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Queen Mary I of Scotland was born on December 8, 1542 at Linlithgow Palace, Scotland, to King James V and his French second wife, Marie of Guise. She was said to have been born prematurely and was the only legitimate child of James to survive him.

She was the great-niece of King Henry VIII of England, as her paternal grandmother, Margaret Tudor, was Henry VIII’s older sister. On December 14, six days after her birth, she became Queen of Scotland when her father died, following the Battle of Solway Moss from drinking contaminated water while on campaign.

In 1548, she was betrothed to François, the Dauphin of France, and was sent to be brought up in France, where she would be safe from invading English forces during the Rough Wooing.

Mary married François in 1558, becoming queen consort of France from his accession in 1559 until his death in December 1560. Widowed, Mary returned to Scotland in August 1561. Following the Scottish Reformation, the tense religious and political climate that Mary encountered on her return to Scotland was further agitated by prominent Scots such as John Knox, who openly questioned whether her subjects had a duty to obey her.

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (1546 – 10 February 1567), was an English nobleman.

He 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 Queen Margaret, daughter of King Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York. Queen Margaret was the widow of King James IV of Scotland.

Through his parents, he had claims to both the Scottish and English thrones, and from his marriage in 1565 he was king consort of Scotland. Less than a year after the birth of his son, Darnley was murdered 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 known in history.

February 3, 1565, Darnley left London and by February 12, he was in Edinburgh. On February 17, 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.”

After a brief visit to his father at Dunkeld, Darnley returned with Mary and the court to Holyrood on February 24. 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.

Darnley was his wife’s half-first cousin through two different marriages of their grandmother, 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 May 15, 1565. An entourage of 15 men were made knights, including one of Mary’s half brothers, Robert Stewart of Strathdon, Robert Drummond of Carnock, James Stewart of Doune Castle, and William Murray of Tullibardine. In England, a concerned Privy council debated the perils of the intended marriage on June 4, 1565.

One of their resolutions was to relax the displeasure shown to Lady Catherine Grey, another rival to Mary Stuart for the English throne. 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.

On July 22, 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.

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.

Soon after Mary married Darnley, she became aware of his vain, arrogant and unreliable qualities, which threatened the wellbeing of the state. Darnley was unpopular with the other nobles and had a violent streak, aggravated by his drinking. Henry also demanded the Crown Matrimonial. In Scots law, the Crown Matrimonial is a person’s right to co-reign equally with his or her spouse. Mary refused to grant Darnley the Crown Matrimonial.

The Crown Matrimonial of Scotland was sought by King François II of France, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, by the Parliament of Scotland and Mary’s mother, Marie of Guise, who was regent of Scotland. It would make King François II of France legal co-sovereign of Scotland with Queen Mary, and would also grant François II the right to keep the Scottish throne if he outlived her.

By the terms of the offer, he would be able to pass the Scottish crown to his descendants by a wife other than Mary. The Crown of Scotland was to be sent to France, where it was supposed to be kept at the Abbey of Saint Denis. However, the offer was never realised, as the Hamilton family, who were close to the throne, joined the Protestants and opposed it.

The Protestant peers promised to make Henry sovereign by the consent of Parliament. They agreed that Henry, as the new sovereign, would pardon all the exiled Protestants and allow them to return to Scotland. However, the plan was never realised.

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 March 9, 1566 by Darnley and his confederates, Protestant Scottish nobles, in the presence of the queen, who was six months pregnant. 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.

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