Patrick, 3rd Lord Ruthven is celebrated as the principal perpetrator of the murder of David Rizzio, the Italian secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots. His son, who was created the Earl of Gowrie, headed the conspirators who seized James VI and took over the government in his name. For this action, later to be known as the “Ruthven Raid”, he was beheaded.
The reputation of the Ruthvens as assassins was strengthened by a mysterious affair which became known as the “Gowrie Conspiracy” in 1600. John and Alexander Ruthven were killed in Gowrie House during an alleged attempt on the person of James VI. The Ruthven brothers were declared by Parliament to be traitors, although there was no evidence of what, if anything, they had planned to do. Following the Gowrie conspiracy the Ruthven name was decreed out of existence. The family coat of arms was publicly debased, their estates forfeited and the title of Gowrie was outlawed.
However in the twentieth century the family honour was finally restored and the Earldom of Gowrie reinstated.