Wednesday, April 14, 2010

James Hepburn

Earl James Hepburn of Bothwell went down in history with mostly unfavorable notoriety.  Hepburn went through acrimonious relationships in his engagement to Anna Tronds and marriage to Jean Gordon before possibly forcibly marrying Mary, Queen of Scots.  It was Hepburn's relationship with the first of these women that ultimately did him in. 

Hepburn was the son of Patrick Hepburn, the 3rd Earl of Boswell, and Agnes Sinclair, daughter of Henry, the 3rd Lord Sinclair.  Bothwell was forced to escape the Scottish mainland in June 1567, after Scottish Lords signed a bond denouncing the newly married James and Mary.  Mary was imprisoned at Lochleven Castle that same month, and forced to abdicate the throne in favor of her son James I.  Mary escaped from Lockleven Castle on May 2, 1568, with one of those aiding her being Hepburn's grandfather Henry Sinclair (

Many in the 16th century, and now, have speculated on when the relationship between James and Mary became intimate.  Mary made a famous visit to Bothwell in October 1566, while he was ill.  Bothwell was married to Jean Gordon at the time.

In "A Vindication of James Hepburn", author John Watts De Peyster turns to Walter Scott on this question: "Sir Walter Scott, who is by no means favorable on any occasion to Bothwell, admits that it is an open question " whether she (the Queen) visited a wounded subject, or a lover in danger." The Wizard of the North adds: "The Queen's Mire is still a pass of danger, exhibiting, in many places, the bones of the horses which have been entangled in it. For what reason the Queen chose to enter Liddesdale, by the circuitous route of Hawick, is not told. There are other two passes from Jedburgh to Hermitage Castle; the one by the Note of the Gate, the other over the mountain called Winburgh. Either of these, but especially the latter, is several miles shorter than that by Hawick and the Queen's Mire. But, by the circuitous way of Hawick, the Queen could traverse the districts of more friendly clans than by going directly into the disorderly province of Liddesdale."..."

Bothwell's escape to Scandanavia and Norway ended in his capture by Danish authorities.  Here Anna Tronds found revenge, lodging a complaint against Hepburn.  Bothwell spent the last ten years of his life in prison, dying on April 14, 1578.


  1. Hi,
    I think Bothwell was what is called today a 'chancer' he bounced between woman taking advantage to slake his own interests and although true to Mary he got at her too. In my mind I believe he kept her under some drug, known it these days, so he could manipulate her to do as he wished, even rape. Keeping in mind he was not the only Lord to take advantage, her half-brother was guilty of that too.
    I think if Mary had remained in France she would have prospered, even though her mother-in-law disliked her. But coming to Scotland trying to enter a 'mans world' certainly did not work, as she found out by eventually loosing her head. I pity her thru' and thru' as she was a nice Princess to all but alas so much rubbish was printed about her lust, devious nature and cunning, when in actual fact, she was only a lovely young woman out to please all.

  2. Bothwell is certainly a controversial figure. Thanks for the post.