(E. Darnley)

Born: 7 Dec 1545, Temple Newsham, Yorkshire, England

Acceded: 1565

Died: 10 Feb 1567, Provost's House, Kirk o'the Field, Edinburgh, Scotland

Buried: Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, Scotland

Notes: Duke of Albany 1565, Earl of Ross, Lord Ardmannoch. The Complete Peerage vol.VII,p.600.

Father: Matthew STUART (4° E. Lennox)

Mother: Margaret DOUGLAS (C. Lennox)

Married: MARY STUART (Queen of Scotland) 29 Jul 1565, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland


1. JAMES I STUART (King of Great Britain)

Stuart,Henry(B.Darnley)03.jpg (22093 bytes)

Darnley, painted by an unknown artist
Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, was the son of Matthew Stuart, 4º Earl of Lennox, and lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret Tudor, Queen of James IV of Scotland, by her second husband, Archibald, Earl of Angus; this made Darnley a candidate for succession to the English throne after Elizabeth I.


He was born in England in 1546, and brought up there, where his father was in exile. In 1565, at the age of 19, he was allowed by Queen Elizabeth to follow his father to Scotland, and within a short time he was married to Mary, at Holyrood House, on 29 Jul 1565. The motives of the Scottish Queen were predominantly political; Darnley was a Catholic and his right of succession to the English throne reinforced Mary's own. However, the handsome appearance and courtly manners of the dissolute, spoiled and arrogant young man must also have impressed Mary because at first she was infatuated with him. Historians have speculated that Darnley was allowed by Elizabeth to go to Mary's court because she foresaw Mary's infatuation, and did not doubt her ability to control Mary and Scotland through the weak-willed Darnley. But Elizabeth reckoned without the stubborn royal character of her Scottish cousin.

The alliance was offensive both to Elizabeth and to the Scottish reformers.

Within a short time Darnley had shown himself to be a vicious and dissipated man. Most nights he roamed the streets of Edinburgh with low-life companions in search of sexual adventures. He failed to participate in the business of the royal court. Mary refused to ask Parliament to grant him the crown matrimonial, making him a king in title but not in influence. Darnley was soon after induced to side with the reformers, and sharing their dislike and jealousy of David Rizzio, the Queen's secretary. The more outraged Mary became over her husband's stupidity and lewd behaviour, the more she looked to Rizzio for consolation. Some of the nobles claimed that Rizzio was a secret agent of the Pope and had usurped their proper places beside the Queen. They easily cajoled the gullible Darnley into believing that Mary and Rizzio were lovers. Wounded in pride and suspicious of Mary's relationship with Rizzio, Darnley joined a conspiracy against him. On 9 Mar 1566, Darnley and a group of nobles seized Rizzio in the Queen's presence and stabbed him some 56 times. It is unclear whether Darnley himself did the dragging or the stabbing or whether one of his henchmen performed the actual slaughter. They may have hoped simultaneously to shock the six months pregnant Queen into fatal illness. She was then taken prisoner by the lairds, but managed to convince Darnley that he was only tolerated by them as an expedient to their plans, and would be done away with in his turn. Mary and Darnley managed to escape, and rode off through the darkness to safety. Darnley soon found himself without a friend in either camp.

Between the Queen and Darnley thenceforth there was nothing but, irreconcilable aversion and disgust. A divorce was proposed, but Mary would not agree to it. Meanwhile the Earl of Bothwell had won the favour or the Queen. Possibly with Mary's knowledge, there was then formed a plot to murder Darnley, one of whose leaders was Bothwell. The Earl of Morton was later executed for his part in it, and others may have had a hand.

Stuart(lennox)Brothers.jpg (455332 bytes)

Henry Stuart, Baron Darnley, at age 17,

and his younger brother Charles,

after Earl of Lennox, at age 6

by Hans Eworth

Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Stuart,Henry(B.Darnley)01.jpg (215857 bytes)

Henry Stuart, Baron Darnley,

by Hans Eworth


By the time Mary gave birth to Lord Darnley's son in Jun 1566, her husband had backslid into a life of debauchery, neglecting his royal duties and displaying a sullen resentment towards Mary's relationship with Bothwell. In his frustration, Darnley took to thwarting his wife in every way possible, publicly insulting her and complaining loudly to others of his mistreatment, and immersing himself in the fleshpots of Edinburgh and the other cities of Scotland. His wenching and drinking and gaming caused great humiliation to his wife and to the Scottish government.

Stuart,Mary07(darnley).jpg (124276 bytes)

Engraving of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots,

and her second husband, Lord Darnley

Stuart,Henry(B.Darnley)Kirk.jpg (360739 bytes)

Drawing of the scene of Kirk o´Field after the murder of lord Darnley

Public Record Office London

By spring of 1566 Darnley was even rumored to be writing to the Pope and the French and Spanish kings with accusations of his wife's laxity in restoring the Catholic faith in Scotland - though his own adherance to Catholicism was nominal. Mary's council, religiously divided, could nevertheless not afford a King who behaved so irresponsibly as to complain about the Queen to other monarchs. A meeting was held at Craigmillar on 20 Nov 1566 to discuss what might be done about the situation. Mary hesitated to divorce Darnley or to annull the marriage, fearing the effect on her son's legitimate claim to succeed her. Her councillers, among them the Earl of Bothwell, assured her that the situation would be resolved without resorting to such risky acts. Mary, in a deep depression, spoke of her desire to die or to give up the throne and retire to France, but her council promised that such drastic measures would be unnecessary.

But when the Queen learned he was seriously ill in Glasgow, she travelled to his bedside and later arranged for a horse-litter to carry him back to Edinburgh. Darnley, convalescing from either smallpox or syphilis, arrived in Edinburgh early in 1567 and lodged in Kirk o' Field, a house just outside the city. Across the city Queen Mary and the baby prince were safely ensconced at Holyrood House. Unknown to Darnley, miscreants had for some time been packing the cellars of Kirk o' Field with enough gunpowder to blow the structure to smithereens.

On the night of 9 Feb around two am, after a visit from Mary, the house was blown up by gunpowder, a blast heard and felt throughout Edinburgh. In the morning the bodies of Darnley and a page were found in an adjoining garden beside a pear tree. Darnley's nightgown-clad corpse appeared not to have been killed by the explosion but by strangulation. Details of the murder remain a historical mystery. Historians speculates that Darnley had tried to escape just before the blast but had been intercepted by his murderer before he could flee. Mary's subsequent failure to punish Bothwell and her hasty marriage to him led to the revolt that soon dethroned her.

Darnley was the father of James I of England.

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