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Mary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity

Mary The Queen Dauphiness The Queen And The Queen Dowager Of France

A Tangle

An Examination Of The Letters Sonnets And Other Writings Adduced In Evidence Against Mary Queen Of Scots

Occurrences Immediately Preceding Darnley's Death

The Little Waif

Rizzio

Addendum

Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court

The Fall Of Bothwell



Least Viewed

Loch Leven Castle

The Ebbing Well

The Love Token

My Lady's Remorse

Ten Years After

Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

Return To Scotland

Wingfield Manor

Mary's Reception In England And The Conferences At York And Westminster

The Bewitched Whistle






The Death Of Darnley








It was on Sunday, the 9th of February 1567, that the final preparations
for the murder of Darnley were made. To execute the guilty deed, Bothwell
was obliged to avail himself of the assistance of those ready ministers of
crime, who are always to be found at the beck of a wealthy and depraved
patron. There were eight unfortunate men whom he thus used as tools with
which to work his purpose. Four of these were merely menial
servants;--their names were, Dalgleish, Wilson, Powrie, and Nicolas
Haubert, more commonly known by the sobriquet of French Paris. He was a
native of France, and had been a long while in the service of the Earl of
Bothwell; but on his master's recommendation, who foresaw the advantages
he might reap from the change, he was taken into the Queen's service
shortly before her husband's death. Bothwell was thus able to obtain the
keys of some of the doors of the Kirk-of-Field house, of which he caused
counterfeit impressions to be taken. The other four who were at the
"deed-doing," were persons of somewhat more consequence. They were small
landed proprietors or lairds, who had squandered their patrimony in
idleness and dissipation, and were willing to run the chance of retrieving
their ruined fortunes at any risk. They were the Laird of Ormiston, Hob
Ormiston his uncle, "or father's brother," as he is called, John Hepburn
of Bolton, and John Hay of Tallo. Bothwell wished Maitland, Morton, and
one or two others, to send some of their servants also to assist in the
enterprise; but if they ever promised to do so, it does not appear that
they kept their word. Archibald Douglas, however, who had linked himself
to the fortunes of Bothwell, was in the immediate neighbourhood with two
servants, when the crime was perpetrated.

Till within two days of the murder, Bothwell had not made up his mind how
the King was to be killed. He held various secret meetings with his four
principal accomplices, at which the plan first proposed was to attack
Darnley when walking in the gardens adjoining the Kirk-of-Field, which his
returning health enabled him to visit occasionally when the weather was
favourable. But the success of this scheme was uncertain, and there was
every probability that the assassins would be discovered. It was next
suggested that the house might easily be entered at midnight, and the King
stabbed in bed. But a servant commonly lay in the same apartment with him,
and there were always one or two in the adjoining room, who might have
resisted or escaped, and afterwards have been able to identify the
criminals. After much deliberation, it at length occurred that gunpowder
might be used with effect; and that, if the whole premises were blown up,
they were likely to bury in their ruins every thing that could fix the
suspicion on the parties concerned. Powder was therefore secretly brought
into Edinburgh from the Castle of Dunbar, of which Bothwell had the
lordship, and was carried to his own lodgings in the immediate vicinity of
Holyrood Palace. It then became necessary to ascertain on what night
the house could be blown up, without endangering the safety of the Queen,
whom Bothwell had no desire should share the fate of her husband. She
frequently slept at the Kirk-of-Field; and it was difficult to ascertain
precisely when she would pass the night at Holyrood. In his
confession, Hay mentions, that "the purpose should have been put in
execution upon the Saturday night; but the matter failed, because all
things were not in readiness." It is not in the least unlikely that this
delay was owing to Mary's remaining with her husband that evening.

On Sunday, Bothwell learned that the Queen intended honouring with her
presence a masque which was to be given in the Palace, at a late hour, on
the occasion of the marriage of her French servant Sebastian, to Margaret
Carwood, one of her waiting-maids. He knew therefore that she could not
sleep at the Kirk-of-Field that night, and took his measures accordingly.
At dusk he assembled his accomplices, and told them that the time was come
when he should have occasion for their services. He was himself to
sup between seven and eight at a banquet given to the Queen by the Bishop
of Argyle, but he desired them to be in readiness as soon as the company
should break up, when he promised to join them. The Queen dined at
Holyrood, and went from thence to the house of Mr John Balfour, where the
Bishop lodged. She rose from the supper-table about nine o'clock, and,
accompanied by the Earls of Argyle, Huntly, and Cassils, she went to visit
her husband at the Kirk-of-Field. Bothwell, on the contrary, having called
Paris aside, who was in waiting on the Queen, took him with him to the
lodgings of the Laird of Ormiston. There he met Hay and Hepburn, and
they passed down the Blackfriars Wynd together. The wall which surrounded
the gardens of the Dominican monastery ran near the foot of this wynd.
They passed through a gate in the wall, which Bothwell had contrived to
open by stealth, and, crossing the gardens, came to another wall
immediately behind Darnley's house.

