Blood of Kings: The Stuarts, the Ruthvens and the Gowrie Conspiracy

Blood of Kings focuses primarily on the Gowrie conspiracy of 1600. On 5 August of that year, John Ruthven, third Earl of Gowrie, and his brother Alexander, were killed in mysterious circumstances in front of King James VI of Scots, soon to be James I of England, at Gowrie House in Perth. King James alleged that he had been lured there under false pretences, which centred on a tale of a mysterious stranger carrying a pot of gold, and that the Ruthven brothers had then attempted to assassinate him. Apologists for the Ruthvens claimed that the family had been wiped out in a cynical royal pogrom, inspired perhaps by fear, jealousy or thwarted homosexual lust, which was then systematically covered up by the state. Shakespeare subsequently used the official version of the events at Gowrie House as one of the principal inspirations for the plot of Macbeth. Blood of Kings also suggests that the Gowrie conspiracy was actually more significant for the future course of British history than the nearly contemporary Gunpowder Plot. Although relatively little known today, the conspiracy remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of British history, and Blood of Kings provides the most detailed account of it for over a century. Blood of Kings is also the first work ever to set the story of the Gowrie conspiracy fully in the contexts of the relationship between the Stuart and Ruthven families over a 50-year period, and of European and Anglo-Scots power politics during an age that many contemporaries regarded as the apocalyptic final conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism