Ruthven, William (1541?-1584) (DNB00)

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RUTHVEN, WILLIAM, fourth Lord Ruthven and first Earl of Gowrie (1541?–1584), second son of Patrick, third lord Ruthven [q. v.], by Janet Douglas, natural daughter of Archibald, earl of Angus, was born about 1541. On 4 April 1562 the queen conceded to him and his wife, Dorothy Stewart, certain lands in the barony of Ruthven which his father resigned in his favour (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1546–80, No. 1413). With his father he joined the conspiracy against Rizzio on 9 March 1566, and on the queen's escape to Dunbar he accompanied his father in his flight to England. On the death of his father at Newcastle on 13 June 1566, he nominally succeeded him as fourth lord, but previous to this he had been denounced as a rebel and forfeited. Along with Morton, he was, however, through an agreement of Bothwell and the queen with the protestant lords, pardoned and permitted to return to Scotland, which he did about the end of December (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1566–8, No. 872). Possibly he was unaware of the plot which was then being hatched against his cousin, Lord Darnley; and in any case there is no evidence that he had any direct connection with it. Nor was he present in Ainslie's tavern when, after Bothwell's acquittal of the murder, certain lords signed a paper recommending Bothwell as a suitable husband for the queen. Probably he was one of the few nobles who joined the band against Bothwell with a sincere desire to revenge the murder; and he was present against the queen when she surrendered to the lords at Carberry Hill. Along with Lord Lindsay, he was appointed to conduct the queen to the fortalice of Lochleven, and to have charge of her during her imprisonment there; but, according to Throckmorton, being suspected of having shown ‘favour to the queen,’ he was subsequently employed on another commission (Illustrations of the Reign of Mary, Bannatyne Club, p. 208). Along with Lord Lindsay, Ruthven acted as procurator in obtaining the queen's demission of the government in favour of her son (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 538), and at the coronation of the young king at Stirling he certified with Lord Lindsay that she had demitted the government willingly and without compulsion. On 24 Aug. he was selected provost of Perth (ib. p. 505); after the queen's escape from Lochleven he took up arms against her, and was present at her defeat at Langside on 13 May 1568 (Hist. of James the Sext, p. 27); and in August he stopped at the Fords of Tay the Earl of Huntly, a supporter of the queen, who was coming to attend the parliament, accompanied with a thousand horse (Calderwood, History, ii. 418). At the convention of Perth in July 1569 he voted against the queen's divorce from Bothwell (Reg. P. C. Scotl. ii. 8). On 24 Nov. of the same year he was appointed lieutenant of Perth, and bailie and justice of the king's lands of Scone (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1546–80, No. 1894); and on 7 Dec. he received a grant of certain lands in South Kinkell (ib. No. 1902).

Ruthven was one of those who bore the body of the regent Moray from Holyrood to its burial in St. Giles's Church (Randolph to Cecil in Knox's Works, vi. 571). He continued to adhere to the lords in their contest with the supporters of Mary, who held possession of the castle of Edinburgh, and distinguished himself in several engagements. In 1570 he assisted in the capture of the garrison of the enemy at Brechin (Calderwood, iii. 8). In February 1571–2 he was sent to defend Jedburgh against Ker of Ferniehirst, whom he surprised and completely defeated (Reg. P. C. Scotl. ii. 116–17; Hist. of James the Sext, p. 98; Calderwood, History, iii. 155; Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1572–4, No. 116); and in July 1572 he defeated a sortie from Edinburgh Castle (ib. No. 458). On 24 July 1571 he was, in room of Robert Richardson [q. v.], who resigned, appointed lord high treasurer for life. He was a commissioner for the pacification of Perth on 23 Feb. 1572–3 (Reg. P. C. Scotl. ii. 193); and he signed the undertaking with the English ambassador Drury as to the arrangements to be observed on the capture of the castle of Edinburgh (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1572–4, No. 897).

