Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir




  Contents

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Epigraph

  Praise

  Acknowledgments

  DRAMATIS PERSONAE: THE SCOTTISH LORDS

  INTRODUCTION: THE CONTROVERSY AND THE SOURCES

  PROLOGUE: KIRK O’FIELD, EDINBURGH, 10 FEBRUARY 1567

  1 - THE THREE CROWNS

  2 - “THE MOST BEAUTIFUL IN EUROPE”

  3 - “POWERFUL CONSIDERATIONS”

  4 - “A HANDSOME, LUSTY YOUTH”

  5 - “MOST UNWORTHY TO BE MATCHED”

  6 - “THE CHASEABOUT RAID”

  7 - “THERE IS A BAIT LAID FOR SIGNOR DAVID”

  8 - “THIS VILE ACT”

  9 - “AS THEY HAVE BREWED, SO LET THEM DRINK”

  10 - “AN UNWELCOME INTRUDER”

  11 - “NO OUTGAIT”

  12 - “UNNATURAL PROCEEDINGS”

  13 - “THE DAYS WERE EVIL”

  14 - “SOME SUSPICION OF WHAT AFTERWARDS HAPPENED”

  15 - “ALL WAS PREPARED FOR THE CRIME”

  16 - “MOST CRUEL MURDER”

  17 - “NONE DARE FIND FAULT WITH IT”

  18 - “THE CONTRIVERS OF THE PLOT”

  19 - “GREAT SUSPICIONS AND NO PROOF”

  20 - “LAYING SNARES FOR HER MAJESTY”

  21 - “THE CLEANSING OF BOTHWELL”

  22 - “WE FOUND HIS DOINGS RUDE”

  23 - “WANTONS MARRY IN THE MONTH OF MAY”

  24 - “THIS TRAGEDY WILL END IN THE QUEEN’S PERSON”

  25 - “FALSE CALUMNIES”

  26 - “I AM NO ENCHANTRESS”

  27 - “THESE RIGOROUS ACCUSATIONS”

  28 - “PRETENDED WRITINGS”

  29 - “MUCH REMAINS TO BE EXPLAINED”

  30 - “THE DAUGHTER OF DEBATE”

  POSTSCRIPT

  ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THE NOTES AND REFERENCES

  NOTES AND REFERENCES

  BIBLIOGRAPHY

  ILLUSTRATION CREDITS

  Excerpt from Mary Boleyn

  About the Author

  BY THE SAME AUTHOR

  Copyright Page

  This book is dedicated to the memory of

  JOYCE MASTERTON

  and

  DAVID KNOWLES,

  two great Scots

  God will never permit such a mischief to remain hidden.

  —WRITTEN BY THE SCOTTISH PRIVY COUNCIL TO CATHERINE DE MEDICI, QUEEN OF FRANCE, ON THE MORNING AFTER DARNLEY’S MURDER

  Praise for Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley

  “All the elements of a juicy murder mystery are within these pages, including love affairs, political intrigue, and the imprisonment and eventual beheading of Mary Stuart by her suspicious cousin, Elizabeth I of England.” —Fort Worth Star-Telegram

  “Recommended . . . Weir skillfully analyzes the politics and religious tensions of the time..... She adeptly makes her case.” —Library Journal

  “Entertaining popular history that will satisfy fans of Weir’s previous bestsellers.” —Publishers Weekly

  “Weir goes to great lengths to isolate the clues and marshal them into a convincing indictment. No stone is left unturned in her investigation, and . . . her book is as dramatic as witnessing firsthand the most riveting court case.” —Booklist (boxed and starred review)

  Acclaim for Eleanor of Aquitaine

  “An alluringly candid portrait of this most public yet elusive of medieval women.” —The Boston Globe

  “Evocative . . . A rich tapestry of a bygone age and a judicious assessment of her subject’s place within it.” —Newsday

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  I should like to express my warmest gratitude to the following, without whom this book would not now be in print: my literary agent, Julian Alexander; my commissioning editors, Will Sulkin (in the U.K.) and Tracy Brown (in the U.S.); and my editorial director, Anthony Whittome. Your interest, encouragement and creative input has been invaluable and is, as ever, greatly appreciated.

  Special thanks are also due to my copy editors, Beth Humphries and James Nightingale; Suzanne Dean, art director at Random House, and Gene Mydlowski, art director at Ballantine, for the jacket designs; Sophie Hartley, for the picture research; Neil Bradford, for designing the illustrated section; Roger Walker, for assistance with the map; the staff of Sutton Libraries for their help in obtaining many out-of-print works; and James Cullen, for advice on explosives.

  My grateful thanks go also to my family and friends for their kindness and support whilst this book was in preparation, and especially to my dear husband, Rankin, whose unfailing help enabled me to finish it on time.

