Death of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell – 14 April 1578

Posted By claire on April 14, 2011

BothwellOn this day in history, 14th April 1578, James Hepburn, 1st Duke of Orkney and 4th Earl of Bothwell, died aged 44 at Dragsholm Castle after being imprisoned and  held in appalling conditions by Frederick, King of Denmark, It is said that the imprisonment caused Bothwell to go insane.

Here is a factfile on James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, and third husband to Mary Queen of Scots:-

Birth – c1534

Parents – Patrick Hepburn, 3rd Earl of Bothwell and Lord High Admiral, known as the “Fair Earl”, and his wife Agnes Sinclair, daughter of Henry Sinclair, 3rd Lord Sinclair.

Titles – In 1556, on his father’s death, James became 4th Earl of Bothwell and Lord High Admiral of Scotland.

Marriages – In 1559/1560 Bothwell visited Denmark on the way to France and met Anna Throndsen (Anne Thorssen). He is alleged to have seduced and even married Anne but deserted her. In 1566 he married Jean Gordon, second eldest daughter of George Gordon, Earl of Huntly, but the marriage was not a happy one as Jean accused Bothwell of adultery with her maid and seamstress, Bessie Crawford. The marriage was annulled in May 1567 on the grounds of consanguinity. Eight days after the divorce, Bothwell married Mary Queen of Scots.

Mary Queen of Scots – Bothwell was one of the men implicated in the murder of Mary Queen of Scots’s second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, who was murdered on the 10th February 1567. Bothwell was tried and acquitted. On the 24th April 1567, Mary was riding to Linlithgow Palace when she was intercepted by Bothwell, who warned her that it would be dangerous for her to carry on to Edinburgh. He offered to take her to safety to his castle at Dunbar and it was there that he took her prisoner and allegedly raped her. On the 12th May, Mary made Bothwell the Duke of Orkney and the couple were married at Holyrood on the 15th May 1567.

The Scottish Lords did not approve of the marriage and rose up against Mary and Bothwell. Mary was captured and imprisoned in Lochleven Castle, where she miscarried twins, fathered by Bothwell, in July 1567. On the 24th July 1567, Mary was forced to abdicate and her son, James, became James VI of Scotland, with James Stewart, Earl of Moray and Mary’s illegitimate half brother, acting as regent. Bothwell escaped capture but all of his titles and estates were forfeited by an act of Parliament.

The End – Bothwell fled to Scandinavia but it was there that his past caught up with him. He was captured off the coast of Norway, which at that time was a Danish territory, and taken to Bergen, the home of his former love, Anna Throndsen, who then sued him for abandonment. Bothwell was able to settle the case with Anna out of court, giving her one of his ships and promising her an annuity.

Although he managed at first to gain the Danish King’s goodwill, by offering to help him recapture the Orkneys and Shetland Isles, his luck ran out after the fall of Mary Queen of Scots and he was imprisoned in Dragsholm Castle, in Zealand. Solitary confinement there led to Bothwell going insane. He died on the 14th April 1578 and was buried at the church of Fårevejle (Faareveille).

Comments

25 Responses to “Death of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell – 14 April 1578”

  1. Neil Kemp says:

    I think if I’d been chained to a pillar for 10 years I’d go insane too. What a terrible way to go, so much time to realise the hopelessness of your situation.

  2. Sad ending for a man who changed the course of history. When it came to his relationship with Mary of Scots, will we ever know for sure if it was it true love, ambition, dysfunction or a combination of all three?

  3. Esther says:

    Horrible ending for anyone …. Darnley’s death had to have been more merciful. Thank you, Claire, for the article, though.

  4. Anne Barnhill says:

    I have never known how to take this man and his story. If he truly kidnapped the Queen and then forced himself on her, then he is reprehensible. If they were in love, which I suspect, then his actions become daring and romantic. But such a sad end for him. I can’t say I blame him too much for Darnley’s death–I’ve always felt Darnly deserved the end he got. Hate to be judgemental but stabbing a man to death in front of your prenant wife just isn’t good, anyway you cut it.

