Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Henry, Lord Darnley

Henry, Lord Darnley, was murdered in Kirk O' Field on the 10th of February, 1567.

Henry Stewart gained a string of titles in his day, from Master of Lennox in Scotland as heir to his father, the 4th Earl of Lennox, through Lord Darnley, an English title, to the Earl of Ross and Lord of Ardmanach, the Duke of Albany, and, ultimately, His Grace The King of Scots. That latter was his greatest achievement and he got it by virtue of his marrying Mary I, Queen of Scots, to become her second husband. At the end of the day, there wasn't much virtue in Henry Stewart, but his pedigree made him a candidate for succession to the English throne after Elizabeth I and a suitable suitor for Mary. Henry Stewart, known to the world as Darnley, was one of history's nearly men; one who is more famous for dying than living.

As the father of Mary's son, Darnley is the direct ancestor of all the sovereigns of Scotland, England and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland since James VI became James I in 1603. Not a great pedigree and a fact that explains a lot. Born in England on the 7th of December, 1545, at Temple Newsom in Yorkshire, Darnley was ostensibly an English subject, who was also subject to controversy. The first contentious aspect of his pathetic life is the debate over whether Elizabeth I did or didn't want Darnley to marry Mary. At the time, Catholic Mary had the dilemma of whether to marry one of her own faith or a Protestant; not an easy choice. Elizabeth I apparently stated that she would name Mary as her heir if she married an Englishman, suggesting Darnley.

Contrast Elizabeth's alleged endorsement with Darnley's imprisonment, because he was a threat to her throne, her council's declaring its dislike of the proposed marriage and its demand for Darnley to return to London. Maybe Gloriana had second thoughts after she'd taken stock of her Royal Scottish cousin's strong character, which was in start contrast to Darnley's. No doubt Elizabeth I thought she could remotely control Darnley and through him, Mary I, Queen of Scots, to England's advantage.

What did happen was that Lang Mary was ta'en wi' Darnley at first, going so far as to describe him as “the properest and best proportioned lang man” that she had ever seen. Whether Mary I was truly infatuated or actually in love with Darnley is debatable, but, in any case, they were married on the 29th of July, 1565. It didn't take Mary long to see through Darnley's greed and desire, which wasn't for her. For Darnley, Mary was but a stepping stone to the English throne. To foil his ambitions, Mary made sure Parliament denied Darnley the Crown Matrimonial, which would have given him equal power, and instead he was merely 'His Grace The King of Scots'.

With his ambitions thwarted, Darnley went off in a sulk and devoted his time to gaining the reputation history has bequeathed him, namely that he was an arrogant, egotistical, dissolute, vicious and drunken man, disliked by many of his peers. Darnley took to gallivanting around with a crowd of low-life mates in search of sexual adventures, frequenting establishments of ill-repute. Certain Protestant Nobles took advantage of his having become estranged from Mary and inveigled Darnley into a plot to do away with the Queen's secretary, the Italian, Fiddler Davie, whom they saw as the Pope's secret agent, in exchange for promises of granting him the Crown Matrimonial. Darnley was persuaded that David Rizzio (or Riccio), the erstwhile fiddle player, was fiddling about with Mary's affections. Another straw on Darnley's camel-back came when she told him at Linlithgow, in the autumn of 1565, that she was pregnant with their child, the birth of whom would effectively ruin all his ambitions of becoming King of either nation.

On the 9th of March, 1566, Darnley and the conspiring Nobles brutally slaughtered Fiddler Davie in the presence of Mary, the Queen. Darnley may not have done any of the stabbing himself, but his knife was left in the body and it seems it was his spiteful idea to do the deed in front of Mary. His cruel notion was that Mary might miscarry and he'd still have a chance at the throne. You can just imagine the vicious expression on his face as he held Mary down, whilst his fellow conspirators were going “stabbetty-stab” – 56 times!

Less than a year later, Darnley got his comeuppance. Darnley had become more than a nuisance to many Nobles, not least his co-conspirators, whom he'd betrayed to Mary. He was also reputedly plotting to seize his son and rule as Regent. So the 'Darnley Problem' became the subject of more conspiracy. Mary was present at Craigmillar on the 20th of November, 1566, where divorce was mooted. Also suggested, albeit ambiguously, was the idea of 'removing' Darnley. Mary wasn't keen on divorce as she thought it would have an adverse affect on her son's legitimate claims to the throne, but neither did she want them to do anything that would taint her honour. Later, after Mary had retired, certain Lords, allegedly Huntly, Argyll, Maitland, Bothwell, Balfour, and Morton, agreed to a plot known as the 'Craigmillar Bond', the objective of which was Darnley's murder.

The official story is that about two o'clock on the morning of Monday the 10th of February, 1567, an explosion occurred at Kirk o' Field, the Old Provost's Lodging, south of the Cowgate. Gunpowder, placed into the Queen's chamber, below Darnley's room, was the cause of the explosion and his death. However, Darnley wasn't killed by any explosion. Darnley's half-naked body and that of his servant, William Taylor, were found in the adjacent orchard, about forty feet from the house. Both men had been strangled and there was no evidence of burns or damage from the blast on either man. Mysteriously, lying beside them were a cloak, a dagger, a rope and a chair. Solve that one, Mr. Holmes.

The Craigmillar Bond has conveniently disappeared and, in any case, its existence relies on the testimony of two men, extracted under torture. The Casket Letters, conveniently discovered by James Douglas, the 4th Earl of Morton, have equally conveniently disappeared. One of those, the Glasgow Letter, implicated both Mary and Bothwell in Darnley's murder. Bothwell was acquitted, but then again, he married Mary very soon afterwards. On the other hand, Mary's natural half brother, James Stewart, the 1st Earl of Moray, albeit absent in France at the time, became the main man behind the vilification of Bothwell and a suspect at the time. Morton, who later became Regent, is also a prime candidate for being the ringleader. It's also said that Darnley was involved in a fake  attempt on his own life, but that persons unknown had other ideas and took advantage of the opportunity. It remains an unsolved  murder mystery to this day.

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