Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley

Henry Stuart
King consort of Scots
Tenure 29 July 1565 – 10 February 1567
Born (1545-12-07)7 December 1545
Temple Newsam, Yorkshire, England
Died 10 February 1567(1567-02-10) (aged 21)
Kirk o' Field, Edinburgh, Scotland
Burial Holyrood Abbey
Spouse Mary, Queen of Scots
m. 1565; dec. 1567
Issue James VI and I
House Stuart (Darnley branch)
Father Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox
Mother Lady Margaret Douglas
Religion Roman Catholicism

Henry Stuart (or Stewart), Duke of Albany (7 December 1545 – 10 February 1567), styled Lord Darnley until 1565, was king consort of Scotland from 1565 until his murder at Kirk o' Field in 1567. Many contemporary narratives describing his life and death refer to him as Lord Darnley, his title as heir apparent to the Earldom of Lennox, and it is by this appellation that he is now generally known.[1]

He was the second but eldest surviving son of Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, and his wife, Lady Margaret Douglas. Darnley's maternal grandparents were Archibald Douglas, sixth Earl of Angus, and Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England, and widow of James IV of Scotland. It is the common belief that Darnley was born on 7 December, but this is disputed. He was a first cousin and the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, and was the father of her son James VI of Scotland, who succeeded Elizabeth I of England as James I.[2]

Early life

A young Henry Stuart, future King Consort of Scots

Darnley was born in 1545, at Temple Newsam, Leeds, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. Through his parents he had claims to both the Scottish and English thrones, as he was descended from both James II of Scotland and Henry VII.

Darnley's father, Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox, had been declared guilty of treason in Scotland for his part in the war of the Rough Wooing, siding with the English as an opponent of Mary of Guise and Regent Arran, and his Scottish estates were forfeited in 1545.[2] Lennox lived in exile in England for 22 years, returning to Scotland in 1564. Darnley's mother, Margaret Douglas had left Scotland in 1528.[3]

Lord Darnley was well educated and brought up conscious of his status and inheritance. He became well-versed in Latin and grew up familiar with Gaelic, English and French. He excelled in singing, lute playing, and dancing. His tutors included the Scottish scholar, John Elder, who had been an advocate of Anglo-Scottish union by a marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, to Prince Edward, and gave his opinions to Henry VIII as the Advice of a Redshank in 1543.[4] Another of his schoolmasters, Arthur Lallart, was interrogated in London after going to Scotland in 1562.[5]

Darnley was strong and athletic, a good horseman with knowledge of weapons and a passion for hunting and hawking. Darnley wrote a letter to Mary I of England from Temple Newsam in March 1554 mentioning a drama or map he had made, the Utopia Nova. He wished, "every haire in my heade for to be a wourthy souldiour".[6]

Lennox Crisis

The "Lennox crisis" was a political dilemma in England that arose from the dynastic ambition of the Lennoxes: Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, was third in line to the Scottish throne, and his wife Margaret Douglas was niece to Henry VIII and granddaughter of Henry VII.[7] The Lennox family were Roman Catholic and might therefore have represented an alternative succession in England.[7]

When Henry II of France died in July 1559, Lennox's brother, the Sieur d'Aubigny, was elevated in the French court as kinsman of the new queen, Mary, Queen of Scots. Aubigny arranged for Darnley to be dispatched to the French court to congratulate Mary and Francis II of France on their accession and seek restoration for Lennox. Mary did not restore Lennox to his Scottish earldom, but she did give 1,000 crowns to Darnley and invited him to her coronation.[8] Lennox's plan was to appeal directly to the Queen of Scots via her ambassador, over the heads of Elizabeth and the Guise. The mission of Lennox's agent, one Nesbit, appears to have been a desperate one; not only was Lennox willing to hand over Darnley and his brother Charles as hostages for his restoration, but he supplied pedigrees of Darnley, indicating his right to the inheritance of England and Scotland and the houses of Hamilton and Douglas.[9] Aubigny was also later accused of supporting Mary's title to the throne of England and hinting that even his nephew had a stronger claim than Elizabeth.

