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Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Limited 
fetter lane, fleet street, e.g. 





That singular event, the Gowrie Conspiracy, 
is one that appeals with more than common 
interest to all readers of history, as the obscu- 
rity in which it is involved gives it quite a 
romantic place in the annals of the 17th 
century. I have endeavoured in the following 
pages to throw some additional light on the 
subject derived from a careful research in the 
State Paper offices and in other collections. 
The papers in the possession of the Perth 
Literary and Antiquarian Society have, I 
believe, been privately published, but this is 
the first time that some of them have really 
been put within reach of the public. I 
consider these papers of importance, not so 
much from the position and standing of the 



writers, as from the special opportunities they 
had of giving an independent opinion on 
a subject they had studied with profound 
interest. I am not prepared to question the 
conclusions at which they have arrived, for I 
think these, when the whole case has been put 
under review and every available document 
scrutinised, are well founded. There are some 
curious things connected with this event. For 
example, we are met at the threshold by the 
absolute want of a Ruthven narrative and the 
consequent difficulty of estimating the value 
of that published by the King. On this 
hangs the whole question. The execution 
of the plot showed that it was deliberately 
planned, although all trace of negotiations has 
been withheld and absolutely nothing dis- 
closed. That Gowrie conspired against the 
King and was the head of the conspiracy the 
official narrative tries to make clear ; but it is 
not well put together. It is rather a clumsy 
piece of composition, and its special pleading 
condemns it, Take for example the scene in 



the turret chamber. Does any one suppose 
that if Gowrie wanted to assassinate the King, 
Alexander Ruthven would have engaged in 
the silly conversation that is recorded in the 
official narrative ? If the plot had been of 
Gowrie's making, if Gowrie had, as many 
suppose, been the conspirator, Alexander 
Ruthven would doubtless have taken his life 
when he had so favourable an opportunity for 
doing so. And what is conspicuous is that 
neither Gowrie nor his brother ever attempted 
to take the King's life. Ruthven was evi- 
dently dragged to the turret window by 
James, and this cunning device conveyed the 
impression outside that James was in great 
danger. (James at this period would be 
thirty-four years of age, Ruthven a youth 
of twenty.) This was the signal for the 
massacre which afterwards took place ; and 
the manner in which it was carried out cer- 
tainly indicated that it was malice afore- 
thought. There is also to be considered the 
attitude of the Corporation of Perth of that 



day. The magistrates were onlookers, and it 
is evident they had no knowledge whatever 
until Gowrie was killed that any conspiracy 
was going on. Had Gowrie led the con- 
spiracy, his brother magistrates would doubt- 
less have known something about it. So far 
from that being the case, the Town Council 
and the inhabitants rose up in indignation 
against the King, and were furious at the 
death of Gowrie, who was their Provost. The 
King's efforts to appease them by becoming 
a burgess in April following was a highly 
suspicious act, and his effusive charters granted 
to the town after the event are too transparent 
to mislead any one. The subsequent conduct 
of the King and his nobles throws great sus- 
picion on them. The depositions they took, 
which were painfully voluminous, were un- 
truthful, one-sided, and conspicuous by their 
want of independence. They are a mere 
re-echo of the official narrative. These tri- 
bunals, in short, were not impartial, and some 
shady circumstances are reported to have 

Preface ix 

occurred, such as the murder of a messenger, 
who could have given important evidence, 
whose body was found next day in a corn- 
field. Why did the King's party murder 
this man, who witnessed the conspiracy, if it 
was not because his evidence would condemn 
the King ? Assuming Gowrie to have been 
the conspirator, was the King, with the know- 
ledge he possessed, having slain his enemies 
and confiscated their estates, justified in re- 
sorting to the cruel and inhuman procedure 
which he subsequently adopted against the 
Ruthven family ? His object in all this is 
undoubtedly a great mystery, and seems to 
convey the impression that he believed Gowrie 
was a competitor for the English throne. 

The correspondence of Nicolson, Elizabeth's 
envoy in Scotland, is important, and should 
be carefully studied. So far as we are aware 
he was a man of strict integrity. He does 
not take the King's part, and he was an 
independent witness and a looker-on. In 
coming to the conclusion I have done, I have 


X Preface 

been guided by the evidence I have repro- 
duced, and there is no other evidence of any 
value to be obtained on which one would be 
justified in forming a conclusion. That, 
evidence appears to me to leave no room for 
doubt as to who was the author of the so- 
called Gowrie Conspiracy. 

S. C. 

Novejnbei\ 1902. 


GowRiE House ..... Frontispiece 

Plate I. — The Courtyard and Adjoining 

Ground. .... Facing page loo 

Plate II. — The Interior — Showing First and 
Second Floors, Black Turnpike, and 
Turret Chamber . . . Facing page 102 

Ancient or Mercat Cross of Perth . page 257 



Condition of Scotland in 1600 — The Ruthven Family 
— The Earl of Cowrie's return from Padua — The 
King's narrative of the Conspiracy. 

Scotland during the middle ages was any- 
thing but a peaceful kingdom, and its people 
were anything but law-abiding. Its adminis- 
tration was not characterised by integrity, but 
rather by corruption, immorality, and crime. 
Allegiance to the throne was disregarded in 
high quarters when any great scheme was 
afloat, and the effect of this was destructive 
of loyalty and of the general safety, and calcu- 
lated to keep the people in constant excite- 
ment. Conspiracies during this period were 
very common, and the lives of the lieges were 


2 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

never absolutely free from danger. The 
conspiracy of Robert Graham and the Earl 
of Atholl against the life of James I. was an 
inexcusable and treacherous act, in which the 
lives of all three were sacrificed. The con- 
spiracies against Riccio and against Darnley 
were equally inexcusable, and attended with 
much greater loss of life ; while the conspiracy 
against the Queen of Scots was carried on for 
nineteen years, and culminated not only in 
her execution, but in a wholesale execution of 
a large number of the nobility and people. 
In the reign of James VI. the conspiracy 
against him by William Lord Ruthven and 
his followers lasted for upwards of ten months, 
and some years afterwards what is known as 
the Gowrie Conspiracy followed suit. These 
do not exhaust the list, but they unfold the 
spirit of the times. These plots had one 
object only, and that was the aggrandisement 
of the men by whom they were put forward. 
The condition of Scotland was pitiable. It 
was financially in a state of chronic bank- 

Condition of Scotland in 1600 3 

ruptcy, and the English monarch its chief 
creditor. It was constantly engaged in civil 
war ; its miHtary were undisciplined, ill-clad, 
ill-fed, ill-paid, while its people were poor and 
discontented. This state of matters occasioned 
the loss of Flodden, Pinkie, Solway Moss, 
and several other engagements. The general 
poverty and insecurity were shown in some of 
the sieges of Perth, the ancient capital, when 
on one occasion only one man in the burgh 
was able to give hospitality, and on another 
occasion, when the provost and magistrates for- 
sook the town and ran away to escape danger. 
With one exception these cabals we have 
referred to were directed against royal person- 
ages, a state of matters that disclosed a spirit 
of rebellion and treason amongst the leading 
men of the time, and particularly those who 
were ministers of State. Everything unfor- 
tunately has not been recorded, and we can 
only criticise what is expressed in the official 
narrative. The treasonable conduct of the 
nobles, which figures conspicuously in the 

B 2 

4 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

historical record, is difficult to believe, but it 
seems to be beyond doubt ; and not only so, 
but there is reason to believe that all of them 
entered into and promoted these unlawful 
schemes without the least hesitation. For 
example, when James Hepburn, Earl of 
Bothwell, undertook to murder Darnley if 
the nobles gave him as a douceur Darnley's 
wife, nineteen out of twenty nobles convened 
signed the bond. The Gowrie Conspiracy 
was different from every other conspiracy that 
has occurred either before or since, in respect 
that it was evidently a plot by a royal per- 
sonage against a subject ; it differed also from 
the conspiracies we have named in that it was 
conceived without ingenuity and executed 
without skill. Ruthven at Falkland, the drama, 
at the dinner, the King's uncovered head at 
the window, the false report that he had 
returned to Falkland, the death-scene in the 
turret chamber, the prompt execution of those 
who could give evidence against the King, 
and the farce of the bogus depositions, leave 

Condition of Scotland in 1600 5 

no reasonable doubt as to the elaborate scheme 
which must have been " cut and dry," con- 
structed and rehearsed, before the fatal 5 th of 
August. To most students of history it will 
appear mysterious why the negotiations for 
the deed were kept so quiet ; so quiet in short 
that nothing about them has found its way 
into the State Paper Office or into any private 
collection. Although Gowrie and his brothers 
were annihilated and his estates confiscated, 
he had seven married sisters who were evidently 
undisturbed. One of these was married to 
Lennox, who does not appear to have taken 
Cowrie's part, but we should have expected 
some of the other brothers-in-law to have 
spoken out. From whatever reason history 
is silent. Even that noble woman, Dorothea 
Stuart, Cowrie's mother, who in agony wit- 
nessed her two youngest boys being pursued 
and hunted to the death by the bloodhounds 
of James, was consequently unable to com- 
municate with them or to afford them food, 
-clothing, or shelter, and has left nothing on 

6 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

record to enlighten the seeker after truth. 
Scotsmen in every age have read this won- 
derful story ; children at school have been 
" grounded " on the King's narrative ; while 
students of history have stood aghast as they 
engaged in research and gradually realised 
that they were unravelling the mystery of a 
gigantic plot. 

Whether it was a conspiracy by Gowrie 
to remove the King, or a conspiracy by the 
King to remove Gowrie, has always been a 
debatable question. The Ruthven family 
were extensive landowners in Scotland, and 
were also identified very closely with the town 
of Perth, while by marriage they were con- 
nected with various county families. Their 
country residence was Ruthven Castle, in the 
neighbourhood of Perth ; their town residence 
Gowrie House, and the head of the family 
was usually Sheriff and Provost of Perth, 
There does not seem to have been any crime 
recorded against any of the family until the 
reign of Queen Mary, when Patrick Lord 

Patrick and IVilliam Ruthven 7 

Ruthven, who died in exile, joined the rebels, 
became a violent conspirator, and was one of 
the murderers of Riccio. He committed the 
unpardonable offence of striking Riccio with 
his sword in the presence of the Queen, and 
otherwise of grossly insulting her Majesty, as 
is fully recorded in the Queen's biography. 
For this she indignantly told him, after the 
murder, that she hoped "the Eternal God, 
who from the high heavens beheld this 
murder, would avenge her injury by rooting 
out him and his treacherous posterity." The 
Gowrie Conspiracy evidently fulfilled this 
prophecy. His son succeeded as William 
Lord Ruthven, and was afterwards created 
first Earl of Gowrie. He also became a rebel, 
and evidently was a man of the most brutal 
description, in proof of which we have recorded 
his outrage on the Queen at Lochleven, when, 
in company with Lindsay, he forced him- 
self into her bedroom, found her ill and in 
bed, and compelled her to sign her abdication 
by brute force. The Queen had no greater 

8 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

enemy. He was also one of the Darnley 
murderers ; and during the reign of James he 
concocted and carried out what is called the 
Raid of Ruthven, for which he was afterwards 
beheaded. His eldest son died while second 
Earl of Gowrie, and the next two sons were 
those of the Gowrie Conspiracy. The elder 
of these, John, third Earl, had just (1600) 
finished his education at Padua, and was only 
twenty-one years of age. He went to England 
on his return from Padua, and spent two 
months at Elizabeth's Court at a time when 
it has been suggested that James and Elizabeth 
had quarrelled. On his arrival in Edinburgh 
he was surrounded by a brilliant company of 
noblemen and gentlemen and a vast assembly 
of friends. The King is reported not to have 
been very cordial to him, but his genial 
manner at length prevailed. He was fond of 
sports, which pleased the King ; and it is 
said he became the constant companion of 
James, but of this we have not sufficient 
proof. The narrative of the so-called Gowrie 

The Official Narrative 9 

Conspiracy, which has been frequently pub- 
lished, is the official version issued by the 
authority of James, and presumably written 
by him. We do not think it can be accepted 
as a hona Jide report of what occurred, nor do 
we think the depositions afterwards taken 
before the Town Council and at Falkland 
are of the slightest value, because they are 
notoriously one-sided and untruthful. The 
whole proceedings appear to have been 
directed by royal authority, and woe to the 
man who called in question any order of 
James. This narrative has done its work by 
manifesting to posterity that the atrocious 
deed was the act of Gowrie and his brother. 
No narrative of the conspiracy from the 
Ruthvens or their friends has, as already 
stated, ever been published, very probably 
because no one was left who was in a position 
to do so. All such were executed after the 
conspiracy by command of the King. 

In the archives of the Perth Literary and 
Antiquarian Society are some important papers 

lo The Gowrie Conspiracy 

on the subject, read before the Society more 
than a century ago by men who evidently 
had devoted much time to its consideration, 
and whose efforts to arrive at the truth cannot 
be too highly commended. What they have 
said is of great importance. We give in a 
slightly condensed form four of these papers, 
which we commend to the unbiassed judg- 
ment of those who desire to form an opinion 
on this great historical event. We shall first, 
however, reproduce the King's narrative. 

The Narrative of James VI. 

On the 5th August the King and his 
nobles were in the great park at Falkland 
ready to mount and proceed to their sport. 
This was between 6 and 7 a.m. The King was 
surrounded by his hounds and huntsmen when 
Alexander Ruthven came up and craved an 
audience. Ruthven then declared that the 
evening before he had met a suspicious 
looking fellow outside the walls of St. Johns 

The Official Narrative 1 1 

toun with his face muffled in a cloak, and 
perceiving him to be terrified when questioned 
he seized him, and on searching found a pot 
full of gold pieces under his cloak. This 
treasure, with the man who carried it, he had 
secured in a small chamber in Gowrie House, 
and he now begged the King to ride with him 
to St. Johnstoun and make sure of it as he 
had not yet told his brother. The King dis- 
claimed having any right to money they 
found, but on being told it was foreign gold 
he proposed to send a warrant to the Provost 
to seize it. Ruthven protested against his 
doing so, as if the magistrates got a hold of it 
he would never see it. All he wanted was 
that the King would ride with him to St. 
Johnstoun, see the treasure, and judge for 
himself. The King said he would decide 
after the hunt was over. At the close of the 
chase he surprised his companions by telling 
them that he meant to ride into Perth and see 
the Earl of Gowrie, and he immediately rode 
off with Ruthven at a rapid pace. During the 

12 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

ride Ruthven despatched Andrew Henderson, 
his chamberlain, to advise Gowrie that the 
King would arrive very shortly. Gowrie, it 
would appear, dined at half-past twelve along 
with three friends. Shortly after, Ruthven 
arrived to announce the King's approach, and 
Gowrie and his friends and followers rose to 
their feet and walked to the South Inch to 
meet him. The King had an escort of twelve 
or fifteen persons. On coming to Gowrie 
House he called for a drink, and was annoyed 
at having to wait long for it, and also at the 
delay of an hour before dinner was served. 
During this interval Alexander Ruthven sent 
for the key of the room leading to the gallery 
chamber, which room adjoined the cabinet 
where the King dined. At the end of this 
apartment was another which led by a stair into 
a circular room formed in the interior of a 
turret, and this room could be entered not only 
by the door at the end of the gallery, but by 
another door communicating with a back stair. 
Soon after the King sat down to dinner Gowrie 

The Official Narrative 13 

sent for Henderson and told him to go to his 
brother in the gallery. He obeyed and was 
joined by Gowrie. Henderson, beginning to 
get uneasy, asked excitedly what they were 
about to do with him. Gowrie and his 
brother proceeded to the little chamber, made 
him enter and locked him up. Gowrie then 
returned to the King, who was sitting at his 
dessert, whilst Lennox and the rest of the 
suite were dining in the next room. The 
King in a bantering way proposed Gowrie's 
health in a flowing bumper of wine. Gowrie, 
calling for wine, joined Lennox and his 
companions, and at this moment Alexander 
Ruthven, when the King was alone, whis- 
pered to him that now was the time to go. 
The King asked him to call Sir Thomas 
Erskine, but he evaded the question. Lennox 
spoke of following, but Gowrie prevented 
him. The latter then opened the door 
leading to his pleasure-grounds and Lennox 
and others passed into the garden. The King, 
believing some of his suite were following 

14 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

him, accompanied Ruthven up a stair and 
through a suite of various chambers all of 
them opening into each other, Ruthven 
locking every door as they passed out. At 
last they entered the small room (already 
mentioned). On the wall hung a picture with 
a curtain before it ; beside it stood a man in 
armour; and as the King started back in 
alarm Ruthven locked the door, put on his 
hat, drew the dagger from the side of the 
armed man, and tearing the curtain from the 
picture, showed the well-known features of the 
late Earl, his father. " Whose face is that ? " 
said he, advancing the dagger with one hand 
to the King's breast, and pointing with the 
other to the picture. "Who murdered my 
father? Is not thy conscience burdened by 
his innocent blood ? Thou art now my 
prisoner, and must be content to follow our 
will and to be used as we list. Seek not to 
escape, utter but a cry " (the King has crossed 
to the window), " make but a motion to open 
the window and this dagger is in thy heart." 

The Official Narrative 15 

Said the King : " As for your father's death, I 
had no hand in it : it was my Council's doing, 
and should you now take my life what pre- 
ferment will it bring you? Have I not sons 
and daughters ? You can never be King of 
Scotland, and I have many good subjects who 
will avenge my death." Ruthven seemed 
struck with this, and swore he neither wanted 
his blood nor his life. Said the King : " What 
want ye if ye seek not my life ? " " But a 
promise. Sir," was the reply. "What pro- 
mise ? " " Sir," said Ruthven, " my brother 
will tell you." " Go, fetch him then," said the 
King, and he assured Ruthven that until his 
return he would neither call out nor open the 
window. Ruthven commanded Henderson to 
watch the King and departed, locking the 
door behind him. The King being alone 
with Henderson asked him if Gowrie would 
do him any mischief, to which Henderson said 
he would die first. " Open the window then," 
said the King, and while Henderson was in the 
act of doing so Ruthven entered the room, and 

1 6 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

swearing there was no remedy seized the King 
by the wrists and attempted to bind him with 
a garter which he had in his hand. The King 
was too much for him, and wrenching himself 
from Ruthven exclaimed he "was a free 
prince and would never be bound," Henderson 
at the same time forcing away the cord. The 
King made for the window, when Ruthven 
seized him by the throat with one hand and 
thrust the other into his mouth to prevent 
him giving alarm. James dragged his assailant 
to the window and thrust his head half out, 
though Ruthven's hand was still on his throat, 
cried out, " Treason ! help, Earl of Mar, I am 
murdered ! " Ruthven dragged him back, and 
denouncing Henderson as a cowardly villain, 
attempted to draw his sword, which the 
King prevented by grasping his right hand. 
Henderson, though Ruthven's servant, sup- 
ported the King, and unlocking the door of 
the room stood trembling while the King 
and Ruthven engaged in a desperate struggle. 
A report was got up by the Ruthvens that the 

The Official Narrative 17 

King and his suite had left the Castle by a 
back door and were riding over the South 
Inch on their return journey. (This was an 
ingenious device of the writer to entrap the 
Ruthvens.) In a few minutes the King's cry 
of treason was heard, and some of the nobles 
looking up saw the King's face at the turret 
window with a hand on his throat. Sir 
Thomas Erskine immediately seized Gowrie, 
with the words, " Traitor, thou shalt die ! this 
is thy work," but was felled to the ground by 
Andrew Ruthven. Lennox and Mar rushed 
up the great staircase to the hall but found 
the door locked. John Ramsay, one of the 
King's suite, ran swiftly up the back stair to 
the top, dashed open the door of the Round 
Chamber with his foot and found the King 
and Ruthven still wrestling, the King with 
Ruthven's hand under his arm, while Ruthven 
still grasped the King's throat. Ramsay made 
an ineffectual blow at Ruthven, the King 
calling out to strike low as he wore a doublet. 
Ramsay then stabbed him twice on the lower 

1 8 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

part of the body. The King thereupon 
pushed him backwards through the door 
downstairs, when Sir Thomas Erskine and Dr. 
Herries despatched him with their swords. 
As Erskine and Ramsay were congratulating 
the King a tumult was heard at the end of 
the gallery. The King was hurried into an 
adjoining chamber when Gowrie arrived with 
a rapier in each hand, rushed along the gallery 
followed by seven of his servants with drawn 
swords. He had seen the bleeding body of 
his brother, and swore that the traitors who 
murdered him should die. He attacked 
Erskine and three companions, who were all 
wounded, but they fought with determined 
energy. Some one called out that the King 
was slain, and Gowrie, as if paralysed with the 
news, dropped his weapon, when Ramsay, who 
noticed this, slew him instantly with his sword. 
After all was over the King knelt in company 
with his nobles and thanked God for their 
deliverance ! 



First Paper on the Gowrie Conspiracy, read before the 
Perth Literary and Antiquarian Society by the Rev. 
James Scott — Second Paper by the Rev. Alexander 
Duff — Third Paper by James Logan — Fourth Paper 
by WiUiam Panton — Plans of the Interior of Gowrie 
House with Explanatory Notes. 

The official narrative is a very plausible 
document — so much so that it immediately 
gave rise to controversy. The Perth Literary 
and Antiquarian Society, which was founded 
towards the close of the eighteenth century, 
gave great encouragement to its members to 
investigate the nature of this conspiracy. The 
result was that four papers of considerable 
importance were, after investigation, prepared 
and read to the Society in the year 1785. 
These were as follows : — 

c 2 

20 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

First, by Rev. James Scott, minister of 

Second, by Rev. Alexander DufF, minister 
of Tibbermore. 

Third, by James Logan. 
Fourth, by William Panton. 

First Paper. 

In the seventeenth century it seems to 
have been the opinion that the Earl was, by 
the mother's side, grandson of Queen Margaret, 
James IV.'s relict, and that he was a genera- 
tion nearer the English Crown than James VI., 
that lady's great grandson. This opinion is 
expressed in some barbarous verses which 
had probably been written about the time of 
Charles I.'s death. The following may be 
selected : — 

" Queen Margaret's grandson nigher in degree, 
Was Cowrie's ruin and King James's plea." 

Gowrie's mother, Dorothea Stuart, could 
not have been the Queen's daughter, for her 

yames Scotfs Na7'rativc 21 

Majesty died in i54i,aged fifty-three, whereas 
Dorothea, first and only Countess of Gowrie, 
had borne children at intervals after 1580. 
A son whom Margaret bore when dowager, 
although omitted by all our peerage writers, 
is expressly mentioned in Lord Methven's 
patent of creation (1525) as uterine brother 
of the royal donor James V., and by two 
credible and nearly contemporary authors. 
Bishop Lesley and Hume of Godscroft, for- 
merly stated to have been slain at Pinkie in 
1547. The "Master of Methven," as these 
designate him, must have been son of the 
Queen, because no son of Methven's second 
lady could have been old enough to appear 
in arms. Her Majesty's second son, according 
to the first Viscount Strathallan, had been 
born in 15 15 — the following year — and conse- 
quently must at his death have been fully 
thirty. That he was father of the Countess 
of Gowrie is stated by the Viscount. 

James VL was resolved that the Earl of 
Gowrie and his brother Alexander should be 

22 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

put to death in a scuffle seemingly accidental, 
and in which they were to be made appear 
the aggressors and aiming at the King's death. 
His Majesty's personal safety and that of his 
confidential servants was to be secured by 
bribing the Earl's domestics and by fetching, 
as if by chance, a sufficient armed force from 
the adjacent country. For a visit of his 
Majesty at Gowrie House a special pretext 
was to be contrived. His Majesty, after 
dining there, was to affect a necessity for 
retiring to a private apartment, and was to 
take with him one of the devoted brothers. 
A rumour was soon to be spread that the 
King had set off for Falkland. When the 
royal suite should have assembled in the 
street to follow their master he was to give 
an alarm that his life was in danger. His 
confidential servants were to ascend by a 
private staircase, purposely left accessible, and 
kill the brother whom his Majesty had selected 
as the companion of his retirement. They 
were next to kill the other when he came 

yames Scotfs Narrative 23 

around, as it was expected he would, amid a 
disturbance of whose nature he should be 

Of all this atrocity a principal reason 
seems to have been James's antipathy to the 
opulent and powerful family of Gowrie, the 
representatives of which, father and son, the 
first and the present, had, the one after the 
other, raised rebellions against his Government. 
The father's conduct had been fatal to himself 
by procuring his execution in 1584. The son 
when fifteen only had with others of the 
nobles waged war upon the Sovereign in 
1593 ; had been defeated at a battle at Doune 
Castle by his Majesty in person, and had with 
difiiculty escaped from the scene of action, 
but after some time was pardoned for his 
youth's sake. He had gone to study at the 
University of Padua, and returned to Scotland 
after an absence of about six years, when, 
among the first of his measures, he headed 
the opposition to a tax proposed by the 
Sovereign^ and was besides avowedly hostile 

24 The GowiHe Conspiracy 

to his Majesty's now favourite scheme of 
restoring the hierarchy. Gowrie's descent too 
from Queen Margaret, of whom it would seem 
he was^ Hke James, great grandson, and the 
possibility of his being selected by Elizabeth, 
at whose Court, on his return from the Con- 
tinent, he had received great attention, might 
help to increase the royal heart-burning. 

Whatever were the motives by which the 
King had been urged to a conduct so 
nefarious, he had in 1600 by letter com- 
manded Alexander Ruthven to attend him at 
Falkland on the 5th of August — a day on 
which Ruthven and his brother the Earl had 
intended, according to preparations made, to 
go together from Perth to Dirleton to visit 
their mother, then residing there, and her two 
sons. After privately conversing with Ruth- 
ven at a hunting party his Majesty suddenly 
intimated that he was going to Perth. On 
his way he condescended to state confi- 
dentially to some of his train the reason of 
the sudden expedition, by teUing them that he 

James Scotfs Narrative 25 

had been told by Ruthven of a foreign monk 
then lurking with a pot of gold in Gowrie 
House, and that he wished to seize and 
examine him in person. The royal cavalcade 
had reached the environs of Perth whilst yet 
Gowrie, its Provost, Sheriff and Coroner, sat 
at dinner. Instantly his lordship and others 
hastened to meet their royal master on the 
South Inch, and having done so escorted him 
with due honour to Gowrie House, which 
they reached at one o'clock. 

As the Sovereign had been unlooked for 
till receipt of that notice which had raised 
Gowrie from table, some time was necessary 
to prepare dinner for the royal guest ; and it 
was not till an hour had elapsed that it was 
served up. The stranger with his pot of gold 
had meanwhile been seemingly forgotten. 

His Majesty sat down to dinner attended 
by Gowrie's brother standing at his back, and 
by the Earl himself standing at the further 
end of the table. James was now pleased to 
rally the Earl on his ignorance of the national 

26 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

manners. To Gowrie these had probably not 
been familiar, as he had been nearly six years 
in a life of three and twenty abroad, and had 
not returned much above five months. " You 
ought, Gowrie, to welcome my attendants as 
well as myself," said the King, with affected 
frankness. This the Earl, though somewhat 
embarrassed, now attempted to do by per- 
sonally waiting upon his brother nobles and 
others in the adjoining ante-chamber, where 
by this time dinner had been served. His 
Majesty, attended by Alexander Ruthven, 
soon passed them as if going out of doors. 

The courtiers having dined went, on a 
motion by the Duke of Lennox — who by the 
way had married Gowrie's sister — to enjoy the 
fresh air in the garden extending from the 
mansion to the river. They had been there 
a short while only when they were informed 
that the King had set off for Falkland. 

All made haste to follow as fast as they 
could. Of the King's departure doubts were 
entertained, but these were removed by the 

y antes Scoffs Narrative 27 

information given on inquiry. When they 
had got nearly ready to mount their steeds, 
and the bustle had become very great, who 
should be descried bending over a window, 
hat off, face inflamed, and mouth pressed by 
a hand extended from the apartment, but the 
King himself, loudly bawling, " Fy ! fy ! 
Treason ! treason ! help, Earl of Mar ! " 
Mar, Lennox and others ran up the broad 
stair at the east end of the picture-gallery, 
from the closet attached to which his Majesty 
had called for aid. 

The first Earl of Gowrie had laid out a 
gallery for paintings in the south range of 
Gowrie House. At the west end a door 
opened into a chamber called the Gallery 
Chamber and led to a smaller and more 
private room called the Earl's study. These 
two rooms extended over the whole of the 
turret at the south-west angle and were ap- 
proached by a private staircase called the 
black turnpike. 

At the further end of the southern range of 

28 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

Gowrie House, Lord Lennox, Mar, and others 
of the royal suite, after running up the broad 
stairs leading to the picture-gallery, attempted 
to enter to his Majesty's assistance, but could 
not even by force of hammers. It had been 
locked. One of the party, however. Sir John 
Ramsay, page to his Majesty, having pre- 
viously been acquainted with the private stair- 
case at the end whence the King had called, 
ascended by it and was soon in the royal 

On the street before Gowrie House stood 
its noble proprietor in his cloak, unarmed, 
when, by Sir Thomas Erskine, James Erskine, 
his brother, and George Wilson, servant of 
the latter, he was suddenly grasped by the 
neck and thus accosted : — " Traitor, this is 
thy deed. Thou shalt die." "What is the 
matter ? " said Gowrie. " I know nothing. 
Oh, my God ! what can all this mean ? " His 
friends and servants interposed and released 
him. A near relative, Alexander Ruthven, 
younger of Freeland, having no armour, had, 

James Scotfs Narrative 29 

with his fist, knocked Sir Thomas down. 
Denied access to his own courtyard, and sus- 
pecting the great danger he was in, whilst 
destitute of all means of defence, the Earl ran 
a short way to Sir Duncan Campbell of 
Glenorchy's House, and there procured two 
swords, one of which he had probably in- 
tended for his brother, who he knew was 
unarmed. He thence went to Andrew Hen- 
derson, his own chamberlain : in Henderson's 
absence he got hold of a steel bonnet. 
This one of his lacqueys tied on his master 
on the street. Thus armed, and followed by 
Thomas Cranston, brother of Sir John Cran- 
ston of Cranston, and probably Gowrie's 
secretary, who also had a drawn sword, did 
the distracted Earl run, exclaiming, " I shall 
either be at my own house or die by the way." 
Nor did he meet with any opposition till by 
the " black turnpike " he had arrived at the 
door of the gallery chamber where he had to 
force his way. " Where is the king ? " cried 
Gowrie, entering with a drawn sword in either 

30 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

hand. " I come to defend him." The com- 
pany, consisting of Sir Thomas Erskine, Sir 
John Ramsay, Sir Hugh Herries and Wilson, 
all of whom had found out the black turn- 
pike, now pointed to the King's cloak cover- 
ing apparently a dead body. " You have 
slain the King, our gracious master," they 
sullenly muttered, " and will you take our 
lives also ? " Astonished, and touching the 
floor with the points of the two swords — " Ah ! 
wae's me," bitterly exclaimed Gowrie, " has 
the King been killed in my house ? " With 
a dagger Ramsay pierced him through the 
back to the very heart. The wounded Earl 
leaned on one of his swords, but quickly fell 
and expired. 

