James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell

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The Duke of Orkney
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The Duke of Orkney

James Hepburn, 1st Duke of Orkney (~1535 - April 14, 1578) was the third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Bothwell was the son of Patrick Hepburn, 3rd Earl of Bothwell, whom he succeeded as earl in 1556. Although he was probably acting in an advisory capacity to Mary almost from the moment of her return in Scotland, their liaison does not seem to have begun until 1566, after the birth of her son, the future James VI of Scotland. Bothwell had married Jean, the daughter of George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly, in February of that year; the marriage lasted just over a year.

Hearing that Bothwell had been seriously wounded and was likely to die, Mary visited him at Hermitage Castle only a few weeks after giving birth to James. Bothwell was divorced by his wife on the grounds of adultery in May, 1567, three months after the death of Mary's second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, whom Bothwell was generally believed to have murdered. He married Mary on May 15, 1567, twelve days after his divorce, after supposedly having "abducted" her; he had been created Duke of Orkney on May 12. The marriage made her unpopular, and was a direct cause of her being forced to abdicate her throne. In December of the same year, Bothwell's titles and estates were forfeit for treason. He travelled to Scandinavia in the hope of raising an army to put Mary back on the throne, but was imprisoned in Dragsholm Castle, Denmark, where he was kept in appalling conditions and eventually died, insane. His mummified body can be seen in Faarejevile, the Church near Dragsholm.


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