Lennox set Nesbit to watch Mary, Darnley and Darnley's tutor, John Elder. In 1559 Nicholas Throckmorton, the English ambassador in Paris, warned Elizabeth that Elder was "as dangerous for the matters of England as any he knew."[10]

The historian Sarah Macauley notes, "After the Queen of Scots, Lord Darnley was the strongest dynastic claimant to Elizabeth's throne. He was also the natural choice for many of Elizabeth's enemies as male, English-born and Catholic. Paget supposed in March 1560 that talk of the Catholics raising Darnley to the throne in the event of the Queen's death was 'well founded'."

By the summer of that year, Elizabeth's position was considerably strengthened.[11] Francis Yaxley was one notable spy. A Catholic, Yaxley had been a clerk of the Signet and had been employed by William Cecil since 1549, travelling in France for him.[12] Yaxley had placed Mabel Fortescue and other ladies as servants in the Lennox household at Settrington in November 1560.[13] Yaxley had been employed by Margaret Douglas; his interrogation at the Tower of London in February 1562 revealed that he had obtained intelligence about the English Court from the Spanish ambassador, and the ambassador had entrusted him and Hugh Allen with messages and tokens for the Lennoxes and Darnley. Yaxley admitted that his missions were intended to arrange the marriage of the Queen of Scots with Darnley, that Darnley's religion guaranteed him greater success in his suit than the Earl of Arran, and that Margaret Douglas had many friends "in the nurth".[14] Although the Lennox threat never died out, Elizabeth did not convict the family of treason in 1562 after their arrest nor did she encourage steps made to annul Margaret's claim to her throne for inquiring into her legitimacy. Perhaps, as has been suggested, Elizabeth feared that these investigations could also be directed at herself, or her inaction was intended merely to ensure the survival of the monarchy by not reducing the number of potential heirs. The Lennox family were released in February 1563, and within a few months, Darnley and his mother were conspicuous by their presence at Court and the favour they received there, although Elizabeth would not accommodate the earl at Court.[15]

Sarah Macauley notes three outcomes of the court's final decision of the Lennox trial:

"Their elevation at Court was, as it turned out in 1563, a useful complication in the succession issue. First, it presented a public statement that the preferences of Parliament (the claim of Catherine Grey in the succession crisis) could not dictate her own policy. Secondly, favouring the Lennoxes could serve as some kind of appeasement of the English Roman Catholics, who, like the Spanish ambassador, might foresee Elizabeth naming Darnley as her successor ... Such speculation would also distract them from favouring the more alarming claim of the Queen of Scots ... Thirdly, and most significantly, the elevation of the Lennoxes presented an obstacle between the Queen of Scots and the English throne. Thus was Darnley's uniquely 'British' inheritance put to use at last ... The subsequent release of Darnley into Scotland and the restoration of his father at the Scottish Court were part of this policy: the political disaster of the Darnley marriage as yet unforeseen."[16]

In September 1564, the Scottish Parliament restored Matthew Stewart's rights and titles as Earl of Lennox, and listened to a lengthy speech from the Queen's secretary William Maitland, who offered;

"it may be affirmid Scotland in na manis age that presentlie levis wes in gritter tranquillitie."[17]

Marriage to the Queen of Scots

Lord Darnley and Mary, Queen of Scots (painting of circa 1565, now at Hardwick Hall)[18]

On 3 February 1565 Darnley left London and by 12 February he was in Edinburgh. On 17 February he presented himself to Mary at Wemyss Castle in Fife. James Melville of Halhill reported that "Her Majesty took well with him, and said that he was the lustiest and best proportioned long man that she had seen."[19] After a brief visit to his father at Dunkeld, Darnley returned with Mary and the court to Holyrood on 24 February. The next day he heard John Knox preach, and he danced a galliard with Mary at night. From then on, he was constantly in Mary's company.[2]

Darnley was his wife's first cousin through Margaret Tudor, putting both Mary and Darnley high in the line of succession for the English throne. Darnley was also a descendant of a daughter of James II of Scotland, and so also in line for the throne of Scotland.

