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The Scottish Nation

RUTHVEN, a surname derived from lands in Perthshire. From the similarity of their armorial bearings, it has been supposed that the family who first bore it in Scotland came originally from Aragon in Spain. On more authentic grounds, however, they are believed to have derived their descent from Sway, (Suanus,) the son of Thor, a person of Saxon or Danish blood, who settled in Scotland in the reign of David I. Swan, who flourished in the reign of William the Lion, possessed the manors of Ruthven, Tibbermore, and other lands in Perthshire. He was also superior lord of the territory of Crawford, in Upper Clydesdale, which the progenitors of the Lindsays held as vassals under him. In the Ragman Roll, among those who swore fealty to Edward I. of England in 1296, are the names of Willielmus de Rothein, Sir William de Rothwen, and Dominus Willielmus de Ruthven.


RUTHVEN, Lord, a title in the peerage of Scotland, first conferred by James III. in 1487 on Sir William de Ruthven, ancestor of the earls of Gowrie. He is said, in the first edition of Douglas’ Peerage, to have been the son of Sir William de Ruthven, the ninth in descent from Swan, son of Thor, above mentioned. His grandfather, of the same name and surname, obtained from King Robert III. charters of the sheriffship of St. Johnston, afterwards Perth, so called from St. John, its patron saint, and of the lands of Ruthven, Perthshire, and Ballernach, Mid Lothian. His father, also named Sir William de Ruthven, was one of the commissioners appointed to treat with the English for the release of King James I. in 1423, and one of the hostages for his majesty in 1424, when his annual income was stated to be 400 marks. In the Acta Auditorum, 1478 (63) as noted by Mr. Wood in his edition of Douglas’ Peerage, (vol. i. p. 660), William Ruthven of that ilk is stated to have been the son of Patrick of Ruven of that ilk, and grandson of John of Ruthven of that ilk, knight.

Sir William de Ruthven, the first Lord Ruthven, was created a peer of parliament, 29th January 1488. He was twice married, first, to Isabel, daughter of Livington of Saltcouts, Haddingtonshire, relict of Walter Lindsay of Beaufort; and, secondly, to Christian, daughter of the eighth Lord Forbes. By his first wife he had two sons, born before marriage, namely, William, master of Ruthven, slain at Flodden, 9th September 1513, and John, who with his brother, both previously named Lindsay, obtained a legitimation under the great seal, 2d July 1480; and a daughter, Margaret, countess of Buchan, afterwards married to John Erskine of Dun. By his second wife, he had a son, William Ruthven, progenitor of the earl of Forth, and a daughter, Elizabeth, countess of Errol, afterwards wife of Lord Ross.

The first Lord Ruthven died in 1528, and was succeeded by his grandson, William, the son of the master of Ruthven. The following year he was elected provost of Perth. From Pitcairn’s ‘Criminal Trials,’ (vol. i. p. 158), it appears that on February 2 and February 26, 1532, Lords Ruthven and Oliphant, with the lairds of Ardoch, Moncrieffe, Tullibardine, and other barons, to the number of 28, were fined for not coming forward to pass upon the jury for the trial of Lady Glammis at Forfar, for poisoning her husband. IN 1539, Lord Ruthven was appointed an extraordinary lord of session. He was one of the early supporters of the Reformation in Scotland, and in the parliament held 13th March 1543, he was a chief reasoner for the laity having the Scriptures. He is called by Calderwood (Historie of the Kirk of Scotland, vol. i. p. 158) “a stout and discreet man in the cause of God.” In the same parliament, he and the earls Marischal and Montrose, and the lords Erskine, Lindsay, Livingston, and Seton were appointed keepers of the young Queen Mary’s person. For his “knowledge of the Word,” he was hated by Cardinal Bethune, who in 1544 procured that the office of provost of Perth should be conferred on John Charteris of Kinfauns, which led to the sanguinary conflict on the bridge of Perth between Lord Ruthven, supported by the townsmen and the laird of Moncrieffe on the one side, against Lord Gray and Norman Leslie on the other, when the latter were defeated, an account of which is given under the head of CHARTERIS. Lord Ruthven had a heritable grant of the king’s house in Perth, of which he was keeper 13th September 1546, and the following year, he became lord privy seal. He died before 16th December 1552. By his wife, Janet, eldest of the three daughters and co-heiresses of Patrick, Lord Halyburton of Dirleton, he got that barony and a considerable accession to his estate. He had, with seven daughters, three sons. 1. Patrick, third Lord Ruthven. 2. James Ruthven of Teviot. 3. Alexander Ruthven of Freeland, ancestor of the Lords Ruthven of the second creation.

