On paper it was a glittering match. She was a beautiful queen, and he was a handsome lord. They were both descendants of Henry VII, and combined the Catholic claim to the throne of England into one claim. However, the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley turned into a disaster.
Mary was eighteen years old when she arrived in Scotland for the first time since she was five years old. She was the Queen, but her mother Marie of Guise had held the fort as Regent so to speak. Mary was raised a pampered and doted on Princess of France. Eventually she became France’s Queen, but her young husband died suddenly and she had no choice but to return to France.
The Scottish court was a bleak and alien place to the young women bred in the glittering French court. Her “loose French ways” were criticized and she increasingly found herself at loggerheads with the Protestant Lords, who took over the regency after her mother’s death. She was lonely and bored when she met Henry Stuart at Wemyss Castle. He was tall, handsome and well versed in courtly manners and the art of conversation. Mary described him as “…the properest and best proportioned long man that ever she had seen …” In short, he swept the young queen off her feet. Despite the protestations of the Protestant Lords, they were married in the chapel at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh on July 29, 1565.
Then it all started to go wrong. The young and dashing Darnley turned out to be a light minded drunk. He nurtured an ambition for the Crown Matrimonial and Mary continually put him off. This made him sulky and petulant. Their bitter arguments and violent outbursts continued even while Mary was heavily pregnant with their son, the future King James VI.
The abuse culminated in Darnley allowing himself to be manipulated into joining a conspiracy with the Protestant Lords. Mary increasingly relied on her secretary, David Rizzio, for advice. This conspiracy had Rizzo murdered in front of Mary while a gun was held to her pregnant belly to keep her from interfering.
The loss of Rizzio devastated Mary. She wept until she was on the edge of nervous collapse. She could never forgive Darnley, and now she no longer needed him. She had a healthy son. Divorce would make her son illegitimate, however, Darnley had to go.
Whether she was a part of the conspiracy to kill Darnley is hotly debated. The famous “casket of letters” that implicate her involvement are lost. We will never truly know. What is known is Darnley was killed and the travails of Mary, Queen of Scots were just beginning.