Darnley’s Character



Critical Observations concerning the Scottish Historians Hume, Stuart and Robertson: including an idea of the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots … specimens of the histories of this princess by Dr. Stuart and Dr. Robertson; … , 1782

Character of Lord Darnley

According to Dr. Robertson, Darnley was murdered by Mary, however, according to Dr. Stuart, Darnley was murdered by accomplices of the Earl of Murray at the Earl’s bidding.  (History of Scotland, Vol 1)

In spite of their difference of opinion on Darnley’s murder they both emphatically agreed that Lord Darnley was a despicable and disgraceful young man.

Dr. Joseph Robertson describes Darnley as follows:

“ … The indulgence of fourtune, and his own external accomplishments, without any other merit, had raised him to a height of dignity, of which he was altogether unworthy.

“… His insolence and inconstancy alienated from him much of the nobles as had contributed most zealously to his elevation.  His levity and caprice exposed him to the scorn of the people, who once revered him as the descendant of their antient (sic) kings and heroes.

Dr. Robertson then concluded that “Had he died a natural death, his end would have been unlamented, and his memory have been soon forgotten; but the cruel circumstances of his murder, and the remissness * with which it was afterwards avenged, have made his name to be remembered with regret, and have rendered him the object of pity, to which he had otherwise no title.”

(NOTE:  Remissness an adjective meaning negligent, careless, or slow in performing one’s duty, languid, sluggish.)  Dictionary/Reference.com

Dr. John Stuart describes Darnley as follows:

“…   The symmetry of his form recommended him to the most beautiful princess of Christendom and  her generosity and love placed him upon the throne of an antient (sic) kingdom.  But he neither knew how to enjoy his prosperity, nor to ensure it.  His vices did not permit him to maintain the place he had won in her affection; and he was not intitled (sic) by his ability to hold the reins of government. He was seen to the greatest advantage in those games and sports which require activity and address.  He rode with skill the war horse, and was dexterous in hawking and the chace; but possessing no discernment of men, and no profoundness of policy, he was altogether unequal to direct an agitated monarchy, and to support the glory of his Queen.  Instead of acting to her protection and advantage he encouraged her misfortunes and calamities.  His imbecility laid him open to her enemies and his own.  The excessive facility of his nature made him the dupe of the shallowest artifice; and while he was weakly credulous, he could not keep in concealment those secrets which most nearly concerned him.  Driven into difficult situations by passion and imprudence, he was unable to extricate himself.  Under the guidance of no regular principles, he was inconstant and capricious.  His natural levity was prompted by his proneness to intemperance; and he was as much a stranger to decorum as to virtue.  While he was not qualified for the cares of royalty, he was even unfit for the trappings of State and those guarded and fastidious ceremonials which are so necessary to impose on the quickness of human reason, and to cover the infirmity and the nakedness of high station.  His preposterous vanity and aspiring pride roused the resentment and the scorn of the nobles.  His follies and want of dignity made him little with the people.  To the Queen, his infidelity and frequent amours were most insulting and ungrateful.  The admiration of the sex which in cultivated and superior men is an elegant passion and an amiable weakness, was in him a gross attachment and an unsentimental propensity growing out of the strength of his constitution, and the cravings of an animal appetite our graver historians*, are assiduous to reproach him with wantonness in the chamber of Venus, it ought to be remembered, that the murder of Rizzio, and his attempt to dispossess the Queen of her government are far more indelible stains upon his memory, and imply a profligacy and guilt which could only be exceeded by the enormity of that wickedness which schemed and executed his destruction.  It is with pain that History relates such cruel events; but while she melts with human woe, it is her province to be rigorously just.  Her weeping eye is the indication of an instructive sorry; and while her bursting heart, mourns over the crimes, the calamities and wretchedness of ages that are past, she records them with fidelity as a lesson to succeeding times.

*KNOX, p.441.   KEITH, p.365


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