Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley

Eyridiki Sellou | Apr 26, 2023

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Henry Stuart, 1st Duke of Albany or Lord Darnley (7 December 1545 - 10 February 1567) Royal Husband of Scotland (1565 - 1567) by his marriage to Mary I of Scotland was the eldest son of Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox, and Margaret Douglas. The most common title by which he was known was Lord Darnley. Henry was the second but eldest son of his parents to survive. His maternal grandparents were Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, and Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England and widow of James IV of Scotland. He was first cousin by marriage and second husband of Mary I with whom he had James, who succeeded his mother to the throne of Scotland as James VI of Scotland and Elizabeth I of England to the throne of England as James I of England.

Henry Stuart was born at Leeds on the west coast of Yorkshire in 1545 but the date is uncertain because his parents were not together in early 1545 and a letter in March 1566 from Mary of Scotland shows that he was 19 years old, so the most likely date is 1546. As a descendant of two royal houses descended from James II of Scotland and Henry VII of England he was a scion of two great royal houses of Tudor and Stuart, his claims to the thrones of Scotland and England would cost him his life. Matthew Stuart's father was accused of treason for supporting the English in their war with Mary of Guise, mother and Regent of Mary of Scotland, and Regent James Hamilton, Earl of Arran. His family estates were confiscated and he was exiled to England for 22 years, returning to Scotland in 1564. His mother Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, left Scotland in 1528.

Young Henry was anxious about his ancestry and heritage, he knew Latin, Gaelic, English, French and received an education that suited his royal lineage, he was very good at singing, dancing and playing the lute. The Scottish educator John Elder was his tutor and an ardent supporter of the Anglo-Scottish union through the marriage of Queen Mary to Prince Edward, his advice to Henry VIII of England was set out in the Treaty of Redcoat. Another important teacher of young Henry was Arthur Lallard who would later be interrogated in London and taken to Scotland in 1562. Henry was a tough, athletic fellow trained in horsemanship, his leisure time was spent hunting and playing hockey. His youthful character was shown in a letter to Mary I in March 1554 from his native town in which he wishes "every hair of his head to help him become a hard soldier".

The "Lennox Crisis" (1558 - 1563) was a political movement prompted by the political ambitions of the Lennoxes; Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox, was third in line of succession to the Scottish throne. His wife Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, was a niece of Henry VIII and granddaughter of Henry VII which made her third in line of succession to the throne of England after Queen Mary of Scotland and her son with Darnley in the event that Queen Elizabeth for reasons of legitimacy could not inherit the throne. The Lennox family is presented as an alternative to the throne of England since Henry's descendants were not long retained, as Catholics they were a threat to Protestant England especially by the time the 26 year old Elizabeth ascended the throne (1558). Elizabeth was very intelligent and educated but had to prove it as her parents marriage was not recognised by the Catholic Church, many saw her as illegitimate and preferred Darnley for king. The result was many conspiracies, intrigues and espionage to take over the royal court.

When Henry II of France died in July 1559, his brother, the Earl of Lennox's brother John, 5th Earl of Aubiny, was given a large position at the French court by the new Queen Mary of Scotland. Aubiny arranged for Darnley's trip to the French court to congratulate Queen Mary and young Francis II of France on their marriage and to request his reinstatement to Lennox. Mary did not restore him but gave Darnley 1,000 crowns and an invitation to attend her coronation. Lennox's plans were to invite Mary directly without the intervention of Elizabeth and Mary of Guise. The Earl of Lennox's envoy, Nesbit, found himself in a desperate situation not only because he had to hand over Darnley and his brother Charles as hostages for his rehabilitation but also had to bring up Darnley's hereditary rights to the thrones of England and Scotland. Aubiny was accused that while supporting Mary's rights to the throne of England he concealed the fact that Darnley had stronger hereditary rights than Elizabeth. Lennox sent Nesbit to watch Darnley and his tutor John Elder. In 1559 the English envoy to Paris Sir Nicholas Throckmorton (1515 - 1571) warned Mary that Elder was "as dangerous to the affairs of England as any man can imagine". Lord Darnley was the next contender for the throne of England after the Queen of Scots and her elderly mother, he was a man and a Catholic so he became the chosen one of Elizabeth's enemies. Paget wrote in March 1550 about his well-founded fears of Catholics elevating Darnley to the throne of England after Elizabeth's death.

In the summer of that year Elizabeth's position improved considerably. Francis Yaxley, a famous Catholic spy, had been employed by William Cecil since 1549 and travelled to France on his behalf. Yaxley placed Mabel Fortescue and other ladies as servants in the Lennox household in November 1560. The Lennox Countesses had kept Yaxley busy, when he was interrogated in February 1562 at the Tower of London he revealed that he knew important information about the Royal Court of England from the Spanish ambassador, the ambassador had entrusted him and Hugh Allen with information about the Lennoxes and Darnley. Yaxley admitted that his missions were aimed at a marriage between the Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley, Darnley's religious beliefs made him more desirable than the Earl of Arran. Although the threat of the Lennox family never ceased to exist Elizabeth did not convict them of treason when they were arrested (1562) nor did she take action to extinguish all their hereditary rights in England. Elizabeth was deeply afraid that the investigations would be turned against her and she had to ensure her succession to the throne of England since she herself had no descendants. Lennox's family was freed in February 1563, in a matter of months Darnley and his mother received favourable treatment at the English court although Elizabeth had never asked the Earl to accompany her. Sarah McCauley notes three reasons for the Lennox family's rise to the royal court:

