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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