Tag Archives: Bessie Crawford

On this day in 1567 – James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell and Jean Gordon were divorce

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell was born in 1534 and was the son of Scottish nobility Patrick Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell and his wife Agnes.

In 1559 Bothwell was travelling around Europe and found himself in Copenhagen where he met and fell in love with Anna Tronds, the daughter of Kristoffer Trondson, a Norwegian admiral serving in the Danish court. The couple were engaged and they left Copenhagen with Bothwell being given a dowry for Anna of 40,000 Talar. Bothwell ran into financial difficulties in Flanders and asked his betrothed to sell her possessions and ask her family for money to help him; Bothwell left Anna behind in Flanders and returned to Scotland.

Upon his return to Scotland at the request of Mary Queen of Scots, Bothwell was married to Jean Gordon, in a Protestant ceremony, despite Jean being Catholic. Queen Mary was in favour of the marriage and gifted Jean a cloth of silver and white taffeta for her wedding gown.

Lady Jean was rumoured to be seriously ill and in February 1567 her death had been prematurely announced. In fact later in the year on 3rd May 1567 she began divorce proceedings against Bothwell. It was alleged that Bothwell had committed adultery with one of her maids, Bessie Crawford, with the incidents taking place at Haddington Abbey and Crichton Castle.

On 7th May the marriage of Bothwell and Jean was formally annulled by the Consistorial Court of St Andrew. The annulment was presided over by Archbishop Hamilton, who was, like Jean, a Catholic. It was granted as it was agreed a dispensation was not received. In fact a dispensation had been given by Archbishop Hamilton himself.

Just eight days after the divorce had been granted Bothwell married Mary Queen of Scots.

James Hepburn Jean Gordon