As a preliminary to the marriage, Darnley was made Lord of Ardmanoch and Earl of Ross at Stirling Castle on 15 May 1565. An entourage of 15 men were made knights, including one of Mary's half brothers, Sir Robert Stewart of Strathdon, Robert Drummond of Carnock, and James Stewart of Doune Castle.[20] In England, a concerned Privy council debated the perils of the intended marriage on 4 June 1565. One of their resolutions was to relax the displeasure shown to Lady Catherine Grey, another rival to Mary Stuart for the English throne.[21] Mary sent John Hay, Commendator of Balmerino, to speak to Elizabeth; Elizabeth demanded Darnley's return, and gave John Hay plainly to understand her small satisfaction.[22]

On 22 July, Darnley was made Duke of Albany in Holyrood Abbey, and the banns of marriage were called in the parish of Canongate. A proclamation was made at the Cross of Edinburgh on 28 July that government would be in the joint names of the king and queen of Scots, thus giving Darnley equality with, and precedence over, Mary. This was confirmed in the circulation of a silver ryal in the names of Henry and Mary.[23][24]

On 29 July 1565, the marriage took place by Roman Catholic rites in Mary's private chapel at Holyrood, but Darnley (whose religious beliefs were unfixed – he was raised as a Catholic, but was later influenced by Protestantism[25]) refused to accompany Mary to the nuptial mass after the wedding itself.[2]


Soon after Mary married Darnley, she became aware of his vain, arrogant and unreliable qualities, which threatened the well-being of the state. Henry was unpopular with the other nobles and had a violent streak, aggravated by his drinking.[1] Mary refused to grant Darnley the Crown Matrimonial, which would have made him the successor to the throne if she died childless.[25] By August 1565, less than a month after the marriage, William Cecil heard that Darnley's insolence had driven Lennox from the Scottish court. Mary soon became pregnant.

Mary's private secretary, David Rizzio was stabbed 56 times on 9 March 1566 by Lord Darnley and his confederates, Protestant Scottish nobles, in the presence of the seven-months-pregnant queen in her dining room. According to English diplomats Thomas Randolph and the Earl of Bedford, the murder of Rizzio (who was rumoured to be the father of Mary's unborn child) was part of Darnley's bid to force Mary to cede the Crown Matrimonial. Darnley also made a bargain with his allies to advance his claim to the Crown Matrimonial in the Parliament of Scotland in return for restoring their lands and titles.[26]

When the Spanish Ambassador in Paris heard this news, the headlines were that Darnley "had murdered his wife, admitted the exiled heretics, and seized the kingdom." However, on 20 March, Darnley posted a declaration denying all knowledge of or complicity in the Rizzio murder. Mary no longer trusted her husband, and he was disgraced by the kingdom. On 27 March, the Earl of Morton and Lord Ruthven, who were both present at Rizzio's murder and had fled to England, wrote to Cecil claiming that Darnley had initiated the murder plot and recruited them, because of his "heich quarrel" and "deadly hatred" of Rizzio.[27]

Mary is said to have nursed the smallpox-stricken Darnley under this Plane tree at Darnley in Glasgow.[28]

Birth of son

Mary and Darnley's son James was born on 19 June 1566 at Edinburgh Castle. He was baptised Charles James on 17 December 1566 in a Catholic ceremony held at Stirling Castle. His godparents were Charles IX of France, Elizabeth I of England and Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy. Mary refused to let the Archbishop of St Andrews, whom she referred to as "a pocky priest", spit in the child's mouth, as was then the custom. In the entertainment, devised by Frenchman Bastian Pagez, men danced dressed as satyrs and sporting tails; the English guests took offence, thinking the satyrs "done against them".

Following the birth of James the succession was more secure; in late 1566 and early 1567, Darnley and Mary appeared to be close to reconciliation as she was often seen visiting his chambers. Darnley, however, alienated many who would otherwise have been his supporters through his erratic behaviour. His insistence that he be awarded the Crown Matrimonial was still a source of marital frustration.


Main article: Kirk o' Field
1567 drawing of Kirk o' Field after the murder of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, drawn for William Cecil shortly after the murder.

