1600. James VI of Scotland
mistrusted the Gowrie family. The 3rd Lord Ruthven had murdered Rizzio
and the 1st earl of Gowrie
had held James captive after the Ruthven raid
in 1582. On 5 August 1600, while hunting, James was urgently invited by Alexander Ruthven to Gowrie House in Perth, according to the king to investigate a mysterious stranger with a pot of gold. James dined at the house but no stranger materialized and after the meal James repaired to an upper turret with Ruthven. James's version was that Ruthven then reproached him with the execution of the 1st earl and told him to prepare to die: James wrestled free and cried ‘Treason’ from a window, whereupon his followers rescued him and killed both Ruthven and his elder brother, Lord Gowrie. It has never been clear who was plotting against whom. James owed the Ruthvens a good deal of money, but the suggestion that he deliberately acted as a decoy seems most unlikely, given the king's notorious cowardice. James's story of the pot of gold is so feeble that it might even be true, since it would not be hard to invent a better tale. Yet if the brothers were conspirators, looking for a repeat of the Ruthven raid, they are among the most incompetent in Scottish history. Since Alexander Ruthven was 20, and James's fondness for handsome young men is well established, it is not difficult to think of alternative explanations.
J. A. Cannon