Melrose literati hears the calls for Bothwell’s repatriation

Bothwell Book.From left, Tracy mason of Mason's Book shop, Melrose, Catherine Hermary-Vielle, author and Sir Alistair Buchan-Hepburne, descendant of james Hepburn 4th. earl of Bothwell.
Bothwell Book.From left, Tracy mason of Mason's Book shop, Melrose, Catherine Hermary-Vielle, author and Sir Alistair Buchan-Hepburne, descendant of james Hepburn 4th. earl of Bothwell.

THE campaign to have the remains of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell and the third husband of Mary Queen of Scots, returned to Scotland was stepped up in Melrose last week.

It was supported by Catherine Hermary-Vieille who has translated her French bestseller, Lord James, into English and was the guest at a literary lunch hosted in Burt’s Hotel by Mason’s Bookshop.

Around 50 people attended the event, including Sir Alistair Buchan-Hepburne, the direct descendant of Bothwell whose Borders stronghold was at Hermitage Castle.

Mme Hermary-Vieille described how, while researching her book, she had visited the church at Faarevejle in Denmark where Bothwell’s mummified remains are kept in a crypt. The site is close to the dungeon of Dragsholme Castle where her eponymous hero spent the last 10 years of his life in chains.

Mme Hermary-Vieille deplored the fact that the governments of Denmark and Scotland had been unable to negotiate Bothwell’s return to his native land.

But Sir Alastair later claimed that it was lack of will on behalf of the present and past Scottish Government which had stalled the repatriation.

“I have been trying to broker my ancestor’s return for six years, but each time I approach the Scottish Government I get referred to its Historic Scotland quango with little success,” he told TheSouthern.

“One letter I received from the Historic Scotland said no such repatriation could take place without consulting the family which is ironic given that I am the family.

“My legal sources in Denmark assure me that there will be no progress without a direct request from Holyrood, so the ball is very much in Scotland’s court.”

However, he revealed that he is due to meet with Historic Scotland’s new chief executive Jane Parsons to discuss the case in October.

“This, I believe, is a major step forward which has been helped, I believe, by the publicity generated by Catherine’s magnificent book which portrays Bothwell, not as a traitor, but as a true patriot.”

Sir Alistair also intends seeking the support of Edinburgh Lord Provost George Grubb.

“Bothwell also held the position of provost of Edinburgh, so there is a strong connection with the city which I hope to exploit,” he said.

Bothwell married Mary in 1567 following the murder of her second husband Lord Darnley, a crime in which Bothwell was alleged to have been involved. When, a month into their marriage, Mary was imprisoned by Elizabeth I, Bothwell fled to Bergen, now in Norway but then part of Denmark, before being arrested as a pirate and jailed. After a failed bid by the Danish king to return him for a ransom, Bothwell could only walk the length of his chains and wore a groove in the dungeon’s floor with his pacing. He died in 1578, aged 44.

Last week’s event in Melrose proved instructive for the audience and lucrative for Ms Hermary-Vieille who sold and signed around 40 of her books.

Tracey Mason of Mason’s Bookshop said she was “thrilled” with the turnout.