Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/26

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wards Earl of Holderness) [q. v.], to whom the master owed his death. It has, however, been argued that there never was a ‘man in armour’ in the chamber, but that he was invented by the king in order to obtain independent evidence regarding the death of the master. In support of this theory it has been urged that, although Henderson was well known to the king, and his being in armour—if he were in armour—must have been known to other servants of Gowrie, it was at first found impossible to identify the man in armour, notwithstanding that many persons were arrested on suspicion, until Henderson voluntarily came forward, and this through Patrick Galloway, with whom presumably he made some kind of bargain, and declared that he was the person sought for; and, secondly, that the story of Henderson is in itself strangely confused and contradictory, his passivity at certain stages of the struggle contrasting almost inexplicably with his occasional flashes of energetic decision. According to the official account, Ruthven, after locking the door of the chamber, drew a dagger from the girdle of the ‘man in armour,’ and holding it at the king's breast, swore that ‘he behoved to be at his will,’ and that if he opened the window or cried out, the dagger would be plunged into his heart. Henderson, however, asserts that but for his interposition the king would have been immediately despatched: that he threw the dagger out of Ruthven's hand as he was about to strike home. In further contradiction of the statement of Henderson, the official account affirms that while Ruthven continued standing with his drawn dagger in his hand and his sword by his side, the king made him a long harangue on his ungrateful and heinous conduct, which appeared so to move him that he went out professedly to consult his brother, the Earl of Gowrie, after causing the king to swear neither meanwhile to open the window nor to cry out. With scrupulous regard for the letter of his oath, the king prevailed on Henderson to do him the favour to open the window, but refrained from asking him to give an alarm, although from the situation of the room, strangely chosen as it was for a contemplated deed of violence, an alarm would at once have proved effectual. It has been supposed that one reason why the master went out was to spread the report that the king had left Gowrie House. On his return to the chamber he did not bring his brother with him, as he had promised, but affirmed that there was no help for it, but that the king must die. He, however, proceeded first to go through the unnecessary formality of binding him with a garter; but this Henderson affirms he prevented by snatching the garter from Ruthven's hands. Nevertheless Henderson, on his own confession, stood a passive spectator while the king and Ruthven were in grips, and took no part in the struggle except that he withdrew Ruthven's hands from the king's mouth, so as to permit the king to give the alarm at the window. In the course of the struggle the king, according to his own account, practically mastered Ruthven, dragging him first to the window, whence, holding out his hand, he called for help, and then dragging him back and out of the chamber through the door, which had been left open by Ruthven on his second entry, to the door of the ‘turnpike.’ Here the king was just drawing his sword to despatch Ruthven, when Sir John Ramsay, having heard the king's cries, rushed in, and the king exclaiming ‘Fy, strike him high, because he has a chayne doublet upon him,’ Ramsay struck him once or twice with his dagger. The king continued to hold him some time in his grip, until the ‘other man,’ who, accustomed though he was to act with decision in the apprehension of Highland desperadoes, had borne himself throughout as the veriest poltroon, ‘withdrew himself.’ Immediately on his withdrawal the king ‘took the said Master Alexander by the shoulders, and shot him down the stair, who was no sooner shot out at the door but he was met by Sir Thomas Erskine and Sir Hew Herries, who there upon the stairs ended him.’ As he was struck he exclaimed, ‘Alas! I had no wyte [blame] of it.’ One difficulty in accepting the king's version is that it represents him as playing a part for which to all appearance he was physically unfit, Ruthven being a hardy athletic youth, and, as was said, ‘thrice as strong as the king.’ Ruthven's own account of the reason of the king's visit was, as given by Cranstoun, Gowrie's servant, that ‘Robert Abercrombie, that false knave, had brought the king there to make his majesty take order for his debts.’ Gowrie's estates were then burdened with debts on account of money advanced out of his father's own pocket, while treasurer, on behalf of the government [see under Ruthven, John, third Earl]; but as Gowrie had no private interview with the king, it is unlikely that the king broached the subject of the earl's debts to Ruthven in the upper chamber. The general opinion at the time was that the discovery of some affection between the queen and the Earl of Gowrie's brother ‘was the truest motive of the tragedy’ (Winwood, Memorials, i. 274). On this supposition it is possible that the