1562 – 1563: From One Imprisonment to Another


Mary and Bothwell

Despite the best efforts of his great-uncle Patrick, Bothwell was imprisoned in Edinburgh for four months. Lord James took advantage of his absence to journey to Hawick, where he arrested fifty three men loyal to Bothwell, drowning or otherwise executing them all. He also induced the dim-witted Queen to destroy her Catholic supporter, the Earl of Huntly, who met a mysteriously spooky death on the field of Corrichie.

Whilst the Queen was away in the Highlands, Bothwell managed to get a message to her. She replied that she was aware that his imprisonment was unjust, but there was nothing she could do (she was only the Queen, after all), and that he ‘should do the best he could’. Bothwell took this as an approval of his escape plans, and went on to swing out of his window and climb down the face of the Castle rock.

He headed for his mother’s house and stayed at his own castle at Crighton for a week, deducing that no-one would be eager to renew an illegal imprisonment. He was once again in financial crisis and had to mortgage his properties. Once this was done, he headed for Hermitage Castle, which could hold more than six hundred men within its walls (although it had no facilities for overnight guests of the fairer sex, as we shall see later).

Whilst here, John Gordon came to appeal for his help in the fight between the Gordons and the crown, but Bothwell was having none of it. Despite his frequent alliances with Huntly, he didn’t want to be part of the rebellion against Mary. He wrote to the Queen and Lord James, submitting himself to her service.

These letters met with a cool reception and Bothwell moved to Leith, preparing to flee to the continent should the need arise.

By this time Mary had returned to Holyrood, but (surprise, surprise) she was in bed with flu. This left Lord James free to issue an order that Bothwell return to prison or be charged with treason. So by the end of December 1562, Bothwell was off to France.

And then the weather took charge, and he was run aground on Holy Island. He decided to head back to Scotland on foot and promptly disappeared for six days, reappearing at Berrington. Legend has it that he spent the six days at his sister’s house in Coldinghame, ten miles from Holy Island. Another guest was resident at the house two days later – Mary Queen of Scots. Who knows what they were discussing in those four days? Certainly, from this point in Mary was a little more resilient in her dealings with Lord James Stewart. Meanwhile, Randolph, an English ambassador in the Scottish court, had heard that Bothwell had only got as far as Holy Island. He sent a Captain Carew to look for him, and his enquiries led him to Berrington. The English took Bothwell in his bed, and imprisoned him at Berwick.

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Book Review: ‘England Under The Tudors’ by GR Elton


Reading this book certainly enlightened me, if only on one point. At last I understand why so many people who love the Tudors, and are apparently historically well-read, hate Mary Queen of Scots. This book is universally recommended on Tudor mailing lists and history course book lists, and could single handedly be responsible for that depth of anti-Marian feeling.

I hereby feel bound to admit that I absolutely hate the man (I’m assuming it is a man) and his smug little book. Does he have a good word to say about anyone except himself? If he approves of a person’s character, you can bet he disapproves of his actions, and vice-versa. And I don’t think this author has even heard of, let alone understood, the concept of ‘hindsight’.

He demolishes Mary QoS, for no better reason than his own apparent disapproval of her, on the basis of what looks like limited research. He is so totally inaccurate about Bothwell and Mary that I wonder how accurate he is on other topics, and so I could not trust the redeeming features of the book – otherwise I would have felt I learned some about the economy of the time, for instance. He doesn’t cite his primary sources, and I would want to check these after reading ANY historian, especially one so noxious as this. The Henderson 1905 bio is the only work he mentions in his bibliography re Mary QoS, aside from a sarky put-down of Antonia Fraser. I wonder if he read further than the Book of Articles (second hand in Henderson, most likely), since his line on Mary seems completely in keeping with that nice little piece of Moray propaganda. I know a book of this type necessarily has to cover topics briefly, but I expect them to show evidence that the author has a large background knowledge he is writing from. Elton really doesn’t seem to have that knowledge where Scotland is concerned (I cannot comment where England is concerned). Which would be fine if he acknowledged that he was writing *from a very English point of view* or cited works which made this plain, but he doesn’t, he acts like he’s writing under divine guidance – that’s if he’d let such an inferior being as God dictate to him.

