Colonel William Ruthven, an early roundhead hero of Civil War action in and around Plymouth, would appear to be a descendant of William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie who was custodian of Mary, Queen of Scots during her captivity at Lock Leven (1567-8). Fourteen years later he kidnapped the young James VI and took him to Ruthven Castle, near Perth. At first he was pardoned, but then ordered to leave the country. Later he was beheaded for his part in a conspiracy to take Stirling Castle.
Colonel William Ruthven, on the other hand, took up arms against King Charles.
It was suggested at the time that Ruthven’s main motivation was the prospect of booty, but whatever the incentive the Scottish warrior soon proved himself to be an effective leader and after a few early successes in this area he was appointed Commander-in-Chief for Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. His main adversary in most of these encounters was Sir Ralph Hopton, ironically commemorated in the naming of an adjoining street – a street that sits within the original bounds of the Widey estate, the estate that was an important base for the Royalist troops throughout most of the Siege of Plymouth.
An error of judgement cost Ruthven many men at Braddock Down, and after a further set-back, a remorseful Ruthven left Plymouth for London in 1643, Royalist propaganda suggesting that his wife, who had been staying in Exeter, met up with him having failed to settle a number of her bills.