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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

Paul's Walk



Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court

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Return To Scotland

The Bewitched Whistle

My Lady's Remorse

Hunting Down The Deer

Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

Queen Mary's Presence Chamber

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

The Love Token

Before The Commissioners

Loch Leven Castle



David Rizzio.--Embassadors.--Rizzio's position.--Rizzio French
secretary.--Displeasure of the Scotch nobles.--They treat Rizzio
with scorn and contempt.--He consults Melville.--Melville's
counsel.--Melville and the queen.--Rizzio's religion.--His services
to Mary.--Rizzio's power and influence.--His intimacy with
Mary.--Rizzio's exertion in favor of the marriage.--Rizzio and
Darnley.--Darnley greatly disliked.--His unreasonable wishes.--The
crown matrimonial.--Darnley's ambition.--Darnley's
brutality.--Signatures.--Coins.--Rizzio sides with Mary.--Darnley and
Ruthven.--A combination.--The secretary and his queen.--Nature of
Mary's attachment.--Plot to assassinate Rizzio.--Plan of Holyrood
House.--Description.--Apartments.--Morton and Ruthven.--Mary at
supper.--Arrangement of the conspirators.--The little upper
room.--Murder of Rizzio.--Conversation.--Violence of the
conspirators.--Mary a prisoner.--Darnley's usurpation.--Melville.--Mary
appeals to the provost.--Mary defeats the conspirators.--Birth of her

Mary had a secretary named David Rizzio. He was from Savoy, a country
among the Alps. It was the custom then, as it is now, for the various
governments of Europe to have embassadors at the courts of other
governments, to attend to any negotiations, or to the transaction of
any other business which might arise between their respective
sovereigns. These embassadors generally traveled with pomp and
parade, taking sometimes many attendants with them. The embassador
from Savoy happened to bring with him to Scotland, in his train, this
young man, Rizzio, in 1561, that is, just about the time that Mary
herself returned to Scotland. He was a handsome and agreeable young
man, but his rank and position were such that, for some years, he
attracted no attention.

He was, however, quite a singer, and they used to bring him in
sometimes to sing in Mary's presence with three other singers. His
voice, being a good bass, made up the quartette. Mary saw him in this
way, and as he was a good French and Italian scholar, and was amiable
and intelligent, she gradually became somewhat interested in him.
Mary had, at this time, among her other officers, a French secretary,
who wrote for her, and transacted such other business as required a
knowledge of the French language. This French secretary went home,
and Mary appointed Rizzio to take his place.

The native Scotchmen in Mary's court were naturally very jealous of
the influence of these foreigners. They looked down with special
contempt on Rizzio, considering him of mean rank and position, and
wholly destitute of all claim to the office of confidential secretary
to the queen. Rizzio increased the difficulty by not acting with the
reserve and prudence which his delicate situation required. The
nobles, proud of their own rank and importance, were very much
displeased at the degree of intimacy and confidence to which Mary
admitted him. They called him an intruder and an upstart. When they
came in and found him in conversation with the queen, or whenever he
accosted her freely, as he was wont to do, in their presence, they
were irritated and vexed. They did not dare to remonstrate with Mary,
but they took care to express their feelings of resentment and scorn
to the subject of them in every possible way. They scowled upon him.
They directed to him looks of contempt. They turned their backs upon
him, and jostled him in a rude and insulting manner. All this was a
year or two before Mary's marriage.

Rizzio consulted Melville, asking his judgment as to what he had
better do. He said that, being Mary's French secretary, he was
necessarily a good deal in her company, and the nobles seemed
displeased with it; but he did not see what he could do to diminish
or avoid the difficulty. Melville replied that the nobles had an
opinion that he not only performed the duties of French secretary,
but that he was fast acquiring a great ascendency in respect to all
other affairs. Melville further advised him to be much more cautious
in his bearing than he had been, to give place to the nobles when
they were with him in the presence of the queen, to speak less
freely, and in a more unassuming manner, and to explain the whole
case to the queen herself, that she might co-operate with him in
pursuing a course which would soothe and conciliate the irritated and
angry feelings of the nobles. Melville said, moreover, that he had
himself, at one time, at a court on the Continent, been placed in a
very similar situation to Rizzio's, and had been involved in the same
difficulties, but had escaped the dangers which threatened him by
pursuing himself the course which he now recommended.

