School Background

The story behind Bothwell School of Witchcraft begins in late 16th Century England during the height of the persecution of witches. Many high-profile witch trials took place throughout Europe, and indeed America, during the early modern period. Many resulted in the burning of the accused witches at the stake. In Britain, the advent of King James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) saw an increase in these brutal trials.

The most notable of this time was the North Berwick Witch Trials in 1590. King James had just married his new wife, Princess Anne of Denmark. During his return voyage he experienced extreme storms, forcing the Scottish and Danish fleet to moor in Norway for weeks while the weather abated. The Admiral of the Danish fleet claimed the storms were caused by witches in Denmark whom he had angered. Upon hearing of the successful trial of the witches in Denmark, and their subsequent fiery execution, James VI launched his own investigation into the presence of witchcraft in his own court, as many Scottish nobles were implicated in the Danish trials.

Hundreds of people were implicated in the hearings and suspected of witchcraft. Many of the accusations were extracted from a maid, who was caught by her employer sneaking out during the night and using her healing powers. Under torture she confessed to being a witch and gave the names of other witches she knew. One of those implicated was Francis Stewart, the 5th Earl of Bothwell. Previously, he had been tried for treason for a rebellion he had instigated against King James, but his sentencing was deferred. However, upon being named as a witch, Bothwell was immediately arrested and charged with high treason for using sorcery to bring about the King's death.

Bothwell managed to escape Holyrood House and fled persecution, while the others implicated were horrifically tortured and confessed to being witches. At the King’s command, they were strangled and burnt alive. Many warrants were issued for the apprehension of Bothwell, but he evaded capture. He managed to smuggle himself back into Holyrood and convinced the King to pardon him and return his estates, however, the King later revoked this pardon and forced Bothwell into exile. After fleeing to England and initially receiving a warm welcome, calls for his arrest were later echoed by the English Crown of the time, Queen Elizabeth I. This forced him to retreat further into Europe. Non-magic folk believe Bothwell later died in poverty in Naples, but the students of magic at the Bothwell School of Witchcraft know a much different story about their founder...

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