Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Lord Darnley

The Ambitious Bridegroom

There was no question in the minds of the lords of Scotland that Mary Queen of Scots needed a husband.  Despite the impressive power exhibited by Elizabeth of England, there was reluctance elsewhere in Europe to accept the idea of a woman ruler.  Elizabeth herself considered Mary to be a possible heir to her own throne and was interested in seeing that Mary was wed.  She proposed several candidates, the most illustrious being her own probable lover, the dashing Earl of Essex. 

After some negotiations, Elizabeth settled on Henry, Lord Darnley, a youth of eighteen who was of royal lineage.  He was the son of Lord and Lady Lennox, the former in semi-exile in Scotland and the latter living in almost virtual captivity in London with her two sons.  Darnley had met Mary shortly after the death of Francis when he brought condolences from Elizabeth, but he evidently left little of an impression.  Now, prompted by the enthusiasm of Elizabeth and his parents, he set off to Edinburgh to woo Mary.

Darnley was tall, handsome, and in some ways rather effeminate.  He could be charming, selfish, engaging, and feckless.  Most of all, he was ambitious.  He wanted nothing more than to be King of Scotland and eventually King of England.  He was clever, dangerous and untrustworthy.

Lord Darnley
Lord Darnley

Eventually Darnley wore down the dubious Mary, who wasn't quite sure about this charming young man.   With the blessing of the lords of Scotland and Elizabeth, Darnley, a Protestant, and Mary, a Roman Catholic, married on July 29, 1565.  It was a match that soon disintegrated.

Mary Queens of Scotts
Mary Queens of Scotts

The best that can be said of the marriage of Mary and Darnley is that the union produced an heir who would eventually attain the goal that Mary had set for herself:  the throne of England, the successor to Elizabeth I, henceforth, upon Elizabeth's death in 1603, to be known as James I.

Darnley was a problem from the very beginning of the marriage.  He not only liked to drink and gamble, but he enjoyed spending his nights pursuing the prostitutes of Edinburgh.  From time to time, he was reported to enjoy men as partners in sex as well.  He even exhibited a certain amount of affection for the little Italian, Rizzio.

There is much not to like in Darnley.  He complained bitterly that he should be given the title of king, and he schemed and conspired with a number of the Scottish lords to accomplish his goal as the undisputed king of Scotland. 



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