James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell

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James Hepburn
Duke of Orkney
Marquess of Fife
Earl of Bothwell
James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, c 1535 - 1578. Third husband of Mary Queen of Scots - Google Art Project.jpg
Portrait of the Earl of Bothwell, 1566
Born c. 1534
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died14 April 1578(1578-04-14) (aged 44)
Dragsholm Castle, Denmark
BuriedFårevejle Church, Dragsholm
Father Patrick, Earl of Bothwell
MotherAgnes Sinclair

James Hepburn (c.1534 – 14 April 1578), 1st Duke of Orkney and 4th Earl of Bothwell (better known simply as Lord Bothwell), was a prominent Scottish nobleman. He was known for his association with, abduction of, and marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots, as her third and final husband. He was accused of the murder of Mary's second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, a charge of which he was acquitted. His marriage to Mary was controversial and divided the country; when he fled the growing rebellion to Scandinavia he was arrested in Norway and lived the rest of his life imprisoned in Denmark.

Earl of Bothwell was a title that was created twice in the Peerage of Scotland. It was first created for Patrick Hepburn in 1488, and was forfeited in 1567. Subsequently, the earldom was re-created for the 4th Earl's nephew and heir of line, Francis Stewart, whose father was an illegitimate son of James V. The second creation was forfeited in 1612, and although the heir was subsequently rehabilitated, the title was never restored.

Kingdom of Scotland Historic sovereign kingdom in the British Isles from the 9th century to 1707

The Kingdom of Scotland was a sovereign state in northwest Europe traditionally said to have been founded in 843. Its territories expanded and shrank, but it came to occupy the northern third of the island of Great Britain, sharing a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England. It suffered many invasions by the English, but under Robert I it fought a successful War of Independence and remained an independent state throughout the late Middle Ages. In 1603, James VI of Scotland became King of England, joining Scotland with England in a personal union. In 1707, the two kingdoms were united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain under the terms of the Acts of Union. Following the annexation of the Northern Isles from the Kingdom of Norway in 1472 and final capture of the Royal Burgh of Berwick by the Kingdom of England in 1482, the territory of the Kingdom of Scotland corresponded to that of modern-day Scotland, bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the southwest.

Mary, Queen of Scots 16th-century Scottish ruler and queen consort of France

Mary, Queen of Scots, also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, reigned over Scotland from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567.



Early life

He was the son of Patrick Hepburn, 3rd Earl of Bothwell, and Agnes Sinclair (d. 1572), daughter of Henry Sinclair, 3rd Lord Sinclair, and was styled The Master of Bothwell from birth. He succeeded his father as Earl of Bothwell and Lord Hailes in 1556.

Patrick Hepburn, 3rd Earl of Bothwell was the son of Adam Hepburn, Lord Hailes, who died at the Battle of Flodden the year after Patrick's birth.


As Lord High Admiral of Scotland, Lord Bothwell sailed around Europe. During a visit to Copenhagen around 1559, he fell in love with Anna Tronds, known in English as Anna Throndsen and posthumously as Anna Rustung. She was a Norwegian noblewoman whose father, Kristoffer Trondson (Rustung), a famous Norwegian admiral, was serving as Danish Royal Consul. After their engagement, or more likely marriage under Norwegian law, Anna left with Bothwell. In Flanders, he said he was out of money and asked Anna to sell all her possessions. She complied and visited her family in Denmark to ask for more money. Anna was unhappy and apparently given to complaining about Bothwell. His treatment of Anna played a part in his eventual downfall.

Anna Tronds, known in English as Anna Throndsen and posthumously as Anna Rustung, was a Dano-Norwegian noblewoman. In English and Scots history, Anna Throndsen is best known for her marriage to James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell (which later earned her the nickname Skottefruen, a man who later married Mary, Queen of Scots. Anna Throndsen is also known for her possible but much debated and disputed involvement in drafting some of the famous Casket Letters; these letters being the principal evidence against Mary.

Flanders Community and region of Belgium

Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although the Brussels Capital Region has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels such as (Flemish) culture and education.

In February 1566, Bothwell married Lady Jean Gordon, daughter of the 4th Earl of Huntly and sister of Sir John Gordon and the 5th Earl of Huntly. [1] They were divorced on 7 May 1567, citing his adultery with her servant as cause. He married Mary, Queen of Scots, eight days later.

Jean Gordon, Countess of Bothwell Scottish noble

Jean Gordon, Countess of Bothwell was a wealthy Scottish noblewoman and the second wife of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. He became, after his divorce from Lady Jean, the third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. Lady Jean herself had a total of three husbands. Upon her second marriage, she became the Countess of Sutherland.

