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Timeline of Scottish History

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Henry Stewart Darnley

  • Name  : Darnley
  • Born  : 1545
  • Died  : 1567
  • Category  : Famous Historical Figures
  • Finest Moment : Marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots (1565)

Tall, charming, powdered, violent & ambitious, he married a queen & was strangled in his garden.

Born 7 December 1545 at Temple Newsom, Yorkshire, Darnley has been described as a 'petulant popinjay' of the Scottish nobility. He was the elder son of the 4th Earl of Lennox, and was brought up in Protestant England. His father's pretension to the Scottish throne was contested by James Hamilton, while his mother, Margaret Douglas, was a granddaughter of Henry VII. Darnley and Queen Mary had met in France, shortly after the death of Mary's first husband, King Francis II

In February 1565, Queen Elizabeth gave Darnley permission to visit Scotland. Mary took a liking to him, even though they were cousins. Part of this liking was Darnley's good height, Mary herself being tall of stature. By the spring of that year it was clear she had her sights on him as husband. She made him firstly Earl of Ross (a rank usually held for the son of the Scottish King), then Duke of Albany. He must have been a charmer.

They married on 29 July, with a Catholic ceremony. This, understandably enough, did not wear well with the Protestant Scottish ministry, for whom John Knox was the spokesman; neither did it go down well with other political claimants, including James Stewart, Mary's illegitimate half-brother.

During the next 18 months, Darnley succeeded in alienating much of the Scottish nobility, became estranged from his wife, and began to show the symptoms of what was probably syphilis. He became jealous of Mary's Italian secretary David Rizzio - Protestant lords suspected Rizzio of being a papal agent; Darnley thought the two were intimate. Rizzio was murdered by Darnley and some of the lords on 9 March 1566, at Holyrood. Mary, who was then six months pregnant, was certainly close by, and may even have witnessed the scene.

Mary fathered his child, who became James VI, and for a while Darnley tempered the worst of his excesses - or at least concealed them. He was brought to Edinburgh to convalesce at Kirk o'Fields, one of their houses. While she was away, on the night of 10 February 1567, the house was blown up, and the wretched Darnley was found strangled in the rose bushes. James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, and soon to be Mary's second Scottish husband, was a dead ringer for at least lighting the fuse to the gunpowder; he may even have squeezed Darnley's throat.

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