Lord Ruthven was one of those deputed by Morton to represent him at the convention of nobles at Stirling in March 1577–1578, at which it was agreed that Morton should be deprived of the office of regent (Moysie, Memoirs, p. 2), and on the 15th he was sent with others of a deputation to Morton to request him to surrender the castle of Edinburgh (ib. p. 3), when he was chosen by Morton as one of the ‘neutral men’ who might meanwhile be named keepers of the castle (ib.) In April he was also named one of the new councillors under whose direction the king was to carry on the government (ib. p. 5). Subsequently he joined Morton, who had obtained access to the castle of Stirling, and he was present at the meeting of parliament held there under Morton's auspices, and was chosen a lord of the articles (ib. p. 12). On 8 Sept. 1578 he was nominated one of eight noblemen for the reconciliation of the two factions, and also lieutenant of the borders, with special powers for reducing them to obedience (Reg. P. C. Scotl. iii. 25–6). On 28 Nov. he was appointed an extraordinary lord of session. He signed the order for the prosecution of the Hamiltons on 30 April 1579 (ib. p. 147), and on 20 May was thanked for the discharge of his commission against them. Ruthven had long been at feud with James, fourth lord Oliphant, a supporter of Queen Mary, and while returning in October 1580 from Kincardine, where he had been at the marriage of the Earl of Mar, he happened to pass near the house of Lord Oliphant at Dupplin, whereupon he was pursued by Lord Oliphant, and his kinsman, Alexander Stewart, shot dead with a hacbut. Ruthven pursued the master of Oliphant at law for the slaughter, and on 15 Nov. both parties were bound over by the council to keep the peace (ib. iii. 329). Ultimately the master in March 1582 went to the lodgings of Ruthven in Edinburgh without sword or weapon, and offered himself to his will.

During a convention of the lords at Dalkeith on 3 May 1581, to consult on the trial of Morton, Ruthven fell sick through a drink of beer he got in Dalkeith, and it was rumoured that he had been poisoned, but the evil effects were only temporary (Calderwood, iii. 556). After the execution of Morton it was deemed advisable to gratify him by creating him by patent, 23 Aug. 1581, Earl of Gowrie and Lord Ruthven and Dirleton, and on 20 Oct. the lands and barony of Gowrie belonging to the monastery of Scone were erected into an earldom, and bestowed on him by charter under the great seal (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1580–93, No. 258). On 14 Dec. he had also a grant of the lordship of Abernethy (ib. p. 296).

In the dispute between James Stewart or Stuart, earl of Arran, and the Duke of Lennox, in regard to their right to bear the crown at the opening of parliament as next of kin to the crown, Gowrie sided with Arran, and subsequently he signed a band with other protestant nobles against Lennox; they were led to take action mainly by information conveyed to them by Bowes, the English ambassador, that Lennox had determined to seize them, and charge them with meditated treason against the king (Bowes, Correspondence, Surtees Soc. p. 170). Thereupon Gowrie and other conspirators immediately devised the plot now known as the ‘Raid of Ruthven,’ by which the king on 23 Aug. 1582 was induced or compelled to leave the town of Perth, and go to Gowrie's seat at Ruthven, where he was practically placed under the custody of the conspirators. Arran and his brother, Colonel Stewart, on learning that the king was at Ruthven, determined to effect a rescue, but Colonel Stewart, with a strong body of horse, was defeated by Mar; and Arran, who had galloped by a nearer way to Ruthven, was promptly seized and placed under a guard. It was only the interposition of Gowrie that saved him from being slain by the conspirators (Melville, Memoirs, p. 281), but it was finally agreed that he should be placed under the charge of Gowrie in Stirling.

After the ‘Raid of Ruthven’ the English ambassador, at the request of Elizabeth, was directed to use every means to obtain possession of the silver casket containing the letters of Mary Queen of Scots to Bothwell, which it was stated that Morton had delivered into the keeping of Gowrie (Bowes to Walsingham, 8 Nov. 1582, in Bowes's Correspondence, Surtees Soc. p. 236); but Gowrie, while declaring that the lords had determined to keep them in vindication of their conduct, declined at first to state whether they were in his possession or not (ib. p. 240); then, while practically admitting that they were in his possession, he affirmed that he could not give them up without the king's privity (ib. p. 254), and finally he insisted that it was necessary to keep their whereabouts secret from the king, as the Duke of Lennox had sought earnestly to get possession of them (ib. p. 265). Their custody cannot be traced further.

