THE KING THAT KILLED HIMSELF
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley’s, pushy mother, wanted Henry to marry Mary Stuart. It made his claim to the English throne stronger for he was also descended from Margaret Tudor, only from her second husband. Queen Elizabeth was not in favour, perhaps for the above reason, yet more likely to be that Henry was not popular in Scotland, as he along with many others had also rights to the Scottish throne. She discovered this unpopularity by pointing out Darnley to William Maitland, Mary Stuart's representative at court. Maitland disgust was apparent and he also spoke it. She did however agree to let Henry go to Scotland, after Robert Dudley intervened on his behalf.89
|Henry Stuart Lord Darnley|
William Throckmorton, who had returned from France in 1563, once again was needed in the role of ambassador to see if he could reason with them, to call the wedding off. So he left in April 1565 for Scotland. He almost certainly bragged that he could convince Mary not to do it. Though the Queen and Council were more likely convinced he couldn’t. He was quite correct, if any could, for he had a friendly attitude to Stuart, probably due to when she tried to help him once, while in France, over some trouble that resulted in him being detained by the authorities. The Queen/Council was more right and Mary was pushing for the marriage before he could get there. In the end he was locked out of Stirling Castle. When he did see the Scottish Queen it was too late. He wasn’t sure why she had done it and admitted it to Elizabeth. This didn’t stop Henry’s mother (the Countess of Lennox) being placed in the Tower of London, for arranging the marriage. The Scots were far from pleased. The English ambassador, in his report to Queen Elizabeth, said, “Darnley would have no long life amongst these people.” 91
Darnley didn’t, three years later he was dead. The question asked then and by historians since is “who killed him?”
There appear to be two schools of thought for the murderers, the Scots Queen with her associates and the Scotch Nobles. There are strong cases for both parties, in Mary’s situation, she had fully discovered what sex was, with Henry, which might in his case, have been rough, however there’s a slight problem, the way Henry died. It looks suspiciously like someone had arranged for the house at Kirk O’ Field to be blown up when this man was dead already. He was found, laid out (neatly), under a tree, in a garden some distance from the remains of the house. Dressed only in a nightshirt and his body was said to be unmarked, which might mean he had been poisoned?92 Also found was the unmarked body of his valet, some clothes, a chair and a dagger. Cecil was sent a drawing of the scene as evidence of the murder, which has survived.
Why would anyone go to all this trouble of laying him out, ceremonially like, and then blow up the house? If they were going to blow up Darnley, whilst he was inside and woke him
up, why did they not wake others? There was only one survivor, from the blast, who was injured, several others were killed outright and why did they not just stab or shoot him and the valet?
So what did happen?
We can only speculate. I believe he wasn’t murdered at all. Mary however makes herself look suspicious by her previous behaviour. For example when telling Henry of James’ birth, she places great emphasis on that it WAS his child.93
Maybe she was as surprised that it was indeed Henry’s child. If this is the case, obviously she was having sex with at least one other man. The speech does imply there were lots of rumours going around that James’ father wasn’t Darnley. From what I can gather this seems not to have been the case, later this is very true, not at or around conception time. Randolph, an English diplomat, did hear gossip that Mary was having an affair as early as 1565. Who? All he knew was it had been a ‘courtier’. Her speech also shows a great dislike for Henry, though it sounds a bit confused to me “his father has broken to me”.94 Maybe her English wasn’t good? If she was plotting his death, she saw her own as well, as again emphasis is placed on James ONLY uniting England & Scotland. Sir William Stanley asking why not, where then she gives the reply quoted previously, pulled this up. I thus think she was having sex with at least one man (if not more) and had stopped with her husband. Just to clear up one thing, James is Henry Stuart’s child, simply on the grounds that a portrait of Henry (aged 17) does match those (looks wise) of James as a child. Further to support that, James had no control of how the paintings were done at this age. On the run up to Henry’s death, we do know he was expecting Mary to come the very night he died, for she had been nursing him during an illness. This was so severe it kept him bed ridden for ages. She in spite of this was with the Earl of Bothwell, who she was in love with, for she married him after the death of her husband. Let us suppose that Henry was still in love with Mary and felt betrayed by her affair, which we can assume he knew about. He may have told her she would face the consequences if she did not come that night. Mary might have ignored his threats or passed them off as idle words from a jealous husband. Darnley’s threats were not against Mary, whom he loved, but against himself.
Suicide - poisoning himself - was not the thing a king should do. That valet may have thought that, when he found him dead in bed. He may have arranged an operation to cover the suicide up; with perhaps the sole survivors help, clearing his master’s name. These servants all slept around the room Darnley was in, some near the door. The loyal valet taking his own life too, unable to go on without his master.95 The view of suicide (for whatever reason) was not expressed at the time, because his
death was perfect for the overthrowing of Mary, by her own people, and that’s what they did.