  5. Fiz says:

    LOL, Anne! I agree with you about Bothwell and Darnley!

  6. Impish_Impulse says:

    It gives me some insight into Mary if Darnley and Bothwell were the 2 husbands SHE chose. That’s some poor judgment on her part.

  7. Lisa Davis says:

    I have to agree with impish. Mary had very poor judgement when it came to men.

  8. Chocobasse says:

    I won’t blame him for going mad in the end. Really a sad and horrible way to go. They even say he haunts the place.
    By the way, you can visit Dragsholm Castle in Denmark and see his supposed sarcophagus. The church where it can be visited is not far away from Dragsholm as I recall.

  9. MariAn OBrien says:

    Bothwell was one of the few Lords who remained loyal to the Stewart royal family, protective of the Regent Mary of Guise and later to Mary Queen of Scots. He appeared to be immune to the religious posturing many others used to disguise their own ambitions. Political loyalty was a rare commodity among the many Scottish lords who were repeatedly shifting sides. He consistently hazarded his own safety and his worldly goods to protect the Scottish royal family. He can be credited with some nobility for that. It was tantamount to what we recognize as patriotism today. Meanwhile the rogue Scottish lords were accepting money from the English court to destabilize their own, the Scottish court.

    It is unclear if MQofS ride to Hermitage to visit Bothwell after his wounding in October 1566 was out of respect for his continued loyalty to the Stewart royal family against the English [and Scottish lords in league with the English], or if there was also a personal motive. It is not impossible that she found him attractive. Darnley had no doubt cured her interest in boy-men. MQofS also probably found that in this land of wild Scots, after Rizzio’s murder, he was the only person she felt she could still trust. She was constantly surrounded by wild Scots who either wanted to impregnate her and sire the next King or murder her, or both. Is not trust when you can find it among humans, a bridge to love?

    However Bothwell was a rogue with his several wives and mistresses who were not indifferent to his romantic misadventures. What could be more alluring than a beautiful young Queen? Perhaps he did take MQofS by force — the first time.

  10. Nancy Akins says:

    Reading this reminds me of the old adage you learn something new every day. I did not know she was pregnant with children by Bothwell nor that she had miscarried as such with twins. I love the history I love from this site. It so Rocks.

  11. emilio says:

    it would of been a great honor to stand by lord bothwell, as a soldier and a countrymen of scotland. and to know him as a human being.what a wonderful man.

  12. emilio says:

    they make a statue of lord bothwell with sword high in the air,yelling FOR QUEEN AND COUNTRY, SCOTLAND FOREVER. NO MATTER WHAT HE NEVER TURN ON HIS QUEEN. NO MATTER WHAT THE COST.EVEN IF IT MET HIS LIFE. A REAL SCOTMAN AND A REAL SOLDIER. MAY YOU REST IN PEACE MY LORD BOTHWELL. MAY GOD WELL YOU AS A SOLDIER OF HIS YELLING, FOR GOD AND COUNTRY.

  13. elimoi says:

    denmark should be ashamed for holding james hepburns body all these years,like over 500 to be. and to displace it they way they have. shame on them. but shame on the scotsmen who put him there.10yrs of darkness chained to his cell. time to let his famliy have his body and buried in scotland along side of all its milatary heros. lord bothwell was a great leader of the scots and never turned his back on them or his queen. if this does not happen. scotland has learned nothing from its past and the scots have not change a bit. let lord bothwell go,release him and welcome him home with honor.welcome his remains. for he was a scotsman too. r.i.p. my lord bothwell

  14. emilio says:

    HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE DENMARK TO RELEASE LORD BOTHWELLS REMAINS. DO THE PEOPLE OF DENMARK HAVE NO HEART,DOES ITS GOVT. HAVE NO HEART.PLEASE RELEASE HIS REMAINS TO HIS FAMILY. AND LET THEM LAY HIM DOWN WITH THE HONORED DEAD OF SCOTLAND. SCOTLAND WILL WELCOME HOME THEIR A BRAVE SOLDIER AND A BRAVE SON. NO BETTER SON HAS COME OUT OF SCOTLAND THAN JAMES HEPBURN,3TH EARL OF BOTHWELL. LET NO ONE SAY ANYTHING OTHER THEN, GOD BLESS LORD BOTHWELL. A REAL SCOTSMAN. R I P. MY LORD BOTHWELL,WITH TEARS

  15. Kathy Hepburn says:

    After reading many pages of James Hepburn’s history it is refreshing to finally hear people speak of his good qualities. I have always been a defender believing that he was not quilty of anything that wasn’t common place in Scotland’s history. Since he is an ancestor (descending from Patrick Hepburn, younger of Hailes, James line from his first wife, mine from his second wife), I keep his portrait in my cabin and will often say to him, “you didn’t deserve to die that way.” He did change history and history should give him that recognition and honor.

  16. Luceria says:

    I don’t really know what to think of Bothwell, but the way he died was indeed horrible. Anna Throndsen was my 13th great grand aunt. It doesn’t seem like he treated her very well at all and I feel for her.

  17. Mary Shaw says:

    I love Scottish history! Mary was such a tragic figure, the Dauphin died at an early age. Then there was the murder of Darnley. But I believe that she was truly in love with Bothwell. Was she aware of how he died?

  18. Gail Huneycutt says:

    Claire, if I am not mistaken the Danish have his mummified remains on view don’t they? It would be nice if they would return his body to Scotland where he could be buried with his family members. I know I am off the subject here but being from Virginia in the U.S. we would like for the British to give us back our Princess Pocahontas so she can lie in her native soil. Sorry Claire, just wanted to vent a little…I absolutely love your page and I look forward to reading it daily with my coffee. Great way to start the day 🙂

  19. Mary Benson says:

    In the book “Immortal Queen” by Elizabeth Byrd published cica 1970/1971, it mentions that Bothwell’s Danish servant came to see MQOS in prison in England and told her.

  20. Martha Brown says:

    No one should have been subjected to this treatment, regardless of his past indiscretions. I was horrified when I read in Margaret George’s novel how his end came. I think of him from time to time and wonder can people treat each other so cruelly?

  21. Peter Wyatt says:

    I a fascinated by the writings concerning James Hepburn My maternal grandfather was also James Hepburn and a true Scot to his finger tips. I have long claimed with great pride my Scottish ancestry & tell everyone I am related to the Earl of Bothwell even if I’m not I will still claim it with pride

  22. Sue says:

    Immortal Queen. People MUST read it. One of my favourite books & read so often its falling apart. Got it from a 2nd hand book shop & they were going to buy it back when I’d finished with it. 9 years ago, now!

  23. Sue says:

    ….. and still reading it!

  24. Fearchar I MacIllFhinnein says:

    The accounts of Bothwell’s end repeated here seem to have been created and embellished long after any mention of him ends in the written records. Neither the date of his death nor the location is certain.

    It is worth reading this blog entry:
    http://strangeco.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/where-in-world-is-earl-of-bothwell.html

  25. lennart rolandsson rovin says:

    In the seventis during a car trip I stayed one night in a room in the ground floor in the castle of Dragsholm.
    The Girls in the reception said at first there were no rooms available.but after awhile they said there might be a room,they gave my a key and told me to look at the room.So I did,and I found it ok.After a dinner I went to “my” room and Went to bed.I didn´t sleep much that night because noises and a feeling of not beeing alone during the night.Next morningI was in the reception Before the staff. I payed my bill without complains and went away..
    Some years later I saw in the danish television a program about the castle,where something was said that the castle was the most haunted house in Denmark.James Hepburn was presented as one of the Stateprisoners..Last year I found out I am conected to this tormented man on my mother´s side. What a strange coincidence!

    Lennart Rovin

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