Tag Archives: James Hepburn

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

On this day in 1568 – Mary Queen of Scots escaped Lochleven Castle

Mary Queen of Scots has always had a controversial reign, she ruled Scotland from when she was six days old after the death of King James V of Scotland. She spent most of her childhood in France in preparation for her marriage to Francis II of France. Scotland was ruled through a regency until Mary returned to the country in 1561.

Mary remarried four years after her return to her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley with whom she had a son, the future King James VI of Scotland. Her husband was found murdered and suspicion fell on James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. Bothwell was acquitted of the charge and the following month married Mary.

The nobles of the country were unhappy with this alliance and they soon rose up. On 15th June 1556 Mary was escorted from Carberry Hill to the Palace of Holyroodhouse where she was allowed to gather her belongings before being taken to Lochleven Castle and placed under house arrest.

Lochleven was a castle that was situated on a small island, which was only reachable by boat. Mary was housed on the third floor in the Glassin Tower and placed under the custody of Sir William Douglas. However, despite being under arrest Mary was free to walk in the courtyard, pray in her room and have her servants with her.

On 24th July 1567 Lord Ruthven and Lord Lindsey arrived at the castle and approached Mary with an ultimatum to abdicate her throne or die. By abdicating she would place her son on the throne, despite the fact he was only just over a year old. Mary signed the Deed of Abdication and James was crowned King just five days later at Stirling.

Meanwhile Parliament declared that Mary’s second husband, Bothwell, had murdered her first husband, Lord Darnley, and that she was an accomplice to the murder.

There were still many Scots that were loyal to Mary who would see her back on the throne. Many plots were rumoured to free the former Queen. However, on 2nd May 1568 a rescue attempt was made and was successful. Willie Douglas, a young relative of her custodian, had arranged a May Day masque at the Castle for the Queen and had managed to steal the keys to the part of the castle that held the Queen. During the celebrations Mary was smuggled out of the castle, dressed as a servant. She was placed in a boat and rowed away from the castle where she was greeted by George Douglas and Lord Seton.

Mary escaping Lochleven