And whom did the royal cloak conceal ? 
It concealed, not the royal owner, but that 
unfortunate person whose arm had been seen 
reaching from the window and ineffectually 
attempting to repress the false cry of " treason " 
so vehemently shouted by the King. This 
was none other than Alexander Ruthven, 

James Scotfs Narrative 31 

Gowrie's brother, who, at the King's request, 
had unarmed attended him to the retired 
apartment, and whom, though greatly stronger 
than his Majesty, Ramsay, on entering the 
gallery chamber, found, as this very person 
afterwards confessed, upon his knees, with his 
head under the King's arm and with his hand 
trying, as he had already done in vain, to stop 
the King's mouth. " Fy ! strike him low," 
cried the King to the page, " for he has a 
plaited doublet." Ramsay struck, not low 
indeed, but at the head and neck, lowered as 
these now were by his suppliant attitude. 
The King with his own hand dragged the 
bleeding youth to the top of the staircase ; 
and returning to the gallery chamber, amused 
himself by stopping a hawk, accidentally 
brought by the page, from flying away. The 
page, looking from the window of the closet 
and beckoning to the private staircase, cried 
to Sir Thomas Erskine to ascend by it. Sir 
Thomas, followed by Herries and Wilson, ran 
to the " black turnpike," and ascending a few 

32 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

steps met Ruthven bleeding. " Fy ! " cried 
Sir Thomas, this is the traitor ! Strike 
him ! " Herri es and Wilson mortally stabbed 
the wounded youth, who, falling on the steps 
and turning his face to theirs, sobbed forth — 
" Alas ! I have not the blame of it ! " He then 
breathed his last. His body was dragged up 
the staircase and stretched on the floor of the 
gallery chamber. His Majesty was now, for 
safety, locked up in the Earl's study, the 
apartment adjoining. 

Now when this scene of murder had been 
fully acted did the King, issuing from the 
closet, kneel upon the floor of the picture- 
gallery, whilst each noble and knight followed 
the royal example, and offered a loud and 
solemn prayer in which, thanking the Almighty 
for the late miraculous and providential 
deliverance vouchsafed from the sword of the 
traitor, he expressed a fervent hope that his 
life had been thus graciously preserved for 
perfecting even greater work than had now 
devolved upon himself and his associates in 

yames Scotfs Narrative 33 

the overthrow of assassins, and such as might 
redound to the glory of God and the good 
of the realm ! 

As a strong suspicion existed that instead 
of Gowrie and his brother conspiring against 
the King, the King and others had conspired 
against them, it was his Majesty's care to issue 
a proclamation explanatory of the late mys- 
terious affair at Perth and to cast all the 
blame on the deceased. In this proclama- 
tion he asserted that a "black grim man in 
armour" had attended himself and Ruthven 
in the closet of Gowrie House. Of the Earl's 
domestics, several had been pitched upon, one 
after another, as the armed man, but each of 
these could prove an alibi. A pliant actor 
was at length found in the Earl's chamberlain, 
Henderson, from whose house, in his absence at 
Scone, his master had taken the steel cap, and 
who had not returned till the affray was over. 
This man, instead of being " black and grim," 
was ruddy and had a brown beard. Nay, the 
King had on one occasion, to a person who 


34 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

asked if Henderson was the man, declared 
he was not, adding in his peculiar jargon, 
" I know that smack well enough." Of the 
deceased Earl's domestics, Cranston, formerly 
mentioned, George Craigengelt, who had been 
sickly and in bed at the commencement of the 
scuffle, but had sallied forth, sword in hand, 
in his master's cause, and Donald Macduff, 
baron officer of Strathbraan, a district be- 
longing to the Gowrie family, were by the 
King's order examined, and on the 23 rd 
August executed at Perth. According to 
Archbishop Spottiswood, who had every wish 
to screen the royal family, these at their death 
declared "they knew nothing of the Earl's 
purpose, and had only followed him as their 
master to that room, where, if they had known 
the King to have been, they would have stood 
for him against their master and all others." 

Of the reality of Gowrie' s treason several 
of the clergy were incredulous ; nor could 
their illustrious leader, Robert Bruce of Kin- 
naird, ever be prevailed upon either by promise 

yames Scoffs Narrative 35 

or threat to acknowledge his belief. To the 
King it was of the utmost moment that the 
ministers should from the pulpits give such a 
representation of the alleged conspiracy as 
might relieve his Majesty of the odium under 
which he was conscious of lying from the 
general impression that the conspiracy had 
originated with himself. Such, therefore, of 
the ministers as did not act in subscribing to 
the Sovereign's wish had drawn upon them- 
selves his keenest resentment, and Bruce, 
though of a high family, was banished furth 
of the kingdom. He sailed to France in 
November, 1600, but was allowed to return 
the following May, though, being pertinacious 
of an opinion invoking the King's infamy, 
he was never restored to the royal favour. 
Of the truth or falsehood of the conspiracy 
Bruce may be supposed to have been a most 
adequate judge, as he had regularly studied 
the law, civil as well as canonical, both 
at home and on the Continent, and had 
at the Scottish Bar, before going into the 

D 2 

36 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

Church, given promise of fiist-rate juridical 

Gowrie's body and that of his brother, after 
lying at Perth nearly three months, had on 
the 30th October been brought to Edinburgh 
to be produced in Court at their trial, accord- 
ing to the law in cases of high treason. On 
the 4th November the Parliament nominated 
the Lords of Articles a Committee for examin- 
ing witnesses, and on the 15th again met, 
when the Lord Advocate produced certified 
copies of the depositions of all the witnesses 
in the cause from the beginning. Parliament 
declared their judgment to be that the late 
Earl of Gowrie and his brother Alexander 
were convicted of high treason as having 
attempted the King's death : that their names, 
memories and dignities be cancelled and 
deleted from the books of the nobility : that 
their estates and property be confiscated to 
the King : that their dead bodies be carried 
on Monday next to the public Cross of Edin- 
burgh, there to be hanged, drawn, and quar- 

yames Scoffs Narrative 37 

tered in presence of all the people : and that 
their heads, quarters, and carcases be fixed to 
the most public places of Edinburgh, Perth, 
Dundee and Stirling. 

Alexander and Henry, sons of the deceased 
Alexander Ruthven of Freeland, Hugh Mon- 
creifFe and Patrick Eviot, formerly mentioned, 
were declared traitors and their estates con- 
fiscated. The elder of the Ruthvens, Mon- 
creifFe and Eviot, afterwards obtained the 
royal pardon. The temper of this extra- 
ordinary monarch had got wonderfully 
mollified by his accession to the English 

On Monday, 19th November, 1600, the 
bodies of Gowrie and his brother were hanged 
and dismembered at the Cross of Edinburgh 
and their armorial bearings publicly torn to 
pieces. They had now been dead three 
months and fourteen days. The heads were 
fixed on the Tolbooth of Edinburgh and the 
legs and arms on the gates of Perth. By Act 
of Parliament all persons of the surname of 

38 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

Ruthven were commanded to choose other 
surnames before Whit Sunday following. 
Many retained the name notwithstanding this. 
Ruthven Castle, near Perth, in virtue of this 
Act became Huntingtower. 

James had soon after the alleged treason 
of Gowrie industriously courted the favour of 
the town of Perth. On the 1 5th November, 
1600, the very day of the forfeiture of Gowrie 
and the Ruthvens, he granted to Perth a 
Charter confirming her privileges and pro- 
mising new ones. On the 30th December 
following he passed a decree in favour of 
Perth against Dundee in a law-suit regarding 
privilege of the river Tay and precedence of 
rank : and in the following April condescended 
to be formally elected burgess and Provost 
of Perth : partook of a great feast at the 
burgh's expense and adhibited to the Guild 
book his signature. 

Jacobus Rex. 
Parcere subjecds et dehellare superhos. 

Alexander Dttff's Narrative 39 

Second Paper. 

In the year 1584, during the minority of 
King James the Sixth, William, the first Earl 
of Gowrie, was executed at Stirling. After the 
King had come to the full years of majority, 
he found the Gowrie family under John, the 
third Earl, who was a younger son of the 
said William, possessed of wealth and power 
beyond the other nobility of the kingdom ; 
and growing apprehensive that this Earl 
Gowrie might at some time avail himself of 
this circumstance to revenge the death of his 
father, it is firmly believed, by those who have 
had best access to be well informed about this 
matter, that his Majesty went from Falkland 
to Perth, with design to destroy Earl Gowrie 
and his family. 

On the 5th August, 1600, King James set 
off from Falkland for Perth. On the road, he 
gave the following account of his journey to 
some of them who accompanied him. That 
Alexander Ruthven, Earl Gowrie's brother. 

40 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

had met with him privately that morning, 
when he was going out to the chase, and told 
him that the Earl and he had the day before 
apprehended a foreign monk in the neigh- 
bourhood of Perth, with a great quantity of 
gold coin in an earthen pot, and that they 
had secured him, on suspicion of his being 
sent over to employ this money to sow dis- 
cord, and support the interest of Popery ; and 
he had come to inform his Majesty, that he 
might go himself and examine the matter. 
That he (the King) having resolved to delay 
the affair till they had finished the chase^ 
Alexander Ruthven, who acted with great 
secrecy, returned to Perth ; and his Majesty 
inquired at those who were with him if 
Ruthven was altogether solid in his judgment ? 
to which it was answered, that he always 
behaved himself as a man of prudence and 

About dinner-time, word was brought to 
the Earl, who was attending a marriage 
between a young man of the name of Lamb, 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 41 

and a young woman called Bell, the daughter 
of a respectable citizen of Perth, that the King 
and a company with him had come to his 
house ; on which Earl Gowrie's countenance 
changed, and he appeared to be a good deal 
perplexed ; and being asked by the bride's 
father, in whose house he was, what ailed him, 
he said he was distressed for a dinner to the 
King and his retinue, who had come upon 
him unexpectedly. Mr. Bell urged him to 
accept of the dinner that was prepared for the 
wedding, and it is believed he did accept of it. 
- The Earl of Gowrie went to meet the King, 
and conducted him into his house, where his 
Majesty dined in a room by himself ; and 
about the end of the dinner the King, looking 
steadfastly to Earl Gowrie, said he would 
make free to tell him he had imported some 
foolish customs from France, to the neglect of 
some good social customs that pertained to his 
own country. Earl Gowrie having asked what 
he meant, "Why don't you shake hands with 
your guests," said the King, " and bid them 

42 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

welcome ? " The Earl on this took the King 
by the hand and bade him welcome. " Go 
now," said his Majesty, "and do the same 
with the rest of the company." And when 
Gowrie had gone for this purpose to the 
King's attendants, who were dining in a 
different apartment, the King said that 
Alexander Ruthven suggested to him that 
now was the proper time to go and examine 
the monk. They passed through the room 
where the Court-people were dining, his 
Majesty saying, " Sit ye, merry gentlemen, 
and much good may it do you." They then 
went through three other apartments, the 
doors of which Ruthven locked behind them, 
and came at last to the fatal closet, where 
the tragedy that day was performed. The 
stories of their finding a man in armour, 
instead of a monk ; of Ruthven making the 
King to swear that in his absence he would 
not move nor call out for assistance ; of 
his then going to advise with the Earl his 
brother, and telling the King on his return 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 43 

that there was no help, he must die — have 
been considered at Perth as having no other 
support but the King's assertion ; for the 
declaration of Andrew Henderson, who — after 
three other persons (concerning whom the 
King had said he was certain that one of them 
was the man in armour) had made it appear 
that neither of them was that man — affirmed 
that he was the man in armour shut up with 
his Majesty in the closet, was looked on as 
false, and Henderson was held as infamous. 
It is even affirmed that, after swearing he was 
the man found in the closet, he never had the 
courage to look a man in the face, but always 
had the appearance of a crestfallen dejected 
creature, whose countenance seemed to confess 
the justice of that general and great contempt 
which was cast upon him. 

When the King's retinue had dined, one 
of his servants told them that his Majesty had 
set off a little before for Falkland ; on which 
they ran to get their horses, and having 
mounted, when they were near the Port they 

44 ^-^^ Cowrie Conspiracy 

heard the King's voice from a window in Earl 
Gowrie's house, which he had got half opened, 
crying "Treason! treason!" They immediately- 
returned, and tried to get into the closet from 
which the voice had come, but the doors were 
barricaded, and it took some time to break 
them open with hammers from an adjoining 
smith's shop, and such other instruments as 
they could first procure. Earl Gowrie, being 
alarmed at the uproar, ran up by a private 
stair to a smaller entrance, accompanied with 
some servants, and armed with a sword in 
each hand. He found the King in the closet, 
and along with him his surgeon, called Herries, 
his page Ramsay, and his groom Murray, 
which three men had got into the closet 
without the knowledge of the other company 
who had come with the King. Earl Gowrie 
stuck his swords in the floor, and desired to 
know the cause of such disturbance. He was 
answered by Ramsay, that there was a design 
to kill the King, and immediately he and the 
other two fell on the Earl and despatched 

Alexmtder Duff's Narrative 45 

him, as they had done his brother Alexander 
Ruthven a little before. At this time those 
persons who were forcing their way by the prin- 
cipal entry, got to the closet, and the King 
telling them what danger he had been in, they 
congratulated him on his deliverance from it. 

The news being quickly spread through 
the town, the inhabitants, and even the 
magistrates, exasperated beyond measure by 
the death of their beloved Provost, ran in 
crowds to Earl Gowrie's house, and threatened 
to kill the King and all his attendants. 
Various means were employed to soothe 
their passions. His Majesty endeavoured to 
appease their anger, by narrating the great 
danger he had so narrowly escaped. He tried 
also to turn it against the deceased Earl and 
his brother ; but after all they could do to 
allay the fury of the enraged multitude, they 
found it most advisable to keep themselves 
within doors till daylight was gone, and then 
in a dark night they slipped away privately, 
and returned to Falkland. When the King 

46 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

mentioned the circumstance of the man in 
armour who had been with him in the closet, 
being asked if he knew him, he answered that 
he was positive about his being one of the 
three persons whom he named. Two of them 
being near at hand, gave full proof that 
neither of them was the man in armour ; and 
his Majesty affirmed that he was clear it was 
the third person mentioned by him, who was 
a servant of Gowrie's, called Younger. This 
man also being able to prove that he could 
not have been with the King in the closet, 
having been at Dundee when his master was 
killed at Perth, he wrote to a friend in 
Falkland that he would not lie under the 
imputation, and being on his way to disprove 
it, he was found next morning in a corn-field 
with his throat cut. 

His Majesty appointed a day of thanks- 
giving, to be observed throughout the nation, 
on account of his wonderful deliverance 
from this dangerous conspiracy. Several 
clergymen, particularly the ministers of 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 47 

Edinburgh, refused to observe it ; and one 
of them, very eminent for integrity and spirit, 
Mr. Robert Bruce, did actually submit to 
perpetual banishment, rather than dissemble, 
by saying he was convinced that Gowrie had 
not conspired against the life of his Sovereign. 
Murray the groom being sent to expostulate 
with Mr. Bruce for not obeying the King's 
edict, he replied, " It would be more for the 
King's honour to have less to do with such 
persons as you." Two younger brothers of 
Earl Gowrie, William and Patrick Ruthven, 
were at Dirleton when he and Alexander 
were killed at Perth. When the King got 
to Falkland he despatched Murray his 
groom to kill these two young gentlemen, 
that they might not survive the misfortune of 
their family, and perhaps be the avengers of 
it. But one of the King's servants, named 
Kennedy, who had formerly been servant to 
Earl Gowrie, and had a regard for that family, 
getting information of this cruel purpose, stole 
a horse from the King's stable, arrived before 

48 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

the groom, gave intelligence to the unfor- 
tunate youths of what had been done to their 
brothers, and was designed against themselves. 
They fled, got abroad, and were kindly 
received and entertained by the famous re- 
former Theodore Beza, who had been well 
acquainted with Earl Gowrie, had the highest 
respect for his character and memory, and 
never would give credit to the story of his 
having conspired against the King.* Ramsay, 
Murray, and Herries received titles and riches 
in reward for their services on this important 

This, so far as I have been able to pro- 
cure information, is the most distinct and 
complete account that has been preserved in 
the town of Perth concerning that remarkable 
event, which is generally (though with great 
injustice, I most sincerely believe) called 
Gowrie's Conspiracy. When I showed the 
old castle of Ruthven, in this parish, now 

* Only one of the brothers succeeded in getting 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 49 

called Huntingtower, once the dwelling-place 
of the family of Gowrie, to that intelligent 
and ingenuous traveller, Thomas Pennant, he 
expressed a desire to have the best account 
of this matter which tradition had preserved 
in the place where it happened. After diligent 
research, the above narrative is the result of 
my inquiries. In the course of a dozen of 
years, during which it has been in my custody, 
the sentiments of mankind on this subject are 
much changed, and an opinion corresponding 
with the strain of this tradition, which makes 
the conspiracy on the King's side, doth 
greatly gain ground ; and this, it appears, was 
the opinion at Perth, from the day when that 
melancholy affair was transacted there. The 
circumstance of three armed men being 
privately admitted into the closet before the 
King and Alexander Ruthven came there, 
removes the principal difficulty which stood 
in the way of supposing the Sovereign to be 
the conspirator. His Majesty was in no 
danger by going into the closet with 

50 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

Ruthven, who was much stronger than him, 
when three armed men were previously lodged 
there to protect him, and assassinate the 
other so soon as he entered. We cannot 
well suppose that these armed men got into 
that closet without the connivance of some 
of Earl Gowrie's servants, who had been 
bribed to give them access. In support of 
this hypothesis, Mr. David Calderwood, who 
lived at that period, and has left a manu- 
script History of the Affairs of Scotland, 
says that Earl Gowrie's porter, and Doggie 
his waiter, were serving Lord Scone when he 
wrote of this transaction, shortly after it 
happened. The places occupied by these 
servants gave them the best opportunity of 
admitting persons into their master s house ; 
and Mr. Calderwood, by mentioning them as 
being soon after Earl Gowrie's death taken 
into the service of Lord Scone, who was a 
considerable sharer in the division of Earl 
Gowrie's property and offices, certainly means 
to insinuate, that these servants were retained 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 51 

by their present master in reward for having 
betrayed their former one. That this same 
Lord Scone, formerly Sir David Murray, 
was informed of the King's evil designs 
against Gowrie's Hfe, appears from a cir- 
cumstance mentioned by Calderwood. In a 
•Convention of Estates held at Edinburgh, 
very soon after the Earl's return to his native 
■country, after an absence of almost six years, 
he strenuously opposed his Majesty's measures 
about some proposed taxation, upon which Sir 
David Murray said, "There is an unhappy 
man ; they are but seeking an occasion of 
his death, and now he has given it." That 
Dr. Herries, one of the three armed men who 
were lodged in the closet, was acquainted 
with the mischief that was meditating against 
the Gowrie family, is also mentioned by 
Calderwood. Beatrix, a sister of Earl 
Gowrie's, and one of the Queen's ladies, 
laughed at the Doctor's bowed legs ; he 
took her by the hand, considered it after 
the manner of a fortune-teller, and said, 

52 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

"Mistress, before long a great disaster will 
befal you." 

Mr. William Coupar, one of the ministers 
of Perth at that time, came very soon and 
very seasonably with a story to support the 
King's account of this matter, and great stress 
was laid upon it then, and since, by persons 
who have been investigating this subject. 
Mr. John Spottiswood, at that time parson of 
Calder, in Mid-Lothian, who was afterwards, 
in 1 615, promoted to be Archbishop of St. 
Andrews, gives the following account of Mr. 
Coupar's story. " I remember," says he, " that, 
meeting with William Coupar, then minister 
at Perth, the third day after it, in Falkland, 
he shewed me that not many days before that 
accident (he means the conspiracy) happened, 
visiting by occasion the Earl at his own house, 
he found him reading a book, De Conjura- 
tionihus adversus Principes. Having asked him 
what book it was. Earl Gowrie answered. It 
was a collection of the conspiracies against 
Princes, all of which, he said, were foolishly 

Alexander Dtiff's Narrative 53 

contrived, and faulty in one point or other, for 
he that goeth about such a business, said the 
Earl, should not put any man on his counsel. 
Mr. Coupar not hking such discourse, desired 
him to lay away books of that kind, and read 
others of a better subject. He then proceeds 
to give his own opinion of the matter in the 
following words : ' I verily think he was then 
studying how to go beyond all conspirators 
recorded in any history ; but it pleased God, 
who giveth salvation to Princes, to infatuate 
his counsels, and, by his example, to admonish 
all disloyal, traitorous subjects to beware of 
attempting anything against their sovereigns.' " 
This story was produced very opportunely, 
and, we may believe, it was most acceptable. 

Earl Gowrie's servants were examined, and 
several of them executed, solemnly declaring 
that they knew of no conspiracy. His tra- 
velling governor, William Rhynd, a most 
worthy man, was put to the torture twice at 
least, and in these circumstances declared that 
he knew of no conspiracy. No person knew 

54 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

or could bear testimony of any such thing ; 
but Mr. Coupar accounted for all this, by 
telling that Earl Gowrie had resolved to 
put no man on his counsel. I shall only 
observe at present, that though Mr. Coupar s 
story in a single point of view seems to serve 
the King's purpose, it is against it on the 
whole, for there are symptoms of debility, and 
even suicide, attending, that are more than 
sufficient to destroy it. The reverend gentle- 
man says : " I verily think that he (meaning 
Earl Gowrie) was studying to go beyond all 
conspirators recorded in any history." Do 
facts support this assertion ? The King is 
brought to Earl Gowrie's house, according to 
their own account, within an hour of mid-day^ 
attended with a considerable retinue ; and 
there was a plot formed to assassinate him, the 
very house where he was, and the doors about 
it, being occupied by his attendants. Has this 
the aspect of a studied conspiracy? If you 
look for it from Earl Gowrie, there could not 
be anything so simple and stupid. If the 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 55 

King had been killed it must have ruined the 
Gowrie family ; as his Majesty had publicly 
gone into the Earl's house, he was accountable 
for him : the nation would have required him 
to produce their Sovereign. It must have 
obviously occurred to Earl Gowrie that the 
utter extirpation of himself and family would 
be the unavoidable consequence of the King's 
being destroyed, or having disappeared in his 
house. The fate of his own father was a 
recent and striking example of the danger of 
meddling with the person of a King. If King 
James had been killed in a clandestine manner 
by some unknown person, Mr. Coupar's story 
might have furnished a thread of direction 
to travel through a dark labyrinth ; but 
there is no circumstance in the transaction 
of that fifth of August, on the part of Earl 
Gowrie and his brother, from which one 
could conclude that it was a well-concerted 
scheme, premeditated by a man of eminent 
abilities, improved by a most liberal education, 
for cutting off the King, in a way that should 

56 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

accomplish the purpose and baffle all dis- 
covery. Mr. Coupar seems to have felt this 
difficulty, and endeavours to remove it by 
alleging that the providence of God had 
infatuated Earl Gowrie's counsel. God Al- 
mighty doth often defeat the wicked counsels 
and purposes of men, by making some occur- 
rence to interfere and counteract them ; but 
still their counsels do shew themselves and 
instruct the ingenious malice of the con- 
trivers ; but here it would be necessary to 
believe that God had deprived Earl Gowrie 
of his reason, as if he meant to excuse the 
deed by reducing the agent below the rank of 
accountable beings. 

I now proceed to mention some circum- 
stances which explain to what extent Mr. 
Coupar knew Earl Gowrie's character, and 
the nature of that conspiracy, and will also 
explain the character of Mr. Coupar, and the 
degree of credit that may be due to his 

He had very little opportunity to form an 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 57 

acquaintance with the Earl of Gowrie. That 
nobleman left Perth at the age of seventeen 
years, in August 1594, to finish his education 
at a foreign university. He only returned to 
Scotland in the end of February 1600, arrived 
at Perth the 20th of May, and was killed 
there the 5 th of August that same year. The 
Earl had a house in Perth, but the principal 
dwelling-place of the family was in the parish 
of Tibbermuir. His estates were extensive 
through Perthshire, his relations, vassals, and 
dependents, were very numerous ; and after 
an absence of almost six years, it must occur 
to every person that much company, and a 
multitude of objects, would engage his atten- 
tion ; and for the space of ten weeks, which 
was all the length of time that this unfortunate 
nobleman was allowed to live after he returned 
to his native place, it is scarcely possible that 
any man, who before that period was an utter 
stranger to him, could procure such frequent 
and intimate access to his company as would 
give sufficient opportunity to study his dis- 

58 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

position and character. Mr. William Coupar 
was translated from Bothkennar, near Falkirk, 
to be minister of Perth, in the year 1595, after 
Earl Gowrie had gone abroad, and therefore 
could have no acquaintance with him, except 
in the few weeks he lived after his return to 
Perth ; and a natural inference from this view 
of the matter is, that the shortness of the time 
did not allow sufficient space to ponder and 
bring forward the various particulars which 
such a transaction must have required. 

Mr. WilHam Coupar was absent from 
Perth on that 5th of August, when Earl 
Gowrie and his brother were killed. The 
session-record of Perth, dated August the 
4th that year, contains the following entry : 
"No matters of discipline handled this day, 
the ministers being at the Synodal Assembly 
in Stirling." The Synod sat at Stirling that 
very 5 th of August, and the ministers of 
Perth had gone off the day before to attend it. 
Mr. Coupar, therefore, being at such a dis- 
tance, was not a competent witness of what 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 59 

was then doing at Perth, and his testimony 
on this account cannot be rehed on, as if he 
had been on the spot, and known the im- 
mediate circumstances of the case, and the 
unbiassed sentiments of mankind on the 

Mr. Coupar went from Stirhng to Falk- 
land, and published his story before he came 
back to Perth ; and Bishop Spottiswood writes, 
that WiUiam Coupar, leaving Stirling, came 
to Falkland, where the King was, on Friday, 
August 8th, and there told of his having 
found Earl Gowrie reading the Book of Con- 
spiracies, with his own very violent conclusion 
from this circumstance. Thus he was an 
ultroneous witness, without being called or 
suspected. Without taking leisure to examine 
matters, he rode immediately to the King, and 
unasked he comes out with his story. It has 
not the most favourable aspect when a person 
goes spontaneously as he did to thrust in his 
evidence ; and it looks exceedingly suspicious 
when he makes conclusions of his own con- 

6o The Gowrie Conspiracy 

trivance, greatly stronger than he gives any- 
ground to support. If a man^ by looking into 
any book, gives reason to suppose that he is 
going to adopt all the principles, or execute all 
the mischief contained in that book, what man 
who reads can be safe for a moment ? Mr. 
Coupar, it is pretty clear, wished to recom- 
mend himself to his Sovereign, and probably 
even then had his eye towards that preferment 
which he attained not long after, being made 
Bishop of Galloway by a grateful Sovereign. 
He appears to have been a man of a 
political time-serving turn of mind. This 
agrees with the character of him by some 
historians of that time, who give a bad account 
of him ; and to me it is fully instructed by a 
deed I have seen, wherein he, after he was 
Bishop of Galloway, concurs with other 
bishops and temporal Lords in introducing 
the magistrates of Perth to be managers of 
the Hospital there, and in alienating and 
giving away the Hospital funds for the use of 
the burgh. If some others did this ignorantly. 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 6i 

he certainly did it intentionally. Mr. Calder- 
wood mentions a fact which shows that he had 
a bad opinion of himself. When on his 
death-bed, he discovered great agitation of 
mind by frequently beating on his breast, and 
calling out, " A fallen star, a fallen star ! " 

If these observations leave any credibility 
in Mr. Coupar's story, it must be completely 
destroyed by the following undoubted circum- 
stance. It appears, by looking into an account 
of the proof taken at the trial, on which the 
Earl and his brother were attainted and 
forfeited after their death, which was pub- 
lished by George, Earl of Cromarty, in 1713, 
that William Coupar was not cited as a 
witness in that process ; I confess that the 
discovery of this particular did very much 
surprise me. To what can it be ascribed t 
Not to their being ignorant of what he had to 
say ; neither can it be ascribed to a want of 
concern for gaining credit to their story ; 
the violence used towards the ministers of 
Edinburgh, who were compelled either to 

62 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

feign belief or to fly their country, shews an 
excess of anxiety on this point. The only 
account that remains of his not being called, 
is, that he could do them no good. It is 
easier to tell a story than to swear to the 
truth of it ; and if Mr. Coupar could have 
verified what he had said, by giving his oath 
in confirmation, it is not conceivable that his 
evidence would have been overlooked ; by 
omitting to get his tale authenticated, it is to 
be considered, in all reason, as totally un- 
founded ; and any credit that might otherwise 
have been due to it falls to the ground. 

The 15 th of November of that same year 
1600, the King gifted a charter of confirma- 
tion to the town of Perth of all their ancient 
rights and privileges ; the date of it is on the 
very day when sentence of forfeiture was pro- 
nounced against Earl Gowrie and his brother ; 
and the whole family was disinherited, de- 
clared incapable of enjoying any possession or 
honour, and the very surname of Ruthven 
prohibited for ever. This was an exceedingly 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 63 

severe sentence with respect to the younger 
brothers, and any branches of the family 
who were not so much as suspected in the 
matter, and gives us no very favourable idea 
of the impartiality and justice of those who 
pronounced it. When we consider the date 
of the charter, and the size thereof, it being a 
small volume, it is necessary to suppose that 
some time must have been employed in 
preparing it for the subscription ; which will 
make the operations about it coincide with 
the time spent about the trial of the alleged 
conspirators, which was from the 9th to the 
15th of the said month of Noyember ; and 
there is reason to suspect that this matter 
might be made use of to influence the persons 
who had gone over from Perth to give 
evidence at the trial, and also to reconcile the 
people there to the sentence of Parliament 
when it should be reported ; there is much 
reason to believe that these things were 
intended by it, when we examine the contents 
of this charter. Besides the privileges for- 

64 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

merly enjoyed by the town, there were some 
new things granted, that must have been 
highly acceptable. His Majesty then ordered 
that Perth should afterwards be held prior to 
Dundee in the roll of burghs, and that the 
magistrates and commissioners thereof should 
in time coming have the precedence of any 
magistrates or commissioners of the same 
order belonging to Dundee. This point had 
often been warmly disputed between two 
jealous burghs, and was at that very time the 
subject of a keen, expensive, and tedious 
process. In 1582, the Convention of Royal 
Burghs met at Perth, and this question about 
priority and precedence between Perth and 
Dundee was brought before them, and they 
decided in favour of Perth. Immediately 
after, the burgh of Dundee commenced a pro- 
cess before the Lords of Council and Session, 
alleging that great injustice had been done 
them by the decision at Perth, which they 
affirmed had been obtained by the undue 
influence of William, first Earl of Gowrie, then 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 65 

Provost of Perth, who had misled the Conven- 
tion in that matter. His Majesty, during the 
subsistence of this process, by the new charter 
gave the point entirely in favour of Perth ; but 
it did not end there, the process went on, and 
next year the matter by desire was submitted 
to his Majesty and Privy Council, who gave 
the priority and precedence for Perth, but 
endeavoured to soothe the people of Dundee, 
by retracting some privileges respecting the 
navigation of the Tay, which had been also 
granted by the said charter of confirmation to 
Perth, but were now given to Dundee. 
Nothing could be a higher gratification to the 
inhabitants of Perth. It was a stretch of 
prerogative to think of giving it, and the very 
submission which afterwards took place, shews 
that the King was sensible he could not grant 
it ; however, it produced the effect, the Privy 
Council had too much courtesy to tear up 
what the King had done; but this straining 
to favour the one town to the prejudice of the 
other does ill accord with the hypothesis of 


66 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

the conspiracy at Perth, if we consider that 
the inhabitants of Dundee took arms when the 
report reached them that the King was in 
danger at Perth, and were advancing rapidly 
for his rescue. By this charter of confirmation, 
also, the sum of Eighty Pounds Sterling 
yearly, at that time paid into the Exchequer 
for his Majesty's use, was gifted for the 
following purposes, and in the following pro- 
portions, to the town of Perth : Sixty-nine 
Pounds, Eight Shillings, and Eightpence 
Sterling, to an hospital which his Majesty 
had some time before founded there ; and the 
remaining Ten Pounds, Eleven Shillings, and 
Fourpence, to the bridge ; and there is a fact 
which I believe holds with respect to this 
whole donation, but I am certain respecting 
the share thereof which belongs to the 
hospital, that neither any charter, nor so 
much as any information, was given to the 
hospital. The original grant in favour of 
the poor at Perth, which is called King 
James's Hospital, was made in 1567, and the 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 67 

ministers and elders of Perth had from that 
date got the administration of certain funds 
belonging to the hospital ; but this second 
grant was kept an entire secret from them, nor 
did they discover it till the year 1754, one 
hundred and fifty-four years after it was made. 
Is it not surprising that King James, when he 
made so large an addition to the hospital- 
revenue, being at that time nearly equal to all 
the other funds, should not have given them a 
charter for it, or at least instructed them of 
it in the town's charter, by which they had 
right to demand it ? 

