Internet Shakespeare Editions


Scandals: Mary and Lord Darnley

Mary and Darnley. From an engraving of c. 1603.
By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

In 1565 Mary, Queen of Scots, married her English cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, intending to secure Elizabeth's recognition of her as heir to the English throne; but Elizabeth refused to name her as successor.

The following year Mary was pregnant with the future King of Scotland and England, but there were rumours that he was actually the child of David Rizzio, an Italian musician with whom Mary was suspected of having an affair. Darnley's jealousy and suspicions led him to join a conspiracy against the Scottish Queen, abducting Mary and her lover and murdering Rizzio in front of her.

The sequel . . .

But Mary won over Darnley again and they made their escape, foiling the planned coup.

James, future king of Scotland and England, was born in June, 1566, and Mary compelled Darnley to acknowledge his paternity to the child; Darnley then became expendable, and after his murder in early 1567 the Queen married Bothwell, Darnley's suspected killer.

Outraged nobles forced their troublesome Queen to abdicate in favour of her son, and after a failed attempt to rally support, she fled to England (where she continued to stir up trouble).