Dalgleish and Wilson had, in the meantime, been employed in bringing up,
from Bothwell's residence in the Abbey, the gunpowder he had lodged there.
It had been divided into bags, and the bags were put into trunks, which
they carried upon horses. Not being able to take it all at once, they were
obliged to go twice between the Kirk-of-Field and the Palace. They were
not allowed to come nearer than the Convent-gate at the foot of
Blackfriars Wynd, where the powder was taken from them by Ormiston,
Hepburn, and Hay, who carried it up to the house. When they had conveyed
the whole, they were ordered to return home; and as they passed up the
Blackfriars' Wynd, Powrie, as if suddenly conscience-struck, said to
Wilson, "Jesu! whatna a gait is this we are ganging? I trow it be not
good." Neither of these menials had seen Bothwell, for he kept at a
distance, walking up and down the Cowgate, until the others received and
deposited the powder. A large empty barrel had been concealed, by his
orders, in the Convent gardens, and into it they intended to have put all
the bags; and the barrel was then to have been carried in at the lower
back door of Darnley's house, and placed in the Queen's bedroom, which, it
will be remembered, was immediately under that of the King. Paris, as the
Queen's valet-de-chambre, kept the keys of the lower flat, and was now in
Mary's apartment ready to receive the powder. But some delay occurred in
consequence of the barrel turning out to be so large that it could not be
taken in by the back door; and it became necessary therefore to carry the
bags one by one into the bedroom, where they emptied them in a heap on the
floor. Bothwell, who was walking anxiously to and fro, was alarmed at this
delay, and came to inquire if all was ready. He was afraid that the
company up stairs, among whom was the Queen, with several of her nobility
and ladies in waiting, might come suddenly out upon them, and discover
their proceedings. "He bade them haste," says Hepburn, "before the
Queen came forth of the King's house; for if she came forth before they
were ready, they would not find such commodity." At length, every
thing being put into the state they wished, they all left the under part
of the house, with the exception of Hepburn and Hay, who were locked into
the room with the gunpowder, and left to keep watch there till the others
should return.

Bothwell, having dismissed the others, went up stairs and joined the Queen
and her friends in Darnley's apartment, as if he had that moment come to
the Kirk-of-Field. Shortly afterwards, Paris also entered; and the Queen,
being either reminded of, or recollecting her promise, to grace with her
presence Sebastian's entertainment, rose, about eleven at night, to take
leave of her husband. It has been asserted, upon the alleged authority of
Buchanan, that, before going away, she kissed him, and put upon his finger
a ring, in pledge of her affection. It seems doubtful, however, whether
this is Buchanan's meaning. He certainly mentions, in his own insidious
manner, that Mary endeavoured to divert all suspicions from herself, by
paying frequent visits to her husband, by staying with him many hours at a
time, by talking lovingly with him, by paying every attention to his
health, by kissing him, and making him a present of a ring; but he does
not expressly say that a kiss and ring were given upon the occasion of her
parting with Darnley for the last time. It is not at all unlikely,
that the fact may have been as Buchanan is supposed to state; but as it is
not a circumstance of much importance, it is unnecessary to insist upon
its being either believed or discredited so long as it is involved in any
uncertainty. Buchanan mentions another little particular, which may easily
be conceived to be true,--that, in the course of her conversation with her
husband this evening, Mary made the remark, that "just about that time
last year David Rizzio was killed." Bothwell, at such a moment, could not
have made the observation; but it may have come naturally enough from
Mary, or Darnley himself.