Rizzio seemed to approve of this counsel, and promised to follow it;
but he afterward told Melville that he had spoken to the queen on the
subject, and that she would not consent to any change, but wished
every thing to go on as it had done. Now the queen, having great
confidence in Melville, had previously requested him, that if he saw
any thing in her deportment, or management, or measures, which he
thought was wrong, frankly to let her know it, that she might be
warned in season, and amend. He thought that this was an occasion
which required this friendly interposition, and he took an
opportunity to converse with her on the subject in a frank and plain,
but still very respectful manner. He made but little impression. Mary
said that Rizzio was only her private French secretary; that he had
nothing to do with the affairs of the government; that, consequently,
his appointment and his office were her own private concern alone,
and she should continue to act according to her own pleasure in
managing her own affairs, no matter who was displeased by it.

It is probable that the real ground of offense which the nobles had
against Rizzio was jealousy of his superior influence with the queen.
They, however, made his religion a great ground of complaint against
him. He was a Catholic, and had come from a strong Catholic country,
having been born in the northern part of Italy. The Italian language
was his mother tongue. They professed to believe that he was a secret
emissary of the pope, and was plotting with Mary to bring Scotland
back under the papal dominion.

In the mean time, Rizzio devoted himself with untiring zeal and
fidelity to the service of the queen. He was indefatigable in his
efforts to please her, and he made himself extremely useful to her in
a thousand different ways. In fact, his being the object of so much
dislike and aversion on the part of others, made him more and more
exclusively devoted to the queen, who seemed to be almost his only
friend. She, too, was urged, by what she considered the unreasonable
and bitter hostility of which her favorite was the object, to bestow
upon him greater and greater favors. In process of time, one after
another of those about the court, finding that Rizzio's influence and
power were great and were increasing, began to treat him with
respect, and to ask for his assistance in gaining their ends. Thus
Rizzio found his position becoming stronger, and the probability
began to increase that he would at length triumph over the enemies
who had set their faces so strongly against him.

Though he had been at first inclined to follow Melville's advice, yet
he afterward fell in cordially with the policy of the queen, which
was, to press boldly forward, and put down with a strong hand the
hostility which had been excited against him. Instead, therefore, of
attempting to conceal the degree of favor which he enjoyed with the
queen, he boasted of and displayed it. He would converse often and
familiarly with her in public. He dressed magnificently, like persons
of the highest rank, and had many attendants. In a word, he assumed
all the airs and manners of a person of high distinction and
commanding influence. The external signs of hostility to him were
thus put down, but the fires of hatred burned none the less fiercely
below, and only wanted an opportunity to burst into an explosion.

Things were in this state at the time of the negotiations in respect
to Darnley's marriage; for, in order to take up the story of Rizzio
from the beginning, we have been obliged to go back in our narrative.
Rizzio exerted all his influence in favor of the marriage, and thus
both strengthened his influence with Mary and made Darnley his
friend. He did all in his power to diminish the opposition to it,
from whatever quarter it might come, and rendered essential service
in the correspondence with France, and in the negotiations with the
pope for obtaining the necessary dispensation. In a word, he did a
great deal to promote the marriage, and to facilitate all the
arrangements for carrying it into effect.

Darnley relied, therefore, upon Rizzio's friendship and devotion to
his service, forgetting that, in all these past efforts, Rizzio was
acting out of regard to Mary's wishes, and not to his own. As long,
therefore, as Mary and Darnley continued to pursue the same objects
and aims, Rizzio was the common friend and ally of both. The enemies
of the marriage, however, disliked Rizzio more than ever.

As Darnley's character developed itself gradually after his marriage,
every body began to dislike him also. He was unprincipled and
vicious, as well as imperious and proud. His friendship for Rizzio
was another ground of dislike to him. The ancient nobles, who had
been accustomed to exercise the whole control in the public affairs
of Scotland, found themselves supplanted by this young Italian
singer, and an English boy not yet out of his teens. They were
exasperated beyond all bounds, but yet they contrived, for a while,
to conceal and dissemble their anger.