The so-called murdered man may have been contemplating his own death (maybe his wife’s as well) for sometime, as the gunpowder had been stored at the house on his command. There is even stronger evidence, that means he could no-way have escaped from the house, even if a party of assassins had woke him. That drawing, which Cecil was sent, proves that Darnley was incapable of walking! The body did have something on it, yet wasn’t caused by a physical assault. Most pictures of this drawing make some marks on his legs appear like a stain, or a blot, perhaps even a censoring of the private parts, 96 at least that what I first thought. However on closer inspection, I recently discovered that on his upper right leg, on the inner side was a large ulcerated sore, about 30cm long and 15cm wide. There was evidence of strips of skin still present, though it first appeared to me as though tissue had been lost, as though an animal had bitten it, this not being the case. On the left leg are two smaller ulcers, one above the knee about 8cm long, 6cm wide, the other below the joint about 6cm long.97 We know he was suffering from syphilis and this disease does produce these sorts of ulcers. Still with these at this size and in those places, he must have been completely bed ridden still and in total agony if his calf muscles moved.98 The medicines must have been all about his room to treat it and most would be toxic! We also know what they treated him with. In one of the letters Mary wrote to Bothwell she says Darnley’s breath was that bad she couldn’t go near him. And it was that way because the Mercury treatment he was having made his teeth rotten. It would have been on his mind to take his life for ages, with these kinds of sores and the immense pain, nether mind what he felt about Mary. Mercury would have done the trick.
Everyone at that time jumped to the same conclusion of murder, for different reasons. There was no medical examination, though forensic medicine didn’t exist, that would have told them the truth. Elizabeth warned her cousin to find the murderers, for Mary’s enemies would accuse the Scots Queen.99 The English Queen also warned the Scottish Lords, ‘not to deprive their Sovereign Lady of her regal estate.’100
William Cecil, putting his legal knowledge to work, also wrote that Mary did not have to by law answer her subjects, although she did deny having Darnley killed, which was true, if my theory is right. Mary probably made up a story that she had spoken to a French man as she left Darnley that night. So even she thought he had been murdered. The Scottish Lords did deprive Stuart, forcing her to abdicate. Nicholas Throckmorton (English ambassador) returning to Scotland again Said, “The Scottish Lords intention is to establish a regency and keep Mary a prisoner”.101
Nicholas made it clear as well, that the Scotch Queen was quite reckless, doing nothing about those accused. The angry crowds of women alone got him worried. “I find she is in very great danger”?
The English were outraged, a former English lord killed, the Scots Queen imprisoned. Many believed the Scots Nobles had killed her husband, though some may have believed it was she. Sir William Cecil on the other hand had to be persuaded by the Queen. She was partially in agreement with the Spanish ambassador, who thought it was preposterous to treat a Queen this way, demanding that she did something to save the life of her cousin. Despite this the English did not give Mary much support for she also asked for French support as well as English.
The England of Elizabeth I, were not on friendly terms with France. Several of the arguments went back to Henry the fifth, also they were not opposed to persecuting (and later massacring) Protestants and Mary Stuart, now an ex Queen of Scotland, did not mind who helped her. It clearly broke the Treaty of Edinburgh agreement as well. She doesn’t seem to have understood her own position, and why help was kept at a low level from all sides. Elizabeth, who probably helped the most, did not want war with Scotland and wouldn’t break any fragile treaties with anyone. The Pope in Rome (Pius V) was concerned about Mary’s marriage to the Earl of Bothwell.103 He was actually protestant and
|Earl of Bothwell|
Mary escaped from her Scottish prison, much to the new Regent’s surprise106 (her half-brother James Stuart, the Earl of Moray).107 This she did by proposing marriage again! Her ‘loyal’ people (the Seton & Hamilton’s) joined up with her; she once again talked of marrying. This time a Hamilton! She quickly decided not to discus the issue in the Scottish Parliament, through legal and lawful means and they decided to do battle with Moray’s forces at Langside in Glasgow. At the battle, loyalty was not obvious. Mary’s general was Moray’s brother in law. The ramshackle army deserted or argued and despite having greater numbers and Mary riding down to urge them forward - they fled.
Mary, still not giving up, never excepting defeat, needed an army, so she escaped to England, setting off from what would become known as Port Mary, on a perilous journey across the Solway Firth which took 14 hours. She landed at Workington on the 16th of May 1568. She actually (formally by letter) requested to go to England, when safe in Scotland, seeking the protection of Elizabeth, which to all intent and purpose would make her appear as confined as the Scottish people had kept her. Her people tried to talk her into going to France instead. But Mary had other ideas.
References89. This got Robert out of the marriage plan too.
90. Astrologers then had no opposition to them predicting things, even if they got things wrong. Simon Forman even made predictions about death and the age it would happen.
91. Marshall PP 90-91.
92. Some Historians suggest he was strangled, but the drawing Cecil is sent shows no sign of this, plus witness statements although not very clear, rule it out.
93. James was born 19th June 1566.
94. Steel P60.
95. This kind of loyalty still exists today in some royal servants.
96. These are indeed not present.
97. These measurements are based on guesswork, assuming Darnley was 6 feet tall.
98. We can dismiss the statement that he recovered enough to walk around.
99. Ridley P148.
100. Read P383 July 27th.
101. Read P383 Possibly Read’s own opinion on the papers. Cal S.P. Scottish 1563-69.
102. Rowse P48.
103. Ridley P148.
104. Throckmorton’s word not mine. Rowse P48.
105. Mackay P221. She lost the baby a few weeks later.
106. Her son was crowned King, at Stirling during this time.
107. He seems to have preferred the spelling of ‘Stewart’
This piece is taken from my book The Shy Queen. The PDF of it can be found elsewhere on this blog.