Patrick, third Lord Ruthven and Dirleton, the eldest son, born about 1520, and educated at St. Andrews, has acquired an historical name as the principal actor in the murder of Rizzio. Like his father he was a staunch supporter of the Protestant doctrines, and in 1559, when the queen regent requested him to suppress the new religion in Perth, of which town he was provost, he sent back the answer that he could make the bodies of the citizens come to her grace and prostrate themselves before her, but he had no power over their minds or consciences. She said, in great fury, that he was too malapert to give such an answer, and threatened to cause him and them both repent. (Calderwood, vol. i. p. 438.) On the approach of her forces to Perth soon after, his lordship, anxious, with the other leading reformers, to prevent extremities, went to the regent, but finding her full of deceit and falsehood, with the earl of Argyle and Lord James Stewart, afterwards the regent Moray, the earl of Menteith and the laird of Tullibardine, he left her, when they entered into an engagement for the defence of each other and the establishment of protestantation. Lord Ruthven with the cavalry formed the van of the army of the Congregation stationed on Cupar muir, and after a truce for eight days had been agreed to, with Argyle and other leaders, he marched to Perth, to expel from that city the French left there by the regent. The earl of Huntly, chancellor of the kingdom, hastened to entreat them to delay their purpose for a few days, but knowing this to be but artifice on the regent’s part, they refused, and having regularly invested the town, twice summoned the garrison to surrender, without effect. On the night of the 25th June, Lord Ruthven, on the west quarter, gave orders to open the first battery on the town, which was speedily followed by others, and the following day the garrison was compelled to capitulate. He was one of the commissioners sent by the lords of the Congregation to confer with the queen regent, and also with the commissioners appointed by her to meet with them, but their conferences, owing to the duplicity of the regent, came to nothing.

The queen regent having employed her French troops in fortifying Leith, the Protestant lords, and among them Lord Ruthven, on the 29th September, addressed a letter to her from Hamilton, expressing their astonishment at her conduct, but to this remonstrance no answer was returned. Collecting their forces at Stirling, they marched to Edinburgh, which they entered on the 18th October. The regent now used every means in her power to conciliate the principal leaders of the Congregation, but without effect. To Lord Ruthven, she sent the lord-justice-clerk with large promises to induce him to join her faction, but to no purpose. She was compelled to place herself under the protection of the French troops at Leith, when the lords again addressed her; but their messenger was dismissed without any answer. A few days afterwards she sent Robert Forman, lyon herald king of arms, who commanded the Congregation to leave Edinburgh, and disperse themselves, under the pain of high treason. It was now resolved to deprive her of her authority, and accordingly, at a convention of the nobility, barons, and burgesses, held at Edinburgh on the 21st October, at which Lord Ruthven took a prominent part in the proceedings, an edict was passed and sent to her, suspending her commission of regency and removing her from the government. At the head of 600 horse, Lord Ruthven, with Lord James Stewart and Kirkaldy of Grange, annoyed the French by incessant attacks, intercepted their provisions, and beat off their struggling parties. In January 1560, Lord Ruthven was engaged against a party of the French troops who were fortifying Burntisland. The following mouth he was one of the commissioners selected by the lords of the Congregation to meet with the duke of Norfolk at Berwick, to arrange the conditions on which the assistance of Queen Elizabeth was to be given to the reformers in Scotland.

IN 1563, when John Knox was accused before the council for writing a circular letter, requesting several of the Protestant leaders to meet at Edinburgh on the 24th October, and the queen asked, “Who gave him authority to convocate my lieges? Is not that treason?” Lord Ruthven at once answered, “No, Madam, he convocateth the people to hear prayers and sermons almost daily; and whatever your grace or others will think thereof, we think it no treason.” “Hold your peace,” said the queen, “and let him answer for himself.” He did answer for himself, and was acquitted of treason, very greatly to the chagrin of poor Mary. In the General Assembly which met at Edinburgh on the 25th December of the same year, Lord Ruthven was one of the noblemen appointed with others to revise the Book of Discipline. His last public appearance was on the memorable night of Rizzio’s murder, 9th March 1566, when lean, wan, and ghost-like from a long illness, he appeared in armour, with his son and others, behind Lord Darnley, in presence of the queen, and dagger in hand, commanded the Italian, who, though ugly and deformed, was from his accomplishments a favourite with the unfortunate Mary, to leave a place of which he was unworthy. After the murder, abandoned by Darnley, he fled into England, and died there 13th June, just three months afterwards. “He made a Christian end,” says Calderwood (vol. ii. p. 317), “thanking God for the leisure granted to him to call for mercy.” He is included in Walpole’s Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, (vol. v. p. 49), for having written a memoir of Rizzio’s murder, in which, it has been remarked, there is not one expression of regret, or one symptom of compunction for the crime. He was twice married, first, to Janet Douglas, natural daughter of Archibald, earl of Angus, and, secondly, to Lady Janet Stewart, eldest daughter of the second earl of Athol, who was thrice a widow, and was then Lady Methven. By his first wife, he had, with two daughters, three sons. 1. Patrick, master of Ruthven, who predeceased him; 2. William, fourth Lord Ruthven and first earl of Gowrie; and 3. Alexander. By his second wife, he had a son, the Hon. James Ruthven.

