Clan Carruthers, Coat of Arms, Genealogy, Mouswald

Clan Carruthers: Mary Queen of Scots

Mary I of Scotland was from the Royal House of Stuart. She reigned over Scotland from the 14th December 1542 to 24 July 1567.

Born on the 8th December 1542 at Linlithgow palace which is situated to the west of Edinburgh in Scotland to the powerful Stuart Dynasty, Mary was the only surviving child of James V and his wife, Mary of Guise. Her father, James V was also born at Linlithgow.

Mary, born quite frail, survived and acceded to the throne age 6, when her father died during the War with England’s King Henry VIII, leaving no other heir. Scotland was ruled by Regents during this period, while the baby queen spent her first five years being moved from one palace to another in Scotland. This was to keep her safe from the continual warring clans of the highlands and the ongoing war with England.

In 1548, when Mary was sent to her mother’s homeland of France to become the fiancée of the Dauphin, she was already a seen as a figure of romance and sympathy. For the next 13 years the little Dauphiness – Queen would be worshipped by both the French royalty and her mother’s powerful aristocratic family. After marrying the Dauphine in 1958 at the age of 16, she became Queen Consort to King Francis II, of France for a brief period, from 1959-1960, until his death in 1560. The following year, in 1561 Mary returns to Scotland to take her rightful place on the Scottish throne. She arrived in the port of Leith in the August of that year.

As Henry VII of England’s great-granddaughter, she was raised to believe that she was next in line to the English throne, after Henry VIII’s children. It seems that England itself was not willing to recognize any of the children of Henry VIII as legitimate and thus Mary, Queen of Scots was seen by many as the rightful heir to the English throne. This was stimulated by the fact that her cousin, Henry VIII, had converted to Protestantism in order that he could divorce his first wife. However, this left his children being seen as illegitimate in the eyes of the Catholic Church. His conversion fractured his relationship with his family and erupted the British Isles into a series of furious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants.


To the Catholics, the French, and the Scottish alike, Mary, Queen of Scots symbolized a chance to take over the English throne. This meant that to the English, even as a child, she had inadvertently become the centre of a continental war and the greatest threat imaginable to the House of Tudor and therefore progressively, Elisabeth I of England.

In 1565, 4 years after returning to Scotland, she married her English cousin Lord Darnley in order to reinforce her claim of succession to the English throne after Elizabeth’s death. In 1567, Darnley was mysteriously killed in an explosion at Kirk o’ Field, and Mary’s lover, the Earl of Bothwell, was the key suspect. Although Bothwell was acquitted of the charge, his marriage to Mary in the same year enraged the nobility.  Mary was denounced as an adulteress and a murderer and her Protestant Lords revolted against her. This led to a confrontation between her army and the Scottish nobility’s at Carberry Hill, near Edinburgh, on June 15, 1567.

Mary’s army was defeated and she was subsequently imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle, Lochleven, Scotland, and forced to abdicate in favour of her son by Darnley; James. Her son James, who was but one-year-old, was taken from her and given her crown making him James VI of Scotland and progressively, James I of A United Kingdom. While imprisoned, Mary, Queen of Scots it is suggested that gave birth to stillborn twins.

Queen Mary escaped from captivity in 1968 with the aid of George Douglas, brother of Sir William Douglas the castle’s owner, and raised a substantial army to retake the throne. She was defeated at the Battle of Langside by the Earl of Moray, after which she escaped to England in the hope of assistance.  James Stewart, Earl of Moray was the illegitimate son of James V and Lady Margaret Erskine and a Regent at the time. She then escaped on horseback through Crawford, Sanquhar and Dumfries to Dundrennan in Galloway and into England.

Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth initially welcomed her cousin Mary but was soon forced to put her cousin under house arrest after Mary became the focus of various English Catholic and Spanish plots to overthrow Elizabeth. In the years leading up to her impending doom, Mary begged her cousin to pardon her and show mercy.

After nineteen years in captivity in 1586, a major plot to murder Elizabeth was reported, and Mary was brought to trial. “Look to your consciences,” she told the courtroom, “and remember that the theatre of the whole world is wider than the kingdom of England.” She was nevertheless convicted for complicity and sentenced to death. Elizabeth signed the death warrant herself.

prior to her execution, Mary spent hours in prayer not stopping until they dragged her off to the scaffold where she would die. She smiled in her last moments strengthened by her faith and before placing her head on the block she told the executioner: “I hope you shall make an end of all my troubles.”

