James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, illegitimate half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots and regent for the infant King James VI of Scotland, became the first person assassinated by firearm today in 1570. Now WE know em


James Stewart was born in Scotland in 1531.

His mother, Lady Margaret Erskine, was King James V of Scotland’s favorite mistress.

As such, James became the most notable of the many illegitimate children of the King.

His maternal grandfather was John Erskine, 5th Lord Erskine.

On August 31, 1536, the five year old boy was granted a charter of the lands of Tantallon that King James V had besieged in 1528.

To provide for his income, James was appointed Prior of the historic county of St. Andrews in 1538.

On December 8, 1542, Mary Queen of Scots was born as the only legitimate child of King James V of Scotland. Her mother was Mary of Guise, the second spouse of King James V.

Then on December 14, 1542, King James V of Scotland died and the 6 day old infant Mary Queen of Scots acceded to the throne. Her mother Mary of Guise was named Regent of Scotland in her daughters name.

Perhaps as early as May of 1553, the imperial ambassador to England Jean Scheyfve, reported that Mary of Guise planned to make James Stewart Regent of Scotland in place of James Hamilton, Duke of Châtellerault.

Her goal with James was an alliance between the powerful French Catholic nation and Scotland, which she wished to become Catholic and independent of England.

On August 5, 1557, James Stewart, his half-brother Lord Robert, and Lord Home led a raiding party from Edinburgh towards Ford Castle in Northumbria and burnt houses at Fenton before retreating on the approach of an English force led by Henry Percy.

Then in 1558, James attended the wedding of his legitimate half-sister Mary Queen of Scots in Paris, Frnace.

To fund this trip, his mother Lady Margaret Erskine, obtained credit from Timothy Cagnioli, an Italian banker in Edinburgh.

James then became a supporter of the Scottish Reformation seeking a break from the Catholic Papacy against the wishes of Mary of Guise.

The Scottish Reformation decisively shaped the Church of Scotland and, through it, all other Presbyterian churches worldwide.

On February 8, 1561 at Holyrood, James married Agnes Keith, daughter of William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal. The marriage produced three daughters.

Then on August 19, 1561, his widowed half-sister Mary Queen of Scots returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith.

Despite their religious differences, James Stewart became the chief adviser to his sister, Mary, Queen of Scots.

Although James disturbed her priests celebrating mass at Holyroodhouse in September 1561, she made him Earl of Moray and Earl of Mar the following year.

With this earldom came Darnaway Castle with its medieval hall, notable even then as “verie fayer and large builded.”

James also had a smaller house called Pitlethie near Leuchars in Fife, which his father had used.

In October 1562, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray defeated a rebellion by George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly, at the Battle of Corrichie near Aberdeen.

James then opposed the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, to her first cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley in 1565.

On August 26, 1565, James embarked upon a rebellion against the marriage. His rebel forces moved back and forth across Scotland without fighting, thus the conflict became known as the unsuccessful “Chase about Raid.”

Queen Mary’s forces were superior and James was forced to flee to England where Queen Elizabeth censured him.

Mary Queen of Scots became close to her private secretary David Rizzio. There were rumours that Mary had become pregnant by David Rizzio. Mary Queen of Scots husband Lord Darnley became jealous and reportedly had David Rizzio murdered.

Upon news of this, James Stewart returned to Scotland in support of his half-sister Mary who promised him a pardon.

On June 19, 1566, Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI.

The official record showed Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley as the father.

In February of 1567, Lord Darnley’s residence was destroyed by an explosion with Darnley found murdered in the garden.

James Stewart contrived, however, to be away in France at the time of Darnley’s assassination

On Saturday April 19, 1567 no fewer than eight Bishops, nine Earls, and seven Lords of Parliament put their signatures to what became known as the Ainslie Tavern Bond, a manifesto declaring that Mary Queen of Scots should marry a native-born subject.

On Wednesday April 24th, while Mary was on the road from Linlithgow Palace to Edinburgh, James Hepburn suddenly appeared with 800 men.

He assured Mary that danger awaited her in Edinburgh, and told her that he proposed to take her to his castle at Dunbar, out of harm’s way.

She agreed to accompany him and arrived at Dunbar at midnight.

There Mary Queen of Scots was taken prisoner by James Hepburn and allegedly raped by him to secure his marriage to her and the crown (though whether she was his accomplice or his unwilling victim remains a controversial issue).

On May 12, 1567, the Queen created him Duke of Orkney, and James Hepburn married Mary Queen of Scots in the Great Hall at Holyrood on May 15, 1567, according to Protestant rites officiated by Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney.

Within three days, Sir William Drury wrote to London that although the manner of things appeared to be forcible, it was known to be otherwise.

The marriage divided Scotland into two camps, and on June 16, 1567, the Lords opposed to Mary and the Duke of Orkney signed a Bond denouncing them.

A showdown between the two opposing sides followed at Carberry Hill on June 15, 1567, from which the Duke of Orkney fled, after one final embrace, never to be seen again by Mary Queen of Scots.

