Adrienne Miller of the University of Edinburgh will be presenting ‘Rise of a Courtier: the second duke of Lennox and strategies of noble power under James VI’

Ludovick Stuart, second duke of Lennox, is acknowledged as the grandee of the post-1603 British court and as one of the infamous noble favourites of James VI. Born in France and brought to Scotland on James’s command at the age of nine, Lennox rapidly acquired power and status not only through the king’s favour but through his own shrewd understanding of the important arenas of noble power: political and administrative office, court and household, and the establishment of patronage networks.

The importance of political office in the acquisition of national power is a self-evident truth, and from a young age Lennox obtained high-level government positions, including governor of the kingdom when James travelled to Denmark in 1589, and two lieutenancies of the north in the 1590s. He also developed a stronghold over the chamber and bedchamber, having inherited high-ranking posts – Lord Great Chamberlain and First Gentleman respectively – from his father, Esmé Stewart. From within the chamber and bedchamber Lennox established a close, personal relationship with James, an important intimacy few other nobles could boast. He also established a large web of patronage, not only political clients but also artists and poets, spreading his net of influence even wider. By maintaining a presence in each of these powerful areas Lennox rapidly established himself as the premier noble of the kingdom, using these successes as a template to establish his incomparable role in the newly unified Britain.

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For anyone with an interest in Early Modern Scotland and the reign of James VI the following will be of interest:

‘Scottish History at the University of Glasgow is delighted to announce the first lecture in a new annual lecture series, established and named in honour of Dr John Durkan (1914-2006). John Durkan was Senior Research Fellow in Scottish History at the University of Glasgow, and an intellectual giant of the discipline, specialising in religion, culture and learning in the era of the Scottish Renaissance and Reformation.

The First Annual John Durkan Memorial Lecture will take place on Tuesday 24 March 2015, at 5.30pm. Dr Jamie Reid Baxter will speak on ‘Polity and Poetry: King James VI, Mr James Melville and the Kingship of Christ’.

The identity of the first Durkan lecturer could not be more apposite. Dr Reid Baxter was a long-time research associate of Dr Durkan, the major fruit of their collaboration being the volume Scottish Schools and Schoolmasters 1560-1633, published by the Scottish History Society in 2013. Dr Durkan’s interests were extremely wide-ranging, and included a lively awareness of the importance of poetry as a source of historical insight.  James VI and the reverend James Meville both wrote poetry about the nature of kingship, and they had very strong, opposing views about the role of the Kirk.  Dr Reid Baxter has done much work on the writings of James Melville.  He is well-known for his dynamic presentations, which feature dramatic performances of Scots verse and prose, and even see him regularly break into song!

The lecture will be preceded by tea/coffee, and followed by a wine reception. Please sign up at https://eventbrite.co.uk/event/16034931913/  if you would like to attend, and if you have any queries please Steven Reid (steven.reid@glasgow.ac.uk).’

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Steven J. Reid of the University of Glasgow will be presenting ‘Of Bairns and Bearded Men: the noble politics of the Ruthven Raid’.

On 23 August, near Huntingtower Castle in Perthshire, the fifteen-year old James VI was seized by a group of discontented nobility led by William Ruthven, fourth lord of Ruthven and first Earl of Gowrie, and held against his will for a little over ten months. The resulting ‘Ruthven Raid’ has traditionally been passed over, explained simply as a knee-jerk reaction among pro-Protestant and pro-English Scottish nobility to the meteoric rise in power and influence of Esmé Stewart, Duke of Lennox, and James Stewart earl of Arran – ostensibly due to Lennox’s French Catholic affiliations and Arran’s high-handed treatment of ‘better’ nobility than himself.

Steven will assess the politics of noble faction that underpinned the Raid, and will argue that although the conspiracy is named after Ruthven, he was a scapegoat for the real leaders. It will also assess the actions of James himself during the Raid – his immediate response to captivity, his attempts to use diplomatic interventions by France and England to secure political leverage against the Raiders, and the planning and execution of his escape – and suggest that the popular image of him as an ineffectual ‘weeping bairn’ caught up in the actions of ‘bearded (grown) men’ is unfair. Instead, the Raid is significant as the first step in James’ response to a challenge faced by so many other Stewart monarchs – negotiating his way out of minority in the face of hostile and dangerous opposition –  which he ultimately dealt with skilfully and successfully, and with the minimum of bloodshed.

Details on the other papers to follow over the coming days.

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We’re delighted to say that Professor Jenny Wormald has confirmed that she will be speaking at the conference on ‘Understanding Gowrie: do we really need to wait for the Day of Judgement?’.

On 5 August 1600 a supposed plot to kill King James VI was foiled in Perth. This left John Ruthven, 3rd Earl of Gowrie, and his younger brother Alexander Ruthven dead, in what has become known as the Gowrie Conspiracy. The events that day in Gowrie House remain one of the greatest mysteries in Scottish History, confused by conflicting accounts, misinformation and wild speculation. That it was apparently regarded as an exceptionally hideous and dramatic attempt on the king’s life is seen in the fact that it alone shared with the Gunpowder Plot the distinction of annual celebrations.

It is known that Alexander rode to the king in the morning telling of a quantity of gold awaiting the monarch in his house. James eventually rode to Gowrie House and took dinner, before being led upstairs by Alexander. A little while later James’ entourage, milling about in the courtyard, heard calls of treason from an upstairs window, and looked up to see their king grappling with an assailant. Rushing upstairs they found the room locked. Eventually two courtiers found another way in to discover James struggling with Alexander.  Heeding James’s call, the courtiers quickly stabbed Alexander, and subsequently killed the earl of Gowrie.

Exactly what happened in the room is unknown, save for James’ own account. In the welter of confusion, we can only be sure that James survived and the Ruthven brothers did not.  Whatever the nature of the ‘Conspiracy’ itself, the king certainly skilfully exploited the event to considerable advantage, bringing the Kirk of Scotland to heel. Protestant conspirators in 1600 failed as completely as Catholic ones in 1605;  hence the annual celebrations. But that is post hoc.  What of the event itself?

Jenny is a renowned scholar of Early Modern Scotland and if anyone is best placed to have a stab at solving this 415 year old mystery once and for all it’s her.

More details on the other papers will follow in the coming days.

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Through 2015 and 2016, the University of Glasgow will be hosting a series of events commemorating the 450th anniversary of the birth of James VI of Scotland. Building on a range of recent work on Scottish noble power and culture, this opening conference focused on the dynamics between James and his magnates over the course of his personal reign in Scotland. Speakers:

  • Amy Blakeway (Homerton College Cambridge): ‘A ‘good servant’? James VI and James Douglas, Regent Morton’
  • Ross Crawford (University of Glasgow): ‘Beyond Basilikon Doron: The Development of James VI’s Highland Policy’
  • Paul Goatman (University of Glasgow): ‘James VI, Noble Power and the burgh of Glasgow, c. 1580-1605’
  • Julian Goodare (University of Edinburgh): ‘The Octavians’
  • Ruth Grant: ‘Friendship, Politics and Religion: George Gordon, Sixth Earl of Huntly and King James VI, 1581-1595’
  • Anna Groundwater (University of Edinburgh): ‘’Your brother in na termes’: James VI’s suppression of the Scott-Ker bloodfeud’
  • Amy Juhala (Bismarck State College): ‘“For the King Favours Them Very Strangely”: The Rise of James VI’s Chamber, 1598 to 1603’
  • Adrienne Miller (University of Edinburgh): ‘Rise of a Courtier: the second duke of Lennox and strategies of noble power under James VI’
  • Steven Reid (University of Glasgow): ‘Of Bairns and Bearded Men: the noble politics of the Ruthven Raid’
  • Jenny Wormald (University of Edinburgh): ‘Understanding Gowrie: do we really need to wait for the Day of Judgement?’

For more information, please contact Miles Kerr-Peterson: m.kerr-peterson.1@research.gla.ac.uk

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