Accompanied by Bothwell, Argyle, Huntly, Cassils, and others, Mary now
proceeded to the palace, going first up the Blackfriars' Wynd, and then
down the Canongate. Just as she was about to enter Holyrood House, she met
one of the Earl of Bothwell's servants (either Dalgleish or Powrie), whom
she asked where he had been, that he smelt so strongly of gunpowder? The
fellow made some excuse, and no further notice was taken of the
circumstance. The Queen proceeded immediately to the rooms where
Sebastian's friends were assembled; and Bothwell, who was very anxious to
avoid any suspicion, and, above all, to prevent Mary from suspecting him,
continued to attend her assiduously. Paris, who carried in his pocket the
key of Mary's bed-room at the Kirk-of-Field, in which he had locked Hay
and Hepburn, followed in the Earl's train. Upon entering the apartment
where the dancing and masquing was going on, this Frenchman, who had
neither the courage nor the cunning necessary to carry him through such a
deed of villany, retired in a melancholy mood to a corner, and stood by
himself wrapt in a profound reverie. Bothwell, observing him, and fearing
that his conduct might excite observation, went up to him, and angrily
demanded why he looked so sad, telling him in a whisper, that if he
retained that lugubrious countenance before the Queen, he should be made
to suffer for it. Paris answered despondingly, that he did not care what
became of himself, if he could only get permission to go home to bed, for
he was ill. "No," said Bothwell, "you must remain with me; would you leave
those two gentlemen, Hay and Hepburn, locked up where they now
are?"--"Alas!" answered Paris, "what more must I do this night? I have no
heart for this business." Bothwell put an end to the conversation, by
ordering Paris to follow him immediately. It is uncertain whether the
Queen had retired to her own chamber before Bothwell quitted the Palace,
or whether he left her at the masque. Buchanan, always ready to fabricate
calumny, says, that the Queen and Bothwell were "in long talk together, in
her own chamber after midnight." But the falsehood of this assertion is
clearly established; for Buchanan himself allows, that it was past eleven
before Mary left the Kirk-of-Field, and Dalgleish and Powrie both state,
that Bothwell came to his own lodgings from the Palace about twelve. If,
therefore, he was at the masque, as we have seen, he had no time to talk
with the Queen in private; and, if he had talked with the Queen, he could
not have been at the masque. It is most likely that Mary continued for
some time after Bothwell's departure at Sebastian's wedding, for Sebastian
was "in great favour with the Queen, for his skill in music and his merry
jesting."

As soon as Bothwell came to his "own lodging in the Abbey," he exchanged
his rich court dress for a more common one. Instead of a black satin
doublet, bordered with silver, he put on a white canvass doublet, and
wrapt himself up in his riding-cloak. Taking Paris, Powrie, Wilson and
Dalgleish with him, he then went down the lane which ran along the wall of
the Queen's south gardens, and which still exists, joining the foot of the
Canongate, where the gate of the outer court of the Palace formerly stood.
Passing by the door of the Queen's garden, where sentinels were always
stationed, the party was challenged by one of the soldiers, who demanded,
"Who goes there?" They answered, "Friends." "What friends?" "Friends to my
Lord Bothwell." They proceeded up the Canongate till they came to the
Netherbow Port, or lower gate of the city, which was shut. They called to
the porter, John Galloway, and desired him to open to friends of my Lord
Bothwell. Galloway was not well pleased to be raised at so late an hour,
and he kept them waiting for some time. As they entered, he asked, "What
they did out of their beds at that time of night?" but they gave him no
answer. As soon as they got into the town, they called at Ormiston's
lodgings, who lived in a house, called Bassyntine's house, a short way up
the High Street, on the south side; but they were told that he was not at
home. They went without him, down a close below the Blackfriars Wynd, till
they came to the gate of the Convent Gardens already mentioned. They
entered, and, crossing the gardens, they stopped at the back wall, a short
way behind Darnley's residence. Here, Dalgleish, Wilson, and Powrie, were
ordered to remain; and Bothwell and Paris passed in, over the wall. Having
gone into the lower part of the house, they unlocked the door of the room
in which they had left Hay and Hepburn, and the four together held a
consultation regarding the best mode of setting fire to the gunpowder,
which was lying in a great heap upon the floor. They took a piece of lint,
three or four inches long, and kindling one end of it, they laid the other
on the powder, knowing that it would burn slowly enough to give them time
to retire to a safe distance. They then returned to the Convent gardens;
and having rejoined the servants whom they had left there, the whole group
stood together, anxiously waiting for the explosion.

Darnley, meantime, little aware of his impending fate, had gone to bed
within an hour after the Queen had left him. His servant, William Taylor,
lay, as was his wont, in the same room. Thomas Nelson, Edward Simmons, and

a boy, lay in the gallery, or servant's apartment, on the same floor, and
nearer the town-wall. Bothwell must have been quite aware, that from the
mode of death he had chosen for Darnley, there was every probability that
his attendants would also perish. But when lawless ambition once
commences its work of blood, whether there be only one, or a hundred
victims, seems to be a matter of indifference.

