Historical Couples Mary, Queen of Scots Part III
Rizzio was dead. Darnley and Mary escaped from Holyrood. Heavily pregnant, Mary rode for five hours to Dunbar Castle.
To refresh your memory or find out what happened, check out this link. https://matroche.com/2019/04/22/mary-queen-of-scots-and-the-man-who-would-bring-her-the-english-crown/
Now in the Royal Castle, Mary gathered her loyal supporters. Days laters, those men invovled in Rizzio’s death fled. By now, Mary’s army numbered 8000 men, she rode at the head of army into Edinburgh. She regained control of her realm. She pardoned some conspirators who were not directly involved with Rizzio’s murder. Her plan was simple, drive a wedge between these group of men.
Darnley signed a declaration that he was not a part of the murder. This fit Mary’s needs because she couldn’t have doubts about her unborn child’s legitimacy. In April of 1566, the Earl of Moray (Lord James Stewart, bastard half-brother to Mary and Protestant) arrived at Edinburgh Castle, where Mary was residing.
She gave Moray permission to stay at the imposing castle to keep a close watch on him. She knew that Moray held the support of Protestant lords as well as England and had to play it this way to keep support for her. This time Mary wouldn’t trust her half-brother but she knew that she needed him. The Protestants of Scotland looked to him as their leader. And Scottish lords had no problem rebelling against or killing their monarch. They had done so before.
Before the Scottish court, Mary gave the appearance of marital happiness but Darnley had been shut out from her graces and the seat of power. On 19 June 1566, Mary gave birth to James, the Duke of Rothesay (future James VI of Scotland and James I of England). Scotland had an heir to the throne and they rejoiced. Mary soared to great heights.
Darnley, though, was leading “a very disorderly life. Every night, he left the castle and went out vagabonding and drinking heavily with his young male friends in the streets of Edinburgh. He would return at all hours of the night, so that the castle gates had to be unlocked for him, which left Mary feeling ‘there was no safety, either for herself or her son.'”
Mary decided to keep James with her. She was fearful her enemies make steal him away and rule in his name. (Spoiler: That would happen) It didn’t help Mary that Darnley was still plotting to become king. The man was far from Mary’s good graces. He knew nothing of the Queen’s actions, daily life and certainly knew nothing of her affection. Mary seeking someone she could trust, she was turning more and more to the Earl of Bothwell.
Sadly for Mary, the men in her life sucked. And Darnley’s intrigue wasn’t the only on occurring. Moray and Bothwell, both had their own separate plans that would lead to death and the loss of the Scottish crown.
In October 1566, Mary gathered her Border lords for a justice eyre (a circuit court to hear legal cases). Darnley requested to accompany her and he was refused. Not pleased, Darnley starts to throw what I call hissy fits. One fit was his threat to sail away from Scotland. Mary could not allow such a thing. That posed a threat to her, her son and realm.
In the lowlands, during the eyre, Lord Bothwell had been attacked and injured. On 15 October, Mary learned on this and rode from Jedburgh to Hermitage Castle (The Earl of Bothwell’s, James Hepburn, holding) then rode back to Jedburgh. A sixty mile round trip that would be come to bite her in the ass.
The rest of 1566, Mary was ill and rested at Craigmillar Castle. During her recovery, Darnley appears again only to disappear to Mary’s relief. Her husband was a necessary nuisance. Her lords were trying to find a way to divorce her from her wastrel of a husband. He was a danger to her yet she couldn’t risk the standing of her son–a divorce would have James declared illegitmate. Yet, Mary knew that her husband wanted her dead. Her death would lead to a regency and Darnley wanted to be appointed Regent. Scotland had had a regency since 1393 and Mary, Queen of Scots (Scotland would have another under Mary’s son).
But many wanted Darnley dead too.
In 1567, (According to testimony made in 1573) a bond was drawn up to kill Darnley. No record exists and no one saw this written bond. But that didn’t stop the English and Cecil and Walingsham from using this testimony)
At the end of 1566, Darnley became ill with pox, syphillis as the Diurnal of Occurents’ stated. The sixteenth century cure wasn’t an easy one. It was mercury baths. He was at his father’s stronghold near Glasgow. That wasn’t necessary a good thing for Mary.
In the beginning in 1567, Mary had proof of two conspiracies: Lords against Darnely with plans to kill him and Darnley against Mary. With no other choice, Mary rode to Glasgow to confront her husband and bring him to Edinburgh to watch him.
Now the queen had her husband and Bothwell had recovered from his injuries and journeyed to the royal burgh. The plan was to lodge Darnely in Craigmillar. But he feared being locked up and killed so he went to Kirk o’ Field. Later many would say that Mary had set up the house in order to kill him. But that choice was Darnley’s.
The house “lay to the south of Edinburgh, on a hill overlooking the Cowgate; it stood just inside the city wall and three-quarters of a mile from Holyrood Palace, in a semi-rural location, ‘environed with pleasant gardens, and removed from the noise of the people.'”
Mary saw that her husband had all the luxuries the husband of the queen could want or need. As he recovered, the queen “visited her husband daily.” According to Alison Weir’s book, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, she spent two nights at Kirk o’ Field, sleeping in the bedroom below his. They sat up late, sometimes until midnight, talking, playing cards or listening to music, and ‘many nobles’ came with the Queen to divert the convalescent.
Though, Mary might have shown kindess to her husband, she didn’t trust him and continued to learn of all his undermined plans against her.
On 9 February 1567, the last day of Sunday before the beginning of Lent, the queen had a full schedule. She had a wedding of her favorite servants, attended a banquet and around 7, she rode to Kirk o’ Field in the company of Lords Bothwell, Argyll and Huntly. They spent the time playing dice and chatting. The group including the Queen were dressed for the wedding masque that they would be attending later that night.
At midnight, Mary and the lords departed. This night has many stories depending on who you believe and when the story is told. Whatever you believe, Mary returned to Holyrood, attended the masque and took part in the bedding ceremony of the newlyweds then returned to her apartments.
There she held a meeting with the Captain of her Guards and Bothwell. The captain left Bothwell and the queen alone where they talked in private for some time then Bothwell left and Mary went to bed. Another act that would be used against Mary.
Shortly before 2 a.m. Mary was woken by an explosion. She thought it might be cannon fire and sent messengers to learn what was happening. They returned with the news of an explosion of Kirk o’ Field and the belief that Darnley was dead.
Lord Bothwell was the Sheriff of Edinburgh and the duty to investigate fell to him. His servant had to wake him. He sent his men then returned to bed.
Bodies of servants were discovered in the rubble remains of the house but Darnley had not been find. “At last, at 5 a.m., three hours after the explosion, someone thought to look in the south garden and orchard, beyond Flodden Wall, and it was there that they found the bodies of the twenty-year-old king and his valet.” Both men were dressed in short nightshirts and neither body had a mark on their flesh. “Darnley was stretched out on his back, under a pear tree, with one hand draped modestly over his genitals.”
Near the bodies was a chair, rope, and a dagger. The clothing weren’t burned, scorched or black from powder.
Mary learned of the news. She fell into deep grief and stayed in her chamber all day. Weir writes, “There is no doubt that Darnley’s murder left Mary grief-stricken, emotionally shattered and fearful for her own safety. For several months afterwards, she seems not to have functioned normally, and her judgment, never very good at the best of times, utterly failed her.”
This was the beginning in the end for her as Scotland’s queen and her life.