William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie, 4th Lord of Ruthven (c. 1541 – May 1584) was a Scottish peer known for devising the Raid of Ruthven.

Life and career[edit]

William Ruthven was born in 1541 in Ruthven Castle, Perthshire, Scotland, the son of Patrick Ruthven, 3rd Lord Ruthven.[1] On 23 August 1581, he was named Earl of Gowrie by James VI of Scotland.[2]

In 1582 Ruthven devised and undertook the Raid of Ruthven - a plot to seize the fifteen-year-old James VI during the king's visit to his home at Hunting-tower Castle. Ruthven was the last-known custodian of the silver casket that contained the Casket Letters; letters said to have been written by Mary, Queen of Scots, implicating her in the murder of her husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.[3]

In May 1584 Ruthven was detained, tried, and beheaded at Stirling Castle because of his leading involvement in the Raid of Ruthven and all of his honors were forfeited. Following his execution, his lands were divided among the king's favourites.[1] A letter produced in the posthumous trial of Robert Logan of Restalrig in 1609 referred to William as Greysteil, a character in a popular poem of his time noted for his strength and sinister powers.[4]

Marriage and children[edit]

William Ruthven was married to Dorothea Stewart, the oldest daughter of Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven and Janet Stewart, daughter of John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Atholl. William and Dorothea had at least 14 children, ten daughters and four sons including:[5]

John and Alexander were killed on 5 August 1600 as the main characters in The Gowrie Conspiracy, a failed attempt to kidnap or murder James VI.


  1. ^ a b "William Ruthven (c.1541 - 1584)". geni.com. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  2. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1385082/Ruthven-family
  3. ^ Bowes Correspondence(Surtees Society, 1842), pp. 236–7, Robert Bowes to Francis Cunningham, 8 November 1582.
  4. ^ Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vol. iv, p.422.
  5. ^ Paul, James Balfour (1904). The Scots peerage; founded on Wood's edition of Sir Robert Douglas's peerage of Scotland; containing an historical and genealogical account of the nobility of that kingdom. Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center. Edinburgh : D. Douglas.
  6. ^ Davies, J.D. (2010). Blood of Kings. England: Ian Allan Publishing. p. 76. ISBN 9780711035263.
  7. ^ Scotland, National Archives of. "NAS Catalogue - catalogue record". catalogue.nrscotland.gov.uk. Retrieved 8 November 2018.


External links[edit]

Peerage of Scotland
New creation Earl of Gowrie
Succeeded by
James Ruthven
Preceded by
Patrick Ruthven
Lord Ruthven