George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly was a Scottish nobleman.

George Gordon, 5th Earl of Huntly, was Lord Chancellor of Scotland and major conspirator of his time.

Meeting Queen Mary in France

Lord Bothwell appears to have met Queen Mary when he visited the French Court in the autumn of 1560, after he left Anna Rustung in Flanders. He was kindly received by the Queen and her husband, King Francis II, and, as he himself put it: "The Queen recompensed me more liberally and honourably than I had deserved" — receiving 600 Crowns and the post and salary of gentleman of the French King's Chamber. He visited France again in the spring of 1561, and by 5 July was back in Paris for the third time — this time accompanied by the Bishop of Orkney and the Earl of Eglinton. By August, the widowed Queen was on her way back to Scotland in a French galley, some of the organisation having been dealt with by Bothwell in his naval capacity.

Francis II of France King of France

Francis II was King of France from 1559 to 1560. He was also King consort of Scotland as a result of his marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots, from 1558 until his death in 1560. Francis was the eleventh king from the House of Valois, the fourth from the Valois-Orléans branch, and the third from the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême branch.

Bishop of Orkney Wikimedia list article

The Bishop of Orkney was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of Orkney, one of thirteen medieval bishoprics of Scotland. It included both Orkney and Shetland. It was based for almost all of its history at St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall.

Hugh Montgomerie, 3rd Earl of Eglinton was a Scottish aristocrat who was a strong supporter of Mary Queen of Scots. He was an important participant in a tumultuous period of Scottish history.

Under Mary of Guise's regency

Bothwell supported Mary of Guise, queen dowager and regent of Scotland, against the Protestant Lords of the Congregation. Bothwell and 24 followers took 6000 crowns of English money destined to be used against Guise from the Laird of Ormiston on Halloween 1559 at an ambush near Haddington. In retaliation the Protestant leader, the Duke of Châtelherault, sent his son the Earl of Arran and the Master of Maxwell to seize Bothwell's home Crichton Castle and force the Earl, who was at Borthwick, to join them. Bothwell remained true to the Regent, though it was said in January he was "weary of his part". The English agent Thomas Randolph also hinted at this time of a scandal involving his sister Jean Hepburn. [2]

Mary of Guise 16th-century French noblewoman and queen of Scotland

Mary of Guise, also called Mary of Lorraine, ruled Scotland as regent from 1554 until her death. A noblewoman from the Lotharingian House of Guise, which played a prominent role in 16th-century French politics, Mary became queen consort upon her marriage to King James V of Scotland in 1538. Her infant daughter, Mary, ascended the throne when James died in 1542. Mary of Guise's main goal as regent was a close alliance between the powerful French Catholic nation and smaller Scotland, which she wanted to be Catholic and independent of England. She failed, and at her death the Protestants took control of Scotland, with her own grandson achieving the Union of the Crowns a few decades later.

The Lords of the Congregation, originally styling themselves "the Faithful", were a group of Protestant Scottish nobles who in the mid-16th century favoured a reformation of the church according to Protestant principles and a Scottish-English alliance.

John Cockburn of Ormiston Lay supporter of the Scottish Reformation

John Cockburn, laird of Ormiston, East Lothian, Scotland, was an early supporter of the Scottish Reformation. He was the eldest son of William Cockburn of Ormiston and Janet Somerville. John was usually called "Ormiston." During his lifetime there was also a laird of Ormiston in Teviotdale near Eckford, a member of the rival Hepburn family.

At Queen Mary's court

After Protestant Lords gained power following Mary of Guise's death and the return to Scotland of Mary, Queen of Scots, Bothwell appears to have been not much more than a troublesome noble at court. His open quarrel with the Earl of Arran and the Hamiltons, who accused him of intriguing against the Crown, caused some degree of anguish to the Queen, and although the Earl of Arran was eventually declared mad, Bothwell was nevertheless imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle without trial in 1562. Later that year, while the Queen was in the Highlands, he escaped and went to Hermitage Castle. [3]

The Queen and Bothwell were by now very close. When Bothwell married Lady Jean Gordon, daughter of The 4th Earl of Huntly, in February 1566, the Queen attended the wedding (the marriage lasted just over a year). In the following summer, upon hearing that he had been seriously wounded and was likely to die, she rode all the way through the hills and forests of the Borders to be with him at Hermitage Castle only a few weeks after giving birth to her son. However, historian Lady Antonia Fraser asserts that Queen Mary was already on her way to visit Bothwell on matters of state before she heard about his illness, and that therefore this visit is not evidence they were already lovers at the time of his accident. Author Alison Weir agrees, and in fact the records show that Mary waited a full six days after learning of his injuries before going to visit Bothwell. The story of her mad flight to his side was put about later by her enemies to discredit her.

