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Today in Mary Queen of Scots History: February 10
Today is the 447th anniversary of the murder of Henry, Lord Darnley, the husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, and therefore the King of Scots. He was King of Scots by marriage only; Mary would have had to petition the Scots Parliament for the Crown Matrimonial to be granted to Darnley and then she would have approved this edict. Although in the first flush of love, Mary promised this to Darnley, as the relationship deteriorated, she became reluctant to confer such power and honor upon him. Alison Weir writes, “The Crown Matrimonial was to become a bone of contention between Mary…
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Today in Mary Queen of Scots History: February 10
Today is the 447th anniversary of the murder of Henry, Lord Darnley, the husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, and therefore the King of Scots. He was King of Scots by marriage only; Mary would have had to petition the Scots Parliament for the Crown Matrimonial to be granted to Darnley and then she would have approved this edict. Although in the first flush of love, Mary promised this to Darnley, as the relationship deteriorated, she became reluctant to confer such power and honor upon him. Alison Weir writes, “The Crown Matrimonial was to become a bone of contention between Mary and Darnley, and would permanently sour their relationship.”1 Darnley was one of those guys who was charming only until the exchange of wedding rings. He was alcoholic, abusive and antagonistic. Not only did he manage to alienate his wife, the Queen of Scots, but he also betrayed every other ally he might have needed. The only person who seemed to care for him or mourned him was his father, the Duke of Lennox.
In all the accounts of the murder and all the many biographies of Mary, Darnley and the others involved, not to mention all the novels, it is easy to forget that Darnley was only 20 years old when he was murdered. (Mary was only 24). I’m not excusing his bad behavior by any means; but it does put it into perspective. Regardless of what age a person lives in, some people mature and some do not. It appears that Darnley matured physically but never emotionally. Antonia Fraser writes, “The truth was that Darnley was thoroughly spoilt: he was the product of a striving mother and a doting father, and even the most rigorous education would probably have left little impact on a personality with from his earliest years had been encouraged to regard himself as the important centre round which the round revolved.”
Darnley seems like a typical abuser; Mary seems to fall into the pattern set by so many victims. She fell in love with him in the spring of 1564; John Guy writes, “By the third week of May, Mary believed she was in love with Darnley.”3 However, her love was short-lived. “By June 3, the relationship was already touring sour.” 4 Like many women before and after her, Mary continued with her plans of marriage even though nobody thought it was a good idea – Fraser writes that “Even the Maries were said to be against the match”5 and Guy asserts that, “If Randolph is to believed Darnley’s behavior became so ‘intolerable,’ Mary suffered a severe attack of melancholy.”6 But she wished to defy Queen Elizabeth more than anything else, and marrying Darnley would do that. According to Guy, she was “determined to make a success of the marriage in spite of Darnley’s behavior.”7
There was not to be a successful marriage. Eight months later, when Mary was pregnant with the future James VI of Scotland and I of England, Darnley entered into a conspiracy which engineered the murder of her private secretary, David Rizzio, in her presence, which could have only been an attempt to make her miscarry the child and bring on her subsequent death. Mary was able to split Darnley from the other conspirators, which then assured his death, sometime in the future.
It has been said that Mary wanted Darnley dead to avenge David Rizzio’s death. However, Darnley was of more used to Mary alive than dead; dead, he was a liability she would never overcome. Given that he was mortally stricken with syphilis, all she had to do was shut him up in Craigmillar Castle and let him go insane. She had her heir; he had done his duty.
1. Weir, Alison. Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley. page 81
2. Fraser, Antonia. Mary Queen of Scots. page 225
3. Guy, John. Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart. page 203
5. Fraser, page 264
6. Guy, page 203
7. Guy, page 207
Fraser, Antonia. Mary Queen of Scots. New York: Dell Publishing, 1971
Guy, John. Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004
Weir, Alison. Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley. New York: Random House, 2003
I have been reading novels about Mary Queen of Scots, along with reading biographies and other studious books on her life. Over the last year, I have read four major novels and a few minor novels. The major novels are “Immortal Queen” by Elizabeth Byrd, “Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles” by Margaret George, “Royal Road to Fotheringhay” and “The Captive Queen of Scots” by Jean Plaidy, and “The Other Queen” by Philippa Gregory. The minor novels are “The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots” by Carrolly Ericson and “The White Queen,” by “Frederic Fallon. There are more novels about Mary; some young adult — but I haven’t read them yet.
Straight up, I am going to say that out of all these novels, “Immortal Queen” is the best of the lot. It has the best Mary. Not a perfect Mary but not the silly, stupid Mary of the Jean Plaidy novels. Margaret George’s Mary is wonderful, but like all her novels, there is too much of everyone and everything else. We hear Mary’s voice most wonderfully in Philippa Gregory’s wonderful novel, but is it really her?
Over the next few posts, I will look at these novels more closely and compare them to one another. I hope you will find this as interesting as I do.
May 15, 1567 – Mary Queen of Scots marries James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Only three months after the murder of her former husband, Henry, Lord Darnley, Mary Queen of Scots wed James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell. He had optained a divorce from his wife, Jean Gordon, a mere twelve days prior. Not quite a month earlier, Bothwell had abducted the queen and took “physical possession” (Fraser, 366) of her body, although many thought that he had done so many weeks or even months before; it was thought that they were lovers who had conspired to murder Darnley.
Unlike her other marriages ~ her first marriage to the Dauphin Francis and her second marriage to Lord Darnley ~ there was no merry-making after the wedding ceremony, which was conducted according to the Protestant rites. Mary did not even take off her “widow’s weeds” (Morrison, 266) after the ceremony, and change into party attire, but stayed in mourning attire as she sat at her wedding table.
Whether or not Mary and Bothwell had been lovers before their marriage, the marriage itself brought them no happiness. Lines from Ovid were posted on the gates of Holyrood Palace: “Mense malas malo nubere vulgus ait” ~ “Wantons marry in the month of May”. (Fraser, 376) Another Scottish saying was, “Marry in May and regret it for ay”. Mary certainly learned the truth of that as her throne was soon lost to her, she was made prisoner at Lochleven, and she never saw her husband again.
Fraser, Antonia. Mary Queen of Scots . NY: Dell, 1971
Morrison, N.Dell. Mary Queen of Scots. NY: The Vanguard Press, 1960