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Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
he 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.*
THE OFFICIAL STORY
The official story, vouched for by the Commission held in England, and still accepted by some, is that on the night of Sunday, Feb 9, 1567, when Darnley was asleep in the house at Kirk o’ Field, gunpowder was poured into the Queen’s chamber (the room below his own) and exploded there about two o’clock in the morning. His body and that of his servant were flung out by the explosion, and came to rest at a point about forty feet from the house. The conspirators were few in number, and Bothwell was their leader.
*In an attempt to find a solution to this mystery many have put forth opinions as to what factions were behind the murderous deed and as to how it was actually accomplished; following is one of those opinions.
AN OPINION ON WHO WAS BEHIND THE MURDER OF DARNLEY AT KIRK O’ FIELD
The man who had the most to gain from the death of Henry Stuart, was James Stuart, Earl of Moray, Mary’s half brother. He may not have physically committed the murder but he was the one behind the scenes pulling the strings and orchestrating the development of the plan.
Hugh R. Williamson wrote:
“Whoever the actual murderers were and however the crime was accomplished, and the mystery is never likely to be solved, there is no reasonable doubt that the man behind it all was Moray.
After he was pardoned and recalled from England, he was never absent – except when it was dangerous to be present – from his sister’s side.
He pretended to befriend both Darnley and Bothwell, playing on Darnley’s jealousy and on Bothwell’s growing affection for the queen.
He had to accomplish an even more sensational coup before the end of that year 1567. In December, Mary would be twenty-five, and on her twenty-fifth birthday she would, by Scottish custom, have the right to annul or confirm all grants made during her minority.
Moray knew well that at that moment his power and his wealth would be taken from him.
But in any event, Mary on her twenty-fifth birthday was his prisoner in Lochleven Castle and he was Regent of Scotland, ruling in the name of the baby prince.”
Darnley was buried in the Chapel of Holyrood, Edinburgh.
FOR MORE DETAILED INFORMATION ON THE LIFE OF HENRY STUART, LORD DARNLEY, THE FOLLOWING BOOK IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
DARNLEY, CONSORT OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, BY CAROLINE BINGHAM, 1995