It was not very long after the marriage of Mary and Darnley before
they began to become alienated from each other. Mary did every thing
for her husband which it was reasonable for him to expect her to do.
She did, in fact, all that was in her power. But he was not
satisfied. She made him the sharer of her throne. He wanted her to
give up her place to him, and thus make him the sole possessor of
it. He wanted what was called the crown matrimonial. The crown
matrimonial denoted power with which, according to the old Scottish
law, the husband of a queen could be invested, enabling him to
exercise the royal prerogative in his own name, both during the life
of the queen and also after her death, during the continuance of his
own life. This made him, in fact, a king for life, exalting him above
his wife, the real sovereign, through whom alone he derived his

Now Darnley was very urgent to have the crown matrimonial conferred
upon him. He insisted upon it. He would not submit to any delay. Mary
told him that this was something entirely beyond her power to grant.
The crown matrimonial could only be bestowed by a solemn enactment of
the Scottish Parliament. But Darnley, impatient and reckless, like a
boy as he was, would not listen to any excuse, but teased and
tormented Mary about the crown matrimonial continually.

Besides the legal difficulties in the way of Mary's conferring these
powers upon Darnley by her own act, there were other difficulties,
doubtless, in her mind, arising from the character of Darnley, and
his unfitness, which was every day becoming more manifest, to be
intrusted with such power. Only four months after his marriage, his
rough and cruel treatment of Mary became intolerable. One day, at a
house in Edinburgh, where the king and queen, and other persons of
distinction had been invited to a banquet, Darnley, as was his
custom, was beginning to drink very freely, and was trying to urge
other persons there to drink to excess. Mary expostulated with him,
endeavoring to dissuade him from such a course. Darnley resented
these kind cautions, and retorted upon her in so violent and brutal a
manner as to cause her to leave the room and the company in tears.

When they were first married, Mary had caused her husband to be
proclaimed king, and had taken some other similar steps to invest him
with a share of her own power. But she soon found that in doing this
she had gone to the extreme of propriety, and that, for the future,
she must retreat rather than advance. Accordingly, although he was
associated with her in the supreme power, she thought it best to keep
precedence for her own name before his, in the exercise of power.
On the coins which were struck, the inscription was, "In the name of
the Queen and King of Scotland." In signing public documents, she
insisted on having her name recorded first. These things irritated
and provoked Darnley more and more. He was not contented to be
admitted to a share of the sovereign power which the queen possessed
in her own right alone. He wished to supplant her in it entirely.

Rizzio, of course, took Queen Mary's part in these questions. He
opposed the grant of the crown matrimonial. He opposed all other
plans for increasing or extending in any way Darnley's power. Darnley
was very much incensed against him, and earnestly desired to find
some way to effect his destruction. He communicated these feelings to
a certain fierce and fearless nobleman named Ruthven, and asked his
assistance to contrive some way to take vengeance upon Rizzio.

Ruthven was very much pleased to hear this. He belonged to a party of
the lords of the court who also hated Rizzio, though they had hated
Darnley besides so much that they had not communicated to him their
hostility to the other. Ruthven and his friends had not joined Murray
and the other rebels in opposing the marriage of Darnley. They had
chosen to acquiesce in it, hoping to maintain an ascendency over
Darnley, regarding him, as they did, as a mere boy, and thus retain
their power. When they found, however, that he was so headstrong and
unmanageable, and that they could do nothing with him, they exerted
all their influence to have Murray and the other exiled lords
pardoned and allowed to return, hoping to combine with them after
their return, and then together to make their power superior to that
of Darnley and Rizzio. They considered Darnley and Rizzio both as
their rivals and enemies. When they found, therefore, that Darnley
was plotting Rizzio's destruction, they felt a very strong as well as
a very unexpected pleasure.

Thus, among all the jealousies, and rivalries, and bitter animosities
of which the court was at this time the scene, the only true and
honest attachment of one heart to another seems to have been that of
Mary to Rizzio. The secretary was faithful and devoted to the queen,
and the queen was grateful and kind to the secretary. There has been
some question whether this attachment was an innocent or a guilty
one. A painting, still hanging in the private rooms which belonged to
Mary in the palace at Holyrood, represents Rizzio as young and very
handsome; on the other hand, some of the historians of the day, to
disprove the possibility of any guilty attachment, say that he was
rather old and ugly. We may ourselves, perhaps, safely infer, that
unless there were something specially repulsive in his appearance and
manner, such a heart as Mary's, repelled so roughly from the one whom
it was her duty to love, could not well have resisted the temptation
to seek a retreat and a refuge in the kind devotedness of such a
friend as Rizzio proved himself to be to her.

