven set out for Perth after a conference on the previous evening with Gowrie, and took Henderson with him; but there is no other evidence as to this, and the king asserted that he was ignorant that ‘any man living had come’ with Ruthven. According to the official account, when the king, between six and seven in the morning of 5 Aug., was about to mount his horse to begin buck-hunting, he was suddenly accosted by Ruthven, who informed him that he had ridden in haste from Perth to bring him important news. This was that he had accidentally met outside the town of Perth a man unknown to him, who had (concealed below his arm) a large pot of coined gold in great pieces. This mysterious stranger he had left bound in a ‘privie derned [i.e. concealed] house,’ and his pot with him, and he now impetuously requested the king—if the king's testimony is to be accepted—‘with all diligence and secrecy’ to ‘take order therewith before any one knew thereof.’ The king became convinced of the truth of the strange story, and, after a long process of scholastic quibbling as to his duty in the matter, ultimately persuaded himself, although Ruthven apparently brought no information as to the mint of the great pieces, that ‘it was foreign coin brought in by practising Jesuits,’ and that the matter therefore demanded his personal inquiry. At first, however, he merely stated to Ruthven that he would give him a definite answer at the ‘end of the hunt;’ and—so the king asserted—it was only by the incessant importuning of Ruthven that he was induced to ride off with him to Perth as soon as the hunt ended. The king further asserted that Ruthven strongly urged him not to take any attendants with him, or, if he thought this necessary, not to take Lennox or Mar, but ‘only three or four of his own mean servants;’ but the king, struck—and justly so, if Ruthven did make this suspicious proviso—by his anxiety on this point, consulted Lennox, mentioning also the character of the errand on which he was bound. Lennox did not think that Ruthven could cherish any evil intentions, but the king nevertheless desired Lennox without fail to follow him. In any case Lennox and Mar, with a considerable number of attendants, did not fail to follow the king, and gradually came up with him. When they were about a mile from Perth, Ruthven rode forward to inform his brother of the king's approach. This is the one indisputable fact. The whole story of the pot of gold rests solely on the evidence of the king, and if Ruthven did manufacture the strange narrative, and conduct himself in his interview with the king in the fashion described, the king displayed a marvellous simplicity in allowing himself to be made Ruthven's dupe. When it is remembered also that the king was at this time greatly in Gowrie's debt, his belief in the earnest anxiety of Ruthven to deliver the pot of gold into the royal hands becomes more inexplicable.

After dinner in Gowrie's house the king left the table accompanied by Ruthven, but, instead of proceeding to the ‘privie derned house,’ passed into an upper chamber, which Ruthven locked on entering. What took place in that upper chamber between the king and Ruthven was witnessed by not more than two persons, Henderson, the ‘man in armour,’ who according to his own account had been stationed in the room by Gowrie, with orders to do whatever the master might require of him, and Sir John Ramsay (after-