Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley & Mary Queen of Scots
The second husband of Mary Queen of Scots, was her cousin Henry Stuart. Henry was considered to be handsome by the standards of that time. Mary, a very young and probably lonely widow, said of him when she saw him at Wemyss Castle, “he was the properest and best proportioned long man that ever she had seen …” In other words, he was tall and handsome. He was over six foot tall, (his height has been estimated between 6′ 1″ to 6′ 3″.) Since Mary was 6′ tall she must have found this to be a pleasant change from the smaller stature of the Scottish lords who attended her at court. At last, a dance partner that she did not tower over! Also, coming from the English court of Elizabeth, he charmed Mary with his courtly manners, his fine clothes and conversational ability. Something that was missing in the rough and sometimes rowdy Scottish nobility.
He was in line for the throne of England through his mother, the Countess of Lennox, and was Catholic by birth (but had embraced Anglicanism at the court of Elizabeth 1st). These were very good reasons to consider him as a husband for Mary. On the other hand, he was considered to be a disreputable young man that history describes as vain, arrogant, self-centered, egotistical and disliked by many of his peers. Nevertheless, this was the man that Mary chose to be her second husband. His Catholic birthright did not enamour him to the powerful Scottish lords and against their advice and strong protestations, Mary married Henry on July 29th, 1565 in the Chapel at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh.
Mary became increasingly unhappy with her marriage. Her husband’s ambition to have the Crown Matrimonial was becoming quite evident and his impatient demands, arguments and cruel behaviour were deplorable given the fact that these outbursts were occurring when Mary was heavily pregnant with their son James. The Crown Matrimonial would have given Darnley full powers, and if Mary died, he would legally become King of Scotland. After their marriage, Mary did allow him the title of King, but had denied him the Crown Matrimonial.
She turned to David Rizzio, an Italian courtier and her private secretary, for support. Rizzio became her confidant, her most reliable friend and an indispensible servant during this stressful time in her life.
Rizzio, being a Catholic and a foreigner, and now a confidant to the Queen, attracted enemies. In particular, the King, who believed Rizzio was undermining his authority and turning the Queen against him. So, the King joined in a conspiracy with some Protestant nobles to murder Rizzio.
On the evening of March 9, 1566 while having supper in a small chamber at Holyroodhouse, Darnley and the nobles entered, accusations were hurled at Rizzio. In spite of Mary’s efforts to protect and defend Rizzio, swords were drawn, and Rizzio was stabbed reportedly 47 times. This was a particularly outrageous and horrendous act to commit in the presence of a pregnant Mary. (Some say that this was done deliberately in the hopes that the shock of the attack would make her lose the child.)
It is thought that Rizzio’s murder was only a step in a much larger plan by Scottish nobles to control the Queen and thus gain power for themselves.
David Rizzio is buried in the Canongate Kirkyard, Edinburgh.
Kirk o’ Field, the place where Darnley died. His death remains one of the great unsolved historical mysteries.*
Darnley was buried in the Chapel of Holyrood, Edinburgh.