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was no direct proof that he was involved in a conspiracy against the king or Arran. Earnest attempts were therefore made to induce him to make a confession (see specially the papers printed in Papers relating to William, first Earl of Gowrie, pp. 25–43); and on a solemn verbal assurance of the king's promise of pardon, he did confess that he was concerned in the conspiracy with the other nobles who had fled to England, but, except as regards his share in the conspiracy, revealed nothing that was not already known. His own confession was nevertheless used as the main evidence against him at his trial, and, being convicted of high treason, he was beheaded at Stirling on 2 May 1584, and his lands were forfeited. In addition to the accusation of treason, he was charged with witchcraft; but he repelled the accusation as a malicious slander, and it was not persisted in.

Gowrie was married to Dorothea Stewart, daughter or granddaughter of Henry Stewart, second lord Methven. It has been disputed whether she was the daughter of the second Lord Methven by his first wife, Margaret Tudor, widow of James IV, or by his second wife, Lady Jane Stewart, who afterwards married Gowrie's father, Patrick, third lord Ruthven. It has, however, been clearly shown that she could not have been a daughter of Margaret Tudor, inasmuch as in that case she would have been much too old to have borne so many children to Gowrie; but it has also been argued that Lord Methven had by Margaret Tudor a son, the master of Methven, killed at Pinkie in 1547, and that Dorothea was the master's daughter, and therefore a granddaughter of Margaret Tudor. The theory is, however, unsupported by evidence, and owes its existence simply to the fact that it affords a plausible explanation of the so-called ‘Gowrie Conspiracy’ of 1600 [see under Ruthven, Alexander, master of, and Ruthven, John, third Earl of Gowrie], inasmuch as on this supposition the young Earl of Gowrie would have had a rival title with James to the throne of England. Be this as it may, Dorothea and her children were for a time treated with great severity. Not only was she left completely destitute, but when during the progress of the king to the parliament in August she appeared to ask mercy for herself and children, she was forcibly repelled at the instance of Arran, and fell down in the street in a swoon (Calderwood, History, iv. 197). After the fall of Arran in 1586 the forfeited lands and dignities were, however, restored. At his death Gowrie was indebted to the amount of 48,063l., being the amount advanced to him on the security of his lands for the defrayment of public expenses while he held the office of treasurer. After the Gowrie conspiracy the Countess of Gowrie penned a petition on 1 Nov. 1600, in which she wrote: ‘I am so overcharged with the payment of annual rents for his majesty's debts contracted during the time of my husband's being in office of treasurer, which sums of money were taken on my compact fee lands, that scarce am I able to entertain my own estate’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pt. ii. p. 196).

By Dorothea Stewart, Gowrie had five sons and eight daughters. The sons were James, second earl, who died in 1588; John, third earl [q. v.], and Alexander, master of Ruthven [q. v.], both killed in the affair of Gowrie House in 1600; William, and Patrick. After the affair of Gowrie House an order was sent to apprehend William and Patrick, then boys at school in Edinburgh, but, being forewarned, they fled into England. On 27 April 1603 James, during his progress southward to accept the crown of England, issued an order for their apprehension (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1603–10, p. 5). William escaped and went to the continent, where he gained a high reputation by his scientific acquirements; but Patrick was apprehended and lodged in the Tower. While there he on 24 July 1616 received a grant of 200l. per annum for apparel and books (ib. 1611–1618, p. 387). In 1622 he obtained permission to reside within the bounds of the university of Cambridge, and there was at the same time settled on him a pension of 500l. a year. On 4 Feb. 1623–4 he was permitted to reside in Somerset. In February 1639–40 he was living in St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. He died in 1652, in the king's bench prison. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Woodford, and widow of Thomas, lord Gerard, by whom he had, besides other children, Patrick, who succeeded him, and Mary, maid of honour to Queen Henrietta Maria, who married Sir Anthony Vandyke. On 3 Nov. 1657 the son, who styled himself Patrick, lord Ruthven, presented a petition to Cromwell for arrears of pension due to his father, in which he stated that the barony of Ruthven had been restored by parliament to his father in 1641 (for information regarding Patrick Ruthven, see especially Papers relating to William, first Earl of Gowrie, and Patrick Ruthven, his fifth and last surviving Son, 1867). The daughters of the first Lord Gowrie were Mary, married to John, first earl of Atholl; Jean to James, lord Ogilvie, ancestor of the earls of Airlie; Sophia to Ludovick Stewart, second duke