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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Henry, King of Scots
King Consort of Scotland
Tenure 29 July 1565 – 10 February 1567
Duke of Albany; Earl of Ross
Successor James, Duke of Rothesay
Spouse Mary, Queen of Scots
James I of England
House House of Stuart
Father Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox
Mother Margaret Douglas
Born 7 December 1545(1545-12-07)
Temple Newsam, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England
Died 10 February 1567 (aged 21)
Kirk o' Field, Edinburgh, Scotland

Henry Stuart, 1st Duke of Albany (7 December 1545 – 10 February 1567), styled Lord Darnley before 1565, was a King Consort of Scotland.

As Queen Elizabeth I of England resented the fact that one of her (former) subjects had been promoted in this manner and refused to recognize his Scots titles, many of the contemporary narratives describing his life and death (those written by English agents) refer to him as Lord Darnley, his title as heir apparent to the Earldom of Lennox, and it is by this appellation that he is now generally known.[1]

He was the first cousin and second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the father of her son King James VI, who succeeded Queen Elizabeth I as King James I of England. Darnley's descendants included the Stuart monarchs as well as the illegitimate daughter of James II, Catherine Darnley (the wife of John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby).


Early life

A young Henry Stuart, future King of Scots

Darnley was born in 1545, at Temple Newsam, Leeds, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, the son of the 4th Earl of Lennox, and his wife, Margaret Douglas. His father lived in exile in England for 22 years, returning to Scotland in 1564.[2]

Darnley was related to his future wife in at least four ways: they shared a grandmother in English princess Margaret Tudor (Mary descending from Margaret's marriage to James IV of Scotland, Darnley from Margaret's marriage to Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus), putting both Mary and Darnley high in the line of succession for the English throne; Darnley was a descendant of a daughter of James II of Scotland and thus also in line for the throne of Scotland; both were descendants of Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scotland (Mary through Joan's marriage to James I of Scotland, Darnley through her marriage to Sir James Stewart, the Black Knight of Lorn); and Darnley's family surname was due to a much more ancient connection to his and Mary's male-line ancestor, Alexander Stewart, 4th High Steward of Scotland.

The marriage took place on Sunday 29 July 1565,[3] in the Chapel-Royal of Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. On the 30 July Darnley was given the title of King of Scots at a proclamation published at the Cross of Edinburgh,[4] but he was King Consort only, with no royal powers.


His marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots, was a disaster. Henry was three years younger than Mary (their birthdays were only a day apart) and not particularly mature. He was unpopular with the other nobles and had a mean and violent streak, aggravated by a drinking problem.[1] Within a short time, Mary became pregnant, but Henry grew more and more demanding. His jealousy of Mary's private secretary, David Rizzio, by whom he erroneously believed Mary was pregnant, culminated in the bloody murder of the latter by Henry and a group of his supporters, in the presence of the queen herself at The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh. Archibald Douglas, Parson of Douglas, subsequently secured pardons for all those involved.

Mary is said to have nursed Darnley under this Plane tree at Darnley in Glasgow.[5]

Following the birth of their son, the future James VI, the succession was more secure; in late 1566 and early 1567, Henry and Mary appeared to be close to reconciliation, as she was often seen visiting his chambers. Henry, however, alienated many who would otherwise have been his supporters through his erratic behaviour. His insistence that he be awarded the Crown Matrimonial, which would have given him executive ruling powers in Scotland, became a source of marital frustration as well. There was also some evidence that he suffered from syphilis.[1]


On 10 February 1567, the bodies of Henry and his servant at the time were discovered in the orchard of Kirk o' Field, Edinburgh, where they had been staying. Henry was dressed only in his nightshirt, suggesting he had fled in some haste from his bedchamber. A violent explosion had occurred that night at the house, but the evidence pointed to Henry escaping assassination, only to be murdered when he got outside. There was strong evidence that Henry and his valet had been strangled and that the explosion was set as an attempt to cover up the murders.


Suspicion fell on the Earl of Bothwell and his supporters, notably Archibald Douglas, Parson of Douglas, whose shoes were found at the scene, and upon Mary herself. Bothwell later "abducted" Mary; he held her for a period of one week, during which time he violently raped the queen in order to force marriage to her and seize power. Upon her agreement to marry him, Bothwell released the queen.

Suspicions that Mary colluded with conspirators in her husband's death, or that she took no action to prevent his death, were key factors in the downward spiral that led to Mary's loss of the Scottish crown.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 7 December 1545 – 15 May 1565: Master of Lennox (Scotland); Lord Darnley (English title)
  • 15 May – 20 July 1565: The Earl of Ross and Lord of Ardmanach.[6]
  • 20–28 July 1565: The Duke of Albany
  • 28 July 1565 – 10 February 1567: His Grace The King of Scots
  • February 1565: Order of Saint Michael; the Scallop or Cockle-shell Order. This was conferred by the King of France.[6]

In popular culture

Timothy Dalton played the part of Darnley in the movie Mary, Queen of Scots, starring Vanessa Redgrave. He marries Mary as part of a plot by Elizabeth I (Glenda Jackson) to weaken Mary's claim to the English throne. Dalton portrays Darnley as a bisexual who even beds the Queen's advisor David Rizzio (Ian Holm), but later falls out with him and has him murdered by other plotters (referred to in the film as the Lords of the Congregation). Darnley then mourns the death of his former lover. A plot to murder Darnley is later planned and carried out by Lord Bothwell (Nigel Davenport), Mary's illegitimate half-brother Lord Moray (Patrick McGoohan), and the various Scottish Lords who participated in the murder of Rizzio (Huntly, Morton, Falconside, and others). The plot is depicted in the film as having Mary's tacit approval.

Rizzio's murder at Holyroodhouse is also a crucial plot point in The Italian Secretary, a Sherlock Holmes-pastiche by Caleb Carr.



  1. ^ a b c Antonia Fraser, Mary Queen of Scots.
  2. ^ Daniel, William S. (1852), History of The Abbey and Palace of Holyrood. Pub. Edinburgh: Duncan Anderson. p. 62.
  3. ^ Daniel, William S. (1852), History of The Abbey and Palace of Holyrood. Pub. Edinburgh: Duncan Anderson. p. 65.
  4. ^ Daniel, William S. (1852), History of The Abbey and Palace of Holyrood. Pub. Edinburgh: Duncan Anderson. p. 67.
  5. ^ "The Darnley Sycamore". Forestry Commission Scotland - Heritage Trees of Scotland website. 
  6. ^ a b Daniel, William S. (1852), History of The Abbey and Palace of Holyrood. Pub. Edinburgh: Duncan Anderson, p. 65.
  7. ^ Jamie's descent from King Robert III
  • Darnley: A Life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Consort of Mary Queen of Scots by Caroline Bingham
  • Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir
Scottish royalty
Preceded by
Francis II of France
King consort of Scots
Succeeded by
James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell
as untitled consort
Peerage of Scotland
New creation Duke of Albany
4th creation
Succeeded by
Duke of Rothesay

later became James VI
Earl of Ross

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