Bothwell, James Hepburn, 4th earl of

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Bothwell, James Hepburn, 4th earl of (c.1535–78). Bothwell's grandfather perished at Flodden. The family influence was in Liddisdale and the south of Scotland. He succeeded as earl in 1556. Though a protestant, he was at first a supporter of Mary of Guise and strongly anti-English. He had no part in the murder of Rizzio, and as relations between Mary, queen of Scots, and Darnley deteriorated, he became close to the queen. In 1567 events moved to a melodramatic climax. In February, Bothwell was the chief instigator of the murder of Darnley, blown up at Kirk o' Field. On 7 May he was divorced, on 12 May created duke of Orkney, and on 15 May married to Mary at Holyrood palace. The marriage lasted no more than a month. Outraged at his elevation, his enemies confronted him. Mary and Bothwell fled to Borthwick castle, from which Bothwell escaped, but after the encounter at Carberry Hill on 15 June, they parted for ever—Mary to captivity in Lochleven castle, Bothwell to Orkney and Shetland. Thence he fled to Norway, under Danish rule. The king of Denmark resisted appeals to extradite or execute him but as a useful pawn, he was kept in prison, first in Malmö, then in Dragsholm on Zealand, where he died insane. His embalmed body is preserved in a crypt in the church at Faarvejle nearby. Bothwell's rough wooing may have appealed to Mary, neither of whose previous husbands were powerful men—she would ‘go with him to the world's end in a white petticoat’, she was reported to have said. Bothwell's behaviour does not suggest high intelligence—kidnapping or offers of single combat were his mainstay—and his brief spell at the top suggests Mary's folly rather than his ability.

J. A. Cannon