Alison Rough lived from 1485 to 3 September 1535. She was an Edinburgh property owner and businesswoman who was executed for murder. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Alison Rough was born and brought up in Edinburgh, apparently in a reasonably well-off family. In about 1505 she married a merchant and lawyer called Jasper Maine. Like virtually an entire generation of the upper strata of male Scottish society, Maine was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Like many other women of her day, Alison Rough took over the running of her husband's business interests, which included large numbers of properties in Edinburgh's Old Town. In 1514 Alison married Thomas Lauriston, but then divorced him in 1517.
In 1531, Alison's daughter, Katherine, married Alexander Cant, a rich burgess of Edinburgh, and Alison Rough moved into the new home of her daughter and son in law. Part of the arrangement was a large dowry to be paid by Alison to Cant. In 1535, Alexander Cant sued Alison Rough on grounds that she had not paid the full amount agreed for the dowry. Then, in 1535, Alison was sued by an Edinburgh merchant who claimed that a property she had given to Cant as part of her daughter's dowry actually belonged to him. The case was found in his favour on 31 August 1535. That night, tempers flared at the family home, and Alexander Cant was murdered by Alison Rough and her daughter Katherine.
Both were subsequently tried and condemned to death. Alison Rough was executed by drowning on 3 September 1535, though Katherine's execution was delayed because she was pregnant. She later escaped justice by fleeing Scotland, first to England and then to Germany.