Darnley's murder

In February 1567, Bothwell was one of those accused of having murdered the Queen's consort, The Duke of Albany (better known as Lord Darnley). Darnley's father, The 4th Earl of Lennox, and other relatives agitated for vengeance and upon his petition, the Privy Council began proceedings against Bothwell on 12 April 1567. Sir William Drury reported to Sir William Cecil, Secretary of State to Elizabeth I of England, that the Queen was in continuous ill-health "for the most part either melancholy or sickly". On the appointed day Bothwell rode magnificently down the Canongate, with The 4th Earl of Morton and Sir William Maitland of Lethington flanking him, and his Hepburns trotting behind. The trial lasted from noon till seven in the evening. Bothwell was acquitted and it was widely rumoured that he would marry Mary.

Abduction of and marriage to Queen Mary

Arms of James Hepburn, 1st Duke of Orkney Arms of James Hepburn, 1st Duke of Orkney.svg
Arms of James Hepburn, 1st Duke of Orkney

The next Wednesday, the Queen rode to the Estates of Parliament, with Lord Bothwell carrying the Sceptre, where the proceedings of Bothwell's trial were officially declared to be just according to the law of the land. On Saturday 19 April, eight bishops, nine earls, and seven Lords of Parliament put their signatures to what became known as the Ainslie Tavern Bond, a manifesto declaring that Mary should marry a native-born subject, and handed it to Bothwell.

On Wednesday 24 April, while Mary was on the road from Linlithgow Palace to Edinburgh, Bothwell suddenly appeared with 800 men. He assured her that danger awaited her in Edinburgh, and told her that he proposed to take her to his castle at Dunbar, out of harm's way. She agreed to accompany him and arrived at Dunbar at midnight. There, Mary was taken prisoner by Bothwell and allegedly raped by him to secure marriage to her and the crown (though whether she was his accomplice or his unwilling victim remains a controversial issue). On 12 May the Queen created him Duke of Orkney and Marquess of Fife, and on 15 May they were married in the Great Hall at Holyrood, according to Protestant rites officiated by Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney. [4] Mary gave her new husband a fur lined night-gown. [5] Within three days, Sir William Drury wrote to London that although the manner of things appeared to be forcible, it was known to be otherwise.

The marriage divided the country into two camps, and on 16 June, the Lords opposed to Mary and the Duke of Orkney (as Bothwell had newly become) signed a Bond denouncing them. A showdown between the two opposing sides followed at Carberry Hill on 15 June 1567, from which Bothwell fled, after one final embrace, never to be seen again by Mary. In December that year, Bothwell's titles and estates were forfeited by Act of Parliament.

Escape to Scandinavia and imprisonment there

After fleeing Scotland at Carberry Hill, the Earl was arrested in Norway. Sources differ as to exactly how the Earl was arrested. It appears that Bothwell took ship from Aberdeen to Shetland. He was pursued by William Kirkcaldy of Grange and William Murray of Tullibardine who sailed into Bressay Sound near Lerwick. Four of Bothwell's ships in the Sound set sail north to Unst, where Bothwell was negotiating with German captains to hire more ships. Kirkcaldy's flagship, the Lion , chased one of Bothwell's ships, and both ships were damaged on a submerged rock. [6] Bothwell sent his treasure ship to Scalloway, and fought a three-hour-long sea battle off the Port of Unst, where the mast of one of Bothwell's ships was shot away. Then a storm forced him to sail towards Norway. [7]

Bothwell may have hoped to reach Denmark and raise an army with the support of Frederick II of Denmark to put Mary back on the throne. He was caught off the coast of Norway (then ruled by Denmark) at Høyevarde lighthouse in Karmsundet without proper papers, and was escorted to the port of Bergen. This was the native home of Anna Throndsen. Anna raised a complaint against Bothwell, which was enforced by her powerful family; her cousin Erik Rosenkrantz, a high-level official in Norway, remanded Bothwell to the Bergenhus Fortress while Anna sued him for abandonment and return of her dowry. Anna may have had a soft spot for Bothwell, as he persuaded her to take custody of his ship, as compensation. Bothwell would have been released, but King Frederick had heard that the English Crown was seeking Bothwell for the alleged murder of Darnley, and decided to take him into custody in Denmark. [8]

The Earl was sent to Copenhagen, where the Danish monarch, King Frederik II, deliberated on his fate. The Earl was sent across Øresund to the fortress and prison Malmøhus Castle. [9] But as news from both England and Scotland arrived, the King eventually understood that Mary never again would become Queen of the Scots. And without Mary, the King considered him insignificant.


