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Gowrie, Earl of (S, 1581 - forfeited 1600)


Creation: let.pat. 23 Aug 1581


Forfeited: 15 Nov 1600


Family name: Ruthven




Quarterly, 1st and 4th, Argent three Pallets Gules (Ruthven);  2nd, Or three Bars Gules (Cameron of Ballegarno);  3rd, Or on a Bend Azure three Mascles of the first (Halyburton);  all within a Bordure Or charged with a Double Tressure flory counterflory Gules


A Ram's Head couped Sable armed Or


Dexter: A Ram Sable;  Sinister: A Goat Sable, both gorged with a Coronet and chained Or


 Deid schaw



William [Ruthven], 4th Lord Ruthven later 1st Earl of Gowrie, PC

1st surv. son and heir of Patrick [Ruthven], 3rd Lord Ruthven, by his first wife Janet Douglas, said to be illegit. dau. of Archibald [Douglas], 6th Earl of Angus


c. 1543


17 Aug 1561 Hon Dorothea Stewart (legitimated 1551; d. after Aug 1605), 4th dau. of Henry [Stewart], 1st Lord Methven, by his second wife Lady Janet Stewart, 1st dau. of John [Stewart], 2nd Earl of Atholl


1. Hon James Ruthven, later 2nd Earl of Gowrie

2. Hon John Ruthven, later 3rd Earl of Gowrie

3. Hon Alexander Ruthven, Master of Gowrie, killed with his brother at Gowrie House (b. 22 Jan 1580/1; d. 5 Aug 1600)

4. Hon William Ruthven, a chemist and a philosopher, after the death of his two elder brothers he fled to England and was sheltered there by Queen Elizabeth I; a proclamation was issued against him in 1603 by King James I & VI and he seems to have fled abroad

5. Hon Patrick Ruthven, self styled Lord Gowrie, escaped with his brother to England but was arrested on King James's accession to the English Throne and imprisoned in the Tower of London for nineteen years; during his time in the Tower he had become a distinguished physician and alchemist and in 1622 he was allowed to go to Cambridge and received an annuity of £500 a year from the Crown; he was rehabilitated against the forfeiture of his brother by the Scottish Parliament on 12 Nov 1641 but this was not intended to be a restoration of the forfeited peerages (bur. 24 May 1652), mar. c. 1620 Elizabeth Gerard (widow of Thomas [Gerard], 1st Baron Gerard), dau. of Robert Woodford, of Brightwell, in Burnham, co. Buckingham, and had issue:

1a. Patrick Ruthven, self styled Lord Ruthven, mar. (1) 14 Jul 1656 Sarah Head, and (2) after 9 Sep 1667 Jane MacDonald

2a. Robert Ruthven (d, after 1660)

1a. Elizabeth Ruthven

2a. Mary Ruthven, a Maid-of-Honour to Queen Henrietta Maria, mar. (1) Sir Anthony van Dyck, the celebrated painter (d. 9 Dec 1641), and (2) Sir Robert Pryse, of Gogerddau, co. Cardigan (dsp. 1651), and had issue by her first husband

1. Lady Mary Ruthven, mar. (1) 24 Jan 1579/80 her second cousin John [Stewart], 5th Earl of Atholl, (2) after 31 Mar 1596 as his second wife John [Stewart], 1st Earl of Atholl, and (3) bef. 30 Dec 1613 James Stewart, 1st son and heir of Hon James Stewart, Master of Buchan (by his wife Christian Strang, dau. of John Strang of Balcaskie), 2nd son of John [Stewart], 3rd Earl of Buchan, and had issue by her first husband

2. Lady Margaret Ruthven (bur. 15 Apr 1618), mar. after 12 Dec 1593 her second cousin John [Graham], 4th Earl of Montrose, and had issue

3. Lady Sophia Ruthven (dsp. bef. Jun 1590), mar. bef. 11 Sep 1586 as his first wife Ludovic [Stuart], 2nd Duke of Lennox