If there was a conspiracy at Perth against 
King James on the day when Earl Gowrie 
and his brother, Alexander Ruthven, were 
killed there ; if there be any truth in the 
circumstances mentioned by his Majesty as 
tending to the execution thereof, it is 
necessary to suppose that there were several 
persons in the plot, prepared to support 
the principal actors ; at any rate, it is certain 
that all orders of people at Perth did on 

F 2 

68 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

that occasion shew vast attachment to the 
Gowrie family, and by their behaviour ex- 
pressed a decided opinion that the death of 
Earl Gowrie, their Provost, and his brother, 
was a cruel murder. Let us try to suppose 
that the King was conscious of his innocence, 
and that there had been a real plot to take 
away his life, was the town where an assassina- 
tion had been attempted against him imme- 
diately after a proper object of favour ? Were 
those very persons, several of whom, it is likely 
enough, conspired to do this wicked action,, 
and who had certainly insulted and threatened 
him on this trying occasion, entitled so soon 
to such extraordinary attention and good 
offices from him ? One would imagine that 
the dread and the resentment of it would have 
induced him to keep at a distance from such 
a place, and to banish all thoughts of it for 
years to come ; but before three months are 
over after such a wonderful escape, to find 
him employing uncommon exertions to heap 
honour and riches on that very city where 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 69 

such a horrid plot had been contrived, and 
almost executed against him, doth in my 
apprehension surpass all bounds of credibility. 
If we make Earl Gowrie, and others about 
Perth, the conspirators, his Majesty's conduct 
is unnatural and absurd ; but if we place the 
conspiracy to the King's side, all the goodness 
shown, and all the gifts bestowed, were em- 
ployed with much wisdom and policy, to 
soften the sentiments of men, and put to 
silence their ill-natured conjectures and reflec- 
tions on this subject. A long and violently 
contended for preference to a rival burgh 
must have been extremely flattering ; a dona- 
tion to the poor is always a popular deed ; if, 
therefore, the gift to the hospital should come 
to be known, it would prove an acceptable 
present to the people ; but if it could be kept 
secret (and I appeal to the impartial world, if 
its being kept an impenetrable secret for more 
than a hundred and fifty years does not give 
reason to believe that there was a settled 
scheme of covering it with perpetual obscurity), 

yo The Gowrie Conspiracy 

in this way, that donation, which was nominally 
to the hospital, was actually to the township, 
to the people of power in the place, and was 
meant as a bribe to make them have favour- 
able thoughts, or at least keep silence about 
his Majesty's conduct in the matter of Earl 
Gowrie and his brother's death. 

I have one other fact to mention, which 
concurs with the foregoing, in giving ground 
to believe that King James took no little 
pains, at this particular period, to conciliate 
the affections of the citizens of Perth, and to 
procure popularity among them. A manu- 
script chronicle, preserved in the town, called 
Mercer's Manuscript, of very good credit, 
contains the following particulars : " April the 
15th, 1 60 1. The King's Majesty came to 
Perth, and was made burgess at the market- 
cross, subscribed the Guild-book with his own 
hand, Jacobus Rex — Parcere subjectis et de- 
bellare superbos. There were eight puncheons 
of wine set down at the cross, and all drunken 
out. He received the banquet of the town.'* 

Alexander Dttff's Narrative 71 

The same story of there having been a vast 
banquet and riot at Perth on that day, when 
his Majesty and courtiers, together with the 
magistrates and chief people of the place, were 
entertained at the expense of the town, is 
instructed by other vouchers ; particularly, 
by the manuscript chronicle of one Patrick 
Dundee ; and the record of his Majesty 
having then been made burgess with his own 
subscription, as mentioned above, is still extant 
at Perth; and a descriptive poem of that 
burgh, lately pubhshed,* bears, that the King 
was then made Provost of that town. To 
no other burgh did his Majesty show so 
much respect; and this favour was crowded, 
within a smaller space than the compass of 
one year after Earl Gowrie's death. Perth 
was then a most darling object ; but it does 
not appear that this partiality was continued 
to Perth, after gifts and feasting had quieted 
the tongues, and reconciled the minds of this 
honoured town to their then liberal and 

* The Muses Threnodie. 

72 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

festive monarch. These circumstances in his 
Majesty's conduct are not the features of 
innocence ; they do not express either sus- 
picion or resentment of evil having been con- 
trived against him there ; but if the King 
himself, and those who acted with him in the 
matter, have contrived this most wicked deed, 
no conduct could be more artfully conceived, 
to quench the glamours of men, and to 
smother the remembrance of mischief. 

The deposition of Andrew Henderson, 
who says that he was secretly lodged in the 
closet, stuffed in his coat of mail, without 
being instructed and pre-engaged for the 
part he was to act, gives an air of fiction 
to his whole evidence. Who can believe 
that he could be put upon such desperate 
service without being told of it, and under- 
standing to go through with it ? Such an 
attempt was not to be trusted, except to 
one whose passions were excited and courage 
roused, to encounter the dangers, and over- 
come the horrors, of such a shocking deed. 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 73 

The conduct of the two brothers, and their 
last words, as witnessed after they were gone 
by the very persons who slew them, betray no 
consciousness of guilt nor indifference about 
character. Alexander Ruthven was killed 
coming down the turnpike-stair from the 
closet ; he had been twice wounded in the 
closet, and was thereafter run through the 
body. He made an effort, and was able, 
before he expired, to turn up his face to them 
who had pierced him, and to say, " Alas ! he 
was not to blame." Sir Thomas Erskine, and 
those who were with him, running at the 
King's cry towards the closet, and finding 
Earl Gowrie in the close before the house- 
door, seized him, saying, " Thou art the 
traitor ! " on which he asked what was the 
matter, and said he did not know. With 
respect to the character of the two brothers, 
the King says he was informed of Ruthven, 
and the Duke of Lennox depones that he 
informed him that he always acted as a man 
of prudence and worth. With respect to the 

74 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

Earl himself, at the University of Padua, 
where he had been at his education, he was so 
much regarded that in his last year there he 
was made rector of the college. He was 
much esteemed by Theodore Beza ; and in 
the short time he lived after his return, his 
behaviour was open and candid, as in opposi- 
tion to the tax proposed by his Majesty, there 
appeared no reserve or cunning, much less any- 
thing dark or diabolical, about him. There is 
nothing alleged respecting his character similar 
to such a deed, or that seems to approach it. 
In King James's character, on the other hand, 
there are several particulars that are equally 

The execution of William, the first Earl of 
Gowrie, after his Majesty -was seventeen years 
of age, and had taken the government upon 
himself, for a fault which, when tried by the 
practice or opinion of the nation in those days, 
was not very great, and for which the King 
had solemnly pardoned him, and lived with 
him as fully reconciled, was not much inferior 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 75 

to it. The murder of Lord Down about the 
year 1590, shortly before made Earl of 
Moray by the courtesy of Scotland, he 
having married the Countess of Moray, 
daughter and heiress of the good Regent, as 
he was called, for no other offence but 
because this marriage, which was offered to 
him by the lady's mother and herself, inter- 
fered with his politics, was fully as bad as that 
of Earl Gowrie and his brother ; and our own 
historians generally say that the King set on 
the Marquis of Huntly, and Goodin of Buckie, 
who burned the castle of Donnybristle, and 
murdered the Earl ; and it is affirmed that, 
with a design to remove the odium of the 
nation, which his Majesty had incurred by 
this cruel assassination, he went into the 
General Assembly, and made that hypocritical 
declaration about the Presbyterian Church of 
Scotland being the purest in the world, and 
that he was resolved to protect it to his life's 
end. His conduct in pardoning the Earl and 
Countess of Somerset for the unexampled 

76 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

murder of Sir Thomas Overbury^ though he 
had prayed that God might curse him and 
his posterity if he pardoned them, and the 
execution of Sir Walter Raleigh, show that 
dissimulation and artifice, cunning and cruelty, 
were striking features in James's character, and 
supposing him to have ordered the killing 
of Earl Gowrie and his brother, it is not a 
singular nor anomalous circumstance in his 

There was an appendix to, or second 
edition of this plot, which made so much 
noise some years after. In the year 1608, 
the Earl of Dunbar informed the King's 
Advocate that one Sprot, a notary at Eye- 
mouth, knew something of some secret plotting 
between the deceased Earl of Gowrie and 
Logan of Restalrig, then also deceased, against 
King James. Sprot was apprehended by 
order of the Lord Advocate, and confessed 
that he had seen letters written by Restalrig 
about such a business, among the papers of one 
Laird Bower, who had been servant to Res- 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 77 

talrig ; and that he had abstracted the prin- 
cipal one, which he directed them how to find 
among his papers ; and he said that he had 
concealed this matter till all the persons 
concerned in it were dead. His papers were 
searched, and instead of one, five letters were 
produced, four of them signed Restalrig, the 
other not signed at all, at least the subscrip- 
tion taken away, and none of them addressed 
to any person ; and several clergymen and 
others deponed that they believed they were 
Restalrig's writing. They speak of some dark 
design which was to be executed at the danger 
of life and fortune ; but it does not appear 
from the letters to whom they were sent, or 
that they were ever sent to any person. Here, 
then, is a gap in the evidence. To fill this, 
Sprot, after second thoughts, declares that he 
had conversed on the subject with Laird 
Bower and Restalrig himself, and that, to his 
knowledge, these letters had been sent to Earl 
Gowrie, and returned by him, with other 
letters written by the Earl in answer thereto. 

78 The Gowrie Co7ispiracy 

This confidence in one who has not said that 
he was to be employed to act any part in the 
matter, appears both unnecessary and unreason- 
able. It is as extraordinary that, though he 
was admitted into the secret, he has not told 
what their design was ; and after the great 
anxiety mentioned in the letters about burn- 
ing or returning them to Restalrig, it is sur- 
prising that they should have been carelessly 
left in the keeping of a serv^ant, and as care- 
lessly allowed by the servant to remain among 
his ordinary papers. Another thing is equally 
surprising, that though, according to Sprot's 
account, there were answers by Earl Gowrie to 
these letters, and Earl Gowrie was cut off pre- 
maturely in the midst of this correspondence, 
yet there were no letters about it, or traces 
of it found among Earl Gowrie's papers, 
nor indeed of any conspiracy, though all his 
letters and papers must have come, without 
disguise, into the hands of his prosecutors. 
Neither does this history correspond with 
Mr. Coupar's narrative, and the first hypo- 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 79 

thesis about Gowrie's conspiracy, which was, 
that he had taken no person into his secret. 
It as Httle accords with the alleged con- 
spiracy at Perth. The King's declaration 
bears, that Alexander Ruthven told his 
Majesty there was no help for him, he must 
die ; whereas, by Sprot's story. Earl Gowrie 
and Logan of Restalrig were corresponding 
in the month of July. On the 29th, and 
even on the 31st days of that month, 
were letters written by Restalrig sent to the 
other, and answers received from him, of 
some scheme which was to be executed 
against the King at Restalrig's house of 
Fastcastle ; if, then, the Earl and his brother 
were employed in settling this plot at Fastcastle 
till the first of August, which was to have 
been transacted there in a remote and cautious 
manner, how came they so soon as the fifth of 
said month to attempt assassinating the King 
almost publicly, and most imprudently, in 
the town of Perth? But if this story of 
Sprot's was as firm as a mountain in other 

8o The Gowrie Conspiracy 

respects, the concluding circumstance would 
make it vanish into smoke. He is tried, con- 
demned, and brought to the gallows. He 
there acknowledges that he well deserv^ed to 
be put to death ; confesses that he had told 
many lies about the matter ; affirms that all 
he had said since a certain date was true ; and 
then promises that before he expired he would 
make some remarkable sign that what he now 
said was true. Accordingly his hands are left 
loose for the purpose, " and what was mar- 
vellous," says Lord Cromarty, "after he had 
hung some time, he lifted up his hands, and 
clapped them three times." People are not 
now so credulous about miracles ; nor was 
Sprot, who, according to his own account was 
a liar and a conspirator, the person by whom, 
or for whom, such works were to be done. If 
God had been to work a miracle, he could 
have loosed his hands, or in some other way 
accomplished it all himself. The leaving his 
hands loose manifestly indicates that there 
was some plan concealed amongst them for 

Alexander Duff's Narrative 8i 

which this clapping of the hands was to be 
the signal ; and it is impossible to suppose that 
it could be anything else than encouraging a 
worthless man to proceed with a wicked story 
by a promise that after hanging some time, on 
his making this sign, which they would call a 
miracle, the rope should be cut and his life 
spared. But dead people tell no tales : and it 
was safest that he should not survive this 
transaction to give an explanation of it. Lord 
Cromarty informs us that Dr. Abbott, after- 
wards Archbishop of Canterbury, happening 
to be in Scotland when Sprot was tried and 
executed, was convinced by his behaviour of 
the truth of Cowrie's conspiracy. But in 
opposition to this Dr. Spottiswood, who was 
afterwards an Archbishop also, and who knew 
everything about Sprot's trial and was on the 
scaffold at his execution, did not believe him, 
and speaks of his story with contempt. 

Upon the whole I consider myself justified 
in saying that the Earl of Cowrie and his 
brother Alexander Ruthven did not conspire 

82 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

against King James VI. as was affirmed by him, 
but that his Majesty did conspire against them 
and caused their Hves to be taken from them. 

Unfortunate Earl of Gowrie, thou hast 
been cruelly slaughtered. Horrible assassina- 
tion did, on that fifth of August which proved 
so fatal to thy family, deprive thy country of 
as promising, as valuable a nobleman, as it has 
at any time produced. In foreign nations 
thou wast revered : in thine own nation thou 
wast basely murdered. Among strangers who 
knew thy virtue, honour and esteem were 
accumulated upon thee : because thy virtue 
was great when thou didst return to thine 
own, thy Sovereign degraded himself to 
become thine assassin, because he dreaded 
that very virtue which others admired. He 
robbed thee of thy life : and even that was 
not sufficient to satisfy his spite : courtesy and 
riot, donations and festivity, exhausted all 
their force to rob thee also of thine honour- 
able fame and to consign thy name to future 
ages in the abominable list of dark and 

James Logans Narrative 83 

detestable conspiracies. This was worse than 
the foul murder. How insatiable is savage 
cruelty. But though justice may be perverted 
it cannot easily be extirpated altogether : the 
sentiments of humanity may for a time be 
diverted by bribes or drowned in uproar, but 
they will recur in this matter. Justice and 
humanity are recollecting themselves : and I 
doubt not but future ages will consider this 
article of history, which supreme power and 
cunning have studied to clothe with obscurity, 
as abundantly clear, and wonder that this 
ancient and honourable family, when extir- 
pated by the cruelty of their King, should not 
have excited the strongest and most generous 
sympathy which their country could bestow. 

Third Paper. 

This mysterious event is destined to con- 
tinue wrapt in mystery. After a searching 
inquiry by the ablest writers it seems impos- 
sible to prove to the satisfaction of any 

84 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

unbiassed reader that there ever was a con- 
spiracy on the part of the unfortunate Ruthvens 
either alone or in connection with Sir Robert 
Logan of Restahig. Notwithstanding the 
unceasing endeavours of James and his 
courtiers to induce the people to " declare 
their satisfaction of the truth of Gowrie's 
treason/' they remained incredulous, and 
persecution was necessary to compel the 
clergymen to give thanks for the King's 
pretended deliverance. After the Rev. 
Alexander Duff's address on the subject and 
the published accounts of gentlemen resident 
in Perth, it was to be presumed that the 
transaction had appeared in a different light 
from that which it was intended to do, and 
that the conspiracy would be seen to be rather 
on the side of a junto of unprincipled 
courtiers who easily worked on the supersti- 
tious and timorous feelings of the King and 
shared in the rich and extensive estates of 
the forfeited nobles. 

The proofs on which Gowrie and his 

yajnes Logaiis Narrative 85 

brother are condemned consist chiefly of the 
account given by the King, the depositions 
of Andrew Henderson, Sir Hugh Herries, Sir 
John Ramsay and Sir David Murray, with 
the spontaneous declaration of William 
Coupar, a minister in Perth. Coupar's 
ridiculous tale was made to the King three 
days after the event, and amounted to this, 
that he once found Gowrie reading a 
collection of conspiracies against princes, all 
of which he observed were foolishly contrived ; 
for he who engaged in such an enterprise 
should not confide the secret to any one — a 
prudent remark certainly for a person under- 
taking regicide, and is very consistent with 
the counterpart of the tragedy in which, so 
far from adhering to secrecy, he is represented 
as actually in correspondence until 31st July 
with Sir Robert Logan, then a great distance 
from Perth, his brother, Alexander Ruthven, 
and a worthless notary at Eyemouth, being 
parties in the treasonable plot, the management 
of the correspondence being entrusted to a 

86 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

servant of Restalrig, who was quite unworthy 
of his confidence. Coupar's story would not 
answer the purpose of those who thirsted for 
the destruction of the two famihes and hoped 
to enjoy the spoil of their rich estates. Small, 
however, as his belief in the conspiracy might 
be, he received the bishopric of Galloway as a 
reward for his officious testimony. 

On the King's own narrative it is unneces- 
sary to make much comment. His Majesty's 
evidence must be substantiated or corroborated 
by that of other witnesses. In the room to 
which he was decoyed there stood a person in 
armour, and the King named three individuals, 
one of whom he knew to be the man. Two 
of the accused immediately proved their 
innocence, when he positively asserted that 
the other, who was a servant of Gowrie's, was 
the traitor. The poor man alleged that he 
was in Dundee the day on which his master 
was killed, and declared his intention to 
come and disprove the accusation. This 
he proceeded to do, but on the way his 

James Logans Narrative 87 

body was found in a corn-field with his 
throat cut. 

Andrew Henderson, who was Gowrie's 
chamberlain, fortunately for the King, avowed 
himself the man who was armed and placed in 
the closet ; but although the only purpose for 
which he could have been selected was to 
murder or make prisoner his Majesty, he 
solemnly declared his total ignorance of the 
part he was to act ; Henderson very wisely 
steered clear of all appearance of being "art 
and part " in treason. He was retained in his 
office by Sir David Murray who, on the 
division of the Earldom, was made Lord 
Scone and was rewarded with that part 
of Gowrie's estates ; but after this event 
Henderson always appeared with a dejected 
look as if he was troubled in conscience and 
held infamous for the part he had acted. 

Ramsay, the King's page, who, with Herries 
and Erskine, was found in the closet with 
James by Gowrie, who had on the first alarm 
rushed upstairs and with his brother met an 

88 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

untimely end, was amply rewarded for his 
services, being created Viscount Haddington, 
and as he struck the first blow his reward was 
won, for he was always chief guest at the 
anniversary feast, and had a special grant of 
any favour which he might ask on that day. 
This last favour seems an extravagant reward, 
but James had too much " Kingcraft " to 
allow the Royal State to be hurt or his lord- 
ship too much aggrandised by it. He accom- 
panied this grant with so many limitations 
that it was of little advantage. Although so 
highly distinguished, Ramsay was held in very 
little esteem either by the King or courtiers. 

The inhabitants of Perth were in the 
highest degree exasperated by the death of 
their Provost, for they would not listen to the 
charge of treason against him, and had the 
King ventured to depart from Gowrie House 
before night the consequences would have been 
fatal. Luckily for the King and his escort, 
the Earl of Tullibardine happened to be in 
town, and his exertions materially assisted in 

yames Logans Narrative 89 

allaying the ferment and effecting the King's 
retreat. For this he received the Sheriffship 
of Perth. James considered it of so much 
importance to pacify the people of Perth, 
when he could not obtain their belief, that the 
very day on which sentence of forfeiture was 
pronounced against Gowrie he gave them a 
Charter of Confirmation, with grants of many 
new and extraordinary privileges, awarding 
them of his royal pleasure the long-contested 
precedence of Dundee. So very solicitous was 
he to soothe their just indignation that he 
overstepped his prerogative, for although this 
last honour was finally conceded, the process 
between the Burghs continued before the 
Lords of Session notwithstanding his decision. 
So little resentment did this noble monarch 
feel towards so seditious a city, and so bold 
and resolute was he that, fearless of other 
attempts, he visited Perth the following year, 
became a burgess, signing the Guild-book 
with his own hand, and showing a favour to 
the town which no other place ever received. 


Tlie Goisjvie Co7zspiracy 

Not 50 successful, however, was he with the 
honest ministers of God's word. He person- 
ally laboured to induce them to acquiesce in 
the truth of his marvellous narrative and to 
return thanks for his wonderful deliver}^ ; but 
many of the ministers long refused to notice a 
conspiracy which they conscientiously believed 
never existed. The Rev. Mr. Bruce sub- 
mitted to banishment rather than address the 
Almighty on a subject which he declared an 
untruth. If the pretended treason of the 
laird of Restalrig was not in the proceedings, 
it would scarcely appear from the " notorious 
forgeries the mock letters of Logan," as 
Pinkerton calls them, for they relate to an 
attempt to secure the King's person in Fast 
Castle, in the county of Benvick, not to any 
conspiracy at Perth. These letters, which 
were not originals, appeared in different 
numbers and forms during the trial, some 
being withdrawn, others produced and subse- 
quently enlarged and materially altered. In 
the agonies of torture, Sprot, the accuser of 

y antes Logan's Narrative 91 

Restalrig, confessed they were forgeries ; but 
the Earl of Dunbar, who by the forfeiture got 
most of Restalrig's estates, assured Sprot that 
his wife and family should be provided for, and 
the wretched man being resolved to die and 
having no wish to live, adhered to his first 
deposition, and to prevent recantation he was 
executed next day. 

Lord Balmerino's son was buried in the 
family vault of Restalrig, and when the 
English army came to Scotland in 1650 the 
soldiers broke into it, raised up his body, and 
threw it on the public road on which it was 
vaunted, "that God made them instruments 
to punish that cruel deed of his fathers who 
had raised up the dead body of Restalrig to 
forfeit it." If there is any belief in the guilt 
of the unfortunate baron it is what certainly 
did not exist, except among a few dependents 
on the accusers or interested in the attainder, at 
the time when his mouldering remains under- 
went the extraordinary trial for participation 
in the so-called Gowrie Conspiracy. 

92 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

Fourth Paper. 

A strong presumption that there was a 
regularly preconcerted plot to murder the two 
brothers is afforded by the deposition of 
Thomas Erskine who confesses that so soon as 
he heard his Majesty cry for help he and his 
brother gripped Gowrie by the neck saying, 
" Traitor ! this is thy deed," the certain prelude 
to his death, we may be sure, had not his 
servant interposed. Discomfited in this 
quarter, the Erskines joined Ramsay and 
assisted him in slaying his antagonist Ruthven. 
The villainy here is so obvious that it would 
be superfluous to enlarge on it. Is there any 
probability of such men as the Erskines 
clasping the Earl of Gowrie by the garter, 
casting him under their feet and wanting a 
dagger to strike him because two men were 
fighting in his house. Such a number of 
circumstances have come to light as must 
satisfy every reasonable man that the King 
and his followers murdered the two Ruthvens. 

JVilliam Pantons Narrative 93 

Alexander Ruthven gave no provocation. If 
innocent, he was an object of pity. If guilty, 
the Erskines could easily have secured the 
half-dead body. Instead of that, the moment 
they set eyes upon him, without asking him a 
single question, or waiting to hear him speak, 
they darted upon him, wounded and unarmed 
as he was, and instantly killed him. Nearly 
similar were the circumstances attending 
Gowrie's death. The securing the two brothers 
and bringing them to trial alive would have 
afforded some satisfaction to the world. It 
was a duty which the King owed to himself, 
to his dependents, and specially to the house 
of Ruthven, as the lives and reputations of all 
these were so much implicated in the charge. 
Had he wished to have the matter fairly and 
openly investigated he would have preferred 
this to that of first taking away the lives of 
the two noblemen, hanging, torturing and 
banishing each of their adherents as evinced 
any disposition to show their innocence, and 
then bestowing bounties on perjury and 

94 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

murder in their enemies. Gowrie's murderers 
gave no reason why they put him to death. 
Even by their own account they did not 
know that he had any design on either the 
hfe or hberty of the King. In what estima- 
tion can we hold the man who, having perpe- 
trated a crime, the most atrocious within the 
reach of man, instantly goes as it were before 
his maker and declares himself perfectly 
innocent. If he really did address the 
Almighty in this manner, how contemptible 
must his character have appeared to those 
of his accomplices who were in the secret. 
When Younger attempted to go to Falkland 
to expurgate himself, he was met by a party 
sent by the King commanded by Col. Bruce. 
Younger, being aware of his danger as being a 
servant of Gowrie, attempted to secret himself 
in a field of corn. But Bruce discovered and 
slew him, and then carried his body to Falk- 
land where it was exposed to public view as 
the body of a traitor, his Majesty giving out 
that it was the identical person who was in the 

JVilliam Pantoyl s Narrative 95 

turret. But it became known afterwards that 
Younger was in Dundee at the time of his 
master's death. James, being in no way 
abashed at telling so many falsehoods, offered 
a bribe to induce some one to come forward 
and assume the character of the armed man 
in the turret chamber and at this point 
Henderson (probably because of the bribe) 
came forward and declared himself to have 
been the man. 

On the following morning the Privy 
Council at Edinburgh received by express 
the King's account of the transaction, and 
along with it an injunction to command the 
clergy of Edinburgh instantly to convene the 
people in the churches and publicly thank 
God for his Majesty's deliverance. John 
Graham of Balgowan also arrived in Edin- 
burgh and gave a description of the event, 
and David Moyes a servant in the King's 
house sent another. The writers of these 
neglected to compare notes, the want of 
which precaution spoiled all, there being a 

96 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

great discrepancy between them. The clergy, 
therefore, refused to insult the Almighty by 
a thanksgiving of a deliverance from danger 
which never existed. The result was that 
the clergy were by the King banished from 
the city and prevented from preaching in 
Scotland under pain of death. All of them 
were eventually recalled. 

Of all the ruffians who were concerned in 
this diabolical transaction by much the most 
redoubtable was King James VI. Although 
it was his fortune to reign over several millions 
of his fellow creatures, yet a character so 
shamefully base and enormously wicked is 
seldom called to act on the stage of life. 
James possessed dissimulation and hypocrisy 
in an eminent degree. His domestic character 
was among the most vicious and disgraceful 
that could be conceived, yet in public he 
made a great show of religion and some 
times on improper occasions. Such as by 
falUng down on his knees along with his 
attendants as soon as he had despatched 

William Pantons Narrative 97 

Gowrie and his brother and thanking God 
for his dehverance ! 

To secure success in a matter of so much 
importance, Gowrie, had he been the con- 
spirator, would have adopted the most de- 
cisive measures, and among others he would 
have had three or four resolute accomplices 
in readiness within this apartment — for it was 
incapable of containing a large number — and, 
to bar accidents, some hundreds of his vassals 
stationed in other parts of the house and 
offices. Instead of a numerous assembly of 
Gowrie's retainers, we hear of only a single 
individual. The precise words made use of 
in the turret-chamber must be of the very 
utmost importance to those who believe that 
some such words were spoken, yet we are 
completely left in the dark respecting them 
by Henderson, and he is the only one who 
pretended to be present. 

When Gowrie was murdered there was 
found in the pocket of his doublet a little 
parchment bag full of medical characters and 


98 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

words of enchantment which he had studied 
in Padua. He is said to have been an 
enthusiastic chemist, and, in common with 
many eminent men of that age, a dabbler 
in astrology. It is curious that this pro- 
pensity to magic and visionary pursuits 
was hereditary in the Ruthven family. His 
grandfather, the murderer of Riccio, had 
given Queen Mary a magic ring as a protec- 
tion against poison. His father, the leader in 
the Raid of Ruthven, when in Italy had his 
fortune foretold by a wizard ; and the son 
when some of his friends had killed an adder 
in Strathbraan lamented their haste, and told 
them he would have diverted them by making 
it dance to the tune of some cabalistic words 
which he had learned in Italy from a famous 
necromancer and diviner.* 

A modern writer f of great experience 
says : I have read nearly all that has been 
written on the subject. Every particle of 
historical evidence that I have met with has 

* Tytler, vol. iv. f G. P. R. James. 

IVilliam Pant on s Narrative 99 

tended to impress upon my mind the firm 
belief that the last Earl of Gowrie was as 
amiable, as enlightened, and as innocent of 
all offence against the King as any man in 
Scotland. His name, his race, his position 
and his opinions rendered him obnoxious to 
the King. I find on reading the letters and 
memoirs of contemporaries that very few 
persons believed him guilty, and that James 
had recourse to all the resources of persecution 
in order to silence the many voices which too 
loudly proclaimed him innocent. 

" Thus perished the noble, the brave, and the true, 
Thus triumphed the feeble, the base, and the 

H 2 

TOO The Gowrie Conspiracy 


Gowrie House formed nearly a square. That part 
in which the affray took place was on the south and 
east side of the square. A A the buildings ; C C were 
temporary sheds for the artillery. The principal stair- 
case, Y, was at the south-east angle of the court. There 
was a smaller staircase at T, called the Black Turnpike. 
The principal building, A A, was of two storeys. The 
family apartments and bedrooms were in the division 
A D, Plan No. 2, surrounded by two turrets. The 
dining-room was at D, the window of which looked 
into the garden. The principal hall, H, communicated 
with the staircase Y, and with the dining-room. There 
was a door at U, leading by a flight of steps, U L, to 
the garden. The greater part of the second floor, 
Plan 3, was occupied by a gallery, A, which extended 
over the whole of that part of the building. The 
gallery was richly ornamented with paintings and 
works of art. There was a turret, X, communicating 
with the gallery chamber. 

