Lady Agnes Keith (sometimes called Annas or Anna) lived from some time around 1540 to 16 July 1588. Born into Scottish nobility she briefly became one of the most powerful women in the country. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Lady Agnes Keith was born at Dunnottar Castle, the daughter of William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal and Margaret Keith of Inverugie. Agnes was well educated, and on 8 February 1562 she married James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, half brother of, and close adviser to, Mary, Queen of Scots. Queen Mary attended the wedding, which took place in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh and was conducted by John Knox. It was followed by a grand reception provided by the Queen at Holyrood Palace.
Agnes was pregnant when James Stewart rebelled against Mary in 1565 and unable to join him in his subsequent exile in England. Instead she remained at the family home at St Andrews Priory and managed the estates. After the downfall of Mary in 1567, James Stewart was appointed Regent of Scotland for the infant James VI and as his wife, Lady Agnes became one of the most powerful women in the country. James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, was assassinated in Linlithgow on 23 January 1570, becoming the first recorded person in history to be assassinated by a firearm. Agnes spent the following two years managing the estates and fighting a series of legal battles seeking to obtain compensation for Moray's time as Regent. Meanwhile she was bringing up her two surviving daughters.
In January 1572, Agnes married Colin Campbell, who inherited the title of 6th Earl of Argyll the following year and served as Chancellor of Scotland. They had two sons and a daughter, and Agnes was seen as being the power behind the throne, both during both her husband's time as 6th Earl of Argyll and after their son Archibald became 7th Earl of Argyll in 1584. After her death in 1588, Agnes was buried in the tomb of James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.
This biography draws on research first published in "The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women".