This outstanding, enthralling biography of James Hepburn, fourth earl of Bothwell, lieutenant of Borders and keeper of Hermitage Castle, has been masterfully researched and novelised, allowing the author to convey the experiences, motivations, thoughts, and emotions of the Protestant whose fate was linked from boyhood to the history of Mary Stuart, queen of Scots.
In his final days, imprisoned in a Danish dungeon, he looks back on every aspect of his life. Growing up in the border regions at Hermitage and Crichton, he was acutely aware of the old allegiances and blood feuds which the regent, Marie de Guise, tried to contain while preventing England and France from subjugating Scotland to their rule. James pledges his service, loyalty and devotion to her and her daughter Mary, but is warned that being in her service would bring him little glory and much enmity.
He had enemies among neighbours, the border reivers he repelled, and the duplicitous Catholic lords bent on their own advancement, or that of their cause, and Anna, his Danish host’s daughter.
Mary had married the sickly dauphin of France, François, but after his death the Lords of the Congregation of Scotland invite her to become their queen. Though married, Bothwell loves the queen. She marries Lord Darnley, but he plots against her and is killed by his co-conspirators. In her unhappiness, she and Bothwell become lovers and marry. Within the unruly cut and thrust of the Scottish court, the rival factions tear the country apart. Captured, Mary is separated from Bothwell and forced to abdicate. From his Danish prison cell he faces death, haunted by his undying love for Scotland and her queen.