After dinner, the King, with Alexander Ruthven, left 
the room D, Plan No. 2, passed through the hall H, 
where his escort were, to the staircase Y, which they 
ascended. Shortly after Sir John Ramsay and the laird 
of Pittencreiff went up the stair Y into the gallery A. 
Gowrie believed the King had gone off to Falkland, 
and told his guests so; but the porter said that could 


_ ^ PLAr£ I 

K.\.The anaenz portion. <jrf GowrieSouse ; consistuy of rhrce fhors ojiA atdcs. B.B. The, more modern. poraoTiof GowrieBouse CC Temporary S?teds,L(ia^ly us'ed tor Artillery. 
D. The MoTiA's Tower. O. The Erarance. Gaze. S, '6. Two Turrets. T. The Black. Turnpike . L.Vi.Fli^hf: of Stxps leading to the Garden. 

' [to face page IOC. 

Notes on the Plan lor 

not be, as he had the key of the back gate. While 
they were debating this point the King's voice was 
heard crying "Treason," and in looking up from the 
street in front of the gate G to the window in the 
turret O, Plan 3, they beheld, according to the official 
report, the King and the hand of a man stopping his 

Mar and Lennox ran across the court to the staircase 
Y, which they ascended and crossed to gallery A, but 
found the door to the gallery chamber at F locked. 
This door they tried to break open, but could not. 
Ramsay, finding the door to the Turnpike T open, ran 
up that stair, entered the gallery chamber C, where he 
is reported to have found the King and Ruthven 
struggling. Ruthven was thrust down the Turnpike T, 
wounded. At the bottom of the stair he was slain by 
Herries and Erskine. 

Henderson at Falkland said he was crossing toward 
the other window when Alexander Ruthven came in 
(from the window at S, Plan No. 3, to the window O), 
but was crossed in his path by Ruthven. If the King 
stood opposite the door and looking towards it, then 
when Ruthven entered and advanced towards the King 
the situation of parties is believed to be nearly that of 
the letters K, R, H — K being the situation of the King ; 
R that of Ruthven ; H that of Henderson, stopped in 
crossing the round apartment. A struggle ensued in 
that situation, Ruthven attempting to bind the King's 
hands. Henderson went up to them, being on the 

I02 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

King's right and on Ruthven's left hand. The King 
cast loose his left hand, Henderson says. In that case 
the garter for binding him must have been in Ruthven's 
left hand, as he had made use of his right in seizing the 
King's left. In that situation the garter was easily 
pulled from him, as described by Henderson, who stood 
at his left. The King then " loups free," that is, makes 
either towards the door or towards the window. Ruthven 
turns round, follows him, and seizes him again near the 
window, while both were followed by Henderson. Here 
the situation is so far changed that Henderson H^ is 
now on the right of Ruthven R^ and on the left of the 
King K^, the two latter being between the former and 
the window. In this situation Ruthven takes hold of 
the King's throat with his left hand and puts his right 
in the King's mouth to prevent his cries. Henderson 
then stretches his left hand over between the parties 
toward the window. It was only in that position that 
the King could have been seen by the party near the 
gate without the persons with whom he was struggling 
being also visible. The window S looked directly to 
the Spy tower ; this was the wrong window, and 
Henderson went to window O. (Henderson's account 
cannot be accepted as bona fide) 

(These plans are reproduced from the McOmie 
drawings in the possession of the Perth Literary and 
Antiquarian Society, and may be accepted as authentic 
and accurate.) 



Reasons for Disbelieving the Official Narrative — 
Evidence against the King — The Nicolson-Cecil 
Correspondence — The Hill Burton version and its 

There are some highly ridiculous touches 
in the official narrative. For example^ if 
Alexander Ruthven wanted to assassinate the 
King he had a sufficient opportunity of doing 
so when he got him into the turret chamber. 
Had Ruthven been the conspirator he would 
have despatched the King instantly when he 
had him in that secure position and the door 
of the chamber locked. And, again, Ruthven, 
according to this narrative, told the King that 
he killed his father and must therefore die," 
and thereupon wrestled with the King ; finally, 
he put his hand in the King's mouth and 
attempted to tie him with a cord or garter. 

I04 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

Could anything in the circumstances be more 
grotesque ? Yet posterity is asked to beHeve 
this imbecile record of the King. Ruthven 
knew the King's escort was downstairs, that 
time was precious and delay fatal. If he 
decoyed the King into the turret chamber in 
order to kill him, is it likely he would waste 
time discussing the situation ? It is important 
to notice that it is not even hinted in this 
narrative that Ruthven attempted to slay the 
King or that he had any intention whatever 
of doing so. The argument proceeds : " What 
want ye," said the King, "if ye seek not my 
life ? " " But a promise, Sir," was the reply. 
" What promise ? " " Sir, my brother will tell 
you." " Go, fetch him, and in your absence 
I will neither cry nor lift up the window." 
All this is the merest fable. No such words 
were ever spoken, nor can they be verified. 
For Ruthven to leave the apartment at so 
critical a moment was ridiculous if he decoyed 
the King there in order to assassinate him ;. 
but if the King was the conspirator, it was an 

Official Narrative Erroneous 105 

ingenious touch of imagination, because the 
King by that means might secure the 
Ruthvens in the chamber, and in that com- 
promising position the King was not so hkely 
to be suspected, and the Ruthvens would 
the more easily be despatched : this is prac- 
tically what happened. In criticising the nar- 
rative the mysterious man with the pot of 
gold may be dismissed as a myth. The King 
had an unquenchable thirst for money. His 
extravagant demands for it caused an inter- 
ruption in the relations between him and 
Gowrie. He surrendered his soul to Elizabeth 
for English gold, and his love of it would not 
allow him to save his mother from execution. 

There is a point in the case not referred 
to by any writer except one,* and that is 
that Gowrie was attending a marriage on 
the 5 th August, when he got notice of the 
King's arrival. If the statement be true, it is 
sufficient of itself to establish Gowrie's inno- 
cence. It has never been contradicted. 

* Alexander DufF. 

io6 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

In the matter of the conversation in the 
turret chamber we are surrounded with diffi- 
culty. Assuming that it never occurred, and 
that the muffled man was a myth, we have 
the problem of three armed men being there, 
supposed by one writer * to be three servants 
of Gowrie's, bribed. This is unlikely, and 
in the circumstances is now impossible to 
determine. There is nothing but the King's 
statement for a muffled man being there, and 
his pretended ignorance of who that man 
was, and charging three men with it who all 
could prove an alibi, suggests the idea that 
the story is a fable. It does not seem prob- 
able that any man could be there who was 
unknown to the King. Evidently the story 
was a device of the King to throw suspicion 
on the Ruthvens, as none but they could put 
a muffled man in that position. Henderson's 
evidence may be put aside as unreliable. It is 
stated that Ramsay, Herries, and Murray, went 
up to the turret chamber as soon as they saw 

* Calderwood. 

Official Narrative Erroneous 107 

the King's head at the window. This is again 
the King's narrative, and the question may 
naturally be asked how far it is true. We do 
not presume to answer it, for no one can. 
One thing is clear, if Gowrie had put any 
muffled men there they would have been 
massacred along with Alexander Ruthven ; 
but no such massacre occurred. One writer * 
says that Herries "was one of the three 
armed men lodged in the closet." If that 
were true, Ramsay and Murray, or Ramsay 
and Erskine, would be the others. The 
statement, which may be quite accurate, wants 

There is no doubt, as one writer states, that 
if the King had been killed it would have 
ruined the Gowrie family, seeing the King 
had openly gone into Gowrie House, and 
Gowrie would have been accountable for his 
protection. We are told, as a matter of fact, 
that the opinion in Perth, from the day the 
deed was done, was that the King was the 
* Alexander DufF. 

io8 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

conspirator ; further, that the death of Gowrie 
was denounced as a cruel murder. Considering 
that Gowrie was an exceptionally popular 
Provost of Perth, and that there was no inde- 
pendent evidence, outside the King's narrative, 
that he was concerned in the conspiracy, the 
people of Perth were bound to entertain hostile 
feelings to the King. This view of the case is 
justified when we consider the King's conduct 
in pardoning the Earl and Countess of Somerset 
for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, though 
he had prayed that God might curse him and 
his posterity if he pardoned them ; and his 
execution of Sir Walter Raleigh, one of the 
greatest men of his time, clearly shows that 
dissimulation and artifice, cunning and cruelty^ 
were striking features in James's character : and 
supposing him to have ordered the assassina- 
tion of Gowrie and his brother it cannot be 
regarded as a singular or anomalous circum- 
stance in his history.* This is an estimate of 
James's character which is evidently true, and 

* Alexander Duff. 

Official Narrative Erroneous 109 

weighed in the balance of the Gowrie con- 
spiracy must involve him in great suspicion. 

James's conduct after the event is anything 
but reassuring. He had greatly exasperated the 
citizens of Perth by killing in cold blood their 
much-honoured Provost. They would not 
believe his statement that the conspiracy was 
the act of Gowrie, and to such an extent did 
this feeling prevail, that he had to wait inside 
Gowrie House on the fatal day till it was dark 
and then slip away quietly and secretly with 
his escort to Falkland in order to save his life. 
He made a bold effort to pacify the people 
of Perth by granting them charters and all 
kinds of privileges ; visiting Perth on many 
occasions, eventually becoming a burgess and 
signing his name in the book of the Guild, 
and afterwards becoming Provost. The trans- 
parency of this could mislead no one. But 
the question remains, what was James's object 
in committing this crime, if he did commit it. 
He was a jealous man. He was not highly 
educated. He could not bear a rival to his 

no The Gowrie Conspiracy 

popularity, and his throne might be in danger. 
Gowrie, on the other hand, was a scholar : 
one of the most accomplished men of his 
time : a favourite at the Court of England : a 
general favourite in Scotland, and as Provost 
of Perth was beloved by the people : so 
much so, that when he was completing his 
education in Padua (six years) the Town 
Council of Perth kept him in the Provostship 
and would have no other. This is a com- 
pliment that never was paid to a Provost of 
Perth either before or since, and it indicates 
to what extent the Ruthvens were respected 
in the Fair City. James was well aware of all 
this, but his jealous nature would not permit 
him to recognise in his kingdom any man 
more accomplished or more popular than 
himself. He had much of his father's blood 
in his veins, as this event shows. It has been 
said by some writers that the Gowries would 
be competitors with him for the throne of 
England. We have no proof whatever that 
Gowrie had any such intention. So far as 

Official Narrative Erroneous 1 1 1 

Gowrie's disposition is known to us, he was 
not a man of that character at all. We have 
certainly not much material to draw upon, 
but what we do know indicates that he was a 
man of a peaceful and retiring disposition, 
loyal and submissive to the King rather than 
an instigator of rebellion. He was in every 
respect unlike his father. The Raid of 
Ruthven, for which his father was beheaded, 
involved James in ten months' captivity. The 
King's unforgiving spirit could never forget 
this. We can scarcely suppose that, having 
sufficiently punished the father, he would 
repeat the punishment on the son, but this no 
one can determine. After the removal of the 
two Ruthvens he issued a proclamation for the 
apprehension of the two remaining brothers, 
and was successful in capturing one of them, 
whom he kept in the Tower of London for 
nineteen years. This was a highly suspicious 
circumstance. He also gave peremptory 
orders for the abolition of the name of 
Ruthven, and the Ruthven lands near Perth 

1 1 2 The Gowrie Cojtspiracy 

were thereafter called Huntingtower. Of all 
the Stuart race none played the role of despot 
more than James. Another act of great 
suspicion was the division (after confiscation) 
of the extensive estates of Gowrie amongst 
the very men who were foremost in the com- 
mission of this crime. Ramsay and Erskine, 
who really were the murderers^ were rewarded as 
follows : — Ramsay with an annuity of ^looo 
per annum and Melrose Abbey with its 
extensive revenues : Erskine with the beautiful 
estate of Dirleton. In regard to the others, 
Murray got the estate of Scone ; Stewart the 
Strathbraan and Trochrie properties. The 
Murrays of Tullibardine got the lands in 
Strathearn, Tullibardine the Sheriffship of 
Perth, Sir Mungo Murray the house and 
lands and barony of Ruthven. Of all James's 
followers, Sir David Murray would seem to 
have been the best, and whatever may have 
been his connection with the conspiracy he 
certainly kept himself as far as possible in the 
background. He was created Lord Scone, 

Official Narrative Erroneous 113 

and he and his son, Viscount Stormont, were 
(excepting three years) Provosts of Perth from 
1601 to 1627. 

The Gowrie Conspiracy happened at a 
time when the administration of Scottish 
affairs was conducted without either morality 
or integrity. The Court of James was, as 
that of his mother, very corrupt. Under 
both rulers, the Scottish nobles and the Scot- 
tish officers of State were destitute of moral 
rectitude, and in an eminent degree betrayed 
their trust, disregarded their allegiance, and 
identified themselves with crime, rapine, and 
murder. In these crimes were involved 
treason and forgery and the wholesale execu- 
tion of innocent persons. The effect of this 
upon the nation was hurtful, prejudicial, 
paralysing. It stopped the progress of 
civilisation and prohibited any effort to carry 
on the Government in a lawful and just 
manner. Why, for example, if James was 
an innocent man, did he, on the 23rd August, 
execute, after a mock trial, the three confi- 

114 Gowrie Conspiracy 

% dential servants of Gowrie, Cranston, Craigen- 
gelt and Macgregor, all of whom were eye- 
witnesses of the event. The explanation 
evidently is that James was determined to 
remove every person who would or could 

• give evidence in Gowrie's favour, whose testi- 
mony was not only of the utmost import- 
ance, but would have solved the mystery of 
the guilt or innocence of the King. The 
attitude of the King and the entire circum- 
stances of the Gowrie Conspiracy, we think, 
leave no room to doubt that he was the author. 
Assuming James to have been the head of 
this mysterious plot, it exhibits his unforgiving 
nature as well as his relentless character, which 
was more censurable than that of the first 
Earl of Gowrie whom he beheaded and 
greatly more blameworthy than that of his 
son Charles I. who also was executed. 

Evidence against the King 115 

Evidence against the King. 

We will now proceed to reproduce some 
startling testimony from eye-witnesses and 
from contemporary writers which does not 
appear to have been published before. The 
event, as might be expected, created an impres- 
sion over Scotland which was appalling, and a 
close inspection of the correspondence of the 
period, so far as deposited in the State Paper 
Offices, reveals one conspicuous point, and that 
is that not one of these letters condemns 
Gowrie. It must be kept in view that, as the 
King was involved in this matter, no one 
was safe to write much about it, unless they 
took the King's part. The letters we now 
reproduce are written with bated breath on the 
vital point; but if Gowrie had been the 
actual conspirator, these writers, we think, 
would have exposed him in very different 
terms. These letters, which we have modernised, 
will bear more than one perusal as they are 
at times not very intelligible. They are, with 

ii6 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

one exception^ addressed to Sir Robert Cecil, 
Elizabeth's Prime Minister, and strange 
though it may seem, we have not been able 
to discover any of Cecil's replies. Nicolson 
was Elizabeth's envoy in Scotland, and unlike 
some of his predecessors he was a man of 
integrity and good principle. Every word 
that he has written about this conspiracy 
may be accepted, for his words are not only 

• significant but true. In his estimation the 
general opinion prevailing was, that it was a 
conspiracy of the King to slay the Gowries. 
His letter of August ii, 1600, to Sir Robert 
Cecil is of great importance. He was com- 
pelled to send the King's version of the deed 
to England because "the King caused it 
to be written." In his position he had no 
alternative ; but he goes on to tell Cecil that 
there are great doubts of the truth of the 

' King's report, and that these doubts are 
greatly increasing. Unless the King bring 
the conspirators to the scaffold, the people 
will form dangerous opinions about him ; 

Evidence against the King 117 

they will believe him guilty and Gowrie 
innocent. But the most serious charge in 
this letter is that the reports of the con- 
spiracy coming from the King differ. This is 
probably the strongest point recorded against 
the King, a point from which he cannot 
escape. An innocent man could only have 
given one version, and whatever the King's 
intentions were, we fear he must stand con- 
victed in the eyes of posterity. Nicolson is 
careful and guarded in his language about the 
King, but he tells us that Alexander Ruth- 
ven wore on the occasion a silk cut doublet 
without armour, whether with or without 
weapon he does not seem to know. Gowrie 
himself, he alleges, was without arms, save two 
rapiers, which he had to borrow. Nicolson's 
reference to the attitude of the clergy is very 
cautiously put ; but, reading between the lines, 
we see that these were not at all convinced of 
the bona Jides of the King's narrative. And, 
in view of the Ruthvens being both defence- 
less, this is a strong argument in their favour. 

- ii8 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

But Nicolson, though he makes no comment, 
makes it clear to Cecil what he means. " The 
matter is believed to he otherwise than the 
King reports it ; all parts of the country^ so far 
^ as I can learn, are in great suspicion at the 
Kings attitude^ This is language that 
cannot be misunderstood. In the following 
correspondence we begin with Nicolson's 
letter of 29 January, 1600. A Convention of 
some importance was summoned by the King 
at which he made his demand for money 
for his honourably entering on the Crown of 
England after Elizabeth. The meeting was 
out of sympathy with him, and he lost his 
temper. The Earl of Gowrie made a speech 
about the extravagant proposal of the King, 
expressing his dissatisfaction with it, at which 
the King fell into a rage and dismissed the 
Convention. The proceedings are too lengthy 
to be reproduced in full, but we give that 
part referring to Gowrie, which is all that 
concerns us. 

By an Act of Sederunt of the Court of 

Nicolson — Cecil Correspondence 119 

Session dated June 20th, 1600, the King, on 
Gowrie's return to Scotland, appears to have 
been his debtor to the extent of ^80,000. 
It represented the sums which WilHam Earl 
of Gowrie became liable for on behalf of the 
King. To this extent Gowrie had burdened 
his estates. It is believed that James never 
intended to pay this debt, and this condition 
of affairs may be understood from the following 
letter from Lady Gowrie to Lord Balmerino, 
2nd Nov., 1600, in which she desires him to 
bring the matter before the King. She appeals 
for her bereaved daughters, whose estate is 
very desolate, and for help for herself to meet 
creditors' claims. " I am so overcharged with 
the payment of annual rents for his Majesty's 
debts, contracted during the time of my 
husband being Treasurer, which loans were 
taken on my fee lands, that I am scarcely 
able to entertain my own estates, much less to 
bear the burden of others." The King wanted 
to borrow more money, viz., ^40,000, and it 
is not to be wondered at that at the Conven- 

I20 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

tion at Perth, when it came up, Gowrie should 
in such strong terms have opposed it. " It 
was not consistent with his Majesty's dignity 
to ask more than the country could give and 
to expose himself to the humiliation of a 
denial ; neither was it consistent with a proper 
regard for the honour of either the King or 
the country to reveal the poverty of the land." 

George Nicolson to Sir Robert Cecil. 

'"''June 29, 1600. 

"When it came to my Lord of Gowrie he 
said he had been long out of the country and 
ignorant of the matter, yet accounted it all 
one and equivalent to the 100,000 crowns; or 
better that the King should have ^40,000 
and their like help for an army when time 
should serve, adding that it would be dis- 
honourable to the King should he ask more 
than the country could give, and be denied ; 
and most dishonourable to King and country 
that it should be supposed they could give 

Nicolson — Cecil Correspondence 121 

him but little. At this the King was enraged, 
and seeing on Thursday it would be no better, 
he dismissed the Convention with thanks to 
the nobility, assuring and promising them his 
friendship and favour in all their actions, 
and threatening the Barons and Burghs that, 
as their advice lay in his way, he should 
remember them and be even with them. He 
would call a Parliament and displace them by 
vote of Parliament and Convention. He gave 
them a vote in both and made them a fourth 
estate which he should undo again." 

George Nicolson to Sir Robert Cecil. 

"Edinburgh, August ii, 1600. 
" Anent this tragedy, I have certified it in 
effect as the K [ing] caused it to be written ; 
but notwithstanding, there has arisen great 
doubts of the truth thereof, which increase so 
exceedingly, as unless the K[ing] take some 
of the conspirators and give them out of his 
hands to the town and ministers (to be tried 
and examined) for the confessing and clearing 

122 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

of themselves and the people, on the scaffold 
or at their execution, a hard and dangerous 
impression of the King and his dealings in 
this matter will enter and remain in the 
hearts of the people and of great ones how fair 
soever they may have carried it to the K[ing]. 
It is begun to be noted that the reports 
coming from the K[ing] differ, that the man 
who should have been in the turret chamber 
said so ; and yet was there without heart or 
hand and had many names. No such man 
was taken or known or judged to be, till 
Saturday, when the K[ing] sending to take 
him he was thereupon slain. The K[ing] 
was angry because he was not saved ; that 
Thomas Cranston wounded and in danger of 
death should make and subscribe a declaration 
clearing the Earl and his brother ; and that the 
master should be without armour in a silk cut 
doublet to the shirt, some say without weapon 
and others with his dagger in its sheath un- 
drawn so found when slain. The Earl hearing 
of the stir and death of his brother, ran 

Nicolson — Cecil Correspondence 123 

and got a weapon and he and Thomas 
Cranston, his servant, following were encoun- 
tered and set upon by Sir Thomas Erskine 
with his two attendants, Wilson and Murray, 
and with the recently made knights. Sir John 
Ramsay and Sir Hugh Herries, Sir Thomas 
Erskine being leader, and the Earl slain by 
Sir Thomas and found as his brother was 
without any armour save a rapier or two with 
him. There are many other circumstances as 
that the Earl had almost nobody with him, 
&c., which the people have among them. 
The matter is believed to be otherwise than 
the K\ing^ reports it. The ministers were 
ordered to intimate the matter to the people. 
I hear as yet they have got no further in the 
pulpits than that if the Earl and his brother 
attempted such a treasonable purpose, they 
had their death worthily, and it merited the 
rooting out of their race, but if it were other- 
wise it was a token of a great judgment over 
the land. However, they were glad and 
praised God that the K[ing] was safe, and 

124 ^^^^ Gowrie Conspiracy 

desired God to reveal the truth, saying that 
from that place they were to say no more till 
they had good warrant of the certainty, and 
much more to this effect very warily going no 
further. All parts of the country so far as I 
can hear are in great suspicion at the K[ing's] 
attitude. Mr. Thomas Cranston is brought 
in a litter to Falkland where Mr. Wm. 
Rhynd, the Earl's pedagogue and secretary, are 
prisoners. They deny any such intention on 
the part of the Earl or his brother yet it is 
thought the K[ing] shall force from them the 
truth of what they know." 

The ministers banished by the King 
were : Mr. Ro. Bruce, Mr. Walter Balcanquil, 
Mr. WilUam Watson, Mr. Jo. Hall, and 
Mr. James Balfour. 

George Nicolson to Sir Robert Cecil. 

" Edinburgh, August 21, 1600. 
"That you may still know what comes 
further of this late matter here, I have 
thought it well to notify what I hear as 

Nicolson — Cecil Correspondence 125 

followeth. First, I hear that the more the 
k[ing] dealeth in this matter, the greater do 
the doubts arise in the minds of the people as 
to what is the truth of the k[ing's] part. 
Mr. Wm. Rhynd, the pedagogue, hath been 
extremely bullied, but confesseth nothing 
against the Earl or his brother, nor does 
Thomas Cranston or George Craigengelt con- 
fess anything against the Earl. These men 
protested against doing so very strongly, and 
in case torture made them say otherwise, it 
was not true or to be trusted. This was said 
before the torturing. They solemnly affirmed 
as they should answer to God." 

Sir William Bowes to Sir John 

"Bradley, September 2, 1600. 

" In attending his Majesty's ambassador 
to Newcastle I happened to meet with Mr. 
Preston, then on his way from his Sovereign 
to her Majesty. In renewing our acquaintance. 

126 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

I found him very willing to inform me of his 
report of the death of Gowrie and his brother, 
in the circumstances whereof sundry things 
occurring hardly probable I was careful to let 
him see that wise men with us stumbled 
thereat, and therefore I thought it wisdom in 
the k[ing] to deliver his honour to the world 
and specially to her Majesty. Albeit I am not 
ignorant that the actions of princes must 
challenge the fairest interpretation yet in deed 
truth can do no wrong, and we owe our 
greatest truths to our sovereigns. In this 
matter so precisely masked let me say to you 
what for my own part I do believe. 

"The k[ing] being ready to take horse was 
withdrawn in conversation with the m[aste]r 
of Gowrie a learned sweet and amiable young 
gentleman and one other attending ; the 
speech was about Earl Gowrie his father 
having been executed ; the k[ing] angrily said 
he was a traitor whereat the youth showed 
a grieved and expostulatory countenance 
at such-like words. The k[ing] seeing 

Nicolson — Cecil Correspondence 127 

himself alone and without weapon cried^ 
"treason, treason." The m[aste]r abashed 
much to see the k[ing] to apprehend it so 
whilst the k[ing] called to the Lords, the 
Duke, Mar and others who were attending in 
the court Ruthven put forth his hand to stay 
the k[ing] showing his countenance to those 
without, in that mood, and immediately fell 
on his knees to entreat the k[ing]. At the 
k[ing's] sound of treason from out of the lower 
chamber, Herries the physician, Ramsay his 
page and Sir Thomas Erskine came to where 
the k[ing] was, where Ramsay ran the poor 
gentleman through sitting as it is said upon 
his knees. At this moment the Earl with his 
master Stabler and some others best knowing 
the house and the ways of communication 
came first to the slaughter where finding his 
brother dead and the k[ing] retired (for they 
had persuaded him into an adjoining room) 
fighting began between the Earl and the 
other. Mr. Preston says that upon their 
announcement that the [king] was slain the 

128 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

Earl shrank from the pursuit, and one of the 
aforenamed rushing suddenly upon him, thrust 
him through and he fell down and instantly 
expired. This matter seeming to have an 
accidental beginning, to give it an honourable 
name, is pursued with odious treasons, con- 
jurations, &;c., imputed to the dead Earl, 
with the death of the m[aste]r. Knights 
were the actors and many others such as 
I know are notified to you long ere this. 
The ministers are curious to make a thanks- 
giving to God when they think more need 
of fasting in sackcloth and ashes to the 
k[ing]. There is great discontent. 

" This I must not say is categorically true, 
but sympathetically I take it so to be where- 
upon may be inferred that as the death of 
the two first may be excused by tendering 
the very show of hazard to a king, so is the 
making of religion and justice cloaks to cover 
accidental oversights a matter which both 
heaven and earth will judge. The borders 
by some accidents and the ordinary time of 

Nicolson — Cecil Correspondence 129 

the year serving to the thieves' advantage 
grow very disorderly, and the west in many 
ways are dedining from bad to worse. 
Commending my service and good affection 
to yourself, I betake you to the grace of 

George Nicolson to Sir Robert Cecil. 

"Edinburgh, October 2%, 1600. 

" Here is a whispering that a book should 
be printed in England contradicting the 
k[ing's] narrative of the Gowrie Conspiracy." 

Master of Gray to Sir Robert Cecil. 

" October 31, i6co. 

"As for Gowrie's death, it is very strange 
for the Duke (Lennox) says, he was there, 
and yet if he were on oath he could not say 
whether the deed proceeded from Gowrie or 
the king." 

130 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

Sir Roger Aston to Sir Robert Cecil. 

The following is an extract merely : the 
other portions of the letter do not affect us. 

" Berwick, November i, 1600. 
"He only has been plainest with the king 
concerning the queen and the late attempts of 
Gowrie which as yet cannot be said to have 
any further reason then his one statement 
alone, " what the queen's part was in the matter 
God knows " : the presumptions were great 
both by letters and tokens as also by her own 
behaviour after the deed was done ; all which 
was laid before the king and yet he could not 
be persuaded to take up the matter, but has 
and does seek by all means to cover her 
folly. She has now won so far into the king 
by her behaviour towards him as no man dare 
deal further on that matter. She does daily 
keep the preaching and entertains the king in 
a more kind and loving sort than ever she did 
before. She now will obey the king in what 

Nicolson — Cecil Correspondence 131 

so ever is his will. This does strike in the 
hearts of many and yet cannot amend it but 
we commit the cause to God." 

Elizabeth to James. 

September 14, 1600. 

The following is an extract from one of 
Elizabeth's characteristic letters : — 

"That where they say Gowrie had a 
thousand spirits his familiars I suppose none 
were left in hell, so many were in there and 
therefore you may joy the more, that God 
doth the better defend you, and that no 
infernal power bears any sway where a higher 
force makes defence ; whom I beseech to keep 
you under His wings, who can raise and spill, 
and I pray you to inquire of this gent[leman] 
if he heard me say this, and other things 
concerning you, and so I end to trouble you 
with my scribling." 

The way some historians treat this event 
is, to say the least, remarkable. One of our 

K 2 

132 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

latest authorities * is convinced that it was 
a conspiracy by Gowrie, and his reason is 
founded on certain letters alleged to have 
been written from Fast Castle by Logan 
of Restalrig and discovered five years after- 
wards. These letters, which we will reproduce, 
are admitted to be forgeries. We have no 
proof that Logan was even present at the 
Gowrie Conspiracy. If he had been a con- 
spirator he would undoubtedly have been 
there. And there are no letters from the 
Ruthvens compromising them ; nor, indeed, 
are there any letters from the King or any 
one on his behalf. It is of importance to 
notice how Burton puts the case. He says 
the absurdity of the King's conduct natu- 
rally staggers, on the very threshold of this 
adventure, any one to whom his character is 
new. But familiarity with his ways and 
moods will reconcile one to his conduct in 
this affair. . . . There was no hospitable pre- 
paration in the house for the reception of a 
* Hill Burton. 

The Hill Burton Narrative 133 

royal guest. The King's followers saw, or 
imagined that they had seen, an appearance 
of excitement, restlessness and anxiety in the 
deportment of the two brothers. The minute 
investigations subsequently made reveal to us 
the items of the King's dinner on that day. 
George Craigengelt, the cook, testified that he 
was told of his sudden arrival and ordered to 
cook dinner for the King. When he came 
to the kitchen " he found no appearance of 
meat for the King." His first step was to 
send out to Duncan Robertson's house where 
he got a moor-fowl. Thereafter he caused 
make ready a shoulder of mutton and a hen, 
and he went up and brought down some 
strawberries and dressed five or six dishes of 
dessert. Soon after dinner Alexander Ruthven 
beckoned the King aside. Lennox said he 
asked the Earl where the King had gone to, 
and got for answer " that his Majesty was gone 
out quietly some quiet errand." The Earl 
then, according to Lennox, called for the key 
of the garden and went into it lounging with 

134 TJie Goiurie Conspiracy 

a few of the courtiers. It was a summer day 
and just after dinner. Thomas Cranston, one 
of the Earl's domestics, came speedily into the 
garden, calling out that the King had gone 
forth by the back gate and was riding 
through the fields. On that the Earl cried 
out, " Horse, Horse," and though his domestic 
told him his horses were on the other side of 
the Tay he still continued to cry. Lennox 
passed through the quadrangle to the gate 
and asked the porter if the King had gone 
forth but was told that he had not. The 
Earl then said he would go and get certain 
intelligence, and returning he assured them 
that the King had gone out by the back gate 
and was well on his way. On this the group 
of courtiers passed out and stood apparently 
in hesitation and consultation in front of the 
gate. There they were close under the turret 
which overhung the wall from the corner of 
the north wing. Lennox said he heard a 
voice and said to Mar, "This is the King's 
voice that cries be he where he will," and so 

The Hill Burton Narrative 135 

they all looked up and saw the King furth at 
the window wanting his hat, his face very red, 
and one hand gripping his cheek and mouth, 
and the King cried : " I am murdered ; treason ! 
my Lord Mar, help, help ! " Lennox says, 
" They all ran up the stair of the gallery 
chamber where the King was to have relieved 
him ; and as they pressed up they found the 
door of the chamber fast ; and seeing a ladder 
standing beside they rushed at the door with 
the ladder, and the steps of the ladder broke, 
and some they sent for hammers ; and not- 
withstanding large forcing with hammers they 
got not entry until after the Earl of Gowrie 
and his brother were both slain ; that Robert 
Bevan passed about by the back door and 
came to the King and assured him that it was 
the Duke and the Earl of Mar who were 
striking upon the chamber door; and the 
hammer was given through the hole of the 
door of the chamber and they within broke 
the door and gave them entry. And at their 
first entry they saw Gowrie lying dead in the 

136 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

chamber ; his brother being slain and taken 
downstairs before their entry ; and at their 
first entry within that chamber where the 
King was, the deponent saw sundry halberts 
and swords striking under the door of the 
chamber and sides thereof by reason the same 
was nae closs door ; and knew none of the 
strikers save Alexander Ruthven among the 
defenders who desired to speak through the 
door and said, ' For God's sake tell me how 
my Lord of Gowrie is ? ' — to which the 
deponent answered, ' He is well,' and the said 
deponent bade Alexander to go his way, and 
that he was one fool." 

Then follows the deposition of the man in 
armour in the turret chamber — 

Ramsay said that when he drew his 
dagger (to stab Ruthven) he had to let go 
the King's hawk ; and he noticed that the 
King set his foot on the hawk's leash, and so 
kept it till Ramsay could hold it again. One 
of the King's followers said that after the 
King's cry had been heard from the turret 

The Hill Burton Narrative 137 

window " he saw James Erskine lay hands on 
the Earl of Gowrie upon the High Street, and 
immediately Sir Thomas Erskine gripped the 
Earl of Gowrie who ran away from them 
towards Glenorchy's House and drew forth his 
two swords and cried, ' I will either be at my 
own house or die by the gate.' " So he 
entered the gate, followed by about thirty 
men. One of his followers named Cranston 
said he found the Earl struggling at the gate 
with some of Tullibardine's people and that he 
relieved him from their hands. People cried 
out that his brother was slain : coming to the 
black turnpike, they found him at the foot of 
the stair. The Earl called out to his followers, 
" Up the stair." Five of them accompanied 
him up the black turnpike all with drawn 
swords. Ascending, they found at the door 
of the turret chamber, "Herries presenting 
his sword to stop the entry." Cranston said, 
" Yail thief, dare thou," and, "Thief, if thou 
be innocent of yon slaughter, come forth and 
I shall warrant thee." At the door of the 

138 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

turret chamber they were six to three within, 
who were the King, Ramsay and Erskine. 
There was some show of fighting between the 
two parties and one or two were hurt. Here 
again it was Ramsay's fortune to give the final 
and effective blow. According to Erskine's 
account, he " heard Gowrie speak some words 
at his entry but understands them not. At 
last Ramsay gave Gowrie one dead stroke, and 
then Gowrie leaned on his sword and the 
deponent saw one man hold him up whom 
he knew not." 

This, the great act of the tragedy, which 
can have lasted only a few minutes, passed 
unknown to Lennox, Mar and the others who 
had rushed up the great staircase as we have 
seen on the first exhibition of the King's face 
at the turret window. They were met by a 
strong door which no efiforts that they could 
make with hammers, axes, and a ladder used 
as a battering-ram could force. The party in 
the turret from their side heard the cries and 
the battering at the door without knowing 

The Hill Btirton Narrative 139 

whether it betokened friends or enemies : the 
former were the majority, but among them 
were Eviot, a page, and other followers of 
Ruthven. The turret party did not know the 
character of the group till one came round 
by the black turnpike and told them. To 
understand the exact position of the two 
groups it is necessary to remember that the 
turret chamber, or the " round " as it was 
termed, was a recess off a larger chamber. 
Into this larger chamber the black turnpike 
entered, but between the chamber and the 
great staircase was the door that defied its 
assailants from the outside and only gave way 
when attacked from the inside of the chamber. 

There can hardly be named a crime or act 
of violence as to which there stands on record 
so minute and full an examination as there is 
of the Gowrie Conspiracy. Every one who 
could speak to the facts was examined tvv^ice 
— by the Executive who prepared the case 
for the Crown, and the Estates who gave 
judgment on it, and both records are pre- 

140 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

served. The municipality, at the desire of the 
King, held a general Court of Enquiry among 
the whole indwellers in Perth that they might 
discover all who had anything to say about 
the event. To these enquiries there are still 
extant the evidence of 355 persons. The 
greater portion had nothing to tell. The 
scattered heap of evidence thus conjured up 
holds well together and completes a con- 
sistent story. While the Gowrie Conspiracy 
is peculiar in the closeness and clearness by 
which its external history can be traced, it is 
equally remarkable for the profound mystery 
shrouding the ultimate object of those con- 
cerned in it. There was a strong party in 
the country who leaned to the doctrine that 
Gowrie had got foul play. The theory that 
the whole was a plot of the Court to ruin the 
powerful house of Gowrie must at once, after 
a calm weighing of the evidence, be dismissed 
as beyond the range of sane conclusions.* 
James made his position more ludicrous 
* Hill Burton. 

James and the Cle?'gy 141 

and unpleasant by his desperate and hopeless 
efforts to break the obstinacy of Bruce and 
those who stood by him. Then came the 
scene. "The King asked Bruce, 'Now are 
ye yet persuaded ? Ye have heard me, ye 
have heard my ministers, ye have heard my 
counsel, ye have heard the Earl of Mar 
touching the report of this treason : whether 
are ye yet fully persuaded or not ? ' ' Surely 
Sir,' says Bruce, ' I would have further light 
before I preached it to persuade the people. 
If I were but a private subject not a pastor 
I could rest upon your Majesty's report as 
others do.' Then the King asked Balfour, 
' Are ye fully persuaded ? ' He answered, ' I 
will speak nothing to the contrary. Sir.' ' But 
are ye not persuaded ? ' says the King. ' Not 
yet. Sir,' said he. Watson answered after the 
same manner. Balcanqual said that he would 
affirm all that David Lindsay said from the 
pulpit in presence of his Majesty yesterday. 
' What said Mr. David ? ' says the King. 
'Mr. David founded himself upon your 

142 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

Majesty's report and a faithful rehearsal of it : 
and so shall we.' 'Think ye,' says the King, 
' that Mr. David doubted my report ? ' ' No, 
David was sent from the Continent.' They 
said unto him, ' Are ye not certainly persuaded 
of this treason r ' ' Yes, sir,' said he, ' I am 
persuaded in conscience of it.' ' Now,' says the 
King, ' Mr. Walter, are ye truly persuaded ? ' 
' Indeed, Sir,' said he, ' I would have further 
time and light.' The King asked John Hall, 
' Are ye fully persuaded ? ' He answered, ' I 
would have the civil trial going before. Sir, 
that I may be persuaded.' The King asked 
Peter Hewat, ' Are ye yet persuaded ? ' ' Sir,' 
says he, ' I suspect not your proclamation.' 

" In a second interview with Bruce, the King 
referred to his secretary. Sir Thomas Erskine, 
to satisfy the obdurate minister about the facts. 
^ As for Sir Thomas Erskine,' said Bruce, ' I 
trusted him in a part : but there were other 
things that I thought hard.' 'What was 
that ? ' said the King. ' That part which con- 
cerned the Master of Gowrie and your 

y antes and Bruce 143 

Majesty.' ' Doubt ye of that ? ' said the King, 
'then you could not but count me a 
murderer.' ' It followeth not, if it please you, 
Sir,' said Bruce, 'for ye might have some 
secret cause.' The King urged him to preach 
the articles which were sent to him. Bruce 
said he had given his answer already to those 
articles, and had offered to the ambassadors 
that which all men thought satisfactory far 
more than preaching. ' What is that ? ' said 
the King. 'That I will subscribe my resolu- 
tion,' said Bruce. 'Trust you it,' said 
the King. ' Yes, Sir,' said Bruce. ' If ye 
trust it, why may ye not preach it ? ' said the 
King. ' I shall tell you. Sir,' said Bruce. 
' I give it but a doubtful trust for I learn 
this out of Bernard — in doubtful things 
to give undoubted trust is temerity, and 
in undoubted things to give a doubtful 
trust is infirmity.' 'But this is undoubted,' 
said the King. ' Then bear with my infirmity,' 
said Bruce. 'But ye say it is more than 
preaching,' said the King. 'Sir, I ought to 

144 '^^^^ Gowrie Conspiracy 

preach nothing but the word of God,' said 
Bruce. 'Obedience to princes, suppose they 
are wicked, is the word of God,' said the 
King. ' I will lay a wager that there is no 
express word of King James VI. in Scripture. 
Yet, if there be a King, there there is a word 
for you also.' * 

" At a third interview with Bruce, ' Are ye 
resolved to preach ? ' said the King. ' I am 
discharged to preach the pleasures of men,' 
says Bruce : ' Place me where God placed me 
and I shall teach fruitful doctrine as God shall 
give me grace. But we have not that custom 
to be enjoined to preach, nor I dare not 
promise to keep that injunction. It lieth not 
in my hand to make a promise. I know 
not certainly what God may suffer me to 
speak. I may stand dumb. Therefore, Sir, 
leave me free, and when I shall find myself 
moved by God's Spirit and to have the 
warrant of His word I shall not fail to do it.' 
*That is plain anti-baptistry, that is cabal and 
* Burton's History of Scotland. 

y antes and Bruce 145 

treason/ said the King. ' Ye shall preach as 
the rest have done, or else I cannot be satisfied 
— ye shall go. I will not only have you 
clearing me, but my whole company,' said the 
King. ' As for your Majesty's company,' 
said Bruce, ' they have no need of my clear- 
ing, neither will they seek it. I am bound to 
your Majesty, and I will do all that lieth in 
my power.' ' Then ye must subscribe my 
innocence,' said the King. 'Your own con- 
science. Sir, can do that best,' said Bruce, ' it is 
very hard for me to do it.' ' Why is it hard ? ' 
said the King. ' Had ye a purpose to slay 
my lord ? ' said Bruce. ' As I shall answer to 
God,' said the King, ' I knew not that my 
lord was slain till I saw him in his last agony 
and was very sorry and prayed in my heart 
for the same.' ' What say ye then concerning 
Mr. Alexander ? ' said Bruce. ' I grant,' said 
the King, ' I am art and part of Mr. 
Alexander's slaughter, for it was in my own 
defence.' ' Why brought ye him not to 
justice r ' said Bruce, ' seeing ye would have 

146 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

had God before your eyes ? ' 'I had neither 
God nor the devil before my eyes, but my 
own defence,' said the King. Bruce demanded 
of the King if he had a purpose that morning 
to slay Mr. Alexander. The King answered 
upon his salvation that that morning he loved 
him as his brother. Bruce by reason of his 
oaths thought him innocent of any purpose 
that day in the morning to slay them, yet 
because he confessed he had not God nor 
justice before his eyes, but was in a mind to 
do wrong, he could not be innocent before 
God and had great cause to repent and to 
crave mercy for Christ's sake." * 

Bruce belonged to a distinguished family, 
the Bruces of Airth, and we cannot disregard 
his judgment. He was well acquainted with 
the cunning character of the King. 

This eminent historian f makes a strong 
effort to apologise for and defend the King, 
"familiarity with his ways and moods will 
reconcile us to his conduct in this affair." 

* Pitcairn, Criminal Trials. \ Hill Burton. 

Cowries Three Followers 147 

This is an impossibility. We have before us 
the false narrative drawn up and published by 
the King, and in addition to that we have 
sufficient evidence to prove the King's 
complicity in the conspiracy. There is, for 
example, the execution of Gowrie's three 
followers three weeks after the event, probably 
the only men who could have given incontest- 
able evidence of Gowrie's innocence as they 
were conversant with all his movements. 
Their evidence was vital to the case, and 
under any circumstances would have been 
impartial, because Gowrie's death would have 
enabled them to speak independently. Had 
James been an innocent man the evidence of 
these three witnesses would have been most 
important to him, and no execution would 
have taken place until the case had come 
up for trial. James not being innocent, the 
execution of these men was necessary in 
respect that they would have sworn to 
Gowrie's movements, and how he was occupied 
before the conspiracy, all of which was never 

L 2 

148 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

afterwards known. Another remarkable feature 
was the conversation between James and the 
Rev. Mr. Bruce, so fully given by Burton. 
Bruce was an eye-witness of the whole circum- 
stances, and he entertained no doubt of the 
King's guilt. It is evident that no " familiarity 
with the King's ways " can reconcile us to his 
conduct. The historian must first bring him 
out innocent, which he has failed to do. Any 
appearance of restlessness and excitement on 
the part of the Ruthvens is pure invention 
due to the imagination of the historian. The 
details of the dinner, alleged to have been 
supplied by Craigengelt, prove nothing, because 
if the King meant to kill Gowrie he could 
not expect a dinner to be ready on his 
arrival ; whereas, if Gowrie meant to kill 
the King, the dinner would in all proba- 
bility have been ready in order to facili- 
tate the execution of the plot. Assuming 
the reply of Gowrie to Lennox to be true, 
that the King "had gone up quietly some 
quiet errand," that disclosed no information 

Hill Burtons Inaccuracies 149 

because the King and Alexander Ruthven 
admittedly left the dining-room together. 
Burton really reproduces the substance of the 
King's narrative as his version of the matter, 
and on that he forms his judgment, and to 
that he adds the testimony of Lennox which 
is in favour of the King. It is not the case 
that there stands on record a minute and full 
examination of this plot. It is a one-sided 
examination that is recorded ; and though he 
says that "everyone who could speak to the 
facts was examined twice," he admits that 
" there was a strong party in the country who 
leaned to the doctrine that Gowrie had got 
foul play." Burton does not attempt to 
analyse and discuss the evidence of this 
"strong party," yet the whole case rests on 
that evidence. The Town Council were 
ordered to hold a court of inquiry, which 
they did, and of 355 persons examined 
"the greater portion had nothing to tell." 
Why so is not stated, but the fact is 
suspicious. The inhabitants were anything 

150 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

but ignorant of the conspiracy. The whole 
town turned out on the ringing of the bell 
and with rage practically mobbed the King. 
These people, according to the historian, 
"had nothing to tell." The meaning of 
that is that they knew all about it shortly 
after the event, but they refused to get them- 
selves into trouble by giving evidence against 
the King ; they, therefore, resolved to say 
nothing in the circumstances — a very wise 
policy. We quite agree with the historian 
that the conspiracy is "remarkable for the 
profound mystery shrouding the ultimate 
object of those concerned in it," but on a calm 
survey of the circumstances it is impossible to 
adopt Burton's view and dismiss from our 
minds the theory " that the whole was a plot 
of the Court to ruin the House of Gowrie." 
The historian has failed to make out a case 
that warrants the conclusion he has arrived 
at. Undoubtedly, James made his position 
" ludicrous," as the historian says, by his 
efforts "to break Bruce's obstinacy." There 

The King Uritntthfiil 151 

was something else than obstinacy in Bruce's 
case, there was " conviction " ; and James 
certainly made himself ludicrous in trying to 
remove that. The interview, however, though 
fully reproduced by Burton, does not con- 
vince him of the King's guilt, and, while 
it is an interview of great importance, and 
accurately recorded, it will convince most 
people that Bruce's questions and the King's 
responses leave an impression wholly un- 
favourable to the King. The King admitted 
he killed Ruthven, " I am art and part of 
Alexander Ruthven's slaughter, for it was in 
my own defence." We have no proof that 
the King was " on his own defence " that 
day — no proof that Ruthven ever attempted 
to strike him. 

The conversation evidently marks the 
King as untruthful and insincere. The 
attitude of Bruce does him great credit, 
particularly the independent way in which he 
addressed the King, and the firm and un- 
swerving position he maintained during the 

152 Tlie Gowrie Conspiracy 

entire interview. If there was a conspiracy at 
Perth against King James, it is necessary to 
suppose that there were several persons in the 
plot prepared to support the principal actor. 
At any rate, it is certain that the people of 
Perth did on that occasion show strong 
attachment to the Gowrie family, and by 
their behaviour expressed a clear opinion that 
the death of Gowrie and his brother was a 
cruel murder. One would have imagined 
that their resentment of the deed would have 
induced the King to keep at a distance from 
Perth and to banish all thoughts of it for 
years to come ; but before three months were 
over, after such a wonderful escape, to find 
him heaping honours and riches on that very 
city where such a horrid plot had been con- 
trived, places him on the horns of a dilemma. 
If we make Gowrie and others at Perth the 
conspirators, the King's conduct is unnatural 
and absurd. We are warranted in saying, 
says a local writer, that Gowrie and his 
brother did not conspire against the King,. 

The King U^itmthfitl 153 

as was affirmed by him, but the King con- 
spired against them and caused their hves to 
be taken from them.* 

A recent writer (Louis A. Barbe) raises a 
point of considerable importance. He says, 
and we agree with him, that it is repugnant to 
common-sense that if the Earl and his brother 
were planning either the murder or the abduc- 
tion of James they should retire to the High- 
lands, making it a matter of difficulty for their 
supposed accomplices to communicate with 
them ; they allow themselves two days, one of 
them being a Sunday, for carrying out in 
Perth the preparation necessary for the success 
of the undertaking. Gowrie and his brother 
were in Strathbraan for fifteen days and 
returned to Perth on 2nd August : Craig- 
engelt was with them. There is evidence 
that letters passed from James to Gowrie 
and Ruthven while there, but these have been 

* History of Perth. Peacock. 

154 The Gowrie Conspiracy 


Verdict of the Scottish Parliament — Examination of 
Witnesses — Mr. Andrew Lang in Blackwood — 
Tytler's Review — The Logan Letters — Barbe's 

" The Court of Parliament presided over by 
James VI. shows that John, Earl of Gowrie, 
and his brother, Alexander Ruthven, com- 
mitted the crime of treason against our 
Sovereign Lord and his authority in manner 
as contained in the summons : and therefore 
decrees and declares the name, memory and 
dignity, of John, Earl of Gowrie, and 
Alexander, his brother, to be extinguished, 
and their arms to be cancelled, so that their 
posterity shall be unable and incapable in all 
time coming to possess or enjoy any offices, 
dignities, honours, possessions, rights, titles, 
hope of succession within this nation which in 

Verdict of the Scottish Parliament 1 55 

any way pertained to John^ Earl of Gowrie, 
and Alexander, his brother, to be confiscated, 
devolved on our Sovereign Lord, and in all 
time coming to remain the property of his 
Majesty for ever. His Majesty and Estates, in 
detestation of the said horrible, unnatural and 
vile treason, attempted by the said John, Earl 
of Gowrie, and Alexander, his brother, against 
his Highness's own life, decrees and ordains 
that the bodies of the said traitors shall be 
carried on Monday next to the public cross 
of Edinburgh, and there to be hanged, drawn 
and quartered in presence of the whole 
people, and thereafter the heads, quarters and 
carcases to be affixed to the most public 
places in Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee and 
Stirling. And this I give for doom." * 

By another Act the surname of Ruthven 
was to be extinguished and abolished for ever, 
and such as were innocent were to take other 
names, and these to be inserted in the public 

* State Paper Office. 

156 Tlie Gowrie Conspiracy 

It will be noticed that this is the Scottish 
Parliament, an assembly that was entirely 
controlled by the King. The persistency 
with which Gowrie is charged as a con- 
spirator, and the extreme cruelty and brutality 
of the sentence, is an undeniable proof of 
James's unforgiving and relentless temper, 
and what is to be said if he was himself 
the conspirator ? Three centuries have passed 
away and posterity has failed to discover 
a single crime committed by Gowrie against 
the King. In the State Paper Office there 
is little to throw light on the subject, 
and we therefore conclude that the matter 
is as we have put it, and that words are 
not adequate to express disapproval of the 
King's behaviour. Had Gowrie done any- 
thing to offend his Sovereign, history would 
not have been silent, but the profound silence 
of history is significant, and appears to us to 
condemn the King as the author and prime 
mover of this conspiracy. 

The next act of the drama was the 

Examination of Witnesses 157 

examination of witnesses in order to prove 
Gowrie's guilt. Under the presidency of the 
Lord Chancellor, the Court met at Falkland 
on the 9th August, four days after Gowrie's 
death. A second Court met there on the 20th 
August, presided over by the Lord Chancellor. 
Among the witnesses examined were the Duke 
of Lennox, Earl of Mar, Andrew Henderson, 
the Abbot of InchafFray, Abbot of Lindores, 
Sir Thomas Erskine, Sir John Ramsay, John 
Graham of Orchil, John Graham of Bal- 
gowan, Andrew Roy, Bailie of Perth, George 
Hay, Prior of the Charter House, &c. These 
men were all supporters of the King, and 
it is not difficult to see what would be the 
scope of their evidence. Such a volume of 
depositions against Gowrie would no doubt be 
intended to influence the people at the time. 
It is, however, worthless in respect that it is 
not the testimony of independent men but 
of mere partizans of the King. On the 22nd 
September the Town Council also held a 
Court in order to take some precognitions. 

158 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

This Court was presided over by the Provost, 
and was to receive the testimony of the 
whole inhabitants. None of the witnesses 
were in Gowrie House, consequently they 
could only speak to the circumstances from a 
very general knowledge. Between the death of 
Gowrie and the meeting of the Town Council 
an extraordinary event happened, viz., the 
execution of Gowrie's three confidential friends, 
Sir Thomas Cranston, George Craigengelt 
and John MacDufF. This was an act of 
great significance. It was authorised by the 
King, and was undoubtedly meant to put 
out of the way those who could testify 
to Gowrie's innocence. These men emitted 
depositions before their death showing that 
they fought on the side of Gowrie but 
avoiding all mention of the King. On the 
1st November the trial of Gowrie and his 
brother took place in Edinburgh and their 
dead bodies were transmitted from Perth and 
placed at the bar. The trial appears to have 
been adjourned till the nth, and on the 15th 

Execution of Rtithven 159 

sentence as already given was pronounced. 
On the 19th the dead bodies were hanged, 
drawn and quartered, the different parts 
exhibited at Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee and 
Stirling, and after this diabolical proceeding 
the wrath of the King was supposed to be 
appeased. James would doubtless be aware 
that his relative, the Regent Moray, acted in 
precisely the same manner in respect of the 
body of Lord Huntly, and the diabolical deed 
from constitutional practice would probably to 
him be bereft of its shocking nature. Though 
we have a record of the executions of the 
time there is every probability that a large 
number of persons were executed of which no 
record whatever has been handed down to us. 
The trial of Gowrie was an act that must 
ever throw a cloud on the memory of the 
King. Lord Hailes, who also formed his 
opinion on the King's narrative, informs us * 
that by an Act of the Privy Council the 
magistrates and Town Council of Perth were 
* Annals III. 374. 

i6o The Gowrie Conspiracy 

summoned to appear before the King on the 
1 6th September, 1600, at LinHthgow, to answer 
for the contempt and indignity done to his 
Majesty. That Act makes mention of certain 
irreverent and undutiful speeches against the 
King. According to Calderwood, Alexander 
Ruthven of Freeland, cried up, " Come down, 
thou son of Signor Davie, thou hast slain an 
honester man than thyself," and George Craig- 
engelt and others cried, " Give us our Provost 
or the King's green coat shall pay for it." 

In Blackwood's Magazine for April, 1902, 
an eminent writer * contributes an article on 
the Logan Letters, being the result of his 
investigation of the Earl of Haddington's 
papers. According to him, No. 4, Logan to 
Gowrie, is genuine ; the others forgeries. With 
this we do not agree. The orthography and 
composition of all the five are very similar, 
and we think it beyond doubt that Sprot, who 
was apprehended in 1608, wrote the whole. 
That Sprot stole No. 4 from Bower cannot be 
* Mr. Andrew Lang. 

Confessions of Sprot i6i 

proved, and its non-appearance at Sprot's trial 
is not conclusive proof that it was not forged. 

If Mr. Anderson and Mr. Gunter, two very 
capable experts, consider No. 4 a forgery, we 
may accept that as final, until conclusive 
proof of the contrary can be produced, and 
until then it is unfair to convict Gowrie or 
Logan with treason." There are no circum- 
stances to fall back upon to warrant this sup- 
position. The confessions of Sprot just before 
he was executed are worthless, for this among 
other reasons, that they are unsupported by 
proof of any kind. If there was any idea of 
kidnapping James and taking him to Fast 
Castle we must have other proof than that of 
a dissolute man like Sprot. If this writer 
believes No. 4 genuine, why does he say : 
" When the act of forgery was carried to such 
a pitch of excellence by a mere drunken body 
of a country writer, what may not an Edin- 
burgh practitioner have done in the way of 
forging the letters attributed to Queen Mary." 
To which we say " yes," yet Mr. Lang accuses 


1 62 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

the Queen ! Sprot had a regular manufactory 
of sham Logan Letters and other forgeries and 
he sold them to the debtors to Logan's estate 
who used them to blackmail Lord Home and 
the other executors.* 

Probably no writer has made such an 
argumentative effort to convict Gowrie as 
Tytler has done. He begins with the execu- 
tion of his father, and makes the most of that : 
then the religious question : then his life at 
Padua, during which time James quarrelled 
with Elizabeth, and Gowrie became her 
favourite : the correspondence between Colville 
(a friend of Gowrie's father) and Cecil ; and 
between James and the Pope, involving a 
Catholic invasion of England, of which James 
was a supporter : Nicolson (Elizabeth's Envoy 
in Scotland), and his correspondence with 
Cecil on the subject : plot organised in 
England against James : Bothwell and Gowrie 
together at Paris in April, 1600. According 
to Tytler, Gowrie was ambitious and proud,, 
* Louis A. Barbe. 

Tyt/ers Criticism 163 

and when he found that his friends were 
anxious to place him at the head of the 
EngUsh faction opposed to James was it 
likely he should decline that pre-eminence ? 
He was animated by a keen desire to avenge 
his father's death : was it likely that the plot 
to seize the King's person would not present 
itself? Then there is the debate in the Estates 
Convention when James was refused money to 
provide an army to fight Elizabeth. Tytler 
says, it is probably from this moment that we 
may date the actual rise of the Gowrie con- 
spiracy, Elizabeth and James being enemies 
and Gowrie attached to Elizabeth. Gowrie 
appears to have devised a plot to decoy the 
King into his castle of Gowrie ; to separate 
him from his suite and to compel him, by 
threats of instant death, to agree to be carried 
on board a boat which should be waiting for 
the purpose. The Royal prisoner was to be 
conveyed to an impregnable fortalice (Fast 
Castle) where, if well victualled, a garrison 
of ninety men could for months have defied 

M 2 

164 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

an army. To administer the government in 
the Royal name under Gowrie and his faction 
would then be easy. Four persons were in 
the plot : Gowrie and his brother, Logan of 
Restalrig and one unknown. Tytler, without 
any authority whatever, designates Logan a 
reckless and unprincipled villain, who had 
run through a large estate in every kind of 
dissipation and excess, a mocker of religion 
and a constant follower of the notorious 
Bothwell, and drowned in debt. Both man- 
sions, Gowrie House and Fast Castle were from 
their construction and situation singularly well 
calculated for an attempt against the King. 
It is important to observe here that the 
historian has drawn on the King's narrative 
and on the forged Logan Letters for his facts 
and deductions. This being so his entire 
fabric falls to the ground. We have no proof 
that Gowrie was connected with any plot in 
England against James, and that Gowrie was 
ambitious and proud is the merest conjecture. 
Gowrie's character was the reverse of this. 

Ty tier's Criticism 165 

His receiving promotion in England had 
nothing to do with a conspiracy, and as for 
avenging his father's death, there is no indica- 
tion on Gowrie's part that he ever at any time 
contemplated such a thing. The encounter in 
the Estates Convention might very probably 
be the origin of the conspiracy as regards 
James, but not as regards Gowrie. At the 
Convention, Gowrie denounced in strong 
terms the extravagant proposal of James for 
the imposition of a heavy tax to raise money. 
This attitude would be the result of the huge 
debt resting owing by the King to Gowrie. 
The tax would have been a most iniquitous 
one, and one that few of the people could pay. 
We have no proof but the King's statement, 
that Gowrie decoyed the King into Gowrie 
House. Tytler's reference to Fast Castle and 
Gowrie administering the government there, 
and his review of Logan's character, are all 
too ludicrous for serious consideration. 

In the matter of the Logan forged Letters, 
it is important to observe that they provided 

1 66 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

for the King being assassinated at Fast Castle in 
the County of Berwick, not at Perth, and that 
correspondence is dated as late as 31st July. 
The question very naturally arises, how could 
Gowrie kill the King in Perth, when, by these 
Letters, he was to be killed at Fast Castle ? 

Then Tytler proceeds : " It is now time to 
introduce the reader to the most interesting 
part of this strange story, the letters of the 
conspirators themselves. It appears from 
these documents, which were not discovered 
until many years after the deep tragedy in 
which the conspiracy concluded, that early in 
July, 1600, Gowrie wrote Logan appointing a 
secret meeting to confer on the purpose he knew 
of. This letter is not now in existence, but it 
was brief, alluding to what had passed before 
between them and stating that Logan's absence 
in Lothian had prevented Gowrie from coming 
to see him at Fast Castle." 

Tytler has nothing to found on for these 
opinions but the Logan letters, which we 
reproduce : — 



Logan to the unknown Conspirator. 

Right Honourable Sir, — My duty with 
service remembered. Please you understand 
my Lord of Go. and some others his 
lordship's friends and well-wishers, who tender 
his lordship better preferment, are upon the 
resolution you know, for the revenge of that 
cause : and his lordship has written to me 
anent that purpose : whereto I will accord, in 
case you will stand to and bear a part : and 
before ye resolve meet me and Mr. A. R. 
(Alexander Ruthven) in the Canongate on 
Tuesday the next week : and be as wary as 
ye can. Indeed, Mr. A. R. spoke with me 
four or five days since : and I have promised 
his lordship an answer within ten days at 

As for the purpose now, Mr. A. R. and I 
have set down the course ; it will be a very 
easy clever turn, and not far by that form 
with the like stratagem whereof we had con- 
ference in Cap. h. But in case you and Mr. 

1 68 Tlie Gcwrie Conspiracy 

A. R. foregather, because he is somewhat 
causety (flighty) for God's sake be very wary 
with his reckless toys of Padua : for he told 
me one of the strangest tales of a noblem^an 
of Padua that ever I heard in my life 
resembling the like purpose. 

Always to our purpose I think it best for 
our plot that w^e meet all at my house of 
Fast Castle : for I have concluded with Mr. 
A. R. how^ I think it shall be metest to be 
conveyed quietest in a boat by sea : at which 
time upon sure advertisement I shall have the 
place very quiet and well provided. And as 
I receive your answer I will post this bearer to 
my lord. And therefore I pray you as you 
love your own Hfe, as it is not a matter of 
mowise (mummery), be circumspect in all 
things and take no fear but all shall be well. 
When you have read, send this letter back 
again with the bearer that I may see it burnt 
myself: for so is the fashion in such errands: 
and if you please write your answer on the 
back hereof, in case ye will take my w^ord 
for the credit of the bearer. And use all 
expedition, for the time would not be long 
delayed. Ye know the King's hunting will 

The Logan Lettei's 169 

be shortly : and then shall be the best time as 
Mr. A. R. has assured me that my lord has 
resolved to enterprise this matter. 

