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Marriage to Lord Darnley

Mary had briefly met her English-born half-cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, in February 1561 when she was in mourning for François II of France.

Henry was the second but eldest surviving son of Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, by his wife Lady Margaret Douglas which supported her claim to the English succession. Darnley’s maternal grandparents were Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, and Lady Margaret Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII of England and widow of King James IV of Scotland.

Darnley’s parents, sent him to France ostensibly to extend their condolences, while hoping for a potential match between their son and Mary. Both Mary and Darnley were grandchildren of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII of England, and patrilineal descendants of the High Stewards of Scotland.

Darnley shared a more recent Stewart lineage with the Hamilton family as a descendant of Mary Stewart, Countess of Arran, a daughter of James II of Scotland. They next met on Saturday February 17, 1565 at Wemyss Castle in Scotland. Mary fell in love with the “long lad”, as Queen Elizabeth called him since he was over six feet tall.

On July 22,1565 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 July 28, 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.

On July 29, 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) refused to accompany Mary to the nuptial Mass after the wedding itself. Despite both were Catholic and a papal dispensation for the marriage of first cousins had not been obtained.

English statesmen William Cecil and the Earl of Leicester had worked to bring the couple together, Queen Elizabeth felt threatened by the marriage because as descendants of her aunt, both Mary and Darnley were claimants to the English throne.

Their children, if any, would inherit an even stronger, combined claim. Mary’s insistence on the marriage seems to have stemmed from passion rather than calculation; the English ambassador Nicholas Throckmorton stated “the saying is that surely she [Queen Mary] is bewitched”, adding that the marriage could only be averted “by violence”.

The union infuriated Queen Elizabeth, who felt the marriage should not have gone ahead without her permission, as Darnley was both her cousin and an English subject.