RUTHVEN, the name of a noble Scottish family which traces its descent from a certain Thor, who settled in Scotland during the reign of David I. In 1488 one of its members, Sir William Ruthven (d. 1528), was created a lord of parliament as Lord Ruthven. His eldest son William was killed at Flodden in 1513, and consequently his grandson William succeeded him in the title, and after holding the offices of extraordinary lord of session and keeper of the privy seal died in December 1552, leaving three sons. The eldest of these, Patrick, 3rd Lord Ruthven (c. 1520-1566), played an important part in the political intrigues of the 16th century as a strong Protestant and a supporter of the lords of the congregation. He favoured the marriage of Mary with Darnley, and was the leader of the band which murdered Rizzio. This event was followed by his flight into England, where he died on the 13th of June 1566. Ruthven wrote for Queen Elizabeth a Relation of the murder, which is preserved in MSS. in the British Museum.
A descendant of the 1st Lord Ruthven in a collateral line, also named Patrick Ruthven (c. 1573-1651), distinguished himself in the service of Sweden, which he entered about 1606. As a negotiator he was very useful to Gustavus Adolphus because of his ability to " drink immeasurably and preserve his understanding to the last," and he also won fame on the field of battle. Having taken part in the Thirty Years' War and been governor of Ulm, he left the Swedish service and returned to Scotland, where he was employed by Charles I. He defended Edinburgh Castle for the king in 1640, and when the Civil War broke out he joined Charles at Shrewsbury. He led the left wing at the battle of Edgehill, and after this engagement was appointed general-in-chief of the Royalist army. For his services he was created Lord Ruthven of Ettrick in 1639, earl of Forth in 1642 and earl of Brentford in 1644. The earl compelled Essex to surrender Lostwithiel, and was wounded at both battles of Newbury. But his faculties had begun to decay, and in 1644 he was superseded in his command by Prince Rupert. After visiting Sweden on a mission for Charles II., Brentford died at Dundee on the 2nd of February 1651. He left no sons and his titles became extinct.
Patrick, 3rd Lord Ruthven, was succeeded as 4th lord by his son William (c. 1541-1584), who like his father was prominent in the political intrigues of the period and was also concerned in the Rizzio murder. In 1582 he devised the plot to seize King James VI., known as the raid of Ruthven, and he was the last-known custodian of the famous silver casket containing the letters alleged to have been written by Mary, queen of Scots, to Bothwell. In 1581 he was created earl of Gowrie, but all his honours were forfeited when he was attainted and executed in May 1584 (see GOWRIE, 3RD EARL of).
The 2nd Lord Ruthven left a son, Alexander (d. 1599), the founder of the family of Ruthven of Fret-land, and the grandfather of Sir Thomas Ruthven (d. 1673), on whom Charles II. bestowed the title of Lord Ruthven of Freeland in 1651. When his son David died unmarried in April 1701 the title of Baroness Ruthven was assumed by the latter's sister, Jean (d. 1722), although according to some authorities the peerage had become extinct. It was, however, assumed in 172* by Isobel (d. 1732), wife of James Johnson, who took the name of Ruthven on succeeding to the family estates; and their son, James Ruthven (d. 1783), took the title and was allowed to vote at the elections of Scots representative peers. In 1853 the barony again descended to a female, Mary Elizabeth Thornton (c. 1784- 1864), the wife of Walter Here (d. 1878). She and her husband took the name of Hore-Ruthven, and their grandson, Walter James Hore-Ruthven (b. 1838), became the 8th baron in 1864.
See the Ruthven Correspondence, edited with introduction by theRev.W.D. Macray (1868); J.H. Round, "The Barony of Ruthven of Freeland " in Joseph Foster's Collectanea Genealoeica (1881-85); and Sir R. Douglas, The Peerage of Scotland, (new ed. by Sir J. B. Paul).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)