Fast Castle, 
July 18, 1600. 


Logan to Laird Bower. 

Laird Bower, — I pray you haste you fast 
to me about the errand I told you and we 
shall confer at length on all things. I have 
received a new letter from my Lord of Go. 
concerning the purpose that M. A., his 
lordship's brother, spake to me before : and I 
perceive I may have advantage of Dirleton in 
case his other matter take effect as we hope 
it shall. Always I beseech you be at one 
the morn at even : for I have assured his 
lordship's servant that I shall send you over 
the water within three days with a full resolu- 
tion of all my will anent all purposes. As I 
shall indeed recommend you and your trusti- 
ness to his lordship, ye shall find an honest 
recompense for your pains in the end. I care 
not for all the land I have in this kingdom in 

lyo The Gowrie Conspiracy 

case I get a grip at Dirleton : for I esteem it 
the pleasantest dwelling in Scotland. For 
God's cause keep all things very secret that 
my lord my brother get no knowledge of our 
purposes, for I would rather be eirdit quick 
(buried alive). 

Canongate of Edinburgh, 
July 1 8, 1600. 


Logan to the unknown Conspirator. 

Right Honourable Sir, — All my hartly 
duty with humble service remembered. Since 
I have taken in hand the enterprise with 
my Lo. of Go. your special and only best 
beloved, as we have set down the plot already, 
I will request you that ye will be very cir- 
cumspect and wise that no man get an 
advantage of us. I doubt not but ye know 
the peril to be both life, land and honour, in 
case the matter be not wisely used, and for 
my own part I shall have a special respect to 
my promise that I have made to his Lo. and 
M. A., his Lo. brother, although the scaffold 
were set up ! If I cannot win to Falkland 

The Logan Letters 171 

the first night I shall be timely in St. 
Johnstoun in the morn. Indeed I lippened 
for my Lo. himself, or else M. A., his Lo. 
brother, at my house of Fastcastle, as I wrote 
to them both. Always I repose on your ad- 
vertisement of the precise day with credit to 
the bearer : for howbeit he be but a silly, 
auld, gleid, carle, I will answer for him that 
he shall be very true. 

I pray you. Sir, read and either burn or 
send again with the bearer : for I dare hazard 
my life and all I have else in the world on his 
message. I have such proof of his constant 
truth. So commits you to Christ's holy 

Canongate of Edinburgh, 
July 27, 1600. 


Logan to Earl of Gowrie. 

My Lo., — My most humble duty, &c. 
At the receipt of your Lo. letter I am so 
comforted, especially at your Lo. purpose 
communicated to me therein that I can 
neither utter my joy, nor find myself sufH- 

172 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

ciently able to requite your Lo. with due 
thanks. Indeed, my Lord, at my being last 
in the town, M. A., your Lo. brother, imparted 
somewhat of your Lo. intention anent that 
matter unto me : and if I had not been 
busied about some turns of my own I thought 
to come over to S. Jo. and spoken with your 
Lo. Yet always, my Lo., I beseech your Lo. 
both for the safety of your honour, credit, 
and more than that, your life, my life, and 
the lives of many others, who may perhaps 
innocently smart for that turn afterwards in 
case it be revealed by any : and likewise the 
utter wrecking of our lands and houses and 
extirpating of our names : look that we be all 
as sure as your Lo. : and I myself shall be for 
my own part : and then I doubt not but 
with God's grace we shall bring our matter 
to a fine which shall bring contentment to 
us all that was wished for the revenge of 
the Maschivalent massacring of our dearest 

I doubt not but M. A., your Lo. brother, 
has informed your Lo. what course I laid 
down to bring all your Lo. associates to my 
house of Fast Castle by sea, where I should 

The Logan Letters 173 

have all materials in readiness for their safe 
receiving on land, and with my house making 
as it were but a matter of pastime in a boat 
on the sea in this fair summer tide : and 
none other strangers to haunt my house while 
we had concluded on the laying of our plot 
which is already devised by Mr. Alexander 
and me. And I would wish that your lordship 
would either come or send Mr. A. to me ; 
and thereafter I should meet your Lo. in 
Leith or quietly in Restalrig, where we should 
have preferred a fine hattit kit with sugar 
comfits and wine and thereafter confer on 
matters : and the sooner we brought our 
purpose to pass it were the better, before 
harvest. Let not M. W. R., your old 
pedagogue, ken of your coming: but rather 
would I, if I dare be so bold to entreat your 
Lo., once to come and see my own house 
where I have kept my Lo. Bo. (Bothwell) in 
his greatest extremities, say the K. and his 
Council what they would. And in case God 
grant us a happy success in this errand I 
hope both to have your Lo. and his Lo. with 
many others of your lovers and his at a good 
dinner before I die. Always I hope that the 

174 Gowrie Conspiracy 

King's buck-hunting at Falkland this year 
shall prepare some dainty cheer for us against 
that dinner the next year. Hoc jocose to 
animate your Lo. at this time : but afterwards 
we shall have better occasion to be merry. 

I protest, my Lo., before God, I wish 
nothing with a better heart nor to achieve to 
that which your Lo. would fain attain unto : 
and my continual prayer shall tend to that 
effect : and with the large spending of my 
lands, goods, yea, the hazard of my life, shall 
not affright me from that, although the 
scaffold were directly set up, before I should 
falsify my promise to your Lo. and persuade 
your Lo. thereof. I trow your Lo. has a 
proof of my constancy ere now. 

But, my Lo., whereas your Lo. desires in 
my letter that 1 crave, my Lo. my brother's 
mind anent this matter : I collaterly dissent 
from that that he should ever be a councillor 
thereto : for in good faith he will never help 
his friend nor harm his foe. Your Lo. may 
confide more in this old man, the bearer 
hereof, my man Laird Bower, nor in my 
brother : for I lippen my life and all I have 
else, in his hands : and I trow he would not 

The Logan Letters 175 

spare to ride to hell's yett to pleasure me : 
and he is not beguiled of my part to him. 
Always^ my Lo., when your Lo. has read my 
letter deliver it to the bearer again, that I 
may see it burnt with my ain een : and I 
have sent your Lo. letter to your Lo. again : 
for so is the fashion I grant : and I pray your 
Lo. rest fully persuaded of me and of all that 
I have promised : for I am resolved how be 
it I were to die the morn, I man entreat your 
Lo. to exspede Bower, and give him strait 
direction on pain of his life, that he take 
never a wink of sleep until he see me again or 
else he will utterly undo us. I have already 
sent another letter to the gentleman your Lo. 
kens, as the bearer will inform your Lo. of his 
answer and forwardness with your Lo : and I 
shall show your Lo. farther at meeting when 
and where your Lo. shall think metest. To 
which time and ever commits your Lo. to the 
protection of Almighty God. 


Jtily 29, 1600. 

Your Lo. own sworn and bound man to obey and serve 
With true and ever ready service to his utter power to 
his life's end. Restalrig. 

176 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

Prays your Lo. hold me excused for my 
unseemly letter which is not so well written 
as need were : for I durst not let any of my 
writers ken of it but took two sundry idle 
days to do it myself. I will never forget the 
good sport that M. A., your Lo. brother, 
told me of a nobleman of Padua : it comes 
so oft to my memory : and indeed it is 
d propos to this purpose we have in hand. 


Logan to the Unknown Conspirator. 

Right Honourable Sir, — My hartly 
duty remembered. Ye know I told you at 
our last meeting in the Canongate that 
M. A. R., my Lord of Gowrie's brother, had 
spoken with me anent the matter of our con- 
clusion : and for my own part I shall not be 
hindmost. And since then I got a letter 
fra his lordship's self for the same purpose : 
and upon the receipt thereof, understanding 
his lordship's frankness and forwardness in 
it, "God kens if my heart was not lifted ten 

The Logan Letters 177 

degrees. I posted this same bearer till his 
lordship to whom, you may concredit all your 
heart in that as well as I : for even it were my 
very soul I durst make him messenger thereof. 
I have sic experience of his truth in many other 
things. He is a silly, auld gleid, carle but 
wondrous honest. And as he has reported to 
me his lordship's answer, I think all matters 
shall be concluded at my house of Fast Castle : 
for I and M. A. R. concluded that you 
should come with him and his lordship, and 
any ane other man with you, being but only 
four in company intil one of the great fishing 
boats by sea to my house : where ye shall land 
as safely as on Leith-shore. And the house 
again his lordship's coming to be quiet : and 
when you are about half a mile from shore to 
gar set forth a signal. But for God's sake let 
neither any knowledge come to my lord my 
brother's ears, nor yet to M. W. R., my lord- 
ship's auld pedagogue : for my brother is 
kettle to shoe behind (not to be trusted) and 
dare not enterprise for fear : and the other 
will dissuade us from our purpose with reason 
of religion, which I can never abide. I think 
there is none of a noble heart as carries a 


178 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

stomach worth a penny but they would be 
glad to see a contented revenge of Grey SteiFs 
death. And the sooner the better, or else we 
may be marred and frustrated : and therefore 
pray his lordship be quick. And till M. A. 
remembers the sport he tells us of Padua : 
for I think with myself that the cogitation in 
that should stimulate his lordship. And for 
God's cause use all your courses cum discretione. 
Fail not, Sir, to send back again this letter, for 
M. A. learnt me that fashion that I may see 
it destroyed myself. So till your coming and 
ever commits you heartily to Christ's holy 


Jtily 31, 1600. 

The Logan Letters. 

These Letters have always formed an 
essential element in the argument of those 
who defend the King, as, were they genuine, 
they would prove that the conspiracy was 
directed against him by Gowrie and his 

The Logan Letters 179 

followers. One of the greatest champions of 
the Letters, as we have seen, is the historian 
Tytler. It never seems to have occurred to 
him that they were forgeries. This is incredible 
in a writer of his great experience, and still 
more incredible that his criticism is expressed 
with absolute certainty and destitute of the 
shadow of a doubt. What he says is 
this : These letters explain themselves : their 
import cannot be mistaken : their authen- 
ticity — since the recent discovery of the 
originals — cannot be questioned. They still 
exist (in Register House, Edinburgh), and they 
establish the reality of the conspiracy beyond 
the possibility of doubt. The first proves 
that Alexander Ruthven and Logan had set 
down this plot for the preferment of Gowrie 
and the revenge of his father's death : that the 
conspirators were to meet at Fast Castle, and 
that they had fixed the King's hunting as the 
most favourable time for the attempt. In the 
second letter to Bower we have a glance at the 
rich bribe by which Gowrie had secured the 

N 2 

i8o The Gowrie Conspiracy 

assistance of Logan — the estate of Dirleton : 
and in the third his resolution to keep his 
promise, although the scaffold were set up, 
with his expectation to have speedy intima- 
tion of the precise day when the attempt was 
to be made at St. Johnstoun. Logan's letter 
to Gowrie is still more minute. It contains 
the determination to revenge the massacre of 
their dearest friends : the intended rendezvous 
of the associates at Fast Castle : the good 
cheer and happy success which the King's 
buck-hunting was to bring them : the solemn 
injunctions to secrecy, life and lands, name and 
fame hanging on the issue : the necessity of 
destroying their letters. In Logan's last letter 
to the "unknown conspirator" we have the 
directions how the signal is to be given at sea : 
the last consultation at Fast Castle : Logan's 
exhortation to be speedy and his anticipation 
of a glorious revenge for the death of " Grey 
Steil" (the nickname of Gowrie's father). All 
this is so clearly established by the correspon- 
dence, and so completely proves the existence 

The Logan Letters i8i 

of Gowrie's plot, that he who doubts must be 
too desperate in his scepticism to be reached 
by any evidence whatever.* 

This criticism is unwarrantable, even were 
the letters genuine, because under any circum- 
stances they were open to doubt even when 
Tytler wrote. The forgeries and the ridicu- 
lous composition of them, one would think, 
are too transparent to mislead, and it is 
curious that Tytler with his critical eye did 
not discover this. Indeed the composition is 
so incoherent as to border on the imbecile, 
unless they were written, which is not im- 
probable, when Sprot was under the influence 
of liquor and palmed off on posterity, as if 
actually written by Robert Logan of Restal- 
rig. There is no letter from Gowrie — a con- 
spicuous oversight on the part of the forger. 
The one he is alleged to have written does not 
exist — a circumstance of great suspicion ; and 
Tytler in his simplicity endeavours to give 
us the contents of it, which of course is the 
* Tytler's History of Scotland. 

1 82 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

merest conjecture. As a matter of fact we do 
not believe there ever was such a letter, so that 
Ty tier's efforts to whitewash the King are 
unavailing. The opening words of the first 
letter are characteristic. "My Lord of Go." 
is a phrase that will not be found anyv^^here 
else. The " toys of Padua " are mixed up 
with Alexander Ruthven instead of his brother. 
The suggestion to meet at Fast Castle is very 
cunning and a mere trap to throw suspicion 
on Gowrie. We have no evidence that any 
meeting of the kind ever took place. The 
next sentence is an effort to incriminate the 
Ruthvens — "Be circumspect and all shall be 
well." The writer expected the conspiracy to 
succeed against the King. This letter, as well 
as the others, was to be burned or returned to 
be burned. " My Lord is to enterprise the 
matter." The suggestion of caution here is 
highly absurd. The second letter again refers 
to " My Lord of Go." and the " errand " and 
the "purpose," mean conspiracy, the forger 
being nothing if not mysterious. The point 

The Logan Letters 183 

of the letter is Logan's acquisition of Dirleton, 
one of Gowrie's estates. Logan wants a grip 
of Dirleton, " the pleasantest dwelling in 
Scotland : for God's sake keep all things 
secret." There is a dash of humour about 
this, when we consider that Logan knew 
nothing about it. In the third letter we have 
the famihar expression : " My Lo. of Go.," 
" My Lo. and M. A. his Lo. brother." The 
" unknown conspirator " is commanded to be 
very "circumspect," but the writer will keep 
his promise as regards the enterprise " though 
the scaffold be set up." The Ruthvens were 
invited to Fast Castle, but we are not told if 
they went, simply that the bearer was a " silly 
auld carle," and the writer closes by committing 
the " unknown conspirator " to " Christ's holy 
protection." Altogether this letter may be 
regarded as a huge joke. The fourth letter 
is the only one addressed to Gowrie, and, 
according to a recent writer,* is not forged. 
This writer is mistaken. The letters are all 
* Andrew Lang. 

184 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

written by one and the same hand, a fact 
which will be apparent to any one who com- 
pares critically the composition. This letter 
begins with " My Lo." and goes on to speak 
of " Your Lo.;' " Your Lo. brother," " S. Jo." 
(St. Johnstoun). Yet always "My Lo. I 
beseech your Lo.," " With God's grace we 
shall bring our matter to a fine which shall 
content them that wished the revenge of the 
' Maschivalent ' massacring of our dearest 
friends." This is a reference to Gowrie's father. 
Then there is a reference to the plot "which 
is already devised," and a meeting to take 
place at Leith or Restalrig where "a fatted 
kit and sugar comfits and wine " would be 
prepared. This was not very hke negotiating 
a gigantic conspiracy. " I have left my Lo. 
Bo." (Bothwell). "I hope both to have your 
Lo. and his Lo. with many others at a good 
dinner." In the next sentence the writer 
" wishes nothing with a better heart " than the 
conspiracy. Then we are again told that 
" nothing shall affright me from that though 

The Logan Letters 185 

the scaffold were set up." " But my Lo., 
wherever your Lo. desires that I crave my Lo." 
Laird Bower would "ride to hell's yett to 
pleasure me." That this letter was written by 
the same hand as the others is evident. The 
fifth letter is to the " unknown conspirator," 
where the conspiracy is referred to as the 
"matter of our conclusion." Bower, the 
bearer of this letter, is called a " silly auld carle 
but wondrous honest." The writer orders 
the conspirators when coming to Fast Castle to 
hoist a signal. No knowledge of this meeting 
" to come to my brother's ears nor to W. R. 
the auld pedagogue." My brother " is kettle 
to sieve behind." Then the finale, "There is 
who carries a stomach worth a penny but 
would be glad to see a contented revenge of 
Grey Steil's death." 

In connection with the Logan Letters it is 
important to notice the statement made by 
Coupar in James Logan's paper (p. 85). We 
would infer that Coupar was aware of the 
existence of these forged letters or he would 

1 86 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

not refer to the correspondence with Robert 
Logan up to 31st July. Whether Coupar 
was an accompHce with Sprot in this forgery 
is another question : all we can say is that his 
tale as reproduced by James Logan places 
him in a very compromising position. An 
intelligent modern writer* who has studied 
the subject with care and deliberation, says : 
"With regard to this Sprot, the general 
belief has hitherto been that, after his appre- 
hension, he confessed not only to his know- 
ledge of a conspiracy, in which the Ruthvens 
and one Logan of Restalrig were engaged, 
but also to the possession of a letter written 
by Restalrig, and containing important details 
as to the alleged plot ; that he subsequently 
retracted his admission ; that he again asserted 
the truth of his original statement ; and that 
his last words on the scaffold were a final 
confirmation of his former depositions con- 
cerning his knowledge of Restalrig's complicity 
with Gowrie. 

* Louis A. Barbe. 

The Logan Letters 187 

"These were recognised facts. Had they 
stood alone they might have been looked 
upon as important evidence in support of the 
charge of conspiracy against the Ruthvens. 
But here a damning circumstance arose. No 
letter was known to have been produced at 
Sprot's trial, and this glaring omission naturally 
begot further incredulity and suspicion ; so 
that, according to Calderwood, a contemporary 
writer, 'so many as did not believe before 
were never a whit the more persuaded.' It is 
true that, in the following year, when the 
mouldering bones of Restalrig, whose estate 
was well worth confiscating, were brought to 
the Bar, the Crown lawyers put in, not one 
letter, but five, in proof of his treasonable 
connection with the Earl of Gowrie. All 
the parties directly concerned being dead, 
the only evidence of genuineness was sup- 
plied by a number of witnesses, who swore 
to their belief that the five letters were 
in Logan's hand-writing. Still, the scep- 
tical remained unconvinced; and from that 

1 88 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

day to this the view that the documents 
were forged has always had strenuous 

To enable the reader to grasp the situation 
it will be necessary to give Sprot's indictment, 
which is a most elaborate and curiously con- 
structed document. 

1 89 


Sprot's Indictment and Sentence — Concluding Remarks 
and Summary of the Case. 

George Sprot, notary in Eyemouth, ye are 
indicted and accused for as much as John, 
some time Earl of Gowrie, having most cruelly, 
detestably, and treasonably, conspired in the 
month of July in the year of God, 1600, 
to murder our dear and most gracious 
sovereign the King's most excellent Majesty, 
and having imparted that devilish purpose to 
Robert Logan of Restalrig, who allowed of 
the same and most willingly and readily 
undertook to be partaker thereof, the same 
coming to your knowledge at the time and in 
manner after specified, ye most unnaturally, 
maliciously, and treasonably, concealed the 
same and was art and part thereof. In the 

I go The Gowrie Conspiracy 

said month of July, in the year of God, 1600, 
after ye had perceived and known that divers 
letters and messages had passed between the 
said Earl of Gowrie and the said Laird of 
Restalrig, ye being at the place of Fast Castle, 
ye saw and read the beginning of a letter 
written with the said Robert Logan of 
Restalrig's own hand to John Earl of Gowrie 
as follows : — 

"My Lord, — My most humble duty, &c. 
At the receipt of your lordship's letters I am 
so comforted that I can neither utter my joy 
nor find myself sufficiently able to requite 
your lordship with due thanks and persuade 
you in this matter. I shall be always careful 
for your lordship's honour as if it were my 
own cause, and I think there is no living 
Christian that would not be content to revenge 
the Machiavellian massacre of our dear 
friends — yea, it should be to venture and 
hazard life, lands, and all other things, else 
my heart can bind me to take part in that 

Sprofs Indictment 191 

matter as you shall find better proof thereof. 
But one thing would be clear that your lord- 
ship should be circumspect and be earnest 
with your brother that he be not rash in any 
speeches touching the purpose of Padua." 

And a certain time after the execution of 
the foresaid treason the said Robert Logan 
having desired Laird Bower to deliver to him 
the foresaid letter or else burn it, and Bower 
having given to you all tickets and letters 
which he then had concerning Restalrig or 
others, to send the same because he could not 
read himself, ye abstracted the above written 
letter and retained the same in your own 
hands and divers times read it condemning 
further in substance what is formally set down 
according to your words, as follows : — 

My Lord, — Ye may easily understand 
that such a purpose as your Lordship intends 
cannot be done rashly but with deliberation, 
and I think for myself it were most meet to 

192 The Goisjrie Conspiracy 

have the men your lordship spoke of ready in 
a boat or bark and address them as they were 
taking pastime upon ye in such fair summer 
time, and if your lordship could think good 
to come yourself to my house of Fast Castle 
by sea or send your lordship's brother. I 
should have the place very quiet and well 
provided after your lordship's advertisement, 
and persuade your lordship ye will be as sure 
and quiet here when we had settled our plot 
as if ye were in your own chamber, for I am 
assured we shall hear word within a few days 
from them your lordship knows of, for I am 
careful to see what ships come by. Your 
lordship knows I have kept my lord Bothwell 
quietly in this house in his great extremities, 
say the King and Council what they like. 
And I hope if all things come to pass, as I 
trust they shall, to have both your lordship 
and his lordship at a good dinner before I 
die, et hoc jocose, to animate your lordship. 
And don't doubt, my lord, but all things shall 
be well, and I am resolved whereof your 

Sprofs Indictment 193 

lordship shall not doubt of anything on my 
part, yea, to peril life, land, honor and goods, 
yea, the hazard of hell shall not restrain me 
from that yea though if the scaffold were 
already set up. The sooner the matter is 
done it will be the better, for the King's buck- 
hunting will be short, and I hope it shall 
prepare some dainty cheer for us to dine again 
the next year. I remember well, my lord, 
and I will never forget so long as I live that 
merry sport your lordship's brother told me 
of a nobleman at Padua, for I think that 
important to this purpose. My Lord, think 
nothing that I commit the secrecy hereof 
and credit to the bearer, for I dare not only 
venture my life, land, and everything I have 
in his credit, but I durst hazard my soul in 
his keeping if it were possible in earthly men, 
for I am so persuaded of his truth and 
fidelity, and I trow as your lordship may 
ask him if it be true he would ride to hell's 
gates for me. And he is not " begyht " 
of my part to him, and therefore I don't 


194 ^'^^ Cowrie Conspiracy 

know but yet will persuade your lordship to 
give him trust in this matter as to myself. 
But I pray your lordship direct him home 
with all possible haste and give straight com- 
mand that he take not one wink sleep till 
he see me again after he comes from your 
lordship. And, my Lord, as your lordship 
desires in your letter to me, either rive and 
burn, or else send back again with the bearer, 
for so is the fashion I grant. 

Which letter written every word by the 
said Robert Logan, his own hand, was sub- 
scribed by him after his accustomed manner 
with this word : 


And albeit the contents of the foresaid 
letter, you knew perfectly the truth of the 
said most treasonable conspiracy, and the said 
Robert Logan of Restalrig, his foreknowledge, 
allowance and guiltiness thereof, like as ye 
were assured thereof by his receiving of 
•diverse letters sent to Gowrie for the said 

Sprofs Iiuiictme7it 195 

purpose and by sundry conferences between 
the said James Bower, also called Laird 
Bower, in your presence and hearing con- 
cerning the said treason, as well in the said 
month of July immediately preceding the 
said treason, or at divers other times shortly 
thereafter, as likewise by the revealing thereof 
to you by the said James Bowei, also Laird 
Bower, who was upon the knowledge and 
device of the said treason, and was employed 
as ordinary messenger by the said Robert 
Logan of Restalrig, to the said Earl of 
<jowrie, in the traffic of the said damnable 
treason, whereby your knowledge concealing, 
and guiltiness of the said treason was un- 
deniable, yet for further manifestation thereof 
about Yule in the year of God, 1602, the said 
Robert Logan of Restalrig showed to you 
that Bower had told him that he had been 
somewhat rash to let you see a letter which 
came from the Earl of Gowrie to Robert 
Logan, who then urged you to tell what you 
understood by that letter. Ye answered that 

o 2 

196 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

ye took the meaning of it to be that he had 
been on the purpose and Counsel of Gowrie's 
Conspiracy. He answered you that whatever 
he had done w^as his own doing, but if ye 
would swear to him that you would not reveal 
anything to any person he should be the best 
sight (friend) that ever you saw. And in 
token of further recompense he then gave 
you ^12 in silver. Nevertheless ye perfectly 
knew the whole circumstances and progress 
of his said treason from the beginning thereof 
as well by your knowledge of the said letters 
as by your conferences with the said James 
Bower and Robert Logan : yet during all the 
days of the lifetime of the said Robert Logan 
and James Bower, who both lived until the 
year of God 1606, you knew your guiltiness 
of the treasonable conspiracy aforesaid and 
most treasonably concealed the same. And 
so ye were and are art and part of the said 
most heinous, detestable, and treasonable con- 
spiracy. And therefore ye ought and should 
incur, underlie and suffer, the sentence and 

Sprofs Indictment 197 

pain of high treason. Ye have not only by 
your depositions solemnly made and sub- 
scribed with your own hand in presence of 
many of the Lords of His Majesty's Council 
and of the Ministers of this town, of date the 
15 th and 1 6th of July last and the loth August 
confessed every point and article of the in- 
dictment : but also by divers other deposi- 
tions subscribed with your own hand ye have 
ratified the same and sworn to abide thereat 
and to seal the same with your blood, which 
you cannot deny. 

The indictment being read before the 
Court, the said George Sprot of new again 
confessed the same in every point thereof to 
be true and of verity. 

The said assize having with great deUbera- 
tion gravely considered the tenor and whole 
circumstances of the indictment and judicial 
confession thereof by the panel in presence 
of the justices and assessors, and thereafter 
in presence of the assessors themselves, they all 

198 The Gowrie Co7ispiracy 

voted upon the whole tenor of the said indict- 
ment, and being rightly and well advised, they 
with one voice by the mouth of Herbert 
Maxwell, Chancellor, found, pronounced and 
declared the said George Sprot according to 
his own confession to be fully culpable art and 
part of the said most heinous detestable and 
treasonable conspiracy as contained in the 
indictment above written and of the know- 
ledge and concealing thereof. 


The Judge ordains the said George Sprot 
to be taken to the Mercat Cross of Edinburgh, 
there to be hanged till he is dead, and there- 
after his head to be stricken from his body, 
and his body to be quartered and demeaned 
as a traitor, his head to be put on the 
Tolbooth, and his lands and possessions 
forfeited to the King as being art and part in 
the treasonable and detestable crimes specified 

Co7t elusion 199 

and in the concealing thereof : which is 
pronounced for doom.* 


In reviewing the Gowrie Conspiracy, we 
are met at the threshold with the impossibility 
of reconciling the official narrative with the 
testimony of men whose word cannot be 
called in question. 

It will be observed from the first of the 
papers we have reproduced that Alexander 
Ruthven was commanded by the King to 
attend him at Falkland on that fatal 5 th of 
August, a day that Gowrie and Ruthven had, 
it is said, appointed to go to Dirleton. The 
King evidently was not invited to Gowrie 
House, and this is an important point in the 
case ; he volunteered his visit. What took 

* From a paper in the archives of the Perth Literary 
and Antiquarian Society entitled, " Full Extract of 
Record of Justiciary trial of George Sprot, August 12,, 
1608, for art and part in the Gowrie Conspiracy." 

200 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

place on this memorable occasion before the 
dinner is not recorded. Of what took place 
during and after the dinner we have more 
than one version. The official narrative, 
w^hich unfortunately is untrustworthy, points 
out that some time after the King sat down 
to dinner Gowrie sent for Henderson, and 
told him " to go to his brother in the gallery. 
He obeyed, and was joined by Gowrie. They 
locked Henderson up in the chamber. Gowrie 
then returned to the King, but afterwards left 
him to join Lennox and his companions. 
Ruthven, the moment the King was alone, 
whispered to him that now was the time 
to go. The King asked him to take Erskine, 
but he evaded the question. Ruthven locked 
the doors as they passed out." How does 
the first of these four writers * put this ? 
^'Gowrie's domestics were bribed. The King 
after dining was to affect a necessity for 
retiring to a private apartment, and was to 
take with him one of the devoted brothers." 
* James Scott's paper, already quoted in extenso. 



The writer of the second paper * says, " When 
Gowrie had gone to the next room, the 
King said that Alexander Ruthven had sug- 
gested that now was the proper time to go 
and examine the monk." This writer adds, 
" Ruthven making the King to swear that 
in his absence he would not move nor call 
for assistance ; of his going to advise with 
the Earl, his brother, and on his return saying 
there was no help, he must die, have been 
considered as having no other support but the 
King's assertion." And the official record 
goes on to say, "Gowrie, armed with a sword 
in each hand, rushed along the gallery 
followed by seven of his servants with drawn 
swords. He had seen the bleeding body of 
his brother. He attacked Erskine and his 
three companions, who were all wounded, but 
fought with determined energy." This is 
an unsupported statement of the King, and is 
evidently a mere flourish of the pen. If 
Gowrie and his seven followers fought with 
Alexander Duff. 

202 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

determined energy and wounded Erskine and 
his three companions, we should have heard 
of such an incident from one or other of the 
many writers who have studied this subject. 
But all are silent. The King's object was to 
divert suspicion from himself and convey 
the idea that this w^as part of Gowrie's plot 
for his assassination, and to prevent any one 
contradicting this falsehood, he promptly 
executed such of Gowrie's followers as wit- 
nessed the deed. 

The question naturally arises, Why was 
the King taken to the turret chamber at all ? 
if he was taken there, as the official narrative 
states. It was no doubt part of the plot that 
he should find his way to this chamber in 
order to draw Ruthven into a compromising 
position and create the impression that he and 
not the King was the conspirator. When the 
King put his head out of the window and 
called for help, the official narrative would 
make us believe that he was at that moment 
wrestling with Ruthven between life and 



death. Nothing could be more absurd, as no 
such thing occurred. There was no reason 
for Ruthven wresthng with the King. It is 
much more probable that the King attempted 
to drag Ruthven to the window but failed. 
Ruthven and his brother were friendly with 
James, and there is nothing on record to show 
that they ever resiled or attempted to resile 
from that position. Up to the time James 
appeared at the window Gowrie, who was 
dow^nstairs, w^as unarmed. To find a sword 
he had actually to go to a neighbour and 
borrow one. Is it to be supposed that if he 
was the conspirator he would have been at so 
critical a moment in an unarmed and defence- 
less position ? Being eventually armed with 
two swords he went direct to the turret 
chamber, and his first question — most sig- 
nificant in the circumstances — was, "Where is 
the King : I come to defend him." As James 
was incapable of carrying out the plot single- 
handed, he had a staffs of accomplices, of whom 
Erskine, Ramsay and Herries were the leaders. 