For some reason he expects his readers to take what he has to say as gospel purely because he has said it, and doesn’t back up his statements sufficiently, or give references which can be checked even for his most outrageous comments. For instance, he makes the sweeping statement that it doesn’t matter whether the casket letters were forgeries or not because it has no bearing on what happened. But the reason the casket letters are important is because if they are forgeries then they show that there was a campaign to falsify evidence against Mary – if he had realised this, he may not have fallen so completely for the propaganda he read and mistook for truth.

He’s also not averse to just plain nastiness and convenient twisting. For instance, he comments on how Darnley developed a true ‘Stuart’ character, conveniently forgetting that he was of Tudor descent too.

His professional jealousy appears to know no bounds – he is particularly scathing about Antonia Fraser (perhaps because she references so much better than he does) and especially David Starkey, who has the temerity to actually disagree with him.

He shares his misogyny with John Knox, and the best he can find to say even about Elizabeth I is that she acted like a man! It is therefore obvious that since I am missing a Y chromosome, I am desperately over-emotional and incompetent to judge such a profound work.

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1562 – Mary, Queen of Scots Acts Plain Stupid


Mary Queen of Scots just couldn’t let go of the feud between Arran and Bothwell, even though by this time it was patently obvious to everyone that Arran was utterly barking mad. Bothwell was persuaded, and Arran ordered, to sign a formal pacification between them. Bothwell knew the written promise was worthless, and, still hoping for a quieter life (and less expenditure, as he had to ensure he was guarded wherever he went), sought to earn a true reconciliation via the most influential of Arran’s supporters, John Knox.

The two met twice. Bothwell explained that the attack on John Cockburn which had begun the feud had been a military necessity and not a personal slight. Knox agreed to bring about a reconciliation, provided that Bothwell followed his Protestant faith more publicly than was his usual wont.

Satisfied, Bothwell left Edinburgh for Berwick, where he was needed to settle a border dispute between England and Scotland. His route passed through Ormiston, John Cockburn’s town. Alexander, Cockburn’s son, recognised Bothwell and fired his pistol at his face. He missed, and Bothwell took him prisoner until he reached Berwick, where he released him.

A distorted version of events reached Knox, but he still managed to bring about the reconciliation of the two Lords in March 1562. On 25th March Bothwell and Arran attended Mass, lunched, hunted and visited friends.

Two days later Arran accused him of plotting to murder Lord James, kidnap the Queen, and imprison her under Arran’s jailorship at Dumbarton Castle. Arran and Bothwell would then rule as joint dictators. His family realised this was madness, an elaboration of his own previous fantasies, and locked him in his room. Somehow he managed to smuggle out letters spreading news of the ‘treason’, but now adding that his father was also involved. Then he escaped.

Gavin Hamilton rode to the Queen at Falkland Palace to warn her of Arran’s state of mind and of his escape. A little later in the day, Bothwell, still oblivious of the accusations, arrived at Falkland Palace.

Now imagine you are Mary. On the one hand you have the accusing letter of a demented lunatic. On the other you have protestations of innocence from a loyal subject and he is corroborated by a man who tried to kill him only a few months before. Who do you believe?

You guessed it – she had Bothwell and Gavin Hamilton both locked up. Admittedly Lord James probably had a hand in it, but honestly, was the woman thick or what?

By this time Arran had made his way to his friend Kirkaldy of Grange in Stirling. Lord James rushed over there to see what use he could make of him, but found he was completely barmy, convinced that he was the Queen’s husband. When the Queen herself visited he told her he was being haunted by the spirit of Lord James’ mother. Did this prompt her to release Bothwell? Not likely.

The Duke of Chatelherault (Arran’s father) wrote to the Queen asking her to release his two sons and Bothwell, but to no avail. Arran was removed to imprisonment in St Andrews and then Edinburgh Castle. Dumbarton Castle was taken from the Duke, and Bothwell was kept in close confinement in St Andrews.

Lord James decided to stir the pot, and cannily went so far as to obtain a letter from Elizabeth I of England pleading Bothwell’s cause. This of course seemed suspicious to Mary, and she continued to hold Bothwell without trying him (which would have resulted in his release). Lord James had managed to use Arran to ruin the strongest family in Scotland, and to remove Mary’s most loyal supporter, who was transferred to imprisonment in Edinburgh Castle.

The Fate of Arran

In January 1564, Arran’s condition in his imprisonment in Edinburgh Castle is recorded. He was solitary, seeking darkness, paranoid and jaundiced. He spent most time in bed and ate little, sleeping poorly. In 1565 he attempted suicide. A little later he lost his speech, probably as a result of a stroke. Various noblemen raised the money for his release out of pity and he lived out his days in dim-witted retirement, dying in 1609.