However this may be, Ruthven made such suggestions to Darnley as
goaded him to madness, and a scheme was soon formed for putting
Rizzio to death. The plan, after being deliberately matured in all
its arrangements, was carried into effect in the following manner.
The event occurred early in the spring of 1566, less than a year
after Mary's marriage.

Morton, who was one of the accomplices, assembled a large force of
his followers, consisting, it is said, of five hundred men, which he
posted in the evening near the palace, and when it was dark he moved
them silently into the central court of the palace, through the
entrance E, as marked upon the following plan.


E. Principal entrance. Co. Court of the palace. PP. Piazza around it.
AA. Various apartments built in modern times. H. Great hall, used now
as a gallery of portraits. T. Stair-case. o. Entrance to Mary's
apartments, second floor. R. Ante-room. B. Mary's bed-room. D.
Dressing-room in one of the towers. C. Cabinet, or small room in the
other tower. SS. Stair-cases in the wall. d. Small entrance under the
tapestry. Ch. Royal chapel. m. Place where Mary and Darnley stood at
the marriage ceremony. Pa. Passage-way leading to the chapel.]

Mary was, at the time of these occurrences in the little room marked
C, which was built within one of the round towers which form a part
of the front of the building, and which are very conspicuous in any
view of the palace of Holyrood.[G] This room was on the third floor,
and it opened into Mary's bed-room, marked B. Darnley had a room of
his own immediately below Mary's. There was a little door, d,
leading from Mary's bed-room to a private stair-case built in the
wall. This stair-case led down into Darnley's room; and there was
also a communication from this place down through the whole length of
the castle to the royal chapel, marked Ch, the building which is
now in ruins. Behind Mary's bed-room was an ante-room, R, with a
door, o, leading to the public stair-case by which her apartments
were approached. All these apartments still remain, and are explored
annually by thousands of visitors.

[Footnote G: See view of Holyrood House, page 114 and compare it with
this plan.]

It was about seven o'clock in the evening that the conspirators were
to execute their purpose. Morton remained below in the court with his
troops, to prevent any interruption. He held a high office under the
queen, which authorized him to bring a force into the court of the
palace, and his doing so did not alarm the inmates. Ruthven was to
head the party which was to commit the crime. He was confined to his
bed with sickness at the time, but he was so eager to have a share
in the pleasure of destroying Rizzio, that he left his bed, put on a
suit of armor, and came forth to the work. The armor is preserved in
the little apartment which was the scene of the tragedy to this day.

Mary was at supper. Two near relatives and friends of hers--a
gentleman and a lady--and Rizzio, were with her. The room is scarcely
large enough to contain a greater number. There were, however, two or
three servants in attendance at a side-table. Darnley came up, about
eight o'clock, to make observations. The other conspirators were
concealed in his room below, and it was agreed that if Darnley found
any cause for not proceeding with the plan, he was to return
immediately and give them notice. If, therefore, he should not
return, after the lapse of a reasonable time, they were to follow him
up the private stair-case, prepared to act at once and decidedly as
soon as they should enter the room. They were to come up by this
private stair-case, in order to avoid being intercepted or delayed by
the domestics in attendance in the ante-room, R, of which there
would have been danger if they had ascended by the public stair-case
at T.

Finding that Darnley did not return, Ruthven with his party ascended
the stairs, entered the bed-chamber through the little door at d,
and thence advanced to the door of the cabinet, his heavy iron armor
clanking as he came. The queen, alarmed, demanded the meaning of this
intrusion. Ruthven, whose countenance was grim and ghastly from the
conjoined influence of ferocious passion and disease, said that they
meant no harm to her, but they only wanted the villain who stood near
her. Rizzio perceived that his hour was come. The attendants flocked
in to the assistance of the queen and Rizzio. Ruthven's confederates
advanced to join in the attack, and there ensued one of those scenes
of confusion and terror, of which those who witness it have no
distinct recollection on looking back upon it when it is over. Rizzio
cried out in an agony of fear, and sought refuge behind the queen;
the queen herself fainted; the table was overturned; and Rizzio,
having received one wound from a dagger, was seized and dragged out
through the bed-chamber, B, and through the ante-room, R, to the
door, o, where he fell down, and was stabbed by the murderers again
and again, till he ceased to breathe.

