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Janet Scott (Bethune)

Also Known As: "Janet Beaton", "Janet Beatoun"
Birthplace: Creich, Fifeshire, Scotland
Death: Died in Branxholm, Roxburghshire, Scotland
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Sir John Bethune, Kt., 2nd of Creich and Janet Hay
Wife of Sir James Crichton, Kt. and Walter Scott, 3rd Lord of Buccleuch
Ex-wife of Simon Preston of Craigmillar
Mother of Walter Scott; Jean Scott; David Scott; Mary Scott; Grissel Borthwick and 2 others
Sister of Robert Bethune, Laird of Creich ; Grizel Murray; Christina Balfour and Elizabeth Gray

Managed by: Douglas John Nimmo
Last Updated:

About Janet Scott

Janet Beaton

Janet Beaton, Lady of Branxholme and Buccleugh (1519–1569) was an aristocratic Scottish woman and a mistress of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell.[1] She had a total of five husbands. One of her nieces was Mary Beaton, one of the four ladies-in-waiting of Mary, Queen of Scots, known in history as the four Marys. In her lifetime, she was accused of having been a witch.[2] Janet was immortalised as Sir Walter Scott's Wizard Lady of Branxholm in his celebrated narrative poem "Lay of the Last Minstrel".[3]

Janet was born in 1519, one of the eleven children of Sir John Beaton, 2nd Laird of Creich and Janet Hay, daughter of John Hay, provost of Dundee by his wife Elizabeth Crichton. Her father was the hereditary keeper of Falkland Palace. Her brother was Robert Beaton, 4th Laird of Creich, and her sister, Elizabeth Beaton was a mistress of King James V of Scotland, by whom she had an illegitimate daughter, Jean. Her niece was Mary Beaton, one of the celebrated ladies-in-waiting of Mary, Queen of Scots, known as "the four Marys". Janet was also related to Cardinal David Beaton and Queen Mary's ambassador to France, James Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow.[4]

Janet married her first husband, Sir James Crichton of Cranston Riddell in 1538 when she was nineteen years of age. In 1540, a year after Sir James's death, she married Sir Simon Preston of Craigmillar Castle; they were divorced in 1543 on grounds of consanguinity and her own admitted adultery with her future third husband. Sometime before June 1544 Janet married, as his third wife, her paramour Sir Walter Scott of Branxholme and Buccleuch, Chief of the Clan Scott (1495- 4 October 1552), by whom she had five children:

  • Walter Scott
  • David Scott
  • Grisel Scott (born 1552), married firstly, William Borthwick, 6th Lord Borthwick, by whom she had five sons; she married secondly, Walter Cairncross.
  • Janet Scott, married firstly John Cranstoun of Cranstoun, by whom she had issue; she married secondly, Robert Scott of Haining.
  • Margaret Scott, married Robert Scott of Thirlestane, by whom she had issue.

In 1550, Janet's husband Sir Walter was appointed Warden of the Middle March and the following year, Warden and Justiciar of Liddesdale. On 4 October 1552, Sir Walter was killed in a skirmish in Edinburgh's High Street with members of his clan's rivals, the Clan Kerr who ran him through with swords. In 1558, Janet marched at the head of an armed party consisting of two hundred members of her clan to the Kirk of St. Mary of the Lowes in Yarrow, where she knocked down the doors in an attempt to apprehend Sir Peter Cranstoun. Janet was brought before the Justice; however a warrant issued by the regent Marie of Guise brought the proceedings against her to a halt.[5]

Janet had a total of five husbands.[6]

Janet had many love affairs throughout her life, the most significant of these began sometime around the year 1558 with James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. He was twenty-four at the time[7] and she was almost forty. Janet was described as having possessed "an unfading beauty", combined with audacity, determination and sexuality.[8] Her ageless beauty was attributed to Janet's practice of sorcery,[9] and it was rumoured that she and Bothwell may have gone through a form of "hand-fasting" ceremony.[10]

Janet Beaton was immortalised by Sir Walter Scott in his narrative poem "Lay of the Last Minstrel" as Wizard Lady of Branxholm, who could '"bond to her bidding the viewless forms of air". Bothwell would go on to marry in 1566 Lady Jean Gordon a wealthy Highlander heiress, the sister of the 5th Earl of Huntly; immediately following his divorce from Jean in 1567, he became the third husband of Queen Mary of Scotland.

In 1567, following the murder of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Janet Beaton's name was written on a placard in Edinburgh accusing her of having used witchcraft to influence the queen in consenting to her second husband's murder by Bothwell and the other conspirators.[11] The same sorcery perpetrated by Janet was allegedly used against Queen Mary which caused her to become enamoured of Earl Bothwell. At Dunbar Castle, Janet was one of the three atttendants of Queen Mary following the latter's abduction by Bothwell. The other two women were Janet's younger sister Margaret, Lady Reres and Bothwell's widowed sister, Jean Hepburn.