  DRAMATIS PERSONAE: THE SCOTTISH LORDS

  1. THE PROTESTANT LORDS

  ARGYLL, Archibald Campbell, 5th Earl of (d. 1573). An epileptic, he succeeded to the earldom in 1558. Active in the Reformation Parliament of 1560, but rebuked by John Knox for his religious tolerance. A prominent member of the Privy Council and the most powerful magnate in the Western Highlands. Married to Jean Stewart, natural daughter of James V (divorced 1564).

  ARRAN, James Hamilton, Earl of (1537/8–1609). Chatelherault’s heir and a fanatical Protestant. Suitor to both Elizabeth I and Queen Mary.

  BOTHWELL, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of (c. 1535/6–78). A zealous Protestant but no friend to the Lords of the Congregation. One of the greatest nobels of the period, with a strong power base in East Lothian and the Borders.

  BOYD, Robert, 5th Lord (c. 1517–90). A supporter of the Lords of the Congregation, and a member of the Privy Council.

  CHATELHERAULT, James Hamilton, Duke of, previously Earl of Arran (c. 1516–75). Head of the House of Hamilton and heir apparent to the Queen. Regent of Scotland during Queen Mary’s minority, and head of the Protestant Lords of the Congregation in 1560. Unstable in religion.

  CRAWFORD, David Lindsay, 10th Earl of (1524–74). He was loyal to Queen Mary, but had a reputation for recklessness and brutality.

  FLEMING, John, 5th Lord (c. 1536–72). His mother was Margaret Stewart, a natural daughter of James IV, and his sister was Mary Fleming, one of the four Maries. He was one of the Queen’s most loyal partisans.

  GLENCAIRN, Alexander Cunningham, 4th Earl of (c. 1510–74). An ardent reformist and member of the Lords of the Congregation. Religious zeal, rather than self-interest, dictated his actions. A member of the Privy Council.

  HERRIES, John Maxwell, 4th Lord (c. 1512–83). An early adherent of the Lords of the Congregation and a friend of John Knox. He later became an active supporter of the Queen.

  HUNTLY, George Gordon, 5th Earl of (c. 1535–76). Unlike his father, the 4th Earl (see below), he was a Protestant. A devoted supporter of the Queen and ally of the Earl of Bothwell.

  LENNOX, Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of (1516–71). His religious persuasions were a matter of political pragmatism, but he eventually identified himself with the Protestant cause. He was one of the chief nobles of Scotland, but had been exiled in 1543 for furthering English interests in that country. He married Lady Margaret Douglas, niece of Henry VIII of England; Lord Darnley was their eldest son.

  LINDSAY, Patrick, 5th Lord (1521–89). A fanatical but violent adherent of John Knox, he was one of the first Lords to join the reformers.

  LIVINGSTON, William, 6th Lord (c. 1528–92). A staunch supporter of the Queen, who stayed at his seat, Callendar House near Falkirk, on several occasions. His sister was Mary Livingston, one of the four Maries.

  MAITLAND, Sir William, of Lethington (c. 1528–73). Secretary of State from 1558, and one of the Lords of the Congregation. He married Mary Fleming, one of the four Maries. A subtle, br
illiant and devious politician and diplomat.

  MAR, John Erskine, 1st Earl of Mar (c. 1510–72). Trained for the Roman Catholic priesthood, he later embraced the reformed faith. He became a member of the Privy Council and the Governor of Edinburgh Castle.

  MORAY, James Stewart, Earl of (c. 1531–70). The Queen’s half-brother, being the son of James V by Margaret Erskine, sister of the Earl of Mar. He came to prominence in 1560 as one of the leaders of the Lords of the Congregation, and was to play a cental part in the politics of the reign.

  MORTON, James Douglas, 4th Earl of (c. 1516–81). Chancellor of Scotland from 1562, and head of the powerful House of Douglas. One of the most zealous of the Lords of the Congregation.

  OCHILTREE, Andrew Stewart, 2nd Baron (c. 1520–97). A fervent supporter of the Lords of the Congregation. His friend John Knox married his daughter.

  ROTHES, Andrew Leslie, 5th Earl of (c. 1530–1611). One of the foremost Lords of the Congregation. A member of the Privy Council.

  RUTHVEN, Patrick, 3rd Lord (c. 1520–66). Although a fanatical Protestant and one of the Lords of the Congregation, he had an evil reputation as a sorcerer. He was a member of the Privy Council.

  2. THE CATHOLIC LORDS

  ATHOLL, John Stewart, 4th Earl of (d. 1579). Leader of the Catholic nobility, and one of only three Lords who opposed the Protestant Reformation. Member of Queen Mary’s Privy Council.

  CAITHNESS, George Sinclair, 4th Earl of (c. 1520–82). Although a devout Catholic and a member of the Privy Council, he had a reputation for violence. Briefly imprisoned for murder in 1563. Chiefly concerned with local politics in the far north.

