James, 4th Earl of Morton, was involved in the most dramatic events of the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. He was among those who burst into the Queen's chamber and murdered her secretary, David Rizzio. Morton was also implicated in the murder of her second husband, Lord Darnley. He ruled Scotland from 1572 to 1578 during the minority of James VI, working hard to maintain friendship with England and dealing ruthlessly with Mary's supporters. The castle in the background of this portrait may be a fanciful representation of Aberdour or Tantallon.