He was imprisoned at Dragsholm Castle, 75 kilometres west of Copenhagen. He was held in what were said to be appalling conditions. He died in April 1578. [8] [10]

A pillar to which he was chained for the last ten years of his life can still be seen, with a circular groove in the floor around the pillar. His (alleged) mummified body could be seen in Fårevejle, in the church near the castle, until a few decades ago. In later decades his extended family have tried to get his body sent back to Scotland, but their request has not been granted. [11] The identity of the body has never been conclusively proven; an 1858 investigation concluded that the remains were Bothwell's. [11] [12]


See also

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  1. Dunn, Jane (2003). Elizabeth and Mary. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 185.
  2. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. i (1898), 262, 290.
  3. Calendar of State Papers Scotland, vol. 1 (1898), 548, 622, 652.
  4. Donaldson, Gordon, ed., The Memoirs of Sir James Melville of Halhill , Folio Society, London, (1969), 65: Simpson, Grant G., Scottish Handwriting, Tuckwell (1998), no. 18, contract 14 May 1567.
  5. Robertson, Joseph, ed., Inventaires de la Royne Descosse, (1863), 176, "a M. le Duc d'Orquenez ... ung manteaux de nuyct."
  6. Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol. 8, HMSO, (1982), 66-67, no. 397: Guy, John, Queen of Scots, the True Life, (2005) p.360 (Bothwell was not on the ship chased by the Lion at Bressay)
  7. Strickland, Agnes, ed., Letters of Mary Queen of Scots, vol.1 (1842), pp. 244-248, "Declaration of the Earl of Bothwell": Reid, David ed., Hume of Godscroft's History of the House of Angus, vol. 1, STS (2005), p.171
  8. 1 2 "Jarlen af Bothwell". Forside (in Danish). 10 April 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2017.. Mainly fifth part, Danish:
    Her begynder det danske forløb. Jarlen blev ført til Bergen, hvor han tilfældigvis stødte på Anna Trundsen, som havde slået sig ned i byen efter at være blevet droppet af jarlen i Skotland. Nu måtte han igennem en ydmygende retssag, inden han blev ført til København, fængslet på slottet og senere flyttet til Malmøhus. I denne periode, hvor det endnu var usikkert om den nye skotske regering ville overleve, var jarlen lidt af en politisk varm kartoffel for Frederik II. Da det viste sig, at Mary Stuart ikke ville komme til magten igen, mistede jarlen sin betydning og blev overført til Dragsholm slot, muligvis fordi han var blevet sindssyg. Der døde han så i april 1578.
    In English - approximately
    Here does the Danish passage of events begin. The earl was transported to Bergen (Norway), where he by chance meat Anna Trondsen, who had settled herself in the city after having been dismissed by the earl (earlier, in Scotland). Now he had to face a humiliating trial, before he was transferred to Copenhagen, and later became moved to Malmøhus. During this period was it still uncertain whether the new Scottish government would survive or not, and he was a kind of a "hot potato" for (king) Frederik II. When it became clear that Mary Stuart would not be able to return to power, did the earl loose all significance and was transferred to Dragsholm Castle (as Zealand) instead, possibly due to have become insane. He died there in April 1578
  9. "735-736 (Nordisk familjebok / 1800-talsutgåvan. 10. Lloyd - Militärkoloni)". Project Runeberg (in Swedish). 17 January 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2017. — Swedish Encyklopedia "Nordisk Familjebok", first edition (1880) Article "Malmö"; 25-30 lines from the article name "Malmö", "Inom dess murar hölls grefve Bothwell, Maria Stuarts tredje gemål, en tid som statsfånge" - in English "Within its walls (Malmøhus Castle, as of then) was earl Bothwell, the third husband of Mary Stuart, held as a prisoner of the (Danish) state during some time."
  10. Schiern, Frederik Eginhard Amadeus (1880). Life of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. Translated by Berry, David. Edinburgh: Thomas and Archibald Constable. pp.  387–388.
  11. 1 2 "James Hepburn". Kendtes gravsted (in Danish). Retrieved 16 April 2017. — Danish site about burial locations.
  12. A photo of the coffin in Fårevejle Church, with his assumed remains, can be seen here: "James Hepburn". Kendtes gravsted (in Danish). Retrieved 16 April 2017.
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Patrick Hepburn
Earl of Bothwell
1556 – 1567
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The 3rd Earl of Bothwell
Lord High Admiral of Scotland
Succeeded by
The 4th Earl of Norton