Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/30

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he informed Gowrie both that the master was well received and that not merely the king but all the hunting party would be at Perth incontinently. Thus Henderson must have been better informed than the master himself, who, according to the official statement, did not obtain a decisive answer to his request. If Gowrie from the information of Henderson expected such a party, he, from whatever motive, made no preparations to receive his guests; and it was while in the midst of dinner that the master of Ruthven, who had galloped on in advance, arrived to announce the approach of the king. Thereupon Gowrie rose, and, along with the master, went out to meet him at the Inch. Some time before the arrival of the king, Henderson, according to his own statement, had by Gowrie's orders put on his armour to arrest a highlandman; and after the arrival of the king, Gowrie, while the king was still at dinner, ordered Henderson to go up to the chamber to the master of Ruthven; and, following him as he went up, Gowrie informed him that he was to be at the master's orders and do anything he told him. According to the official account in the ‘Discourse of the Vile and Unnatural Conspiracy,’ Gowrie during the king's visit was very ill at ease; but this is as consistent with innocence as with guilt. That he had been previously in communication with the king is certain, but the nature of these communications is unknown. The master stated to a servant that the visit of the king had reference to the earl's debts; and as the earl by his speech on taxation had incurred the king's violent displeasure, he may have inferred that the visit boded to him no good.

When the king, accompanied by the master of Ruthven, left the dining table, Gowrie led Lennox and the other attendants into the garden to ‘eat cherries,’ stating, according to Lennox, who had proposed to follow the king, that the king had gone on ‘a quiet errand,’ and would not be disturbed (Pitcairne, Criminal Trials, ii. 172). While they were in the garden, Cranston, one of Gowrie's attendants, came with the message, given, he asserted, in perfect good faith, that the king had left the castle by the back way, and was riding to the Inch. Gowrie then called ‘to horse,’ but the porter affirmed that the king could not have left, as the gates were locked and he had the key. Gowrie, it is said, then went up to make inquiry, and, returning, asserted that the king had certainly left. It is supposed to have been the master who (when he left the chamber) spread the rumour that the king had left. But before they had time to decide as to the truth of the rumour, the voice of the king was heard shouting ‘Treason!’ and his face was seen for a moment at a window of the turret. Thereupon Sir Thomas Erskine seized Gowrie, with the words ‘Traitor, thou shalt die the death,’ but was immediately felled to the ground by a blow of the fist from Andrew Ruthven of Forgan. Thereupon Lennox, Mar, and others rushed towards the apartment whence proceeded the cries; and Gowrie, running up the street to the house of a citizen, drew two swords from a scabbard, and, returning, exclaimed that he ‘would gang into his own house or die by the way.’ According to the official account, he passed up the back stairs with seven of his servants, all with drawn swords, and, entering the chamber, ‘cried out with a great oath that they should all die as traitors;’ but Calderwood asserts that the only servant who accompanied him was Cranston (History, vi. 72). The result of the conflict tallies best with the latter supposition. There were only four of the king's followers in the chamber—Sir Thomas Erskine, Sir Hew Herries, Sir John Ramsay, and John Wilson—who would scarcely have been a match for eight. Moreover, the only servant hurt was Cranston, who was mortally wounded. Gowrie, an expert swordsman, and rendered desperate by the sight of his bleeding brother, whose body he had passed on the way up, attacked the king's friends with fury; but his attention having been suddenly diverted by an exclamation from some one that the king was killed, he either permitted Ramsay to get within his guard or else was stabbed from behind.

The deaths of Gowrie and his brother removed the only witnesses for the defence. Since both were killed by the king or his immediate attendants, it was almost inevitable that the judicial verdict should go against them. It must further be remembered that, while the king's attendants were naturally biassed in his favour, the servants of Gowrie gave their evidence—such as it was—under threat of torture or under actual torture, the boot and the lokman having been brought from Edinburgh to Falkland for this purpose; and that no evidence favourable to Gowrie would be accepted.

The fact that the earl had spent but a few months of his manhood in Scotland, and these chiefly in retirement, deprives us of materials for an adequate knowledge of his character. If he did concoct such a plot as that indicated in the letters—not then brought to light—of Robert Logan [q. v.], he must have been the weak victim of English diplo-