James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell


National Galleries Scotland: Portrait

National Galleries Scotland: Portrait
Edinburgh, United Kingdom

This tiny portrait is one of a pair commemorating the wedding of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, and Lady Jean Gordon in 1566. His marriage into the Huntly family made Bothwell one of the most powerful Lords in Scotland. He soon gained influence at the court of Mary, Queen of Scots, who trusted him over other Lords. Yet Bothwell was primarily a swordsman and an adventurer, and his charm only partly veiled his coarse and violent nature. He was part of the conspiracy to kill the queen’s husband, Lord Darnley, and later divorced his wife in order to marry Mary. Instead of stabilising Mary’s position, this marriage unified the other Scottish Lords against her and was the beginning of her downfall. After Mary’s imprisonment Bothwell fled to Norway and died a prisoner in Denmark.


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