Sir Francis Stewart, 1st Earl of Bothwell

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Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell

Birthdate: (49)
Birthplace: Probably Coldingham, Berwickshire, Scotland
Death: November 4, 1612 (45-53)
Napoli, Terra di Lavoro, Regno di Napoli, Spagna degli Asburgo
Immediate Family:

Son of John Stewart, 1st Lord Darnley and Jean Hepburn, Mistress of Caithness, Lady Morham
Husband of Lady Margaret Douglas
Father of John Stewart, Commendator of Coldinhame; Elizabeth Cranstoun; Francis Stewart, Lord Stewart and Bothwell and Lady Margaret Stewart
Brother of Hercules Stewart and Margaret Stewart
Half brother of Christiane Stewart; George Sinclair, 5th Earl of Caithness,; Sir James Sinclair of Murkle, sheriff of Caithness; Francis Sinclair; William Sinclair and 8 others

Occupation: Earl of Bothwell, Conspirator
Managed by: Douglas John Nimmo
Last Updated:

About Sir Francis Stewart, 1st Earl of Bothwell,_5th_Earl_of_Bothwell

Francis Stewart, Earl Bothwell (b. c. December 1562 – d. April 1612, Naples), [n.b. note alternate death date of 1624, documented below] was Commendator of Kelso Abbey and Coldingham Priory, a Privy Counsellor and Lord High Admiral of Scotland. Like his stepfather, Archibald Douglas, Parson of Douglas, he was a notorious conspirator, who died in disgrace.

Francis was the first cousin of King James VI of Scotland (they were both grandsons of James V of Scotland). Francis's maternal uncle James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell was the chief suspect of having murdered James VI's father Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.

Francis was son to John Stewart, Lord Darnley, Prior of Coldingham (d. 1563), an illegitimate child of James V of Scotland by his mistress Elizabeth Carmichael. John Stewart's wife was Jane Hepburn, Mistress of Caithness, Lady Morham (d. 1599) sister to James Hepburn, the fourth Earl Bothwell. Francis is said to have been born in his mother's tower house at Morham.

Marriage and issue

On 1 December 1577, Francis, Earl Bothwell married Margaret (d. 1640), daughter of David Douglas, 7th Earl of Angus, and widow of Sir Walter Scott, of Branxholme & Buccleuch (d. 1574). Initially, after a brief honeymoon, the new earl was not permitted to come within twenty miles of his new wife 'for reassone of his youngnes'. (Adv. Man. 35.4.2) They later had, at least, four sons and four daughters.

   * Francis, Lord Stewart, Bothwell and Commendator of Kelso Abbey (b. 1584) - After his father's death, in spite of the attainder, he is occasionally styled 'Earl Bothwell', and Lord Stewart and Bothwell. married Isobel, daughter of Robert Seton, 1st Earl of Winton.
   * John (2nd son), the last Commendator of Coldingham Priory and 1st secular feudal Baron of Coldingham. On 16 June 1622 he transferred the barony to his elder brother, Francis. John and his son Francis were still living in April 1636 but John was dead by August 1658.[2]
   * Frederick, (3rd son) (b. 1594) mentioned in the Privy Council Registers in 1612 (vol. ix, p. 498).
   * Henry (Harry), (4th son) (b. 1594?) signed many documents with his elder brothers, and who, in 1627, consented to a lease. Possibly twin with Frederick.
   * Elizabeth (b. 1590) (eldest daughter) married James, Master of Cranstoun (appears to have been banished in 1610.
   * Helen, married John Macfarlane of that Ilk.
   * Jean (d. after 1624) married Robert Elliot of Redheugh.
   * Margaret, married Allan Cathcart, 5th Lord Cathcart.


Watson, Godfrey. Bothwell and the Witches. London: Hale, 1975. Print.

A Scottish noble of the 16th century, Hepburn was accused of being the "Grand Master of a sodality or coven of witches" in North Berwick (Wedeck 201).

Public opinon turned against Hepburn, and he "was eventually forced to fell the country in 1595. Many of [Hepburn's] alleged diabolical accomplices were burned alive at the King's insistence" (Sidky 58).

This song originates from Scotland and has been dated to the year 1591. The words are from the witchcraft trial of the Earl of Bothwell Francis Stewart who was accused of using sorcery to try to kill King James VI.

Hear the song here:

Francis STEWART-HEPBURN 5th Earl of Bothwell

Birth: 1562

Death: 1624, Naples Italy in extreme poverty

Res: 16 Jun 1581, created earl of Bothwell by King james VI

Attempted to claim the title as fifth Earl of Bothwell but all the titles ceased.

Ref. "Mary, Queen of Scots" by Angus Hamilton.

Death Year per Gwen Hepburn's chart.

n.b. Interesting footnotes here:

2. It is perhaps significant that the confession of John Fian, and the trials of both Barbara Napier and of Bothwell himself for witchcraft, have disappeared from the Justiciary Records.