The conspirators waited for upwards of a quarter of an hour without
hearing any noise. Bothwell became impatient; and unless the others had
interfered, and pointed out to him the danger, he would have returned and
looked in at the back window of the bedroom, to see if the light was
burning. It must have been a moment of intense anxiety and terror to all
of them. At length, every doubt was terminated. With an explosion so
tremendous, that it shook nearly the whole town, and startled the
inhabitants from their sleep, the house of the Kirk-of-Field blew up into
a thousand fragments, leaving scarcely a vestige standing of its former
walls. Paris, who describes the noise as that of a storm of thunder
condensed into one clap, fell almost senseless, through fear, with his
face upon the earth. Bothwell himself, though "a bold, bad man," confessed
a momentary panic. "I have been at many important enterprises," said he,
"but I never felt before as I do now." Without waiting to ascertain the
full extent of the catastrophe, he and his accomplices left the scene of
their guilt with all expedition. They went out at the Convent-gate, and,
having passed down to the Cowgate, they there separated, and went up by
different roads to the Netherbow-Port. They were very desirous to avoid
disturbing the porter again, lest they should excite his suspicion. They
therefore went down a close, which still exists, on the north side of the
High Street, immediately above the city gate, expecting that they would be
able to drop from the wall into Leith Wynd; but Bothwell found it too
high, especially as a wound he had received at Hermitage Castle, still
left one of his hands weak. They were forced, therefore, to apply once
more to John Galloway, who, on being told that they were friends of the
Earl Bothwell, does not seem to have asked any questions. On getting into
the Canongate, some people were observed coming up the street; to avoid
them, Bothwell passed down St Mary's Wynd, and went to his lodgings by the
back road. The sentinels, at the door of the Queen's garden again
challenged them, and they made the usual answer, that they were friends of
the Earl Bothwell, carrying despatches to him from the country. The
sentinels asked,--"If they knew what noise that was they had heard a short
time before?" They told them they did not.

When Bothwell came home, he called for a drink; and, taking off his
clothes, went to bed immediately. He had not lain there above half an hour
when the news was brought him that the House of the Kirk-of-Field had been
blown up, and the King slain. Exclaiming that there must be treason
abroad, and affecting the utmost alarm and indignation, he rose and put on
the same clothes he had worn when he was last with the Queen. The Earl of
Huntly and others soon joined him, and, after hearing from them as much as
was then known of the matter, it was thought advisable to repair to the
Palace, to inform Mary of what had happened. They found her already
alarmed, and anxious to see them, some vague rumours of the accident
having reached her. They disclosed the whole melancholy truth as gradually
and gently as possible, attributing Darnley's death either to the
accidental explosion of some gunpowder in the neighbourhood, or to the
effects of lightning. Mary's distress knew no bounds; and seeing that it
was hopeless to reason with her in the first anguish of her feelings,
Bothwell and the other Lords left her just as day began to break, and
proceeded to the Kirk-of-Field. There they found every thing in a
state of confusion;--the edifice in ruins, and the town's-people gathered
round it in dismay. Of the five persons who were in the house at the time
of the explosion, one only was saved. Darnley, and his servant William
Taylor, who slept in the room immediately above the gunpowder, had been
most exposed to its effects, and they were accordingly carried through the
air over the town wall, and across the lane on the other side, and were
found lying at a short distance from each other in a garden to the south
of this lane,--both in their night-dress, and with little external injury.
Simmons, Nelson, and the boy, being nearer the town-wall, were only
collaterally affected by the explosion. They were, however, all buried in
the ruins, out of which Nelson alone had the good fortune to be taken
alive. The bodies were, by Bothwell's command, removed to an adjoining
house, and a guard from the Palace set over them.

Darnley and his servant being found at so great a distance, and so
triflingly injured, it was almost universally supposed at the time, and
for long afterwards, that they had been first strangled or assassinated,
and then carried out to the garden. This supposition is now proved, beyond
a doubt, to have been erroneous. If Darnley had been first murdered, there
would have been no occasion to have blown up the house; and if this was
done, that his death might appear to be the result of accident, his body
would never have been removed to such a distance as might appear to
disconnect it with the previous explosion. Before the expansive force of
gunpowder was sufficiently understood, it was not conceived possible that
it could have acted as in the present instance; and various theories were
invented, none of which were so simple or so true, as that which accords
with the facts now established. It is the depositions already quoted that
set the matter at rest; for, having confessed so much of the truth, there
could have been no reason for concealing any other part of it. Hepburn
declared expressly, that "he knew nothing but that Darnley was blown into
the air, for he was handled with no men's hands that he saw;" and Hay
deponed that Bothwell, some time afterwards, said to him, "What thought ye
when ye saw him blown into the air?" Hay answered,--"Alas! my Lord, why
speak ye of that, for whenever I hear such a thing, the words wound me to
death, as they ought to do you." There is nothing wonderful in the
bodies having been carried so far; for it is mentioned by a cotemporary
author, that "they kindled their train of gunpowder, which inflamed the
whole timber of the house, and troubled the walls thereof in such sort,
that great stones of the length of ten feet, and of the breadth of four
feet, were found blown from the house a far way." Besides, after the
minute account, which a careful collation of the different confessions and
depositions has enabled us to give, of the manner in which Bothwell spent
every minute of his time, from the period of the Queen's leaving Darnley,
till the unfortunate Prince ceased to exist, it would be a work of
supererogation to seek to refute, by any stronger evidence, the notion
that he was strangled.