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1561: Reversals of Fortune


Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots

Only when Mary was back in Scotland did Bothwell realise how much his enemies had influenced her. His Lieutenancy of the Borders was given to Lord James Stewart, Mary’s half brother, and the promised command at Dunbar passed to another of her half-brothers, John Stewart. He was even barred from court for the two weeks whilst Mary was in bed, supposedly to avoid creating friction with Arran, which was a blatant lie as Arran’s guilty conscience kept him away from court anyway.

A week after leaving her bed, Mary included Bothwell in her list of Privy Councillors, but his frequent absences from court attending to business in the Borders meant that it was easy for his enemies to spread innuendo about him. Of the other Councillors, Chatelherault had been the Fair Earl’s enemy, and had transferred that enmity to his son; Arran, Chatelherault’s heir, obviously had no love for Bothwell;  and Lord James, Earl Marischal and Maitland saw Bothwell as an obstacle to their ambitions to rule the young Queen.

Mary was determined to reconcile her Lords, and began with Bothwell and Lord James, inviting them both on a visit to Berwick. This worked in that Bothwell felt happy to transfer his claim to Melrose Abbey (disputed by Arran, who insisted it remained his) to Robert Stewart (the third of the Stewart half-brothers), and also to travel with Lord James to Jedburgh to hold a Court of Justice.

Whilst they were away, the court was alarmed by rumours that Arran was going to attempt to kidnap the Queen. It turned out to be nothing more than Arran’s crazy talk – he was obsessed with the Queen’s beauty.

Whilst Arran was doing nothing to endear him to the Queen, Bothwell did his own cause no good on his return from Jedburgh, by refusing to attend the Requiem held to commemorate the first anniversary of Francois II’s death, and refusing to wear mourning, due to his Protestant principles.

He had also not forgiven Arran and the Hamiltons, and he heard that Arran had taken to secretly visiting a merchant’s daughter named Alison Craig, at her father-in-law’s house. The father-in-law was Bothwell’s grandmother’s fourth husband, and so he found it easy to gain entry to the house, in the company of Lord John Stewart and the Marquis of Elboef. Arran was not there, so they returned the next night, to find that this time the door was not opened to them. Guessing that this meant Arran was inside, they smashed their way into the house, only to find that Arran had fled. By this time they had disturbed the whole neighbourhood, and the Church Assembly presented a petition to the Queen which resulted in her sternly rebuking Elboef and Bothwell.

Bothwell had, however, succeeded in exposing Arran’s antics, and the Hamiltons were infuriated. On Christmas Eve, three hundred of them, armed with spears, assembled in the market place to waylay Bothwell on his way back from supper. Bothwell caught wind of the plot and met them with five hundred men. He had sent a note to the Queen excusing himself from court that night (and sneakily letting her know what the Hamiltons were up to), and it was this note that prevented a battle. Lord James Stewart and the Earl of Huntly were despatched from Holyrood and put down the unrest, clearing the streets on pain of death.

From the next day, Mary tried to make peace between Arran and Bothwell, without success. As usual, she took the wily way out. She knew that she could bar Bothwell from court and keep his allegiance. Arran’s loyalty was far more questionable, and so it was Bothwell who was asked to leave town.

In any case, he had a lot to do preparing Crichton Castle for the marriage between his sister Janet and Lord John Stewart, since Mary had indicated she wished to stay in the castle, and Bothwell wanted to impress James Stewart, whom he still did not consider a friend.

The wedding was a huge success, and Bothwell decided to consolidate his position by following the wishes of the Queen and letting it be known that he desired only to have a better and quieter life at court, and to follow the teachings of the Bible. Yeah, right…..

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1560 – 1561: First Meetings With Mary, Queen of Scots


Mary At Sea

With the death of Mary of Guise, Bothwell now had no powerful friends in Scotland, so it was extremely important that he win favour with his Queen, who was married to Francois II of France. When he arrived in Fontainebleu, for an audience with her, he found she was indisposed – the eighteen year old Queen was already suffering from the bad health which would plague her throughout her life. When he finally met the royal couple, he was rewarded with six hundred pounds and the salaried post of Gentleman of the Kings Chamber. He was also promised the abbeys of Melrose and Haddington.