Mary then abdicated her throne to her infant son James VI at Loch Leven Castle on July 24, 1567.

James returned to Edinburgh from France on August 11, 1567, escorted from Berwick-upon-Tweed by James Melville of Halhill, with a French ambassador, De Lignerolles.

William Cecil, the English secretary of State had arranged his transport from Dieppe in an English ship.

James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray was appointed Regent of Scotland on behalf of Mary Queen of Scots son James VI on August 22, 1567.

The appointment was confirmed by Parliament in December.

When Mary escaped from Loch Leven on May 2, 1568 the Duke of Chatelherault and other nobles rallied to her standard, but James gathered his allies and defeated his half-sisters forces at the Battle of Langside, near Glasgow on May 13, 1568.

Mary Queen of Scots was compelled to flee to England.

For this and the subsequent management of the kingdom James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray secured both civil and ecclesiastical peace, and earned the title of “The Good Regent”.

In September of 1568, James choose commissioners and went to York to discuss a treaty with England.

During this conference he produced the casket letters which were supposed to incriminate his sister Mary, and justify his rule in Scotland.

It was later noted that a plan to assassinate James at North Allerton on his way back had been called off.

Scotland was now in a state of civil war.

James moved against the supporters of Mary Queen of Scots in their south-west homelands with a military expedition in June of 1568 called the ‘Raid of Dumfries’ or ‘Raid of Hoddom.’

The Regent’s army and the royal artillery was taken to Biggar, where his allies were commanded to muster on June 10, and on to Dumfries.

The army was protected by a scouting party led by Alexander Hume of Manderston, the vanguard was commanded by the Earl of Morton and Lord Hume.

Behind was the ‘carriage’, the artillery train, followed by James himself. The Laird of Cessford followed behind, and the army was flanked by the scouting parties of the Lairds of Merse and Buccleuch.

Along the way James captured houses belonging to supporters of Mary, including Lord Fleming’s Boghall, Skirling, Crawford, Sanquhar, Kenmuir, and Hoddom where the cannon were deployed, and Annan where he rendezvoused with Lord Scrope the Captain of Carlisle Castle to discuss border matters.

Scrope estimated the army to number 6,000 men, and returned to Carlisle where he saw Mary’s servants play football on June 14.

James then took Lochmaben Castle, which the Laird of Drumlanrig was left to hold, and then captured Lochwood and Lochhouse before returning to Edinburgh via Peebles.

At Dumfries, a number of Lord Maxwell’s supporters surrendered.

James was responsible for the destruction of Rutherglen castle, which he burned to the ground in 1569 in retribution against the Hamiltons for having supported Mary at the Battle of Langside.

In June of 1569, James went north to Brechin where he accepted hostages sent by the Earl of Huntley, then at Dunnotar Castle he proclaimed that he had, “reparit (arrived) in proper person (as Regent) to thir north partis of firm purpose and deliberation to reduce sic as hes neglectit their duty in time bypast …, intending to use lenitie (leniency) and moderation.”

At Aberdeen James held talks with Huntly himself.

At Inverness, on June 4, 1569, James met the Highland and Island chiefs with the Earls of Caithness and Sutherland and Lord Lovat. His secretary, John Wood, said “such a power had seldom been seen there,” James wrote that “the journey is to put down troubles in the north.”


On Thursday January 19, 1570, James was at Stirling Castle where he had invited the English diplomat Sir Henry Gate, Marshal of Berwick, and the soldier Sir William Drury for dinner in the Great Hall.

Later in his bedchamber he told the English visitors he would meet with them and certain Scottish nobles at Edinburgh on Monday or Tuesday to discuss the rendition of English rebels.

James was troubled by the problem of Dumbarton Castle, which was held against him by supporters of Mary Queen of Scots.

On January 21, he sent letters to summon Morton, Lindsay and Home to the meeting in Edinburgh.

Then on January 23, 1570, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray was assassinated in Linlithgow by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, a supporter of Mary Queen of Scots.

As James was passing in a cavalcade in the main street below, Hamilton fatally wounded him with a carbine shot from a window of his uncle Archbishop Hamilton’s house.

It was the first recorded assassination by a firearm.

The Regent’s body was shipped to Leith then taken to Holyrood Abbey.

James was buried on February 14, 1570 in St. Anthony’s aisle at St. Giles, Edinburgh.

Seven earls and lords carried his body; William Kirkcaldy of Grange held his standard, and John Knox preached at the funeral.

Knox’s own prohibition of funeral sermons (on the grounds that they glorified the deceased and displayed distinctions between rich and poor) was waived for the occasion.

His tomb was carved by John Roytell and Murdoch Walker, with a brass engraved by James Gray.

Mary Queen of Scots was executed on February 8, 1587.

James’ wife, Agnes Keith, was buried inside his tomb when she died in 1588.

James was succeeded by his eldest daughter and heir, Elizabeth Stewart, 2nd Countess of Moray, whose husband, James Stewart of Doune acquired the earldom on their marriage.

 Now WE know em


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