Allegedly the execution wasn’t quick. The first blow of the ax missed Mary’s neck and became wedged in the back of her head. The second was too weak and left her neck severed but the woman still agonizingly alive. But the third finished the job, what a horrific way to end ones days. Queen Mary was executed on February 8th 1587, at Fotheringhay Castle, Northhamptonshire, England.

Royal mile treasure trove of Mary Queen of Scots documents found 

In a piece in the Scotsman Newspaper by Brian Ferguson dated: Friday 8th of March 2019, new information on the life of Mary has been uncovered.

A treasure trove of documents signed by Mary Queen of Scots and revealing the “everyday reality of ruling the country” in the 16th century has been unearthed in a council storage facility on the Royal Mile. A haul of handwritten papers is said to show the doomed monarch “carefully managing the busy commercial life of Edinburgh”, as well as authorising the building of new defences for the city in Leith.

Document believed to have been signed by Mary Queen of Scots. Scotsman Newspaper

The documents, which are set to be the centrepiece of a new exhibition in Edinburgh on Mary’s short-lived rule, have already been conserved and digitised to allow them to be viewed publicly on the council’s online archive. They were discovered by staff in a store at the Museum of Edinburgh, just a few hundred yards away from the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where Mary ruled for six years after returning from France in 1561. The 15 documents, which are individually dated, numbered and signed, relate to the rights of deacons and tradesmen in the city, the selling of meat at the Tolbooth and the making of salt in Newhaven. Early conservation work on the documents, which were recently discovered in the Museum of Edinburgh’s own storage facility off the Canongate, has revealed watermarks – one of a goat and another of a flower – which can only been seen when held up to light. 

It is thought the papers entered the archives of the local authority in the 1920s, but were then “lost” before being rediscovered nearly a century later during conservation work. Intriguingly, some of the documents signed by Mary date from when she was still in France. Experts in the council’s museums and galleries service, which is responsible for the official archives of the city, said the recently unearthed documents revealed an “often overlooked “ aspect of her life.

Vicky Garrington, curator at Museum of Edinburgh with Mary Queen of Scots original letters. Scotsman Newspaper

History curator Vicky Garrington said: “Together, the documents shed light on a key part of Scotland’s past. We all know the tragic story of Mary Queen of Scots, her eventful life and eventual execution in 1587, but in these documents we see a different side to Mary. “Here, she can be seen carefully managing the everyday affairs of Edinburgh, both from France and Scotland. It’s fascinating to think of her reading through these official papers before carefully applying her signature.

“They are staying in storage at the museum for now. But we hope to have them assessed by a conservator and for further research to be done on them by experts on Mary, after which we hope to exhibit them, which will be hugely exciting.” Museums and galleries manager Frank Little said: “We’re constantly reviewing, caring for and researching our collections, and look forward to sharing more of the city’s rich heritage with residents and visitors through our programme of exhibitions and online activities.”

Council culture convener Donald Wilson said: “Our museums and galleries hold thousands of historic treasures, many of which are on display in our venues. However, some items such as these documents are too fragile to be on long-term display, so putting them online is a great way to showcase them.”

Carruthers, Douglas and Queen Mary

Early Arms of the House of Mouswald

It was during the early part of Mary’s reign that in 1548, Sir Simon Carruthers of Mouswald was killed on a border raid, leaving his two daughters Janet and Marion orphaned as their mother AgnesMurrey, had died 4 years previously. Simon was killed, along with the principal barons of the region, during a fight with thieves dwelling in the Debatable Lands , who were assisted by the English.

It was Queen Mary who granted to Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig the guardianship of Janet and Marion Carruthers. Douglas forced through a law suit against John Carruthers, eldest brother of Simon, to ensure that the daughters of Simon became co-heiresses to the Mouswald lands. Although their uncle, Charles Murray of Cockpool attempted to achieve the girls freedom from underneath Douglas, they failed. Under Douglas’s influence Janet was married off to Thomas Rorison of Bardannoch, which led to her share of the lands of Mouswald being signed over to Sir James. The Barony of Mouswald was extensive at the time and were seen as a definate prize.

Sir James was required to take Marion to Edinburgh aged 21, after legal action by Charles Murray, but a letter from Queen Mary required the action be dropped. Sir James had stated he’d found her a suitable suitor but she refused the hand of it seems, another Douglas man, James McMath of Dalpedder.