Whilst at court, he was able to advise Mary of the political situation in Scotland. The Treaty of Edinburgh decreed that the country should be governed by twelve men, five members selected by the Congregation, and seven by the Queen. Mary knew that the Lords’ nominees would work against her, but was unsure of who would remain loyal to her. The final list contained Bothwell, Atholl, Huntly, and the Primate of Scotland, all of whom were known to be loyal, along with Argyll, Chatelherault and Lord James Stewart, who were not so trustworthy.


Francois II of France, Mary’s first husband

Bothwell was due to depart for Scotland, when Francois II became ill with an ear infection, and Mary requested that he stay. Although he delayed his departure, he suddenly left before Francois died. It has been suggested that he left because of urgent news from Anna, presumably that she was pregnant or had given birth. He left on 17th November, and did not return to Scotland until the end of the next February. Anna came to Scotland too, and did not leave until 1563. He arrived in time to carry out Mary’s instructions to set up a parliament, but this never happened, as Lord James Stewart had decided to invite Mary back to rule Scotland herself. Stewart knew she would need a mentor, and he was determined to be it. Of course, he was still receiving a pension from England, and regularly met with Nicholas Throckmorton, the English ambassador to France.

Bothwell was too busy with his affairs in Scotland (Anna Throndsen, getting hold of Melrose Abbey and trying to reconcile himself with his enemies) to be aware of the hold his enemies were getting over Mary in France. But his position seemed safe enough – Mary requested that when the French left Dunbar, he was to occupy it in her name.

Mary had decided to return to Scotland, but Elizabeth I refused to grant her safe passage, under the pretext that Scotland had delayed to sign the Treaty of Edinburgh. Mary summoned Bothwell, as Admiral of Scotland, to France, where he arrived to find her in bed with a fever. Despite this, she left France on 14th August 1561. Elizabeth had sent a letter promising safe passage, but Mary had never received it, and it is probable that she would have captured Mary anyway if she could. As it was, mist prevented an English fleet from capturing more than three Scottish vessels during the Channel crossing. After a journey of five days, Mary arrived in Leith. Once she got to Holyrood, she went to bed for a fortnight.

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1560 – The Anna Throndsen Affair


Anna Throndsen (also referred to as Anna Trond, Anna Trondsen or Anna Rustung) was the daughter of Kristoffer Throndsen and his wife Karine. They had eight children and so Anna was able to get away with doing pretty much as she wanted, including helping her father with his business affairs, which is possibly how she came to meet the Earl of Bothwell. Seven of the Throndsen children were daughters, with the consequent problems of making good marriages for them all. Two of her sisters had married Scotsmen, and so a marriage to a Scottish Lord was an attractive prospect to Anna and to her parents. What the Throndsens perhaps didn’t realise was that Bothwell was by now impoverished by his war efforts, having to sell lands to prevent bankruptcy.

Anna was dark and perhaps quite Latin looking. She also came with an attractive dowry of forty thousand silver dollars. Whilst still embroiled in negotiations with Frederick, Bothwell promised to marry Anna. When he was freed from these by the death of the Queen Regent, he was still trapped by his new obligations. He may even have been through a form of marriage ceremony, for Frederik Schiern in his ‘Nyere Historiske Studier’ states that they were handfasted – and that this was legally binding in Danish law. Whether Bothwell was aware of that fact is another matter, even if the ceremony did take place. He had ‘form’ for handfasting, and seems to have regarded it as a way of demonstrating some sort of committment to women he had no intention of ever formally recognising as his wife. He certainly didn’t view any handfasting as having any bearing on his ability to officially marry at a later date.

Deciding that out of sight would hopefully become out of mind for Anna, Bothwell announced his plans to leave Denmark to pay his respects to his new Queen at Fontainebleau. Unfortunately, by this time Anna had given him not only her money and her body, but also her heart. She set her mind on going with him, and her family made no objection. Gore-Brown suspected this was due her pregnancy, but it is just as likely because her family regarded her as his wife. Bothwell had no choice but to let her tag along.

Their journey must have been traumatic, as at one point Throckmorton wrote to Cecil to say that Bothwell was dead, but further details are unobtainable. By 12 September he had reached Flanders, and instructed Anna to stay there. This wasn’t the desertion which it has been painted in the past – even when Anna sued him, she never accused him of this. He was guilty of using her money to finance himself and his entourage, but the separation was a temporary one. Bothwell needed money and aimed to plead his case in the French court, since it was in support of his Queen that he had lost his fortune. Arriving with a poorly educated foreign mistress in tow would do nothing for his chances.