Janet Beaton died in January 1568/9.[12]



  • Janet Bethune1
  • F, #88770, d. after 4 October 1552
  • Father Sir John Bethune, 2nd Laird of Creich1
  • Mother Janet Hay1
  • Janet Bethune was born at of Creich, Scotland.1 She married James Crichton circa 1538; Her 1st husband.1,2 Janet Bethune married Sir Walter Scott, son of Sir Walter Scott and Elizabeth Ker, before June 1544.1 Janet Bethune died after 4 October 1552.1
  • Family 1 James Crichton d. b Jun 1544
  • Child
    • Katherine Crichton3 d. b 6 May 1532
  • Family 2 Sir Walter Scott d. 4 Oct 1552
  • Citations
  • [S11564] The Scots Peerage, Vol. II, edited by Sir James Balfour Paul, p. 230.
  • [S11649] Clan MacFarlane & Associated Clans Genealogy.
  • [S11566] The Scots Peerage, Vol. IV, edited by Sir James Balfour Paul, p. 155.
  • From:


  • Janet Bethune1
  • F, #20690, b. circa 1510, d. January 1569
  • Last Edited=17 Jan 2015
  • Janet Bethune was born circa 1510.1 She was the daughter of Sir John Bethune, 2nd of Creich and Janet Hay.2,1 She married, firstly, Sir James Crichton circa 1538.2,1 She married, secondly, Simon Preston of Craigmillar in 1540.1 She and Simon Preston of Craigmillar were divorced before 1544.1 She married, thirdly, Sir Walter Scott, 3rd of Buccleuch, son of Sir Walter Scott, 2nd of Buccleuch and Elizabeth Kerr, circa 1544.2 She died in January 1569.2,1
  • She was also known as Janet Betoun.2 From circa 1538, her married name became Crichton.2 From 1540, her married name became Preston.1 Her married name became Scott. On 26 April 1559 he was alleged to have married a Janet Betown, widow of Sir Walter Scott, of Buccleuch, but if this marriage ever took place, it was quickly dissolved.
  • Child of Janet Bethune and Sir Walter Scott, 3rd of Buccleuch
    • Grissel Scott+3 b. b 1552
  • Citations
  • [S2226] Lawless Bethune, "re: Bethune Family," e-mail message to, 27 March 2007. Hereinafter cited as "re: Bethune Family."
  • [S37] BP2003 volume 1, page 560. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume II, page 222. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  • From:


  • Sir Walter "Wicked Wat" Scott
  • Birth: 1495, Scotland
  • Death: Oct. 5, 1552 Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Sir Walter Scott, 1st Lord of Branxholme, 3rd Lord of Buccleuch, known as "Wicked Wat", was a nobleman of the Scottish Borders. He was killed in the streets of Edinburgh in a feud with Clan Kerr in 1552 and buried at St. Mary's Kirk, Hawick.
  • Walter Scott was the son of Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, 2nd lord of Buccleuch, and Elizabeth Kerr, daughter of Walter Kerr of Cessford. His great grandson was Sir Walter Scott, "Bold Buccleuch".
  • Walter was knighted on the field at the battle of Flodden on Sep. 9, 1513, where he lost many of his kinsmen.
  • In 1542 he was accused of stealing the King's own sheep from the lands of Melrose Abbey; this led to his later nickname "Wicked Wat", (Wat being a regional nickname for Walter).
  • Walter first married in 1523 to Elizabeth Carmichael who died before 1530. They had two sons:
  • - David; died before 1544, unmarried.
  • - Sir William Scott of Kincurd (died May 1552), who married Grisel, second daughter of John Beaton of Creich, sister of his father's third wife. Father of Sir Walter Scott, 4th of Buccleuch (1549–1574). Grandfather of Walter Scott, 1st Lord Scott of Buccleuch.
  • In an attempt to resolve the Scott-Kerr feud, in 1530, the widowed Sir Walter married as his second wife Janet Kerr, daughter of Andrew Kerr of Fernihirst. They had no children. They were divorced, and she was still living in 1555.
  • Before June 1544, he married his third wife, Janet Beaton (1519–1569), daughter of John Beaton of Creich, widow of Sir James Crichton of Cranston Riddelm. They had five children.
  • Scott was walking in the High Street of Edinburgh on Oct. 4, 1552 when a band of Kerrs and their retainers attacked him. John Hume of Coldenknowes ran Scott through with his sword, "shouting to one of the Kerrs 'Strike! Ain strike for they father's sake!'", and when the wounded Scott was found to be alive his body was repeatedly stabbed until he died.
  • Family links:
  • Children:
    • Walter Scott (1531 - 1596)*
  • Burial: Saint Mary's Kirk, Hawick, Scottish Borders, Scotland
  • Find A Grave Memorial# 105688944
  • From:


From her husband Walter Scott's English Wikipedia page:

Sometime before June 1544, he married his third wife, Janet Beaton or Betoun (1519–1569), daughter of John Beaton of Creich, widow of Sir James Crichton of Cranston Riddelm and divorced wife of Simon Preston of Craigmillar. Their children were:

  • 1. Walter
  • 2. David
  • 3. Janet
  • 4. Grisel
  • 5. Margaret

Later, Dame Janet favoured the alliance of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell and Queen Mary, and was said to have infiuenced them by witchcraft.


view all 13

Janet Scott's Timeline

Creich, Fifeshire, Scotland
Age 16
Age 28
Age 30
Age 34
Creich, Sutherland, Scotland
Age 40
Branxholm, Roxburgh, Scotland
Age 42
January 1569
Age 59
Branxholm, Roxburghshire, Scotland