Reading the accounts in the light of this supposition, it is seen that every one, including James, suspected Bothwell. Even if they did not acknowledge his divinity, they feared the magical powers which, as Chief of the Witches, he was supposed to wield. It is impossible to study the details of this period without realizing the extraordinary fear which James had of his cousin; it was fear with an underlying horror, totally different from his feeling towards his other turbulent subjects.

When Bothwell, seeking pardon, was introduced into Holyrood Palace by Lady Athol in the early morning of July 24, 1593, he entered the King's chamber. James, always undignified, was caught in the middle of his morning toilet; he tried to run into the Queen's room, but the way was barred by Bothwell's friends and the door was locked. 'The king, seeing no other refuge, asked what they meant. Came they to seek his life? let them take it--they would not get his soul.'[1]

This remark, made in the urgency and excitement of the moment, is highly significant. Had Bothwell been, like many of James's other enemies, merely an assassin, James would not have spoken of his soul. But Bothwell as the Devil of the witches had the right to demand the yielding of the soul, and James was aware of the fact.

The birth of James's children removed Bothwell's hopes of succession; the power of the witch organization, of which he was the Chief, was broken by the death of its leaders. He had made a strong bid for power, he failed, fled the country, and finally died in poverty at Naples. There George Sandys the traveller heard of him: 'Here a certaine Calabrian hearing that I was an Englishman, came to me, and would needs perswade me that I had insight in magicke: for that Earle Bothel was my countryman, who liues at Naples, and is in those parts famous for suspected negromancie.'[2]

Information from the HOME Tree:

  Francis married Margaret DOUGLAS, daughter of David DOUGLAS, 7th Earl of Angus and Margaret HAMILTON.
   Margaret DOUGLAS died in 1640.
  Information from
  1st Earl of BOTHWELL, Francis STEART born 1563.
  Son of John STEWART, 1st Lord DARNLEY (an illigitimate son of King James V) and Lady Jean HEPBURN born 1547 d 1599) daughter of Patrick HEPBURN, 3rd Earl of BOTHWELL, and so related to the previous holder. He succeeded to the title 2nd Lord DARNLEY in 1563 and was created 1st Earl of BOTHWELL and 1st Lord HAILES in 1591. In 1586 he was one of three Commissioners sent to negotiate a military alliance with England. He was made Lord High Admiral in 1583, a post that proved eventful, as he was the holder during the period of the Spanish Armada, and spent some considerable time at sea. In 1589 he and several others, including HUNTLY, were charged with treason and plotting to seize the King. They were found guilty, but sentence was deferred. BOTHWELL was also charged with witchcraft, though he denied it. He escaped from Edinburgh Castle, but was declared forfeit and outlaw. The next year BOTHWELL and others attempted to capture the king from Falkland Palace, but failed. He was then pursued as a fugitive and all his lands taken into the Crown's Possession. In 1593 he was formally attainted by Act of Parliament, but managed to smuggle himself into Holyrood Palace to meet the King, who accepted his petitions, whereupon the  attainder was repealed. However, there was still bad feeling between the two men. Bothwell promoting the Protestand cause, and moves were made to have him exiled. This resulted in BOTHWELL and his supporters taking to arms and clashing with the King's forces outside Edinburgh. He was now associated with the rebel Catholic lords Huntly, Errol and the like, and fled north before the King's army, once again charged with treason.
  He eventually left for Europe ending up in Naples, where he lived in poverty until his death. Because of his family connections, he could have been a realistic competitor for the throne, especially during the turbulent times caused by the uneasy relationships between Protestant and Catholic, monarchy and Parliament, but he did not have the strength of character to take his chances when they arose. The title Earl of BOTHWELL was never used again.

source ref:


  • The Peerage of Scotland, &c., published by Peter Brown, Edinburgh, 1834, p.174.
  • The Royal Families of England Scotland and Wales, with their descendants etc., by John and John Bernard Burke, London, 1848, volume 1, pedigree CXXXIX.
  • The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, edited by David Masson, LL.D., vols. IV & V, 1585-1592, 1592-1599, Edinburgh, 1881/1882, see index for two columns of Bothwell references in both editions.
  • Scottish Kings, a Revised Chronology of Scottish History, 1005 - 1625 by Sir Archibald H. Dunbar, Bart., Edinburgh, 1899, p239.
  • The Scots' Peerage by Sir James Balfour Paul, Edinburgh, 1905, vol. ii, p.169-171.

Earl Francis STEWART 1st of Bothwell (1563-1613)

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Sir Francis Stewart, 1st Earl of Bothwell's Timeline

December 1562
Probably Coldingham, Berwickshire, Scotland
June 16, 1581
Age 18
Age 21
Age 27
November 4, 1612
Age 49
Napoli, Terra di Lavoro, Regno di Napoli, Spagna degli Asburgo