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William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie

William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie

Scottish peer
The basics
A.K.A. 4th Lord of Riven
Gender male
Death April 30, 1584
Children: John Ruthven3rd Earl of Gowrie
Authority VIAF id
The details

William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie, 4th Lord of Ruthven (c. 1541 – May 1584) was a Scottish peer known for devising the Raid of Ruthven.

Life and career

Early life

William Ruthven was born in 1541 in Ruthven Castle, Perthshire, Scotland, the son of Patrick Ruthven, 3rd Lord Ruthven.


On 23 August 1581, he was named Earl of Gowrie by James VI of Scotland.

Raid of Ruthven

In 1582 Ruthven devised and undertook the Raid of Ruthven - a plot to seize the fifteen-year-old James VI during the king's visit to his home at Hunting-tower Castle. Ruthven was the last-known custodian of the silver casket that contained the Casket Letters; letters said to have been written by Mary, Queen of Scotland, whose third husband was James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell.


William was detained and beheaded for high treason, all his honors were forfeited. He was executed in May 1584. Following his execution, his lands were divided among the king's favourites.

A letter produced in the posthumous trial of Robert Logan of Restalrig in 1609 referred to William as Greysteil, a character in a popular poem of his time noted for his strength and sinister powers.

Marriage and children

William Ruthven was married twice: first to Dorothea Stewart, the oldest daughter of Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven; and later to Janet Stewart, daughter of John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Atholl.

William and Dorothea had ten daughters and four sons including James Ruthven, 2nd Earl of Gowrie and John Ruthven, 3rd Earl of Gowrie.

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