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Definition: Darnley from Collins English Dictionary


1 Lord. title of Henry Stuart (or Stewart). 1545–67, Scottish nobleman; second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots and father of James I of England. After murdering his wife's secretary, Rizzio (1566), he was himself assassinated (1567)

Summary Article: Stuart, Henry, Lord Darnley (1546–1567)
from Encyclopedia of Tudor England

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was the son of Matthew Stuart, Earl of Lennox, and Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret Tudor. As a grandnephew of Henry VIII, Darnley was a distant cousin of Elizabeth I and had a claim to the throne of England second only to that of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. Darnley was born in Yorkshire and raised in England. With Elizabeth’s permission, Darnley visited his cousin Mary in Scotland in 1565. Mary was attracted to the young man, and she was encouraged in her affections for him by her trusted Italian advisor, David Rizzio. Although the match was highly unpopular with the Scots nobles, the two were married in July 1565.

Darnley’s crude and arrogant behavior soon alienated almost everyone at the Scottish court, including the queen. By early 1566, the pregnant queen refused Darnley all access to herself and to power. Jealous of the influence Rizzio had with the queen, Darnley joined a conspiracy of Scots nobles against the royal favorite. In March 1566, he admitted a party of armed men into Holyrood Palace and led them to Rizzio, who was murdered within the queen’s hearing. Despite Darnley’s participation in the murder, the queen reconciled with him to win his support against the other murderers. She did not, however, forgive or forget, and she continued to deny him all real power.

Darnley tried to flee the country but was prevented from doing so by the onset of syphilis. Mary, now influenced by James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, persuaded Darnley to convalesce at a house at Kirk o’Field outside Edinburgh. Darnley was murdered there in February 1567, likely through the agency of Bothwell and possibly with the connivance of the queen. The son of Mary and Darnley, born in June 1566, eventually became James VI of Scotland and James I of England.

See also Darnley Murder; Stuart, House of

Further Reading
  • Bingham, Caroline. Darnley: A Life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Constable London, 1995.
  • Guy, John. Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart. Houghton Mifflin Boston, 2004.
  • Warnicke, Retha M. Mary Queen of Scots. Routledge London, 2006.
  • Wormald, Jenny. Mary, Queen of Scots: Pride, Passion and a Kingdom Lost. Rev. ed. I. B. Tauris London, 2001.
  • Copyright 2012 by ABC-CLIO, LLC

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