204 T^^^ Cowrie Conspiracy 

and were then in the turret chamber. These 
were the men who actually killed the Ruth- 
vens under instructions, it is supposed, from 
the King. When Gowrie reached the turret 
chamber and was told the King was slain he 
stood aghast, reversing his sword, saying, 
"Wae's me, has the King been killed in my 
house ? " These were not the words of a con- 
spirator. In this attitude Ramsay, with un- 
speakable brutality, and without the slightest 
provocation, struck him down mortally with 
his dagger. 

A prominent feature, and one that cannot 
be overlooked, is the prompt disapproval of 
the King's conduct by the inhabitants of 
Perth, which showed itself on the very day 
of the commission of the crime. The high 
character of Gowrie and his brother seems to 
have been regarded by them as unassailable 
and above suspicion. But for the King's 
superior forces a riot w^ould undoubtedly have 
taken place. This fact is significant, as is also 
the fact that those who suspected Gowrie 



were in the King's service and receiving the 
King's pay. The writer of the third paper "* 
says, "The inhabitants of Perth were in 
the highest degree exasperated at the death 
of their Provost. They would not Hsten 
to the charge of treason against him, and 
had the King departed from Gowrie House 
before night the consequences would have 
been fatal." The writer of the second paper f 
speaks with no uncertain sound on this 
point : " The inhabitants of Perth were exas- 
perated beyond measure and threatened to 
kill the King and all his attendants. After 
all, the King's supporters could do nothing to 
allay the fury of the enraged multitude, they 
found it advisable to keep themselves within 
doors till daylight was gone and then slip 
away in the dark. Gowrie and his brother 
did not conspire against the King, as was 
affirmed by him, but the King conspired 
against them. Unfortunate Gowrie, thou hast 
been cruelly slaughtered." And the writer 
> ■'• James Logan. \ Alexander Duff. 

2o6 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

of the fourth paper * eloquently winds up : 
^' In what estimation can we hold a man who, 
having perpetrated a crime, the most atrocious 
within the realm of man, instantly goes as it 
were before his Maker and declares himself 
perfectly innocent. How contemptible must 
his character have appeared to those of his 
accomplices who were in the secret." 

An important statement is made by the 
first writer f that when the Royal suite was 
assembled in the street in front of Gowrie 
House to follow their master to Falkland, 
the King was to give the alarm that his 
life was in danger. His confidential servants 
were to ascend by a private staircase and kill 
the brother. They were next to kill Gowrie 
when he came armed. This is a statement 
of great importance, coming as it does from 
a writer who, probably more than any man, 
has studied and written elaborately on the 
history and antiquities of Perth, and whose 
.accuracy has never been questioned. 

William Panton. f James Scott. 



There are some notable points in the 
second paper written by Alexander Duff. 
He says Gowrie was attending a marriage 
when the King arrived^ and was so much 
concerned about a dinner for him that the 
wedding dinner was at once offered him for 
the King's use. It is impossible to verify this 
statement, but if true it is another proof of 
Gowrie's innocence. Had he been connected 
with the conspiracy, or had he even known of 
it, he was not likely to have gone to a marriage 
on the very day it was to be carried out. It 
has been suggested that the separation of the 
brothers was part of a prearranged scheme as 
.a stratagem that would more easily effect their 
assassination. The idea, if true, was ingenious, 
and does credit to the villainy of those con- 
cerned. The magnitude of this event has 
never been sufficiently recognised by the 
Scottish people, and the reason is that the 
fictitious narrative of James has misled pos- 
terity and induced them to recognise that 
the Ruthvens were the conspirators. 

2o8 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

It says much for the magistrates of 
Perth that they were unconnected with the 
plot and knew nothing of it till the alarm was 
given that Gowrie was killed. On this they 
hastened to the spot and were very much 
concerned and disheartened to find that their 
much respected Provost was no more. The 
tumult became so serious, and the impression 
prevailing that the King was implicated, raised 
the violence of the mob to such a degree, that 
it is recorded that the King had to take 
refuge for his own safety. Had the con- 
spiracy been headed by Gowrie, or had the 
King escaped from assassination, this tumult 
would not have occurred. It is significant 
that it did occur, for it is added that the 
King did not attempt to return to Falkland 
until the darkness had set in and he would be 
safe from personal violence. 

James was a one-eyed man. In his ad- 
ministration he could see nothing but his 
own aggrandisement. He was jealous, weak- 
minded, vindictive, with much of the school- 



boy element inherited from his father. He 
was all his life what one might call a " big 
boy," but he knew he was a King and he 
made every one about him obedient to his 
will or take the consequences. Gowrie was 
in every respect a greater favourite than James. 
Even at the English Court he was esteemed 
by all, including Elizabeth herself ; and as 
he gained in popularity, the breach between 
Elizabeth and James gradually became wider. 
It is reasonable to suppose that a man of the 
temperament of James, finding one of his 
subjects completely overshadowing him, would 
feel more than chagrined, he would feel 
desperate. Gowrie was entertained by Eliza- 
beth for two months and he found the English 
Court very congenial to him. When he 
arrived in Edinburgh from England (three 
months before the conspiracy) his enthusiastic 
reception by the nobility and people was quite 
extraordinary. James was an onlooker. He 
could not but see that he was relegated to a 
back seat, and that the eyes of his subjects 

2IO The Gowrie Conspiracy 

were directed to this young nobleman, be- 
lieving, no doubt, that it was only a question of 
time until he should become James's principal 
Secretary of State and ipso facto governor of 
the realm. Immediately after the conspiracy 
the relations between Elizabeth and James 
began to be less strained, Gowrie being out of 
the way. Elizabeth, who was an accomphshed 
dissembler, threw aside her interest in Gowrie, 
congratulated James because Gowrie was 
removed, having, as she said, " looo spirits 
with him, she believed there would be few left 
in hell." This speech indicates no strained 
relations. The formation of the conspiracy 
with all its secret negotiations has been 
studiously kept in the dark. That it involved 
much correspondence and much secret negotia- 
tion is beyond doubt, but all correspondence 
has evidently been carefully destroyed, for 
there is nothing in the State Paper offices, 
either for or against, that is of any value. 
The Logan Letters we may dismiss as pure 
inventions, and we have then nothing to fall 


21 I 

back upon on which to form judgment save 
the attitude of the King and his Court at and 
after the event. This brought out unmistak- 
ably the suspicions of a portion of the clergy 
— those who refused to offer up prayers for 
the King's deliverance. In taking up this 
position these men cannot be too highly com- 
mended. They knew they were hazarding not 
only their lives but their livings, while their 
determination for the discovery of truth would 
not allow them to perjure themselves by 
becoming hypocrites. They realised that the 
subject was surrounded with great delicacy on 
account of the King's connection with it, and 
they therefore abstained from entering into 
details. This would lead us to believe that 
the plot for Gowrie's death was known to a 
limited extent before it was carried out, yet 
it is beyond doubt that the magistrates of 
Perth, with the exception of Bailie Roy, a 
creature of the conspirators, knew nothing 
whatever about it. Roy was present at the 
conspiracy, was an interested looker-on, knew 

212 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

the circumstances, was examined afterwards, 
perjured himself, and on oath swore against 
Gowrie. Whether he did this for a con- 
sideration is not recorded. Another notice- 
able element in the case is the disposal of the 
King's retinue on that fatal day. Gowrie 
House, from its construction and extent, 
offered great facilities for a deed of this 
description. The retaining wall in front was 
a splendid barricade for the protection of 
those within, while the courtyard behind was 
spacious and capable of holding about 500 
men. The Earl of Mar and others placed 
themselves in front of the retaining wall and 
in front of the house so as to keep order, 
w^hile the numerous retinue in the courtyard 
kept guard there. All this was undoubtedly 
part of the scheme, as was also the false inti- 
mation, to mislead the public shortly after the 
event, that the King had gone off to Falkland. 

Great sensation was created by this unex- 
pected occurrence, and the magistrates of 
Perth, realising that public attention in Scot- 



land and at the English Court was directed 
to them, felt that their position was one of 
great anxiety and responsibility. What were 
they to do ? They were not, according to the 
laws of the realm, able to act independently 
of the King. They summoned, by the King's 
instructions, a Court for the examination of 
witnesses — bribed witnesses we may be sure. 
The result was that every man who went there 
gave testimony against Gowrie and in favour 
of the King. Nothing else could be expected. 
Evidence against the King would have meant 
the scaffold ; and such depositions as were 
taken may therefore be dismissed as worthless. 
The tactics of the King remind us of the 
murder of Darnley. On that occasion the 
Queen's ministers committed the murder, and 
immediately afterwards tried and acquitted 
Bothwell, the chief actor, and posed before 
the public as innocent persons. On this 
occasion the King's ministers, but assisted 
by the King, murdered Gowrie, and by bogus 
depositions also posed before the public as 

214 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

innocent persons. Ruthven was champion of 
the one and his grandson victim of the other. 
The Town Council, as we have said, were not 
free agents in the matter. We are, therefore, 
indebted principally to those brave and valiant 
ministers who had the moral courage to speak 
out under circumstances of great peril. There 
is another point which should not escape 
notice, viz., at the moment when Gowrie was 
struck down the King was playing with a 
hawk in the adjoining room. If anything 
were wanted to prove the guilt of the King 
this incident would compromise him. Is it 
likely that he would have been engaged at so 
critical a moment in such a frivolous occu- 
pation if he had been the victim of the 
conspiracy ? Assuming that he was the leader, 
such an occupation at that exciting moment 
was simply grotesque. 

In the whole course of Scottish history 
this deed must be regarded as one of the most 
extraordinary and mysterious of events. Its 
inspiration, its secrecy, the profound silence of 



those connected with it, and the issue of the 
so-called official narrative incriminating the 
Ruthvens, disclose an ingenious plot, though 
clumsily and unskilfully carried out. And 
not only so, for the conspiracy did not 
end with the brutal proceedings of 5 th 
August ; but the cruelty that was perpetrated 
after that date by the King's authority ; the 
quartering and exposing of the bodies of the 
two gallant young Ruthvens ; the hunting to 
death by Royal Proclamation of the remain- 
ing brothers of the family; the capture and 
imprisonment for nineteen years in the Tower 
of London of the younger brother ; and the 
prompt execution of Gowrie's three faithful 
friends who were eye-witnesses of the con- 
spiracy — all this was a tyrannical course of 
conduct on the part of the King that admits 
of no defence. 

This event is probably only surpassed in 
the history of Scotland by the murder of 
James I. in the Blackfriars' monastery. Both 
events were appalling, and in both the corrup- 

2i6 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

tion and unprincipled character of the Scottish 
nobles stands out prominently for the edifica- 
tion of posterity. Much controversy has 
centred round the Gowrie Conspiracy, arising 
from the silence of the official despatches of 
the time, and from the suspicious nature of 
what has been recorded. 

After a careful study of the whole question, 
the conclusion that we arrive at is that the so- 
called Gowrie Conspiracy was falsely recorded 
by James VI. ; that his narrative is supported 
by ex parte depositions of men evidently 
nominated by himself, but unsupported by 
the testimony of a single independent witness ; 
that the conduct of the Ruthvens, even by 
the King's own showing, proves that they 
were innocent of any intention to conspire 
against him ; that no manifestation of enmity 
was shown on the occasion by Gowrie and 
his followers, to the King, so far as can be 
discovered ; and that the King was himself 
the prime mover of the conspiracy in order 
to abolish the house of Ruthven, root and 



branch, from the realm or kingdom of 

What, then, were the causes that led up to 
this extraordinary event ? On this point the 
historical record fails us, and is conspicuovis 
by its silence. It has been said that the 
King's wrath was still unsatisfied regarding 
the Raid of Ruthven, and though he beheaded 
the first Earl of Gowrie, because of it, it was 
his intention to root out the entire family. It 
has been said again that the Oueen was too 
intimate with Alexander Ruthven, and that that 
was the reason which goaded the King to go 
the length he did. But this slander is not con- 
firmed, and without further evidence cannot 
be accepted. We therefore dismiss both these 
reasons as being invalid and insufficient. 

The cause of the conspiracy, we think, is 
outside of these altogether. A deliberate 
study of the history of the period indicates 
one reason only as the probable cause. 
The conspiracy appears to have been formed 
to carry out a tragedy in four acts, all of 

2i8 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

them of an appalling nature. The first was 
the murder of Gowrie and his companions ; 
the second the annihilation of the Ruthvens 
and the nineteen years imprisonment in the 
Tower of London ; the third the confiscation 
and seizure of the Gowrie estates ; the fourth 
the ex parte depositions for the protection of 
the murderers. 

If Gowrie, as was generally believed, was 
grandson of James IV. and Queen Margaret 
— his mother being a daughter of Queen 
Margaret, though some writers dispute this 
— he was evidently a rival of James VI. to 
the Crown of England. James was a great- 
grandson in the direct line. The writer of 
the first paper* gives the significant quo- 
tation : — 

Queen Margaret's grandson nigher in degree 
Was Cowrie's ruin and King James's plea. 

The reasons suggested by this writer for 
the conspiracy against Gowrie are : — " James's 
* James Scott. 

Conclusion 219 

antipathy to the opulent and powerful family 
of Gowrie, father and son having raised 
rebellion against his government : the battle 
of Doune in 1593 headed by young Gowrie 
against the King : Gowrie's opposition to the 
tax proposed by James." None of these 
reasons can be accepted. The rebellion of 
the father had been atoned for : there is no 
proof of the son's rebellion : the battle of 
Doune was an insignificant affair, and Gowrie, 
who was then only a boy of fifteen years 
of age, could not possibly have headed it. 
Though Gowrie was a strong opponent of 
James's unreasonable demand for a heavy 
tax, which we have already adverted to, that 
could form no adequate reason for taking 
his life. 

One reason which might induce James 
to commit a crime of such magnitude was 
his relationship to Gowrie, who, in his estima- 
tion, might be a competitor for the Crown 
of England. Looking to Gowrie's extensive 
estates, his riches and accomplishments, it 

220 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

was natural that James, who could boast 
of none of these, felt the certainty of his 
being a dangerous subject and a rival to 
his future greatness. What gives additional 
weight to this is that the female members of 
the Ruthven family were excluded from this 
tragic drama. The plot was limited to the 
brothers, as so long as a brother was alive, so 
long would James have a rival to his throne. 

Gowrie was a man of refined manners 
and with all the accomplishments that a 
sound education could bestow, while amongst 
the people he was unquestionably more 
popular than the King. We must keep 
in view these points in our review of this 
mysterious event, and consider how far they 
may be responsible for James's conduct, for it 
is evident that of all the men at his Court 
Gowrie was the only one who completely 
shadowed the King. 

Assuming that Gowrie and his brother 
were the conspirators, what object had they 
for assassinating the King? Nothing but an 


22 r 

object of the most astounding nature could 
have induced them to take such a step. A^^e 
look in vain in the national archives and 
elsewhere for any object whatever. The exe- 
cution of Gowrie's father has been persistently 
put forward by some writers as a probable 
reason ; but the father was long dead, and had 
sufficiently atoned for his crimes, so that that 
reason cannot be accepted. Did Gowrie's 
behaviour during his residence at Padua or 
after indicate any visible signs of murdering 
the King ? There is nothing recorded to 
warrant such a construction of his conduct. 
He was, on the contrary, judging from what 
we know of him, probably the very last man 
who would be associated with such a crime. 
The attainder of the Ruthvens — one of the 
most unwarrantable acts which have appeared 
on the Statute-book — ought to be repealed 
by Parliament, and the Earldom of Gowrie 
restored as a recognition on the part of the 
Crown of the unlawful treatment of which, for 
300 years, the Ruthvens have been the victims. 

222 The Gowrie Conspiracy 


Fall of the House of Ruthven and Fate of the remain- 
ing Brothers — Proclamation of the King for their 
Arrest — Patrick Ruthven in the Tower — His Mar- 
riage there — His Daughter's Marriage to Vandyke — 
The Cowell MSS.— The Gowrie Papers, by John 
Bruce, F.S.A. — Letter the Earl of Gowrie to James VI. 
— Patrick Ruthven's Petition to Cromwell — Privy 
Council Resolution releasing Ruthven — Dispersion of 
the Gowrie Estates — Genealogy of the Ruthven 

When all was over and the family of 
Ruthven^ after a long and distinguished 
career, had fallen never to rise again, the eyes 
of Europe, as may be supposed, were directed 
to the scene of this astounding event and to 
the unfortunate family who were its victims. 
Two brothers still remained, and to them the 
event was one of life or death. One would 
have supposed that the King, having accom- 
plished his purpose to his heart's content, 

Fate of the Ritt liven Family 223 

would have put his sword in its scabbard 
and discontinued further persecution of the 
family. He had had his revenge, and what 
more did he want? Not so, however. His 
conduct is simply an inexplicable mystery, 
for instead of resting satisfied with what he 
had done, he resolved to seize and imprison 
the two surviving brothers who were com- 
pleting their education, and to all intents 
and purposes meant to execute them also. 
These young men were perfectly innocent of 
having done anything to offend him. They 
were now to be hunted to the death as cruelly 
as was Prince Charlie in 1745. Freebooters, 
spies, emissaries of all descriptions were told 
off as so many watch-dogs to keep a look-out 
all over Scotland, and especially on all the 
roads leading to the borders, with powers to 
seize the youths on the first opportunity. 
The King, no doubt, believed that their 
escape in the face of these arrangements was 
impossible, but he was mistaken^ as the 
narrative will show. 

224 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

During the sixteenth century the Ruthven 
family were among the most popular of the 
Scottish nobihty, and especially so in the 
County of Perth. In proof of which from 
1529 to 1600^ a period of seventy-one years, 
the Ruthvens were Provosts of Perth for no 
less than sixty years. William, Lord Ruthven, 
who was created first Earl of Gowrie, was 
Provost of Perth for eighteen years. He was 
probably the greatest personality of the family, 
being a man of great force of character, cruel 
and unscrupulous to a degree, while his brutal 
nature is illustrated in his conduct at the 
Court of Queen Mary. The Raid of Ruth- 
ven, led by him, resulted in his execution, 
and the King's wrath for his conduct seems 
never to have subsided. Whether this had to 
do with the creation of the Gowrie Conspiracy 
is a point that cannot now be determined with 

His daughters were all married to noble- 
men, viz., the Duke of Lennox, the Earls of 
Montrose, Atholl, Airlie, Wemyss and Lou- 

Fate of the Riithven Family 225 

doun, and Sir John Home. The eldest son, 
the second Earl of Gowrie, died young, the 
second son, John Ruthven, became third Earl 
of Gowrie, and with his brother Alexander 
was killed at the Gowrie Conspiracy. That 
event, with its dreadful consequences to the 
Ruthven family, caused the remaining two 
sons, William and Patrick, to make their 
escape into England. Their arrest was im- 
mediately ordered by the King by procla- 
mation. The two young men made their 
escape to Berwick incog,^ and presented them- 
selves to Sir John Carey, the Governor. He 
gave them shelter until he heard from the 
English Queen, who allowed them to remain 
in England. For upwards of three weeks 
they lay concealed in Berwick, never stirring 
out of their chamber. The country was so 
thickly set with spies that their mother, who 
was living at Dirleton was unable to send 
them any assistance. Carey, however, gave 
them some help. 

Carey writes that he had not seen the poor 

226 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

boys, so close had they kept themselves, as 
they had never yet stirred out of their 
chamber to look abroad. Carey desired that 
for their greater safety they should seek a 
retreat farther from the Border. They were 
detained, however, in their hiding-place at 
Berwick for want of clothing and money 
for a journey. The result was well, for the 
Governor thought if they had moved they 
would have been trapped. " Such secret 
search and privy spial is there through the 
whole country for her and her sons as no 
friend either dare or can travel in their country 
but he is searched. And if I had sent them 
sooner away I should but have sent them to 
very great danger either of being killed or 
taken : for that they being very poor them- 
selves, and having neither friends nor acquaint- 
ances, could neither have told whether to have 
gone nor what to do." * 

They went from Berwick, with Elizabeth's 
consent, to Cambridge, where they remained 
* Secret Correspondence of Cecil. 

Kings Proclamation to Arrest 227 

two years. In 1602 they secretly visited 
Scotland ; but penniless, homeless, and objects 
of continuous hatred to James. They re- 
turned to England and were there when 
Elizabeth died and James ascended the throne. 
This was a great calamity to them. James 
retained his feeling of hatred, and again 
issued a proclamation for their arrest. As this 
proclamation is of great importance in its 
bearing on the guilt or innocence of James, 
we reproduce it. It is entitled the proclama- 
tion of the King for the arrest of William 
and Patrick Ruthven, dated April 27th, 1603, 
and was in the following terms : — 

Whereas the King's Majesty is informed 
that William and Patrick Ruthven, two 
brethren to the late Earl of Gowrie (a 
dangerous traitor to his person), have crept 
into this kingdom with malicious hearts 
against him, disguising themselves in secret 
places, where he is informed that they not 
only utter cankered speeches against him but 
are practising and contriving dangerous plots 

Q 2 

228 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

and desperate attempts against his Royal 
person : for effecting whereof either by them- 
selves or by such as they can persuade and 
subborn thereunto they leave no means 
untried. Be it, therefore, known to all men 
by these presents that for the speedy apprehen- 
sion of these malicious and dangerous persons, 
William Ruthven and Patrick Ruthven afore- 
said, the King's most excellent Majesty doth 
straitly command and charge all and singular. 
Sheriffs, Justices of the Peace, Mayors, Bayliffs, 
Constables, and all and every other his High- 
nesses officers, within this his realm of England, 
that they and every one of them make all 
possible diligent search and enquiry for the 
said malicious persons, William and Patrick 
Ruthven, and to use all their best endeavours 
as well within all manner of liberties as without, 
for the discovery, apprehension, and arresting 
the bodies of the said William and Patrick 
Ruthven and being apprehended and arrested 
forthwith speedily and without any delay to 
bring them or cause them to be brought. 

Kings Proclamation to Arrest 229 

under sure and safe custody, before some of 
his Majesty's most Honourable Privy Council, 
there to be proceeded with and ordered 
according as justice shall require, and herein 
not to fail as they and every one of them 
tender their duty unto his Highness and will 
answer to the contrary at their uttermost peril. 
And the King's most Excellent Majesty doth, 
moreover, straitly charge and command all 
and every searcher, customer, or other officer 
of any port within this realm and all other his 
Highness's subjects of what nature, quality 
and condition soever he or they be, to whose 
homes or company the said William and 
Patrick Ruthven or either of them shall 
resort, or to whose knowledge, notice and 
understanding it may come, where or in what 
places they, the said William and Patrick 
Ruthven, shall be or into whose hands they 
shall come, to stay, apprehend, and arrest 
them and to bring them before some of his 
Majesty's Privy Council as aforesaid. Wherein 
if any shall go about to conceal them or shall 

230 The GoTurie Conspiracy 

not reveal their abode, if it be in their power 
to do so, his Majesty doth hereby pronounce, 
that he will for ever after hold them as 
partakers and abettors of these malicious 
intentions for which they shall feel the weight 
of his heaviest indignation. And if, at any 
time, any subjects of his out of their duty 
shall discover the persons aforesaid or their 
residence, and yet shall not find themselves 
able to pursue them, his Majesty doth 
command them to call for the aid and assist- 
ance of his Highness's officers or any others 
his subjects, whom his Majesty also hereby 
straitly chargeth and commandeth to be 
aiding and assisting herein as they will answer 
to the contrary at their uttermost peril. Given 
at Burghley the 27th April, 1603, in the first 
year of our reign. 

William Ruthven made his escape, but 
Patrick was arrested under this proclamation 
and put in the Tower of London. This un- 
fortunate young man lay in the Tower for 
nineteen years, or until he was thirty-eight 

Patrick Ruthveiis Fate 2^1 

years of age. In 1616, a grant of £100 per 
annum was made to him by the authorities. 
It is supposed that at this date his brother 
WilUam was dead, as nothing more was heard 
of him, and that Patrick would now be the 
head of the Gowrie family, which would give 
him a claim for compassionate consideration 
at the hands of the King. In 1622, he was 
ordered by the King to be removed to Cam- 
bridge, and awarded a pension of ^500 per 
annum out of the Exchequer. In 1624, he 
was released absolutely but was not allowed to 
live near the Court, and he fixed his domicile 
in Somersetshire. Very little is known of him 
for at least sixteen years, when in the reign 
of Charles I., in 1640, he was resident in 
St. Martin's-in-the-Fields : and there is an 
entry of his assigning £110 per annum to 
his daughter Mary Ruthven. The document 
authorising this annuity to his daughter has 
been preserved. It appears to have been 
granted in the fifteenth year of the reign of 
Charles I. and is in the following terms : — 

232 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

" I, Patrick Ruthven, of the parish of St. 
Martin's-in-the-Fields, in the County of 
Middlesex, have made, assigned, ordained, 
constituted and appointed my living daughter, 
Mary Ruthven, spinster, my true and lawful 
attorney and assignee for me and in my 
name, but to the only proper use and behoof 
of my said attorney to ask, demand, and 
receive at the receipt of his Majesty's Ex- 
chequer, of his Highness's officers and 
ministers there for the time being yearly and 
every year during my natural life the sum of 
^120 out of my yearly pension of £^00 
payable to me out of his Majesty's Exchequer. 
And for so doing these presents together with 
the handwriting of my said daughter, shall 
unto all and every of his Majesty's officers 
and ministers be a sufficient warrant and 
discharge. In witness whereof I, Patrick 
Ruthven, have hereunto set my hand and seal 
the seven and twentieth day of February, Anno 
Domini, 1639, fifteenth year of the 

reign of our Sovereign Lord, Charles by the 

Release from the Tower 233 

grace of God, King of England, Scotland, 
France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, 

Patrick Ruthven. 

The following is the minute of the 
Privy Council, dated February 4th, 1623-4, 
releasing Ruthven : — 

Whereas His Majesty was graciously 
pleased to give orders for the enlargement of 
Patrick Ruthven from his imprisonment 
within the Tower of London and that he 
should remain confined to the University of 
Cambridge and within six miles of the same 
until the further order from his Majesty, his 
royal pleasure was this day further signified by 
Mr. Secretary Conway that the said Patrick 
Ruthven, according to his humble suit to his 
Majesty, should be released of his confinement 
on these two conditions, viz., that he should 
come no nearer to the Court than he was 
permitted by his said confinement : and that 
he should not at any time seat himself in any 

234 Gowrie Coiispiracy 

place where his Majesty should not like him 
to be resident^ whereupon the said Patrick 
Ruthven having for the present named 
Somersetshire for his residence his Majesty 
was pleased to approve thereof : and a 
memorial hereof was commanded to be 
entered in the Register of Council Causes and 
a copy of the same sent to the said Patrick 

It has been discovered that Patrick 
Ruthven married Elizabeth Woodford, widow 
of the first Lord Gerrard of Abbots Bromley, 
Staffordshire. It is supposed that this marriage 
took place a year or two after the death of 
Lord Gerrard and whilst Ruthven was still 
suffering imprisonment. In 1624 the lady 
died, leaving Ruthven a widower with two 
boys and a girl, and to add to his calamity 
the financial troubles of the Government put 
an end to his pension and consequently that 
of his daughter. His daughter Mary was 
admitted to the Royal Household in the 
service of Queen Henrietta Maria, and is said 

Mary Rtttliveu and Vandyke 235 

to have been a young lady of extraordinary 
beauty. The famous painter, Vandyke, fell in 
love with her and married her. In 1640 she 
and her husband visited his native city, 
Flanders, where she gave birth to her only 
child, a daughter named Justiniana. In the 
following year Vandyke died, to the great grief 
of his devoted young wife. It would appear 
that some years after she married Sir Richard 
Pryse, which is stated to have been an im- 
prudent marriage, and she shortly thereafter 
died. All that was left for her child, 
Justiniana, was Vandyke's finished and un- 
finished pictures, and these appear to have 
been taken possession of by lawyers and 
eventually were smuggled out of the country 
to be sold. Ruthven applied to the Lords 
of Parliament for an injunction and got 
it, but somehow in spite of that the 
pictures were taken away and Vandyke's 
child was left in poverty. Justiniana was 
born in 1641 and was married to Sir John 

236 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

The writer who gives these particulars, 
says * : — 

"The gradations of poverty and misery 
which Ruthven passed through it is now 
impossible to unravel. Probably he lived to 
look back on the long years he had passed in 
the Tower, passed in the pursuits of favourite 
studies, as the happiest portion of his life. 
When death came to him at the age of sixty- 
eight it found this inheritor and representative 
of some of the noblest blood in Scotland, 
this cousin of the King and a possible 
claimant of the throne, the tenant of a cell 
in the King's Bench. He was buried at St. 
George's, in Southwark, as Lord Ruthven, on 
the 24th May, 1652. On the 13 th March, 
1657, letters of administration were granted 
of his effects by the title of Patrick Lord 
Ruthven, late of Scotland, to his son Patrick 
Ruthven, Esquire, of whom nothing is 

And so the curtain falls, and the noble 
* John Bruce — Stepney Cowell Papers. 

Fall of the House of Rttthven 237 

house of Ruthven is numbered with the past. 
For centuries prior to the Conspiracy it had a 
remarkable career. It was a family of great 
opulence, popularity and high position in the 
realm. Like others of the great ruling 
families its members were good, bad and 
indifferent, but they were certainly not want- 
ing in that force and decision of character 
which, generation after generation, brought 
them to the front. After the Conspiracy the 
chequered career of the survivors of the family 
is very pitiable and must arouse compassion 
and sympathy from every one who peruses 
the narrative. There is no reason to doubt 
the record in Col. Cowell's collection. We 
do not know that anything could be more 
pathetic or more involved in melancholy 
interest. The story reads like fiction but 
unfortunately it is true. It is specially a 
Perthshire story, and one that for all time 
will continue to be bound up with the history 
and traditions of that historical county. 

The same writer adds : " In my town 

238 The Cowrie Conspiracy 

residence at St. George's Place^ Hyde Park 
Corner, there is in a library a small 
bookcase, the doors of which were formerly 
window shutters in an upper room of Ruthven 
Castle, near Perth. After James VI. and 
his courtiers had put to death John, the 
last Earl of Gowrie, with his brother, 
Alexander Ruthven, he attainted the blood, 
confiscated the property, and prohibited even 
the use of the name of this family. Further, 
his Majesty was graciously pleased to change 
even the name of the family abode from 
Ruthven Castle to Huntingtower. The 
shutters were presented to me by the occupier 
of the old castle as a reminiscence of the 
families of the Gowries, Ruthvens, Hally- 
burtons and Lords of Dirleton. The arms 
of the Hallyburtons who intermarried with 
the Ruthvens are on the shutters. 

"At so distant a date, and in so rude a 
state of society as that of Scotland in the 
1 6th century, it would be difficult to trace or 
attribute correct motives to the actors in this 

The Closing Scene 239 

affair. The actions themselves, as far as they 
have been permitted to come down to us, are 
no doubt historically true. The King, accom- 
panied by his followers, did of his own free 
will and accord go to Gowrie House in Perth. 
His Majesty's unprepared host and entertainer 
was put to death by the hands of the King's 
followers and at the King's instigation. A 
meUe ensued, arising either from false alarm or 
premeditated intention of some of the parties 
engaged. The result was the uprooting and 
complete destruction of a very ancient and 
historical family. The innocent as well as the 
guilty, if any such were among the Ruthvens, 
suffered alike and equally fell under the royal 
ban. These then are the facts as far as they 
have reached us, although great care was 
taken in suppressing any version of the story 
beyond the King's own ; in spite of which 
even the royal version at the time was 

" Without therefore attributing motives or 
* John Bruce. 