On 17 Dec. 1582, at a convention of certain of the lords with the ministers of Edinburgh, Gowrie earnestly desired that he might be allowed to set Arran at liberty, ‘so that the good action had no hurt thereby,’ but it was determined that he should be retained in confinement (Calderwood, iii. 693). All that Gowrie would, however, agree to was that he should be kept in confinement until it was certainly known that Lennox had left the country (Bowes, Correspondence, p. 222). It was thought Gowrie was privy to the king's escape from Falkland to St. Andrews on 27 June 1583 (Melville, Memoirs, p. 284; Calderwood, History, iii. 715); in any case, on making his appearance at St. Andrews, he was permitted to enter the presence of the king, received from him a formal pardon, and was nominated one of his new privy council. On 23 Dec. the king also under the great seal granted full remission both to him and his servants for their share in the Ruthven raid (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1580–93, No. 648).

Gowrie opposed a proposal of the king that Arran should be permitted to visit the court; but on the king's assurance that he merely wished Arran to come and kiss his hand and then return, Gowrie withdrew his opposition (Melville, Memoirs, pp. 292–3). Arran, however, took advantage of his visit to regain his old influence over the king, and remained at the court as his chief adviser. Gowrie and Arran were then nominally reconciled, but in February 1583–4 Gowrie was, at the instance of Arran, commanded to leave the country. He made various excuses for delay in obeying the command, and meanwhile he concerted with Angus, Mar, and others a plot for the capture of Stirling Castle. Ultimately he came to Dundee on the pretence of intending to take ship there, but in reality to be in readiness to concert measures with the other conspirators. His purpose was, however, fathomed by Arran, and on 13 April Colonel Stewart was sent by sea to Dundee with one hundred men, charged by a royal warrant, written by Arran, to bring Gowrie to Edinburgh. On the arrival of Stewart on the 15th, Gowrie immediately went to his lodgings, which he barricaded and resolved to hold, with the aid of his servants; but finding that the townspeople, through the influence of the Earl of Crawford, sided with Stewart, he finally surrendered. His capture upset the plans of the other conspirators, who took refuge in England. He was brought to Edinburgh on the 18th, thence to Kinkell on the 25th, and five days thereafter to Stirling, to be put upon his trial. Although the delay of Gowrie in leaving the country was suspicious, there was no direct proof that he was involved in a conspiracy against the king or Arran. Earnest attempts were therefore made to induce him to make a confession (see specially the papers printed in Papers relating to William, first Earl of Gowrie, pp. 25–43); and on a solemn verbal assurance of the king's promise of pardon, he did confess that he was concerned in the conspiracy with the other nobles who had fled to England, but, except as regards his share in the conspiracy, revealed nothing that was not already known. His own confession was nevertheless used as the main evidence against him at his trial, and, being convicted of high treason, he was beheaded at Stirling on 2 May 1584, and his lands were forfeited. In addition to the accusation of treason, he was charged with witchcraft; but he repelled the accusation as a malicious slander, and it was not persisted in.