"The rise of the Lennox to the royal court was a useful move for three reasons. First, Queen Elizabeth has declared that the decisions of Parliament have nothing to do with her own orders. Second, favouring the Lennoxes was a tendency to reach out to English Catholics such as the Spanish ambassador who had predicted that Elizabeth would appoint Darnley as her successor, these affairs favoured Mary's concerns. Third and most importantly, the rise of the Lennoxes to the royal court of England stood as a barrier between the queens of Scotland and England. Darnley's British inheritance was the vehicle for this policy; the restoration of his father's titles in Scotland was part of the policy at a time when the disastrous marriage that followed to Mary was unpredictable."

Darnley left London on 3 February 1565 and arrived in Edinburgh on 12 February; on the 17th he met Mary at Fife. James Melville reports "Her Majesty was impressed with him, he was the tallest man of the best proportions she had seen". He soon visited his father at Dunkeld and on 24 February returned to Mary's court at Holyrood, the next day he heard John Knox's sermon and danced gaillard with Mary, from then on he joined her entourage. Darnley was a first cousin by half-cousin to Mary through different marriages of their grandmother Margaret Tudor and as a result they both had rights to the throne of England, Darnley additionally belonged to the House of Stuart and was a descendant of James II of Scotland.

As a prelude to the marriage, Darnley was made Lord of Ardmanoch and Earl of Ross on 15 May 1565 at Stirling Castle, followed by an entourage of 15 noblemen including Sir Robert Stewart of Strathinton, Mary's half-brother, Robert Drummond of Carnock and James Stewart of Down Castle. In England the royal council convened on 4 June 1565 emphasised the dangers of marriage, they decided to relax their resentment towards Lady Catherine Grey (1540 - 1568), one of Mary Stuart's rivals for the throne of England and younger sister of Jane Grey. Mary sent John Hay to speak to Elizabeth; Elizabeth requested Darnley's return, giving John Hay some satisfaction. On 22 July Darnley was given the title of Duke of Albany, a proclamation on 28 July at the Edinburgh Junction had the names of the King and Queen of Scots together with Darnley being equal or superior to Mary. The proclamation was confirmed by a silver seal released with the names of Henry and Mary. The marriage took place on 29 July 1565 according to Catholic ritual in Holyrood Chapel but he refused to accompany Mary to the wedding ceremony that followed.

After the marriage, Mary became very unhappy with Darnley's short-tempered and aggressive character, Henry was hated by the other nobles, and his situation was made worse by his passion for drink. Mary refused to grant Darnley the matrimonial right of indenture and to recognize him as her heir to the Scottish throne in case she died before him childless. In August 1565 less than a month after the marriage William Cecil learned that the Lennox family had been banished from the Scottish court because of Darnley's behaviour.

Mary's secretary David Rizzio was murdered on 9 March 1566 with 56 stab wounds by a conspiracy led by Henry and Protestant nobles in the presence of 7-month pregnant Mary, while rumours circulated that the child was his. Diplomat Thomas Randolph and the Earl of Bedford note that Rizzio's murder was part of Darnley's plan to pressure Mary into granting him marital contractual rights. Henry made a deal with his allies to support him in Parliament in his claims for conjugal rights and in return he would grant them lands and titles. The Spanish envoy in Paris reported when he heard the news of the murder that Darnley had "murdered his wife and conquered the kingdom"; Darnley himself, however, on March 20, declared that he had nothing to do with the murder, Mary having again confided in her husband. On 27 March the Earl of Morton and Lord Rathven, who had been present at the murder of Rizzio and had escaped to England, wrote to Cecil that Darnley had organised the murder because of his intense quarrel and hatred of Rizzio.

The son of Mary and Darnley was born on 19 June 1566 at Edinburgh Castle and baptised on 17 December 1566 in a Catholic ceremony at Stirling Castle under the name Charles James. His godparents were Charles IX of France, Elizabeth I of England and Emmanuel Philip of Savoy. Mary forbade the Archbishop of St. Andrew's, who called him a "fat priest," to spit in the baby's mouth according to custom. The entertainment that followed was devised by Frenchman Bastian Pagez with men dressed as satyrs and sporting tails, the English guests felt insulted thanking the satyrs for "turning on them". After James's birth the succession to the throne was assured, by late 1566 and early 1567 Darnley and Mary were reconciled. Henry's bad behaviour nevertheless drove away from him many nobles who aimed to become his followers, while his insistence on obtaining the matrimonial franchise was always a cause of family conflict.

