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 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.