To the left,  the original portion of Comlogon Castle

Two days later Marion, bound over for 40 days under penalty of £2000 Scots pounds, agreed to remain under the care of her kin, John Lord Borthwick unless notice had been given to the Queen and her council by Borthwick.  She was able to return to Annandale, still refusing marriage organised by her guardian Douglas of Drumlanrig. Marion tried to pass her estates to her Uncle, Charles Murray, to keep them out the clutches of Douglas and a Charter of Confirmation was granted by Mary in 1564.

This was of course challenged by Drumlanrig, stating that Marion needed his consent as guardian. Realising the law and the Crown were against her, Marion either committed suicide or as some say, was murdered, either way she fell from the battlements of Comlogon Castle, to her death. Her land were taken by the Crown, and eventually all the Mouswald lands, from both sisters eventually came to be owned by the Douglas ‘s of Drumlanrig. The Douglas’s of Drumlanrig was to become the first Earl of Queens

Arms of Mouswald

Arms of Sir Simon of Mouswald

It is interesting to note that their are three blazons for the House of Mouswald:

  • Gules, a chevron between three fleurs-de-lys Argent
  • Gules, a chevron between three fleurs-de-lys Or
  • Gules, a chevron Argent between three fleurs-de-lys Or

According to Sir David Lindsey of the Mount (1490-1555) who rose from Herald to Lyon King of Arms, the first is the blazon of the Arms of Mouswald.  This can be seen at the start of this section (Red Shield, Silver Chevron and Fleur d-lis). The second is seen as the Arms of Sir Simon above and the third is thought potentially to be a mistake by the Herald in his recording of the blazon.

Queen Mary and the West March

Arms of Lord Herries. Slains Armorial – 1565.

On the 20th of August 1563, Queen Mary visited Dumfries for the first time and passed a night under the Lord Herries’s roof. The Herries were descended from the Count of Vendôme who came to England during the Norman invasion.

In a charter dated 1323, Robert de Heris is named as the Dominus de Nithsdale with the Herries family playing a pivotal role in Scottish history and were great supporters of Mary Queen of Scots. The family eventually and over time merged with the Maxwells. They were the owners of Hoddom Castle where allegedly they held captured Englishmen during the 15th century. The Herries lost it and the castle was noted as belonging to the Kirkpatricks in 1607.

Queen Mary visited the region again in 1565, this time with her husband Lord Darnley, staying in Lanark and Crawford en route. It was only 2 years later that she found herself a prisoner at Lochleven Castle, probably unjustly for the murder of Darnley himself.


Escape from Loch Leven Castle by Francis Danby

The borders were great supporters of the deposed queen and it seems that the situation of the Mouswald girls was more to do with the politics and the connections of the Douglases,  than what was fair and proper. These obviously influenced the decisions and interventions chosen by Queen Mary.

After being deposed, and Mary raised her army to retake the throne, nearly 600 of them were from the West March and Galloway. After their defeat by Murray, he took his army into Dumfriesshire to ‘restore order’, those that refused to bend the knee to the new child king, being severely punished. Douglas of Drumlanrig, a highly ambitious man by all accounts supported the regent and was rewarded by being placed in Hoddom Castle after its capture from Lord Herries and reappointed Warden of the Marches.

Herries, as a loyal supporter of Mary, having assisted in her escape, tried to intervene on her behalf asking for support to both the English, which he failed with and then the French crown. The English hearing about the latter and being concerned of border incursions by the Scots into English territory, raised an army under Lord Scrope, the English Warden. He was sent to ravage the border estates of those supporting Queen Mary’s cause. Blazing a devastating trail through the West March, it wasn’t until meeting the Maxwells, Carlyles, Charteris, Grierson, Kirkpatrick and Carruthers that he was driven back. However, at a battle at Cummertrees several lairds were captured while some escaped to include the Carruthers Chief: John of 7th of Holmains 3rd Baron. The same year however, John was called to Edinburgh, where he pledged allegiance to the young king James VI.

Interestingly, Scrope was advised to save the tenants of Drumlanrig, however as one would expect from reivers, they opposed him as strongly and as vehemently as the rest.

As an old border family, intermarriage and intertwined heritage exists to the point that even today, one of the senior lines of Holmains is the Great Grandaughter of John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquis of Queensbury, through their mother’s line. Time moves on.

1 thought on “Clan Carruthers: Mary Queen of Scots”

  1. I Enjoyed this story of Mary Queen of Scots a this may be my first time I have heard of a Carruthers. My apology as my reading is way behind. It appears that this was a busy time in the lives o fthe English and Carrruthers and my brick wall of circe 1680′. Better get the library card out.

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