William, fourth Lord Ruthven, was created earl of Gowrie 23d August 1581. The title of Lord Ruthven was forfeited in 1600, on the attainder of that of the earl of Gowrie, on account of the mysterious affair known in history as the Gowrie conspiracy. At the meeting of the Estates of parliament in November of that year, an act was passed that all of the surname of Ruthven should choose other names, as their own they would no longer be allowed to retain.


RUTHVEN, Baron, a title in the Scottish peerage, revived in 1651, in the person of Sir Thomas Ruthven of Freeland, grandson of Alexander Ruthven, third son of the second Lord Ruthven of the first creation. Previous to being raised to the peerage, Sir Thomas was a commissioner for the treaty of Rippon in 1641. In 1644 he was colonel of one of the regiments sent against the marquis of Huntly, and in 1646 and the following year, he was one of the committee of Estates. After the execution of Charles I., in 1649, he was one of the colonels for Perthshire for putting the nation in a posture of defence. The same year he was a commissioner of exchequer. By King Charles II. he was created a peer of Scotland, by the title of Lord Ruthven, in 1651. He died 6th May 1673. In Park’s edition of Walpole’s Royal and Noble Authors, (vol. v. p. 49) and also in Watt’s Bibliotheca Britannica, a publication entitled ‘The Ladies’ Cabinet enlarged and opened.’ (4th edition, London, 1677), is attributed to that “learned chymist the Lord Ruthven.” This, however, is a mistake for Lord Grey de Ruthyn, an English peer. By his wife, Isabel, third daughter of Robert, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, he had, with three daughters, a son, David, second Lord Ruthven. This nobleman was one of the lords of the treasury in the reign of William III., and died without issue in April 1701.

The patent of the Ruthven peerage had been burnt with the house of Freeland, 15th March 1570, and its limitations, not being on record, were understood to be to the heirs general of the first baron’s body, (Douglas’ Peerage, Wood’s edition, vol. ii. p. 464). In consequence, Isabel, since of the second lord, and daughter of his sister the Hon. Elizabeth Ruthven, by her husband, Sir Francis Ruthven of Redcastle, a descendant of the house of Gowrie, succeeded as baroness Ruthven. She was summoned as a baroness to the coronation of George I., and also to that of George II. She died in 1732. She had married Colonel James Johnston of Gratney, Dumfries-shire, who assumed the name of Ruthven, and, with one daughter, had a son, James, third Lord Ruthven, who died at Edinburgh, 3d July 1783. He was twice married, first, to Janet, daughter of William Nisbet of Dirleton, by whom he had two sons, James, fourth Lord Ruthven, and the Hon. William Ruthven; and, secondly, to Lady Anne Stewart, second daughter of the second earl of Bute, and by her had two sons and eight daughters.

James, fourth Lord Ruthven, the eldest son, was a captain in the army when he succeeded to the title. He died 27th December 1789. By his wife, Lady Mary Elizabeth Leslie, second daughter of the sixth earl of Leven and Melville, he had three sons and six daughters. James, the eldest son, fifth Lord Ruthven, born 17th October 1777, was a major in the 90th regiment of foot, but quitted the army in 1807. He married, in May 1813, Mary, daughter of Walter Campbell of Shawfield, and died, without issue, 27th July 1853. The title then devolved on his only surviving sister, the Hon. Mary Elizabeth Thornton Ruthven, who married, 13th October 1806, Walter Hore, Esq. of Harperstown, county Wexford, Ireland, with issue, five sons and six daughters. On her ladyship succeeding to the title her husband and family assumed the surname and arms of Ruthven. The eldest son, William, married, in 1839, Dells Honoria, daughter of Major Lowen, and died in 1847, leaving Walter-James, lieutenant rifle brigade, Charles Stewart, and 3 daughters. The 5th son, the Hon. Cavendish Bradstreet Ruthven, lieutenant R.N., died in 1855 of wounds received before Sebastopol.

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