It is, however, somewhat remarkable, that, even in recent times, authors
of good repute should have allowed themselves to be misled by the exploded
errors of earlier writers. "The house," says Miss Benger, "was invested
with armed men, some of whom watched without, whilst others entered to
achieve their barbarous purpose; these having strangled Darnley and his
servant with silken cords, carried their bodies into the garden, and then
blew up the house with powder." This is almost as foolish as the
report mentioned by Melville, that he was taken out of his bed, and
brought down to a stable, where they suffocated him by stopping a napkin
into his mouth; or, as that still more ridiculous story alluded to by
Sanderson, that the Earl of Dunbar, and Sir Roger Aston, an Englishman,
who chose to hoax his countrymen, by telling them that he lodged in the
King's chamber that night, "having smelt the fire of a match, leapt both
out at a window into the garden; and that the King catching hold of his
sword, and suspecting treason, not only against himself, but the Queen and
the young Prince, who was then at Holyrood House with his mother, desired
him (Sir Roger Aston) to make all the haste he could to acquaint her of
it, and that immediately armed men, rushing into the room, seized him
single and alone, and stabbed him, and then laid him in the garden, and
afterwards blew up the house." Buchanan, Crawford and others, fall
into similar mistakes; but Knox, or his continuator, writes more
correctly, and mentions, besides, that medical men "being convened, at the
Queen's command, to view and consider the manner of Darnley's death," were
almost unanimously of opinion that he was blown into the air, although he
had no mark of fire.

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Duke of Albany and King of Scotland, perished
in the twenty-first year of his age, and the eighteenth month of his
reign. The suddenness and severity of his fate excited a degree of
compassion, and attached an interest to his memory, which, had he died in
the ordinary course of nature, would never have been felt. He had been to
Scotland only a cause of civil war,--to his nobility an object of
contempt, of pity, or of hatred,--and to his wife a perpetual source of
sorrow and misfortune. Any praise he may deserve must be given to him
almost solely on the score of his personal endowments; his mind and
dispositions had been allowed to run to waste, and were under no controul
but that of his own wayward feelings and fancies. Keith, in the following
words, draws a judicious contrast between his animal and intellectual
qualities. "He is said to have been one of the tallest and handsomest
young men of the age; that he had a comely face and pleasant countenance;
that he was a most dexterous horseman, and exceedingly well skilled in all
genteel exercises, prompt and ready for all games and sports, much given
to the diversions of hawking and hunting, to horse-racing and music,
especially playing on the lute; he could speak and write well, and was
bountiful and liberal enough. But, then, to balance these good natural
qualifications, he was much addicted to intemperance, to base and unmanly
pleasures; he was haughty and proud, and so very weak in mind, as to be a
prey to all that came about him; he was inconstant, credulous, and facile,
unable to abide by any resolutions, capable to be imposed upon by
designing men, and could conceal no secret, let it tend ever so much to
his own welfare or detriment." With all his faults, there was no one
in Scotland who lamented him more sincerely than Mary. She had loved him
deeply; and whilst her whole life proves that she was incapable of
indulging that violent and unextinguishable hatred which prompts to deeds
of cruelty and revenge, it likewise proves that it was almost impossible
for her to cease to esteem an object for which she had once formed an
attachment. Murray must himself have allowed the truth of the first part
of this statement; and for many days before his death, Darnley had himself
felt the force of the latter. She had, no doubt, too much good sense to
believe that Darnley, in his character of king, was a loss to the country;
but the tears she shed for him, are to be put down to the account, not of
the queen, but of the woman and the wife.





Next: Bothwell's Trial And Acquittal

Previous: Occurrences Immediately Preceding Darnley's Death



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