Darnley was murdered eight months after James's birth. On 9 February 1567, his body and that of his valet were discovered in the orchard of Kirk o' Field, in Edinburgh, where they had been staying.

During the weeks leading up to his death, Darnley was recovering from a bout of smallpox (or, it has been speculated, syphilis). He was described as having deformed pocks upon his face and body. He stayed with his family in Glasgow, until Mary brought him to recuperate at Old Provost's lodging at Kirk o' Field, a two-storey house within the church quadrangle, a short walk from Holyrood, with the intention of incorporating him into the court again.[29] Darnley stayed at Kirk o' Field while Mary attended the wedding of Bastian Pagez, one of her closest servants, at Holyrood. Around 2 am on the night of 10 February 1567, while Mary was away, two explosions rocked the foundation of Kirk o' Field. These explosions were later attributed to two barrels of gunpowder that had been placed in the small room under Darnley's sleeping quarters. Darnley's body and the body of his valet William Taylor, were found outside, surrounded by a cloak, a dagger, a chair and a coat. Darnley was dressed only in his nightshirt, suggesting he had fled in some haste from his bedchamber. Upon further examination, the bodies had no signs of injuries that could be associated with the explosion, so the blast was not considered to have killed Darnley. It was determined that the two men were killed by strangulation, believed to have taken place after the explosion. (However, modern medicine recognises that internal injuries can kill explosion victims with no sign of injury.)


Suspicion quickly fell on the Earl of Bothwell and his supporters, notably Archibald Douglas, Parson of Douglas, whose shoes were found at the scene, and on Mary herself. Bothwell had long been suspected of having designs on the throne, and his close relationship with the queen gave rise to rumours they were sexually intimate. This was viewed as a motive for Bothwell to have Darnley murdered, with help from some of the nobility and seemingly with royal approval. Mary had been looking at options for removing Darnley, though her ideas were for divorce, and none were suitable.

Soon after Darnley's death, Bothwell and Mary left Edinburgh together. There are two points of view about the circumstances: in the first, Bothwell kidnapped the queen, took her to Dunbar Castle, and raped her. In the second, Mary was a willing participant in the kidnapping, and the story of rape was a fabrication so her honour and reputation were not ruined by her marriage to a man widely suspected of murder. Mary later miscarried twins by Bothwell.

Suspicions that Mary colluded with conspirators in her husband's death or that she took no action to prevent his death were key factors in the downward spiral that led to Mary's loss of the Scottish crown. The Casket letters, alleged to have been written by Mary, seemed to indicate her support for the killing. The letters were purportedly found by James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton in Edinburgh in a silver box engraved with an F (supposedly for Francis II), along with a number of other documents, including the Mary-Bothwell marriage certificate.[30] Before Morton's execution in 1581, he admitted having knowledge of the murder plot, and that Bothwell and Archibald Douglas were "chief actors" in Darnley's murder.[31]

A soldier under the pay of Bothwell, William Blackadder of the Clan Blackadder, was allegedly the first non-participant to happen upon the scene, and for that reason was initially treated as a suspect. Although initially cleared of any involvement in the murder, he was offered up by the conspirators and convicted at a show trial, after which he was executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered before each of his limbs was nailed to the gates of a different Scottish town.

Not long after that, both Mary and Bothwell were charged with Henry's murder. They were given separate trials in England. Bothwell was found not guilty. Mary's trial took longer, ending with no definitive finding. Mary was kept in captivity until she was implicated in the Babington plot against Elizabeth, after which she was convicted of treason and executed.[32]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Lord Darnley's coat of arms