Darnley was murdered on 9 February 1567 about 8 months after the birth of baby James, his body was found in his residence in Kirk's orchard in Edinburgh. In the last weeks before his death, Darnley was recovering from smallpox that had disfigured his face and body. He was staying with his family in Glasgow but Mary moved him to Kirk to a two-storey house within the church and a short distance from Holyrood, her aim being to take him to the royal court. On the day of his murder Mary was attending the wedding of one of her closest servants Bastan Pagez, on the night of 10 February at 2am two explosions were heard at his residence. The explosions came from two barrels of gunpowder placed under his bedroom, his body as well as that of his servant William Taylor were found in the garden, he was dressed only in his nightgown which shows his haste to leave the bedroom. The bodies showed no signs of injury from the explosion, this led to the conclusion that the two men were murdered by strangulation immediately after the explosion. Suspicion of the murder was passed on to James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, the vicar Archibald Douglas whose shoes were found at the scene and Mary herself. Bothwell had close relations with the Queen and plans for the throne and rumours of sexual relations led to the conclusion that the murder was carried out by him with royal approval. Mary was aiming to depose Darnley although she did not manifest her aims for divorce.

Immediately after Darnley's murder, Bothwell and Mary left Edinburgh together. The rumours that circulated afterwards were based on two hypotheses: in the first, Mary was kidnapped and raped by Bothwell, in the second she left with him of her own free will which leads to the conclusion that Darnley's murder was planned with her. Mary later miscarried the twins she had had with Bothwell. Rumors of Mary's guilt over her husband's death turned to her doing nothing to protect him and led to the loss of her throne. The 'casket letters' containing two promises of Mary's marriage to Bothwell and a love poem were evidence of her guilt, the letters were found in Edinburgh by James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton. Morton had stated before his execution (1581) that he knew of the conspiracy and that Bothwell and Archibald Douglas were the prime movers in Darnley's execution.

William Blackadder of the Blackadder family a soldier in the Boothwell service who did not attend the wedding was the first suspect in the murder. Blackander was subjected to a trial in which he was found guilty, hanged, caricatured and his pieces nailed to the gates of different Scottish towns. Both Bothwell and Mary were then put to the test themselves, Bothwell was easily found not guilty and so was Mary, although her own trial was delayed for some time. Mary lived from then on in England as a prisoner of Queen Elizabeth until the time she was found guilty of participating in the "Babbington Conspiracy" in which she was sentenced to death for treason and beheaded.

Darnley was buried in the royal chamber of Holyrood Abbey (1567) with other distinguished kings such as David II of Scotland, James II of Scotland, Magdalene of France and James V of Scotland. The tomb was opened (1668) by the crowds but the bodies remained intact, the Scottish writer Hugo Arnott (1749 - 1786) visited the chamber (1776) and said he saw Darnley's body. In the two years 1776 - 1778 the tomb was ransacked and Darnley's skull was stolen. In 1928 a paper published by Carl Pearson (1857 - 1936) outlined the details of the search for Lord Darnley's skull, the paper considered the possibility that the skull was in the Royal Surgeon's Museum. The skull considered to belong to Lord Darnley was sold to the museum in 1869, the name of its former owner is traced in 1793 in a large collectors' catalogue at the Scottish Museum of Antiquities located in Edinburgh.

Carl Pearson uses various radiocarbon dating methods to try to compare the dimensions of the skull with his portraits, the skull was destroyed during World War II. In November 1898 the University of Edinburgh purchased a skull from the market at Alan's Bridge, it had printed on it the phrase "the skull of Lord Darnley found at Kirk". The skull was part of a large collection belonging to Alexander Patterson a doctor and antiquities collector. Patterson was in possession of many valuable items such as the key to Loch Leuven Castle, a piece of a letter from William Wallace and a fragment of Robert Bruce's coffin.At the request of the University of Edinburgh (2016) an investigation was launched into which of the two skulls belonged to Darnley. Emma Price of Dundee University created a model of the skull in the Royal Surgeon's Museum which Pearson examined and made detailed measurements of both skulls in relation to the portrait of the Lord. The final results rejected the Edinburgh skull while giving high probability to the Royal Surgeon's Museum skull.

He married in 1565 his cousin Mary Stuart, daughter of James V of Scotland, and had a child:

They were cousins, as James V of Scotland was half-brother to Margaret Douglas, Henry Stewart's mother, through their mother Margaret Tudor. Mary I was the last descendant of the eldest branch of the Stuarts, while Henry was of the younger branch of the Stuart-Darnleys. Because his mother Margaret Douglas was a niece of Henry VIII of England, who had no grandchildren, Henry's son James VI of Scotland succeeded Henry VIII's children and became King of England as James I.


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  2. Ερρίκος Στιούαρτ, 1ος δούκας του Όλμπανυ
  3. ^ PG 2279, www.nationalgalleries.org
  4. 1,0 1,1 1,2 (Αγγλικά) SNAC. w66t0zcg. Ανακτήθηκε στις 9  Οκτωβρίου 2017.
  5. 3,0 3,1 «Encyclopædia Britannica» (Αγγλικά) biography/Henry-Stewart-Lord-Darnley. Ανακτήθηκε στις 9  Οκτωβρίου 2017.
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  10. Elaine Finnie Greig, 'Stewart, Henry, duke of Albany [Lord Darnley] (1545/6–1567)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008

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