School of Divinity

The Ruthvens

Kate Ruthven came from a prominent Perthshire family who played a key role in national politics.

Family background

Kate was the second daughter of William, 2nd Lord Ruthven, and Janet Haliburton, eldest daughter of Lord Haliburton of Dirleton. Kate was raised in the oddly-designed twin tower-houses of Ruthven Castle (now known as Huntingtower) just outside Perth.

She was one of a family of twelve, with five brothers and six sisters. Her extensive family network stretched throughout Perthshire and into Angus and Fife.

Along with her brothers and sisters, Kate benefited from a good education which equipped her with reading and writing skills and encouraged her sharp and perceptive mind.

Political and religious affiliations

The Ruthvens were a substantial Perthshire family who took an important part in national politics and who had wrested the provostship of Perth from their rivals, the Gray family.

From the 1540s the family had developed strong Anglophile and Protestant associations which Kate imbibed. The marriages of the seven Ruthven sisters created a Protestant grouping in Perthshire which proved to be important in the Reformation crisis of 1559 (GD112/39/1/5).

As well as Katherine's marriage to Grey Colin and her elder sister Lilias's marriage to David, 2nd Lord Drummond, two other sisters wed known Lords of the Congregation: Barbara married Patrick, 4th Lord Grey, and Christian married William Lundy of that ilk. James Johnstone of Elphinstone came from a family with a long Protestant tradition and he married another sister, Margaret.

Jean was married twice, first to John Crichton of Strathord who probably supported the Congregation, then to Lawrence Mercer of Meikelour, who was frequently associated with Grey Colin.

The remaining sister, Cecilia, wed David Wemyss of that ilk, whose father opposed the Congregation, but whose own position was less hostile.

These Ruthven women drew together a substantial Protestant group which spread throughout Perthshire and into Angus.

Unusual ideological grouping

Such an ideological grouping was unusual in the mid sixteenth century since most marriages were alliances made to strengthen the position of the respective noble houses within national and regional politics.

This frequently placed blood and marriage kin on different sides over contentious issues. It was just such a situation which Katherine strove to avoid in 1571 during the Murray-Reidheugh feud which might have placed her on the opposite side to her sister Lilias (GD112/39/14/20).