Titles and styles




  1. 1 2 Mary Queen of Scots, by Antonia Fraser, 13th reprint, London: 1989; ISBN 0-297-17773-7
  2. 1 2 3 4 Elaine Finnie Greig, 'Stewart, Henry, duke of Albany [Lord Darnley] (1545/6–1567)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 4 March 2012
  3. Daniel, William S. (1852), History of The Abbey and Palace of Holyrood. Pub. Edinburgh: Duncan Anderson. p. 62
  4. Letters & Papers Henry VIII, vol. 18 part 2, (1902), no. 539: Bannatyne Miscellany, Edinburgh vol. 1, (1827), 1–6
  5. Calendar State Papers Domestic 1547–1580, (1856), pp. 201, 203
  6. Ellis, Henry, ed., Original Letters illustrative of British History, 2nd series vol. 2, (1827) pp. 249–251
  7. 1 2 Macauley, (2004), p. 267
  8. Macauley, (2004), p. 268
  9. Macauley, (2004), pp. 268–269
  10. Calendar State Papers Foreign Elizabeth, vol. 1
  11. Macauley, (2004), p. 276
  12. HMC Manuscripts of the Marquis of Salisbury, vol. 1 (1883), pp. 74, 118, 121, 147; vol. 2 (1888), p. 509: CSP Domestic 1547–1580, (1856), p. 90, 16 March 1557
  13. CSP Domestic 1547–1580, (1856), pp. 164, 171, 177
  14. Macauley, (2004), p. 284: CSP Domestic 1547–1580, (1856), p. 195
  15. Macauley, (2004), p. 287
  16. Macauley, Sarah. 'The Lennox Crisis, 1558–1563.', in Northern History 41.2 (2004), pp. 267–287
  17. Cameron, Annie I., ed., Warrender Papers, vol. 1, SHS (1931), p. 43, Maitland's oration in parliament.
  18. "Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, (1545–1567) and Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–1587), National Trust Inventory Number 1129218". National Trust collections. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  19. Melville, James (1973). Gordon Donaldson, ed. Memoirs of his own life. New York: AMS Press. ISBN 0404527183.
  20. Goodare, Julian, 'Queen Mary's Catholic Interlude', in Mary Stewart Queen in Three Kingdoms: Innes Review, vol.37 (1987), p.158: Calendar of State Papers Scotland, vol. 2 (1900), p. 161 no.181:
  21. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 2 (1900), pp. 175, 194.
  22. Calendar of State Papers Scotland, vol. 2 (1900), pp. 175–177, 178.
  23. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 2 (1900), p. 184, Randolph to Bedford, 28 July 1565.
  24. Daniel, William S. (1852), History of The Abbey and Palace of Holyrood. Pub. Edinburgh: Duncan Anderson, p. 67.
  25. 1 2 Davison, Meredith Henry Armstrong. The Casket Letters. 1965. Print.
  26. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol.2 (1900), pp.259–61 no.351, 6 March 1566, or so Randolph and Bedford were advised before the murder.
  27. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol.2 (1900), 270–1 no.364 & no.369.
  28. "The Darnley Sycamore". Forestry Commission Scotland – Heritage Trees of Scotland website. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  29. "Mary, Mary, quite Contrary." Off Our Backs 12 February 1971: 11-. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 15 Mar 2012 .
  30. MacRobert, A. E. (2002). Mary, Queen of Scots and the casket letters. International Library of Historical Studies. 25. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-86064-829-8.
  31. The Skull and Portraits of Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, and their Bearing on The Tragedy of Mary, Queen of Scots Karl Pearson Biometrika , Vol. 20B, No. 1 (Jul. 1928), pp. 1–104
  32. "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Mary Queen of Scots". Newadvent.org. 1 October 1910. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  33. Daniel, William S. (1852), History of The Abbey and Palace of Holyrood. Pub. Edinburgh: Duncan Anderson, p. 65.
  34. Anderson, Duncan (1849). History of the Abbey and Palace of Holyrood. Edinburgh, Scotland: Keeper of the Chapel Royal. p. 58. Archived from the original on 15 December 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011. about the beginning of February 1565-6, the Seigneur de Rembouillet, with a deputation from the King of France, arrived at the Palace, to present Darnley with the order of St. Michael, known as the Scallop or Cockle-shell Order, so called from the escallop shells of which the collar was composed. The investiture was performed after the celebration of mass in the Chapel-Royal


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.
Scottish royalty
Title last held by
Francis II of France
King consort of Scots
Title next held by
Anne of Denmark
Peerage of Scotland
New creation Duke of Albany
4th creation
Succeeded by
James Stuart
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/15/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.