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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Happy Gowrie Day!

Today marks the 410th anniversary of the 'Gowrie House affair', when John Ruthven, Earl of Gowrie, and his brother Sandy were killed in mysterious circumstances in the presence of James VI, King of Scots, soon to be James I of England. Depending on which sources you read, the events of the day were either a botched plot by the Ruthvens to assassinate or kidnap the king, or else a successful plot by the king to eliminate the Ruthvens. The mystery was heightened by rumours of witchcraft, royal adultery and homosexual lust; not surprisingly, it attracted the interest of Shakespeare, who used it as one of the inspirations for the plot of Macbeth. In its day, the 'Gowrie Conspiracy' was as famous as the nearly contemporary 'Gunpowder Plot'. 5 August was a national holiday in Scotland from 1601 and in England from 1603. Although the commemoration died out before the end of the 17th century, the 'Gowrie day' service remained part of the liturgy of the Church of England until 1859.

The events of 5 August 1600 form the basis of my next book, Blood of Kings, which will be published by Ian Allan on 1 December and which argues that the 'Gowrie House affair' was actually far more important to the course of British history than the 'Gunpowder plot'. It'll be interesting to see what sort of reaction greets my interpretation of the events; there are still many people who take sides over this issue, especially those who believe passionately that King James was nothing but the callous murderer of two innocent young men.

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