Illustrations of the Gowrie Conspiracy, 1859
Illustrations of the Gowrie Conspiracy, published in James Taylor's The Pictorial History of Scotland, 1859.
The Gowrie Conspiracy is the name given to the events that occurred at the Gowrie House, in Perth, Scotland, on August 5, 1600. Most modern scholars agree that John Ruthven, 3rd Earl of Gowrie, and his brother Alexander Ruthven had intended to kidnap King James VI of Scotland, and therefore lured him to the house. Another proposed theory is that King James arrived unexpectedly at Gowrie House with the intention of murdering the Ruthven brothers. A third possible explanation is that a brawl broke out between the King and one of the Ruthvens and escalated out of control.
It is generally accepted that King James and several of his hunting party arrived at Gowrie House around one o'clock, having been summoned by Alexander Ruthven to interrogate a man being detained there. After about an hour the King followed Ruthven upstairs to a turret, where his servant, Henderson, was waiting. Ruthven then threatened to harm King James if he did not cooperate. He then went to confer with Gowrie, leaving Henderson and the King alone in the locked turret. After he returned a struggle ensued and King James shouted "Treason" to his men, who were in the street preparing to leave, because Gowrie claimed that he had ridden off. The Duke of Lennox, the Earl of Mar, and several others rushed up the stairs, but found the chamber door leading to the turret locked. Meanwhile, John Ramsay had ascended a second nearby staircase and was able to enter the turret with Henderson's help. Ramsay wounded Alexander and knocked him down the stairs, where he was killed by Thomas Erksine and Dr. Hugh Herries. John Ruthven rushed inside after seeing his brother's body and was killed.
Since both Gowrie and his brother were killed there was no one to dispute King James' account of the day's events. In the immediate aftermath some believed that the conspiracy had been invented by the King as a cover to justify their deaths. His pursuit of the Earl's younger brothers William and Patrick also led to speculation that the King was trying to eliminate the family, since it was obvious that they were innocent of any involvement.
- Naomi Bean