4. Lady Jean Ruthven (d. 6 Jan 1611/2), mar. 11 Nov 1581 as his first wife James [Ogilvy], 6th Lord Ogilvy of Airlie, and had issue

5. Lady Elizabeth Ruthven (dspm. Jan 1616/7, mar. (1) after 1 Feb 1597/8 (div. 11 Aug 1608) Sir Robert Gordon of Lochinvar, and (2) as his second wife Hugh [Campbell], 1st Lord Campbell of Loudoun, and had issue by both husbands

6. Lady Beatrix Ruthven, a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Anne of Denmark, mar. after 29 Oct 1608 as his second wife Sir John Home of Ersiltoun and Cowdenknows, 1st son and heir of Sir James Home of Cowdenknows by his wife Katherine Home, dau. of John Home of Blackadder

7. Lady Lilias Ruthven (dvp.)

8. Lady Dorothea Ruthven, mar. bef. 8 Jun 1609 John Wemyss of Pittencrieff

9. Lady Barbara Ruthven, a Maid-of-Honour to Queen Anne of Denmark (bur. 29 Dec 1625)


4 May 1584


23 Aug 1581 Earl of Gowrie, with remainder to the heirs-male of his body, whom failing to his heirs-male bearing the name and arms of Ruthven

suc. by



he took a prominent part with his father in the murder of Rizzio on 9 Mar 1565/6; suc. his father as 4th Lord Ruthven 13 Jun 1566; one of the Lords who received the resignation of Queen Mary I on behalf of the infant King James VI 1567; Lord High Treasurer of Scotland 1571; Privy Councillor [S] 1578; Lieutenant of the Borders 1578-84; an Extraordinary Lord of Session 1578-84; leader of the group which seized the person of the King 1582, called "the Raid of Ruthven"; although he had received pardon from the King, the Convention of Estates reversed this and he was tried for high treason, found guilty, executed at Stirling, and his titles and estates forfeited


James [Ruthven], 2nd Earl of Ruthven


25 Sep 1575



suc. by



restored to his titles and estates in 1586


John [Ruthven], 3rd Earl of Gowrie




5 Aug 1600


slain with his brother Hon Alexander Gowrie, Master of Gowrie, at Gowrie House by the followers of King James VI as a consequence of what is called "the Gowrie conspiracy"; it is does not look as if this was a planned conspiracy by either the King or the Gowries, but in fact an unseemly brawl that grew out of control with tragic consequences; what seems to have happened is that King James was dining with the Gowries at their home and after dinner he made a sexual advance on young Alexander Gowrie, who was said to be exceptionally good looking; Alexander Gowrie was not amenable to this and ended up fighting with the King in trying to fend off his advances; the King called for help and his men attacked and killed the Master of Gowrie, and in the ensuing sword fight the Earl of Gowrie was also killed.


The dead bodies of the Earl and his brother were carried to Edinburgh, and an indictment of high treason was preferred against them. Witnesses being examined, the Parliament, 15 Nov 1600, pronounced sentence, declaring them to have committed manifest treason on all points contained in the summons; and therefore decerned their names, memory, and dignity to be extinguished, their arms to be cancelled, their whole estate, real and personal, to be forfeited and annexed to the Crown, their bodies to be taken to the Cross of Edinburgh and there hanged, drawn and quartered, the name of Ruthven to be abolished, and their posterity and their surviving brethren to be incapable of succeeding to or holding any offices, honours or possessions. Their lands were parcelled out among those who had supported the King during the slaughter.


Following the forfeiture of the 3rd Earl of Gowrie in 1600, the Earldom of Gowrie along with the Lordships of Ruthven and Dirletoun, ceased to exist. In 1935 Sir Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven KCMG, a descendant of Thomas[Ruthven], 1st Lord Ruthven of Freeland, was created Baron Gowrie and in 1945 Earl of Gowrie.


 First written 6 Apr 2005



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