By the standards of the French court, Anna was ill-educated, and would have been a liability. Contrary to the picture often painted of a boorish man, Bothwell was well-educated. As well as his supposed studies in magic, he had an interest in military history and theory, reading these in French translations from Latin. He could speak and write French fluently – his writing was far more elegant than many of his Scottish contemporaries.

Gore-Brown writes that Bothwell left whilst ‘behind him a lachrymose Anna fluttered a damp handkerchief.’ Gore-Brown is most entertaining on this episode, he seems to have had as gossipy an interest in this whole affair as I have. He thinks that it was probably during this separation that Anna wrote some of what were to become known as the casket letters, supposedly written by Mary Stuart. Of the Eighth letter Gore-Brown writes ‘its affectations almost provide Bothwell with an excuse for neglecting its authoress.’

Anna signs herself off as his ‘humble, obedient, loyal wife and only love.’ To be fair to Anna, she may have been pregnant – there is no record of this, but it is suspected that Bothwell had an illegitimate son called William, whom his mother looked after, suggesting that the child’s mother had some standing in the eyes of his family. The likeliest mother would be Anna Throndsen. However, as Gore-Brown comments, ‘A little sympathy may be kept for the seducer whom she must have bored profoundly.’

Whatever his feelings, Bothwell picked up Anna on his way back to Scotland, and she appears to have remained there until 1563, at which time she returned to her family, who were by that time living in Bergen, Norway. She remained a wealthy woman, and was a regular on the Bergen social scene. But Fate had decreed that her part in Bothwell’s story was not yet over.

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Hailes Castle


Hailes Castle

Hailes Castle is located a mile and a half south west of East Linton in an East Lothian valley on the south bank of the River Tyne – it is easily visible from the A1, on the left if you are travelling towards Edinburgh. The Castle measures nearly 240′ x 90′ and contains one of the few remaining examples of thirteenth century stonework in Scotland. Its 13th century curtain wall contains a 14th century keep and ranges and towers dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. Fragments of the once-large courtyard (built by Patrick Hepburn in 1388) remain.

It was probably originally built by Hugo de Gourlay in the 1290s. The Gourlays were a family from Northumbria, and so Hailes appeared more like an English manor house than a Scottish baronial castle. Hailes was a fortified residence for a lord and his family. It was primarily a private house, but was also the centre of the lord’s estate. It served as a collection point for rent, a centre of justice (hence two pit prisons), and a refuge for the lord, his household and his tenants.

The Gourlays lost their land after supporting the English in the fourteenth century Wars of Independence. Hailes was granted to Sir Adam de Hepburn after he rescued the Earl of Dunbar from being attacked by horses. Over the next two centuries, the Hepburns converted Hailes from a manor house into a strong castle, adding a tower, and extending the curtain wall.


Hailes Courtyard

In 1400 Hailes was attacked by the Earl of March and Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy. In 1446, Alexander Dunbar captured the castle and slaughtered all the occupants. The castle was burnt in 1532.

During the minority of Mary Queen of Scots, the castle belonged to Patrick Hepburn, the third, or ‘Fair’ Earl of Bothwell. He backed the English against the governor of Scotland, James Hamilton, second Earl of Arran. In 1547, Bothwell was forced to surrender Hailes to the Scottish government. In 1548, it was captured by the English and garrisoned by Lord Gray of Wilton. Arran was able to swiftly take the castle, removing its iron gates.

Hailes was returned to Patrick’s son, James Hepburn, when he became fourth Lord Bothwell in 1556. On the 5th May 1567, Bothwell and Mary Queen of Scots stayed overnight at Hailes on their way to Edinburgh from Dunbar, following Bothwell’s ‘rape’ of the Queen. After the Carberry Hill disaster, Bothwell fled Scotland and Hailes was forfeit, along with his other properties.

The castle passed first to Hercules Stewart and his family, then to the Setons. Both were noble families with country seats elsewhere, and Hailes was probably taken over by local tenants.

The castle was reduced to ruins by Cromwell in 1650.

Hailes was sold to Sir David Dalrymple, who died in 1721. His grandson became Lord Hailes.

In 1835 it was being used as a granary. In 1926 Hailes was given into state care by its owner, Arthur Balfour, the former Prime Minister. It is currently managed by Historic Scotland, and is free to access.



Travels in Scotland – Hailes Castle

Hailes Castle and Mary Queen of Scots

Hailes Castle – Sven and Eric’s History Site – I love, love, love this one!

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