After this scene was over, Darnley and Ruthven came coolly back into
Mary's chamber, and, as soon as Mary recovered her senses, began to
talk of and to justify their act of violence, without, however,
telling her that Rizzio had been killed. Mary was filled with
emotions of resentment and grief. She bitterly reproached Darnley for
such an act of cruelty as breaking into her apartment with armed men,
and seizing and carrying off her friend. She told him that she had
raised him from his comparatively humble position to make him her
husband, and now this was his return. Darnley replied that Rizzio had
supplanted him in her confidence, and thwarted all his plans, and
that Mary had shown herself utterly regardless of his wishes, under
the influence of Rizzio. He said that, since Mary had made herself
his wife, she ought to have obeyed him, and not put herself in such a
way under the direction of another. Mary learned Rizzio's fate the
next day.

The violence of the conspirators did not stop with the destruction of
Rizzio. Some of Mary's high officers of government, who were in the
palace at the time, were obliged to make their escape from the
windows to avoid being seized by Morton and his soldiers in the
court. Among them was the Earl Bothwell, who tried at first to drive
Morton out, but in the end was obliged himself to flee. Some of these
men let themselves down by ropes from the outer windows. When the
uproar and confusion caused by this struggle was over, they found
that Mary, overcome with agitation and terror, was showing symptoms
of fainting again, and they concluded to leave her. They informed her
that she must consider herself a prisoner, and, setting a guard at
the door of her apartment, they went away, leaving her to spend the
night in an agony of resentment, anxiety, and fear.

Lord Darnley took the government at once entirely into his own hands.
He prorogued Parliament, which was then just commencing a session, in
his own name alone. He organized an administration, Mary's officers
having fled. In saying that he did these things, we mean, of
course, that the conspirators did them in his name. He was still but
a boy, scarcely out of his teens, and incapable of any other action
in such an emergency but a blind compliance with the wishes of the
crafty men who had got him into their power by gratifying his
feelings of revenge. They took possession of the government in his
name, and kept Mary a close prisoner.

The murder was committed on Saturday night. The next morning, of
course, was Sunday. Melville was going out of the palace about ten
o'clock. As he passed along under the window where Mary was confined,
she called out to him for help. He asked her what he could do for
her. She told him to go to the provost of Edinburgh, the officer
corresponding to the mayor of a city in this country, and ask him to
call out the city guard, and come and release her from her captivity.
"Go quick," said she, "or the guards will see you and stop you." Just
then the guards came up and challenged Melville. He told them he was
going to the city to attend church; so they let him pass on. He went
to the provost, and delivered Mary's message. The provost said he
dared not, and could not interfere.

So Mary remained a prisoner. Her captivity, however, was of short
duration. In two days Darnley came to see her. He persuaded her that
he himself had had nothing to do with the murder of Rizzio. Mary, on
the other hand, persuaded him that it was better for them to be
friends to each other than to live thus in a perpetual quarrel. She
convinced him that Ruthven and his confederates were not, and could
not be, his friends. They would only make him the instrument of
obtaining the objects of their ambition. Darnley saw this. He felt
that he as well as Mary were in the rebels' power. They formed a plan
to escape together. They succeeded. They fled to a distant castle,
and collected a large army, the people every where flocking to the
assistance of the queen. They returned to Edinburgh in a short time
in triumph. The conspirators fled. Mary then decided to pardon and
recall the old rebels, and expend her anger henceforth on the new;
and thus the Earl Murray, her brother, was brought back, and once
more restored to favor.

After settling all these troubles, Mary retired to Edinburgh Castle,
where it was supposed she could be best protected, and in the month
of July following the murder of Rizzio, she gave birth to a son. In
this son was afterward accomplished all her fondest wishes, for he
inherited in the end both the English and Scottish crowns.

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