Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Lord Darnley

The Plot

A small furtive band of men carried large sacks through the quiet, dark streets of Edinburgh. They stacked these bags around the walls of a lower room of a comfortable house next to a church as if they were laying in stores of wheat for winter.  One of the men snaked a long cotton string from one of the bags across the diagonal of the room so that it came out under the heavy oak door.  The men backed away to some distance from the building.  With a flint and a small wisp of hay, they lit the end of the string.  They watched, transfixed by the slow, almost painful progress of the ignition of the fuse. Then, the street, the church and the building lit up with an explosion, the likes of which Edinburgh had never heard.

The Cast

The cast of characters in this complicated plot is almost unbelievable.

  • The most beautiful queen in all of Europe, twenty years old, six feet tall, in an age when the average height of a woman was barely five feet.  This is our heroine, Mary Queen of Scots.

Mary at age 18
Mary at age 18

  • A nineteen-year-old king, handsome, two inches taller than his queen, towering by half a foot over the men of the time, but despite these gifts, a syphilitic, disgruntled libertine.  Here we have the fascinating Lord Darnley.
  • A half-brother, Lord Moray, a bastard, seeking by any means to dethrone his half-sister, even though he is sometimes her advisor.
  • Lord Bothwell, a dashing, mercurial, ambitious lord, with his eye on the throne, who plans to win his trophy by capturing the affection of the Queen. 
  • A short, ugly, swarthy Italian secretary to the queen, David Rizzio, perhaps her lover.  Perhaps, the king's lover, as well. 
  • A complete cast of dukes and lords, all possessed with the pursuit of power, some rabid Roman Catholics, some equally frenetic Protestants. 

Treachery.  Adultery.  Religion.  Greed.  Sex.  Power.  And, most of all, murder.



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