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Bothwell, Francis Stewart, 1st earl of

Bothwell, Francis Stewart, 1st earl of [S] (c.1563–c.1612). Stewart was the nephew of the 4th earl, who was the third husband of Mary, queen of Scots, and a grandson of James V. His uncle having died in Denmark in 1578, Stewart was created earl of Bothwell in 1581 and in 1583 appointed lord high admiral. Though a strong supporter of the reformed religion, his behaviour was as turbulent as that of his uncle. In 1588 his men killed Sir William Stewart in an affray in Edinburgh. For a time he remained a favourite with James VI and was appointed joint governor of the realm when the king went to Denmark to fetch his bride. But the following year he was accused of consulting witches about the king's death and stripped of his offices. In retaliation, Bothwell raided Holyrood palace in December 1591 to seize the king, but failed. He tried again in July 1593 at Falkland and once more failed. Meanwhile the king's efforts to capture Bothwell had also failed. Next Bothwell forced himself into the king's presence to beseech pardon and in April 1594 there was another confrontation at Leith, which decided nothing. But having lost the support of the kirk, Bothwell fled to France in 1595 and spent the rest of his life abroad in poverty. The association with his uncle's murder of James's father Darnley and the connection with witchcraft go far to explain James's terror, but Bothwell's actions appear to be purely factious and random.

J. A. Cannon

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