Gowrie was married to Dorothea Stewart, daughter or granddaughter of Henry Stewart, second lord Methven. It has been disputed whether she was the daughter of the second Lord Methven by his first wife, Margaret Tudor, widow of James IV, or by his second wife, Lady Jane Stewart, who afterwards married Gowrie's father, Patrick, third lord Ruthven. It has, however, been clearly shown that she could not have been a daughter of Margaret Tudor, inasmuch as in that case she would have been much too old to have borne so many children to Gowrie; but it has also been argued that Lord Methven had by Margaret Tudor a son, the master of Methven, killed at Pinkie in 1547, and that Dorothea was the master's daughter, and therefore a granddaughter of Margaret Tudor. The theory is, however, unsupported by evidence, and owes its existence simply to the fact that it affords a plausible explanation of the so-called ‘Gowrie Conspiracy’ of 1600 [see under Ruthven, Alexander, master of, and Ruthven, John, third Earl of Gowrie], inasmuch as on this supposition the young Earl of Gowrie would have had a rival title with James to the throne of England. Be this as it may, Dorothea and her children were for a time treated with great severity. Not only was she left completely destitute, but when during the progress of the king to the parliament in August she appeared to ask mercy for herself and children, she was forcibly repelled at the instance of Arran, and fell down in the street in a swoon (Calderwood, History, iv. 197). After the fall of Arran in 1586 the forfeited lands and dignities were, however, restored. At his death Gowrie was indebted to the amount of 48,063l., being the amount advanced to him on the security of his lands for the defrayment of public expenses while he held the office of treasurer. After the Gowrie conspiracy the Countess of Gowrie penned a petition on 1 Nov. 1600, in which she wrote: ‘I am so overcharged with the payment of annual rents for his majesty's debts contracted during the time of my husband's being in office of treasurer, which sums of money were taken on my compact fee lands, that scarce am I able to entertain my own estate’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pt. ii. p. 196).

By Dorothea Stewart, Gowrie had five sons and eight daughters. The sons were James, second earl, who died in 1588; John, third earl [q. v.], and Alexander, master of Ruthven [q. v.], both killed in the affair of Gowrie House in 1600; William, and Patrick. After the affair of Gowrie House an order was sent to apprehend William and Patrick, then boys at school in Edinburgh, but, being forewarned, they fled into England. On 27 April 1603 James, during his progress southward to accept the crown of England, issued an order for their apprehension (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1603–10, p. 5). William escaped and went to the continent, where he gained a high reputation by his scientific acquirements; but Patrick was apprehended and lodged in the Tower. While there he on 24 July 1616 received a grant of 200l. per annum for apparel and books (ib. 1611–1618, p. 387). In 1622 he obtained permission to reside within the bounds of the university of Cambridge, and there was at the same time settled on him a pension of 500l. a year. On 4 Feb. 1623–4 he was permitted to reside in Somerset. In February 1639–40 he was living in St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. He died in 1652, in the king's bench prison. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Woodford, and widow of Thomas, lord Gerard, by whom he had, besides other children, Patrick, who succeeded him, and Mary, maid of honour to Queen Henrietta Maria, who married Sir Anthony Vandyke. On 3 Nov. 1657 the son, who styled himself Patrick, lord Ruthven, presented a petition to Cromwell for arrears of pension due to his father, in which he stated that the barony of Ruthven had been restored by parliament to his father in 1641 (for information regarding Patrick Ruthven, see especially Papers relating to William, first Earl of Gowrie, and Patrick Ruthven, his fifth and last surviving Son, 1867). The daughters of the first Lord Gowrie were Mary, married to John, first earl of Atholl; Jean to James, lord Ogilvie, ancestor of the earls of Airlie; Sophia to Ludovick Stewart, second duke of Lennox; Elizabeth to John, lord Graham, afterwards fourth earl of Montrose; Lilias to Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar; Dorothea to Sir John Wemyss of Pittencrieff; Catherine died in infancy; and Barbara, lady of the bedchamber to Queen Anne of Denmark, who retained her position notwithstanding the forfeiture of the family, and in September 1603 obtained from the king a pension of 200l., on the ground that, notwithstanding ‘the abominable attempt of her family against the king, she had shown no malicious designs’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1603–10, p. 43). She married Sir John Hume of Coldingknowes.

[Histories by Knox, Calderwood, and Spotiswood; Sir James Melville's Memoirs, and David Moysie's Memoirs (Bannatyne Club); Bowes's Correspondence (Surtees Society); Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1546–80, and 1580–93; Reg. Privy Council of Scotland, vols. ii.–iv.; Cal. State Papers, Scot. Ser. and For. Ser. reign of Elizabeth; Papers relating to William, 1st Earl of Gowrie, privately printed, 1867; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), i. 662–3.]

T. F. H.