William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie

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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]

Early life[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]

Raid of Ruthven[edit]

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 Scotland, whose third husband was James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell.[3]


William was detained and beheaded for high treason, all his honors were forfeited. He was executed in May 1584. 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 twice: first to Dorothea Stewart, the oldest daughter of Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven; and later to Janet Stewart, daughter of John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Atholl.[citation needed]

William and Dorothea had ten daughters and four sons including James Ruthven, 2nd Earl of Gowrie and John Ruthven, 3rd Earl of Gowrie.[citation needed]


  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, (1942), 236–7, Robert Bowes to Francis Cunningham, 8 November 1582.
  4. ^ Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vol. iv, p.422.


External links[edit]

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