240 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

preconceived guilt to either party, his Majesty 
at all events thought it perfectly necessary to 
give to the public some excuse from himself 
for the slaughter of this family enacted in 
their own house when he spontaneously paid 
a visit to Gowrie. This mysterious story 
never has been satisfactorily accounted for or 
cleared up, and probably never will be. It is 
fair, therefore, to offer whatever I may know 
or believe of this vexed question, but leave 
the convictions or impressions or the motives 
of the actors to be formed by those who may 
take the trouble to read a family detail as 
connected with a historical event. It is 
unquestionably a very curious subject of dis- 
cussion, and especially so is the difficulty of 
reconciling the facts really known with any 
of the theories which have been invented to 
account for them." * 

There are comparatively few letters to be 
found of John, third Earl of Gowrie, who 
perished at the conspiracy, but the following 

* Stepney Cowell Papers, edited by John Bruce. 

Cowries Letter to James 241 

one, addressed by him to James VI., gives 
us an indication of the friendly feehngs he 
entertained to that monarch : — 

John, Earl of Gowrie, to King 
James VI., — 

" Please your Majesty, if the bestowing of 
great benefits should move the receivers 
thereof to be thankful to the givers, I have 
many and extraordinary occasions to be 
thankful to your Majesty : not only being 
favoured with the benefit of your Majesty's 
esteem at all times, but also that it hath pleased 
your Majesty to think so well of me as to 
honour me with your most loving letter, 
which signifies your Majesty's good favour 
and graciousness towards me which I esteem 
so much that I would think myself very 
happy if it should please your Majesty to 
command me in anything so that you might 
have a trial of my prompt and faithful 
obedience. Your Majesty's worth and valour 

242 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

in the particular courtesies shown to me merit 
whatever I am able to do^ and a hundred 
times more. I pray your Majesty to have me 
excused if I have taken the liberty to write 
again. Not having the pleasure of your 
Majesty's presence, I could not declare my 
willing mind better than by using the next 
alternative. In the meantime I shall rely on 
your Majesty's constant goodwill which God 
of his mercy grant that I see your Majesty 
always in such good estate, as I wish, which 
will give me the greatest satisfaction of all. 

" So craving earnestly of that Creator of 
all things to bless you with all felicity and 
satisfaction in health and with an increase 
of many prosperous days, I devoutly kiss 
your Majesty's hands, etc. 


Padua, November 24, 1595. 

A narrative of the Ruthven family after 
the Conspiracy would be incomplete without 
a copy of the remarkable petition presented. 

Patrick and Sarah Ruthvei^ 243 

as it is recorded, by " Patrick Ruthven 
and Sarah his wife," to Oliver Cromwell, 
the Protector : — 

To His Highness, Oliver, Lord Protector 
of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, 
and Ireland, the humble Petition of Patrick, 
Lord Ruthven, and Dame Sarah his wife, 
Sheweth — 

That the petitioner is nephew to John, 
Earl of Gowrie, whose life, honour, and estate 
were sacrificed to the Court pretence of a 
conspiracy, and that in pursuance of that 
oppression the petitioner's father suffered nine- 
teen years' imprisonment in the Tower of 
London till the late King was pleased to 
endow him with dBsoo per annum out of the 
Exchequer. The Parliament of Scotland of 
1 64 1 restored him to the Barony of Ruthven. 
Which pension, notwithstanding it was the 
whole provision the petitioner's father had for 
the support of his family, yet the distractions 
of these times obstructed its due payment and 
involved him in inevitable debts which cast 

R 2 

244 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

him into prison where he died, leaving the 
petitioner and another son in a very poor and 
lamentable condition. Your petitioner has 
never done anything to the prejudice of your 
Highness's interest, and there being nearly 
^5,000 due for arrears to the petitioner's 
father as by the certificate of the Auditor 
and Receiver General of the Exchequer, and 
by reason of your petitioner's extreme poverty 
he might have long since perished had he not 
been relieved by his wife who is not able 
longer to contribute. 

Your petitioners most humbly beg your 
Highness's commiseration of their 
most sad condition and that your 
Highness would be pleased if not to 
restore him to his family's former 
splendour yet to such a position as 
may not altogether misbecome the 
quality of a gentleman : honour 
with beggary being an unsupport- 
able affliction : and the petitioners as 

The Gowrie Estates 245 
in duty bound will ever pray, — 


We refer this petition to our counsel 
desiring a tender and speedy 
consideration thereof may be had. 

Oliver P. 


November 3, 1656. 

[This was Patrick Ruthven, Jun., brother of Lady 

The Gowrie Estates. 

Abstract of the Deed of Surrender, 1583, ^ 
by William, first Earl of Gowrie, in favour 
of his son. 

This deed was executed after the Raid of 
Ruthven, for which this Wm. Ruthven was 
afterwards beheaded. The object of repro- 
ducing it is to show the extent of the lands 
and estates held by the family : " William 
Earl of Gowrie, &c., surrenders the lands and 

246 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

barony of Ruthven with the tower, fortaUce, 
manor^ salmon fisheries, &c., with the advow- 
son and donation of the Chapels of Ruthven 
and Tibbermore ; the lands of Ballinbreich, 
Pitcairn, Craigengelt ; a third part of the lands 
of Airleywight ; the town and lands of Cul- 
trany ; the lands of Dengreen ; a moiety of 
the mill of Auchtergaven ; the lands of 
Moneydie, Balmblair, Craigilmy ; a third part 
of the lands and barony of Baledgarno with 
the castle and fortalice ; a third part of the 
lands and barony of Abernyte ; a third part of 
the lands and barony of Forgandenny with 
the advowson and donation of the chapel ; a 
third part of the lands of Seggie in Kinross ; 
all the lands and barony of Balerno and 
Newton ; the town and lands of Cousland in 
the sheriffdom of Edinburgh ; a third part of 
the lands and barony of Dirleton with the 
tower, fortalice, manor, &c., and the villa and 
lands of Dirleton ; a third part of the lands of 
Bolton with the mills and fisheries (salt and 
freshwater) ; a third part of the lands of 

Genealogy of the Ruthvens 247 

Hassindean and Halyburton with the donation 
of the chapel of Halyburton all within the 
sheriffdom of Berwick. These were sur- 
rendered to James VI. to be annexed and 
incorporated with one whole and free barony 
to be called the barony of Ruthven^ in favour 
of James Ruthven, his eldest son and heir 
apparent, reserving however to himself and 
Dorothy Stewart, his wife, a life interest in the 
same." This document was signed at Perth 
on the last day of February, 1583, seventeen 
years before the Gowrie Conspiracy. 

Genealogy of the Ruthven Family. 

In the twelfth century, Allan, the son of 
Walter, married Cecilia, daughter of Gilbert, 
Earl of Strathearn, with whom he got the 
lands of Cowgask. His son was Walter de 
Ruthven. This name he assumed from the 
lands of his old inheritance called Ruthven. 
In the reign of James III., Sir William 
Ruthven, son of another Sir William, presum- 

248 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

ably descended from Walter, was created Lord 
Ruthven. His first wife was Isobel, daughter 
of Lord Livingstone, by whom he had a son 
and heir who was killed at Flodden before his 
father died. Lord Ruthven had a second 
wife, Christian, daughter of Sir John Forbes 
of Pitsligo, and by her he had a son, afterwards 
Sir William Ruthven of Bandirran, and two 
daughters, one of whom married the Earl of 
Buchan and the other the Earl of Errol. 
Lord Ruthven by his first wife had a second 
son called William, second Lord Ruthven, 
who married Janet, daughter of Patrick Haly- 
burton. Lord Dirleton, and succeeded his 
father as Lord Ruthven. He was Lord Privy 
Seal, and died in 1556, leaving issue Patrick, 
his successor, and Alexander, a second son, 
who was the first of the Ruthvens of Freeland, 
afterwards created Lord Ruthven by Charles IL 
William, the second Lord Ruthven, had 
several daughters, one of whom married David, 
Lord Drummond, Earl of Perth, and his eldest 
son was Patrick, Lord Ruthven, one of the 

Dorothea Stuart 249 

murderers of Riccio^ who died in banishment 
at Alnwick for that crime (1566). He was 
married to Jean, daughter of the Earl of 
Angus, and left two sons and two daughters. 
His eldest son was William, first Earl of 
Gowrie. Gowrie married Dorothea Stuart, 
a daughter of Lord Methven by his second 
wife, Janet, daughter of the Earl of AthoU, 
which Lord Methven was first married to 
Queen Margaret, widow of James IV. She 
died in 1541. Dorothea Stuart was the 
mother of Gowrie and Alexander Ruthven of 
the conspiracy.* According to this authority. 
Queen Margaret had no child to the King 
but James V. Thereafter she married the 
Earl of Angus, to whom she bore one child, 
who afterwards was Lady Margaret Lennox, 
mother of Darnley. Afterwards Queen 
Margaret divorced Angus and married Lord 

Gowrie's mother, Dorothea Stuart, could 
not have been the Queen's daughter, for her 
* Earl of Cromartie. 

250 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

Majesty died in 1541, aged 53, whereas 
Dorothea Stuart, first and only Countess of 
Gowrie, had borne children at intervals after 
1580. A son whom Margaret bore when 
Dowager, although omitted by all our Peer- 
age critics, is expressly mentioned in Lord 
Methven's patent of creation, 1525, as 
uterine brother of the Royal donor James V., 
and by two credible and nearly contemporary 
authors. Bishops Lesley and Hume, formerly 
stated to have been slain at Pinkie in 1 547. 
The Master of Methven, as these designate 
him, must have been son of the Queen, 
because no son by Methven's second wife 
could have been old enough to appear in 
arms. Her Majesty's second son, according 
to the first Viscount Strathallan, had been born 
in 15 15 or the following year, consequently 
must at his death have been over 30 years of 
age. That he was father of the Countess of 
Gowrie is stated by Lord Strathallan. Who 
the Countess's mother was does not appear.* 

* James Scott, Ant. Lib. 



GowRiE House. 

It is difficult to convey to the reader an 
intelligible idea of the general appearance 
and beautiful proportions of this famous 
building, which was in its day considered the 
greatest ornament of the town of Perth. It 
would appear from the best reports that the 
building extended from the Water Vennel to 
Canal Street, bounded on the west by the 
Speygate and on the east by the river. The 
entrance was from South Street by an arched 
and very chaste gateway. The gable stood a 
little to the north of the gate of the County 
Prison. This wing consisted of a range of 
lofty stone buildings, the lower part being 
fire-proof and bomb-proof. The second 
storey consisted of two large State or reception 

252 The Goiorie Conspiracy 

rooms ; the upper floor divided in the same 
manner. The northern division consisted of 
buildings not so lofty, having only one flat 
above the fire-proof and another flat above 
that. In the west division was the kitchen 
and cuisine^ with a fireplace extending across 
the whole length of the house. This division, 
north of the main entrance and forming part 
of the Watergate, contained spacious public 
rooms on each flat. On the east of the 
building a terrace ran along the river the 
whole length of the property. At the end of 
this terrace was an oval tower, the interior of 
which was ornamented with drawings of the 
arms of the Scottish nobility. This tower 
was built in the angle of the eastern and 
southern walls and was called the Spy tower 
from its commanding situation and extensive 
view. The apartments of Gowrie House were 
numerous and arranged en suite so as to com- 
municate with each other. There was a 
gallery which extended along one side of the 
square and communicated by a door at the 
end with a chamber which led to a small 
circular room in the turret (where the con- 
spiracy occurred). This gallery and the other 

Cowrie House 


apartments were accessible by a broad oaken 
staircase called the " black turnpike/' but the 
turret or round room could be reached also 
by a back spiral stair, so that persons who 
entered it through the gallery might escape or 
could be conveyed away without again using 
the principal staircase. On the south, to the 
line of Canal Street, was the garden, the city 
wall forming the western and southern en- 
closure. Where the wall met the river was 
the Monks' tower. This tower was part of 
the range of buildings. The house was 
elaborately decorated with astronomical repre- 
sentations and with paintings and works of art. 
On the outside of the Spy tower was a dock or 
basin formed on the side of the bed of the 
lade that runs into the river below Canal 

During Gowrie's occupation of the house 
the locality was the fashionable part of the 
town. Several noblemen lived in the Water- 
gate and Speygate. The Earl of Atholl had 
a house on the west side of Speygate, nearly 
opposite Gowrie House : the Earl of Errol had 
one at the west end of Watergate, and adjoin- 
ing it was the Bishop of Dunkeld's house : 

254 T^^^^ Gowrie Conspiracy 

Lord Chancellor Hay lived at the south end 
of Watergate adjoining Gowrie House : Lord 
Crichton of Sanquhar in the Speygate, while 
Lord John Murray's house was in Curfew 
Street, north of the Fair Maid's house. All 
these houses, with one exception, have now 
disappeared, as also the Parliament House, 
which was situated on the north side of High 
Street. Provost Murray's house in the Water- 
gate still stands, a most substantially built 
house of curious internal construction with 
walls three feet thick. It is situated next the 
Perthshire Advertiser printing office. At the 
Gowrie Conspiracy other residents in Water- 
gate were Lady Stewart of Urrard, Murray of 
Dollerie, Provost Caw, Provost Alison, and 
Dr. Wood. 

Gowrie House was originally erected by 
Elizabeth Gray, Countess of Huntly, in 1520. 
She was a daughter of Andrew, Lord Gray, 
and was born in 1455. In 1525 she founded 
masses for her husband in Blackfriars' Monas- 
tery and died in 1526. After her death the 
house was acquired by Patrick, Lord Ruthven, 
who died in 1566 (father of the first Earl 
of Gowrie). Alexander, Earl of Huntly, and 

Gowrie House 


Lord of Badenoch, died in 1524. He was 
buried in the choir of the Church of 
the Blackfriars at Perth. He was at one 
time proprietor of the Castle of Ruthven. 
On January 24th, 1525, a charter was granted 
by Ehzabeth to the Prior and Friars of the 
Blackfriars' Monastery, giving them the Estate 
of Littleton in order that mass might be 
said daily for her own soul and that of her 
husband. The illustration we have given of 
Gowrie House will afford the reader some 
idea of its graceful architecture and fine pro- 
portions. At the Gowrie Conspiracy it was 
forfeited and became the property of the City. 
In 1746 the town of Perth presented it to the 
Duke of Cumberland in recognition of his 
services against the Jacobites at Culloden. 
The Duke afterwards sold it to the Govern- 
ment to be converted into Artillery Barracks, 
and it was so occupied till the French war of 
1789. In 1805 it was purchased from the 
Government by the City — or rather an excam- 
bion took place — the City giving them in 
exchange a site to build a depot for prisoners 
of war, viz., five acres of the MoncriefF lands 
for which the City was to pay the price fixed 

256 The Gowrie Conspiracy 

by a jury. It was afterwards sold to the 
County. A Vermel, called the Provost of 
Methven's Vermel, led to the Tay from the 
east end of South Street (but in Speygate). 
In 1580 the Town gave the Vennel to the 
Earl of Gowrie, as it lay at the south end of 
his property in Speygate, which he was to 
shut up in exchange for a new Vennel from 
the Watergate to the Tay called the Water 
Vennel. This Vennel is situated between the 
United Free West Church and Mr. Cowan s 
property in Tay Street. 

Regarding the two towers on the Gowrie 
House buildings, the Monks' tower and the 
Spey or Spy tower, the former was erected, as 
already stated, on the south-east corner of 
these buildings on the town wall facing the 
river. In this tower, when the monks were 
disorderly, they were sometimes confined in 
order to do penance. It was occasionally 
used as a powder magazine. The Spey or 
Spy Tower was a strong and stately fortress, 
the under part of which was long used as a 
prison. The Rosses of Craigie were governors 
of it. At the Reformation Robert Ross of 
Craigie delivered up the keys under protest. 

Gowrie House 257 

The tower stood near Gowrie House in line 
with the town wall, and was also one of the 
fortresses. It was here that Cardinal Beaton 
imprisoned those who were condemned to 
death for opposing Popery, and from here he 
witnessed their execution. In addition to 
these prisons there was the Tolbooth for 
common prisoners or criminals. 

Gowrie House has now disappeared and 
on its site stand the County Buildings of the 
County of Perth. 



258 The Gowrie Conspiracy 


Painted on the chimney-piece of Ruthven 
Castle are the following significant words : — 

Vera dm latitant^ sed longo temporis usii 
Euiergunt tandem qzcae latuere diu. 

Truth long lies hid, but in time's long (delayed) oppor- 

At length come to light the things that have long been 

Mercer CJironick. 


Abbot, Dr., Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, 8 1 
Airlie, Earl of, 224 
Anderson, Rev. John, 161 
Angus, Earl of, 249 
Anne, Queen of James VI., 130 
Aston, Sir Roger, 130 
Atholl, Earl of, 2, 224, 249, 253 

Balcanquil, Rev. Walter, 124, 141 
Balfour, Rev. James, 124, 1 41 
Balmerino, Lord, 91, 119 
Banished Ministers, 124 
Barbe, Louis A., 153, 186 
Beaton, Cardinal, 257 
Berwick, 225 
Bevan, Robert, 135 
Beza, Theodore, 48, 74 
Blackfriars Monastery, 215, 255 
Bothwell, Earl of, 162, 164 
Bower, Laird, 76, 179, 191 
Bowes, Sir William, 125 
Bruce, Colonel, 94 
Bruce, John, 231, 238 
Bruce, Rev. Robert, 34, 47, 124, 

141, 144 
Buchan, Earl of, 248 
Burton, Dr. Hill, 13? 

1 Calderwood, David, 50, 160, 187 
Cambridge, University of, 233 
Campbell, Sir Duncan, 29 
Carey, Sir John, 225 
Catholic Invasion, 162 
Cecil, Sir Robert, 116, 129, 130, 162 
Charles I., 1 14, 231 
Charter, James VL, to Perth, 38, 
62, 89 

Convention of Estates, Edinburgh, 

Convention of Royal Burghs, 64 
Correspondence, Nicolson and 

Cecil, 120 
Corruption of the State, 113 
Coupar, Rev. William, 52, 60, 186 
Court of Session, 118 
Cowell, Colonel Stepney, 236 
Craigengelt, George, 34, 125, 133, 

i53» 160 
Cranston, Sir John, 29 
Cranston, Thomas, 29, 134 
Crichton, Lord, 254 
Cromarty, George, Earl of, 61, 80, 

81, 249 
Cromwell, Oliver, 243, 245 
Culloden, 255 
Cumberland, Duke of, 255 



Darnley, Lord, 2, 4, 213 
Dirleton, 24, 47, 112, 183, 199 
Dirleton, Lord, 238, 248 
Donnybristle Castle, 75 
Doune, Battle of, 219 
Doune Castle, 23 
Down, Lord, Murder of, 75 
Drummond, Earl of Perth, 248 
Duff, Alexander, narrative by, 39 
Alexander Duff's verdict, 81, 82 
Conciliates the citizens, 70 
Death of Gowrie and his brother, 

Eight puncheons of wine, 70 
Examination of Cowrie's servants, 

Execution of the first Gowrie, 74 
Gowrie attending a marriage, 40 
Herries, Ramsay, and Murray 

in the closet, 44 
Indignation of the magistrates, 45 
King appoints day of thanks- 
giving, 46 
King despatches Murray to kill 

the other brother, 47 
King goes to general assembly, 75 
Meets the King, 41 
Sprot and Logan, 76 
The Coupar story, 52 
The King and retinue dine, 42 
The Perth Charter, 62 
The Turret Chamber, 44 
Value of Henderson's evidence, 

Value of Logan Letters, 80 
Duff, Rev. Alexander, 39 
Dunbar, Earl of, 76, 91 
Dundee and Perth, 65 
Dundee, Patrick, MS., 71 
Dunkeld, Bishop of, 253 

Elizabeth, Queen of England, 8, 
24, 131, 162, 163, 209, 225 

Errol, Earl of, 248, 253 

Erskine, James, 28 

Erskine, Sir Thomas, 13, 17, i8, 
28, 30, 73, 87, 112, 137, 142, 

Estates Convention, 163, 165 
Eviot, Patrick, 37 

Falkland, 4, 9, 10, 24, 157 

Fast Castle, 79, 90, 132, 161, 164, 

Flodden, 3 

Forbes, Sir John, of Pitsligo, 248 

Gallery Chamber, 27 
Galloway, Bishop of, 60 
Genealogy of Ruthven family, 

Gerrard, Lord, 233 
Gowrie Conspiracy, 4, 7, 48, 113, 
139, 216 

Gowrie, Countess of, 21, 119, 250 
Gowrie Estates, Deed of Surrender, 

Gowrie family, 23, 68, 107 

Gowrie House, 6, 22, 28, 88, 107, 
164, 165, 199, 239 

Gowrie House, description of, 25 1 

Gowrie, John, Earl of — 

Convicted of High Treason, 36 
Death of Gowrie, 18, 204 
Early Life of, 8 
Gallery of Paintings, 27 
Gowrie and Coupar, 52 
Gowrie and Theodore Beza, 48 
Gowrie locks Henderson up, 13 
His descent from Queen Mar- 
garet, 24, 250 


Gowrie, John, Earl of — continued. 
Letter to James, 241 
Meets the King at South Inch, 12 
Scene in Turret Chamber, 16, 17 
Sends Henderson to gallery, 13 

Gowrie, Master of, 142 

Gowrie, Third Earl, Letter to 
James, 240 

Gowrie, William, First Earl of, 7, 
39, 64, 74, 119 

Graham, John, of Balgowan, 95, 157 

Graham, John, of Orchil, 157 

Graham, Robert, 2 

Gray, Andrew Lord, 254 

Gray, Elizabeth, Countess of 
Huntly, 254, 255 

Gray, Master of, 129 

Haddington papers, 160 
Haddington, Viscount, 88 
Hailes, Lord, 159 
Hall, Rev. John, 124 
Hallyburton family, 238 
Hallyburton, Patrick, 248 
Hay, George, Prior of Charterhouse, 

Hay, Lord Chancellor, 157, 254 
Henderson, Andrew, 13, 15, 16, 29, 

72, 87, 157 
Henrietta Maria, Queen, 234 
Hepburn, James, Earl of Bothwell, 


Herries, Sir Hugh, 18, 30, 48, 51, 

Hewat, Peter, 142 
Home, Lord, 162 
Home, Sir John, 225 
Hume, Bishop, 250 
Hume of Godscroft, 21 
Huntingtower, 38, 49, 113 

Huntly, Countess of, 254, 255 
Huntly, Marquis of, 75, 159 

InchafFray, Abbot of, 157 

James I., 215 
James IV., 218 
James V., 21 
James VI. 

Accompanies Ruthven to Turret, 

Admits killing Ruthven, 151 
Arrest of Patrick Ruthven, 230 
Court of Enquiry, 140 
Dines at Gowrie House, 12 
Evidence against him, 115 
Gives Thanks for Deliverance, 18 
Grants a Charter to Perth, 38 
His relentless character, 1 14 
James and the Pope, 162 
King and the clergy, 141 
Letter from Elizabeth, 131 
Letter from John, Earl of Gow- 
rie, 241 

Made Burgess and Provost, 38, 70 
Nicolson verdict, 118 
Pecuniary obligations to Gowrie, 

Proclamation to arrest the Ruth- 

vens, 227 
Relations between James and 

Gowrie, 8 
Removes Gowrie supporters, 114 
Scene in the Turret Chamber, 


Second interview with Bruce, 142 
The King's Escort to Perth, 12 
The Official Narrative by James, 

Third interview with Bruce, 144 



James, G. P. R., 98 
Justiniana, daughter of Vandyke, 

Kennedy, formerly servant to 

Gowrie, 47 
King's hawk, 136 

Lennox, Duke of, 5, 13, 17, 26, 27, 

28, 73> I33> 134, 138. 157, 

Lennox, Lady Margaret, 24S 
Lesley, Bishop, 21, 250 
Lindores, Abbot of, 1 57 
Lindsay, David, 141 
Lindsay of the Byres, 7 
Linlithgow, 160 
Livingstone, Lord, 248 
Loch Leven, 7 

Logan, James, Paper on the Con- 
spiracy, 83 
Bruce's Banishment, 90 
Ramsay, Herries and Erskine, 87 
Restalrig Vault opened, 91 
So-called Evidence against Gow- 
rie, 85 

The Charter of Confirmation, 89 
The Inhabitants of Perth, 88 
The Logan Letters, 90 
• Value of Henderson's Evidence, 

Value of the King's Narrative, 

Logan Letters, 167 

Logan, Robert, of Restalrig, 76, 79, 

84, 132, 164, 181 
Lords of Articles, 36 
Lords of Council and Session, 64, 


Loudoun, Earl of, 224 

MacDuff, Donald, 34 
MacDuff, John, 158 
Macgregor, D., 114 
Magistrates of Perth, 45, 211 
Mar, Earl of, 17, 27, 28, 135, 138, 

Margaret, Queen of James IV., 20, 

24, 218, 249 
Mary, Queen of Scots, 6, 161, 


Melrose Abbey, 112 
I Mercat Cross, Edinburgh, 198 

Mercer Manuscript, 70 

Methven, Lord, 21, 249 

Methven, Master of, 21, 250 

Methven, Provost of, 256 

Moncrieff, Hugh, 37 

Monks' Tower, 253 

Montrose, Earl of, 224 

Moray, Countess of, 75 

Moray, Earl of, 75 
I Moray, Regent, 75 

Moyes, David, King's Servant, 95 

Murray, Lord John, 254 

Murray of Tullibardine, 1 12 

Murray, Sir David, 48, 87 

Murray, Sir Mungo, 1 12 

! Muses Threnodie, 71 


j Narrative, Official, of James VI., 


I Nicolson, Robert, Elizabeth's En- 
voy, 116, 118, 119, 120, 123, 
129, 162 

Notes on the Plans, 100, loi, 

Overbury, Sir Thomas, 76, 108 


j Padua, 8, 23, no, 162, 182 



Panton, William, Paper on the 
Conspiracy, 92 
Discrepancy of the Reports, 95 
King's Hypocrisy, 94 
King's Narrative Impeached, 92 
Privy Council and King's Narra- 
tive, 95 
The King's Character, 96 
The King the Conspirator, 96 
Who Killed Ruthven, 93 
Younger's Murder, 94 

Parliament House, Perth, 254 

Pendergast, Sir John, 235 

Pennant, Thomas, 49 

Perth, 3, 6, 24, 38, 57, 64 

Perth, King James VI. Hospital, 
60, 66 

Perth Literary and Antiquarian 
Society, 9, 19, 199 

Perth Town Council, 9, no, 149, 
157, 211, 214 

Petition, Patrick and Sarah Ruth- 
ven, 243 

Pinkie, 3, 21 

Pitcairn Criminal Trials, 146 
Plan, Notes on the, lOO, loi, 102 
Plan of Gowrie House, 100 
Preston. 125, 127 
Privy Council, 65, 95, 233 
Proclamation, Ruthven's Arrest, 

Pryse, Sir Richard, 235 

Raid of Ruthven, 8, in, 217, 224 
Raleigh, Sir Walter, 76, 108 
Ramsay, Sir John, 17, 18, 28, 30, 

48, 87, 112, 136, 157 
Receiver-General of Exchequer, 244 
Register House, Edinburgh, 179 
Release of Patrick Ruthven, 233 

Review of the Situation, 103 
Rhynd, William, 53 
Riccio, David, 2, 7 
Robertson, Duncan, 133 
Rosses of Craigie, 256 
Roy, Andrew, Bailie of Perth, 157, 

Ruthven, Alexander, of Freeland, 
37, 160, 248 
Alexander Ruthven, Master of 

Gowrie, 142 
At Falkland, 4, 10 
Convicted of high treason, 36 
Death of Ruthven, 18 
Despatches Henderson, I2 
Interview with James, 1 1 
Scene in the Turret Chamber, 14 
Stabbed by Ramsay, 17 
Takes King to Turret Chamber, 14 
Ruthven, Andrew, 17 
Ruthven, Beatrix, 51 
Ruthven Castle, 38, 48, 238, 258 
Ruthven family, 6, 220, 222, 249 
Ruthven, Henry, of Freeland, 37 
Ruthven, James, 247 
Ruthven, John, 225 
Ruthven, last Lord, 236 
Ruthven, Mary, 231, 232, 234 
Ruthven, Patrick, 231, 235 
Ruthven, Patrick and Sarah, Peti- 
tion, 243 
Ruthven, Patrick, Lord, 6 
Ruthven, Patrick, marriage of, 234 
Ruthven, Patrick, release from 

Tower, 233 
Ruthven, Sir William, of Bardirran, 

Ruthven, William and Patrick, 47, 

224, 226, 227 
Ruthven, William, Lord, 2, 7, 224 



Scone, Lord, 50 

Scott, James, Paper on the Con- 
spiracy, 20 
Alexander Ruthven's death, 31 
Attitude of the Clergy, 35 
Charter and the Provostship of 

Perth, 38 
Cries from Turret for help, 27 
Dines at Gowrie House, 25 
Execution of Gowrie's followers, 

Gowrie and Ruthven hanged, 37 
Gowrie charged with treason, 28 
Gowrie enters Turret Chamber, 

Gowrie's trial, 36 

King's conduct nefarious, 24 

Orders Ruthven's presence at 

Falkland, 24 
Proclamation issued, 33 
Stabbed by Ramsay, 30 
Scottish Parliament, 36, 154, 156 
Secret Correspondence of Cecil, 

Sol way Moss, 3 

Somerset, Earl and Countess of, 

75, 108 
South Inch, Perth, 17, 25 
Spottiswood, Archbishop, 59, 81 
Spottiswoode, John, 52 
Sprot, George Eyemouth, 76, 79, 

91, 161 
Sprot's Indictment, 189 

His sentence, 198 
Spy or Spey Tower, 256 

St. Andrew's, Archbishop of, 52 
St. Johnstoun, 10, 180 
Stanhope, Sir John, 125 
State Paper Office, 155, 210 
Stepney Cowell Papers, 236, 240 
Stewart, Lady, of Urrard, 254 
Stormont, Viscount, 113 
Strathallan, Viscount, 21, 250 
Strathbraan and Trochrie, 112, 153 
Strathearn, Gilbert, Earl of, 247 
Stuart, Dorothea, 5, 20, 249 
Synod of Stirling, 58 '^2 ^ 

Tolbooth of Edinburgh, 37 
Tower of London, iii, 233 
Trial of Gowrie, 158 
Tullibardine, Earl of, 88, 112 
Turret Chamber, 13, 14, 202, 204 
Tytler, Patrick Eraser, 162, 165, 
166, 181, 182 

University of Padua, 23 
University of Cambridge, 233 

Vandyke, 235 

Verdict of the Scottish Parliament, 

Watson, Rev. William, 124, 141 
Wemyss, Earl of, 224 
Wilson, George, 28, 30 
Woodford, Elizabeth, Lady Ger 
rard, 234 

Younger, Gowrie's servant, 46, 94 



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