Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell - Outlaw and Exile

Outlaw and Exile

Bothwell, with others, including the Earl of Huntly, was charged with treason for engaging in an armed uprising and plotting to seize the king at Holyroodhouse. He surrendered himself on 11 May 1589 and Their trial took place on the 24 May. All were found guilty, but sentences were deferred for the king's consideration. More seriously, Bothwell was arrested on witchcraft accusations on 15 April 1591. Charged with trying to arrange the king's death through sorcery he was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle on 15 April 1591, the formal charges being laid before the Privy Council on that day and the 21st.

These allegations arose through the events of the marriage of James VI to Anne of Denmark in September 1589. She had been expected to sail from Denmark but was prevented by storms three times. The Danish admiral Peter Munk attributed the storms to witchcraft. The same weather caused an accident in the river Forth drowning Jane Kennedy who James had appointed to be chief of Anne's ladies-in-waiting. James then asked Bothwell, as Admiral of Scotland, to prepare a fleet to fetch Anne. Bothwell's estimate of the costs involved was high and James decided to raise funds and make the voyage himself. Bothwell remained in Scotland and was given a share of the government, befitting one of King's closest relations. Subsequently, in November 1590 those accused of witchcraft in North Berwick were tortured and made confessions about supernatural causes of the storms. The historian Christina Larner proposed that the character of the witch hunt with the "demonic pact" which featured in the confessions was influenced by Danish practice. In July 1590 a number of so-called witches had been arrested in Denmark including Anna Koldings for causing the storms. One of the Scottish accused, Agnes Sampson, at least in the account of James Melville of Halhill, claimed the devil had shown her a picture of James VI saying he should be "consumed at the instance of a noble man Francis Erle Bodowell." Another, Ritchie Graham, confessed and insisted he had conspired with the earl, leading to his arrest in April 1591.

Francis broke out of the castle on 22 June 1591, convinced that the Chancellor, John Maitland of Thirlstane, was behind his accusation. He was proclaimed an outlaw three days later. In December he entered Holyroodhouse attempting to seek reconciliation, or as his opponents claimed, trying to assassinate James and Anne. Reports of Bothwell at Morham (his mother's tower house), and Coldingham, resulted in the King again leading a party eastwards out of Holyroodhouse on 13 January 1591/2 to apprehend him. However the King's horse threw him into a pool of water, from which a local yeoman had to rescue him "by the necke", and the chase was abandoned. In early 1592, Bothwell addressed a letter to the Clergy of Edinburgh, indignantly disowning the witchcraft charges. On 7 April the King again went in pursuit of Bothwell, crossing the Forth to travel north, Bothwell having been heard of in Dundee, whereafter the Privy Council of Scotland denounced Ross of Banagowan, the Master of Gray and his brother Robert, and others, for assisting Bothwell.

When the Parliament of Scotland met on 5 June 1592 for the first time after nearly five years and the Privy Council of Scotland was reconstituted, a Proclamation was issued denuding Bothwell of honours, titles, and lands. On 28 June, between one and two o'clock in the morning, Bothwell, leading 300 others, attempted to capture Falkland Palace and the king. Forewarned, the king and queen and his immediate courtiers withdrew to the tower and locked it from within. On the 29 and 30 June proclamations were issued for Bothwell's pursuit and the arrest of his accomplices, including Scott of Balwearie, Martine of Cardone, and Lumsden of Airdrie.

Certain Borders lairds were ordered in June to assemble for his pursuit and were joined by the King himself on 6 July. They did not find the fugitive and the pursuit was finally abandoned on 7 August, but the Crown had obtained "possession of all his houses and strengths". Several of Bothwell's supporters were, in the meantime, locked up: the Earl Marischal, Lord Home, and Sinclair of Roslin amongst them.

The thirteenth of July saw a further new Warrant issued against Bothwell's supporters in the Borders, including Walter Scott of Harden and Dryhope and John Pennycuik of that Ilk. On 14 September, the Privy Council issued an Order for an armed muster to attend the King into Teviotdale in pursuit of Bothwell's supporters. The king left Edinburgh for Dalkeith on 9 October and thereafter proceeded to Jedburgh. However little or nothing was achieved in the expedition. October saw a new round of Cautions issued by the Privy Council to supposed supporters of Bothwell.

On 20 November 1592, the Countess of Bothwell was forbidden by Decree to be in the King's presence and "none allowed to contenance her". A warrant was subsequently issued by the Edinburgh magistrates for her arrest, with numerous other "adherents of Bothwell still lingering about the town".

In January 1592/3 Bothwell was in the north of England where he had a good reception, which much annoyed James VI. On 7 June he asked Queen Elizabeth I to ensure Bothwell's return to Scotland.

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