  EGLINTON, Hugh Montgomerie, 3rd Earl of (c. 1531–85). Although a Catholic, he supported the Lords of the Congregation. He was a staunch supporter of Queen Mary and upheld her right to hear Mass.

  HOME, Alexander, 5th Baron (c. 1528–75). A member of the Privy Council. Preferring to remain neutral in matters of religion, he refused to join the Lords of the Congregation and, later, to attend Mass with the Queen.

  HUNTLY, George Gordon, 4th Earl of (c. 1510/14–62). Chancellor of Scotland from 1546. His mother was a natural daughter of James IV. One of the leading Catholic nobles, he had a strong power base in the north-east. His fleeting flirtation with the Lords of the Congregation in 1560 dealt a fatal blow to the Catholic cause in Scotland.

  SETON, George, 5th Lord (c. 1532–85). Always a devoted supporter of Mary, he was a member of the Privy Council and Master of the Queen’s Household. He remained a staunch Catholic. His sister was Mary Seton, one of the four Maries.

  INTRODUCTION: THE CONTROVERSY AND THE SOURCES

  THE MURDER OF LORD DARNLEY is the most celebrated mystery in Scottish history; it has been endlessly recounted by numerous historians and writers, and the question that has most exercised all of them is this: was Mary, Queen of Scots the instigator of, or a party to, the murder of her husband? That is the question that I aim to answer in this book.

  The circumstantial evidence against Mary is weighty, but it is not conclusive. Furthermore, there are other suspects. However, most writers focus upon Mary because she was a young and beautiful queen, whose life had already been touched by tragedy, murder and intrigue. Her character is an enigma that has never been solved, and during the four centuries in which she has been the subject of intense scholarly and popular scrutiny, every aspect of her life has become controversial.

  Any study of Mary’s possible role in Darnley’s murder must take into account changing historical perceptions of her over the centuries. After the murder, which led to her enforced abdication and her long imprisonment in England, she became a contentious figure. Scottish Calvinists saw her as an adulteress and murderess, and for political reasons vigorously painted her as such, while Mary’s Catholic and loyalist supporters regarded her as a wronged heroine. As memories of the murder faded, and she became the hope of the Counter-Reformation and the focus for Catholic plots against Elizabeth I, Mary herself consciously fostered a pious image, which culminated in her calculated and dramatic appearance as a martyr for her faith at her execution in 1587. English Protestants, it should be remembered, found her an altogether more sinister figure, and not without reason.

  Yet Mary’s dignified courage as she faced the block has had a profound effect on the way in which most of her biographers have portrayed her; this image has, to a great extent, swept away darker contemporary perceptions of her, and as time passed it helped to enshrine her in romance and legend. Back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, observers were more preoccupied with Mary’s religious and dynastic significance.

  Predictably, most Catholic writers saw Mary as a Catholic martyr. Yet after the accession of her son, James VI of Scotland, to the throne of England in 1603, even Protestant historians began to find praise for her, mindful, no doubt, of King James I’s determination to rehabilitate the memories of both his parents. Mary, it was now agreed, had been unfortunate rather than immoral.

  It was not until the eighteenth century—when much of the contemporary source material became available for the first time—that Mary was seen as a woman who allowed her emotions to rule her acts and was therefore responsible to a degree for her own destruction. Historians such as David Hume and William Robertson criticised her for succumbing to overt and unwise passions. This view gave rise to a trend, which continued into the nineteenth century, for portraying Mary as the frivolous victim of a licentious upbringing at the French court, whose unrestrained sexual intrigues brought about her downfall. Religion was still a factor: the eminent but prejudiced Victorian historian, James Anthony Froude, was grimly censorious of the Catholic Mary, and shamelessly massaged the facts in order to show her in the worst possible light. At the turn of the century, the controversy over Mary’s involvement in Darnley’s murder was kept alive by a spirited debate between the historians T.F. Henderson and Andrew Lang.

  During the twentieth century, historians were kinder to the Queen of Scots. Thanks to the ongoing reappraisal of contemporary evidence, new theories about Darnley’s murder were put forward, and Mary came to be viewed in a more sympathetic light. After Antonia Fraser published what has become the standard biography of the Queen in 1969, most historians have concluded that Mary was an innocent and much wronged victim of the unscrupulous men around her. A virtually lone voice is that of the historian Jenny Wormald, who believes that Mary was an abject failure as both a queen and a woman, and that she was an accomplice in Darnley’s murder.

  Anyone writing about Mary, Queen of Scots today has to penetrate beyond the several stereotypical images that have evolved throughout the centuries—the adulteress and murderess, the femme fatale, the romantic tragic heroine, the religious martyr and the foolish victim of her own passions—to look for the real Mary and attempt to establish some estimation of her true character in order to determine whether or not she was capable of murder.

  Central to the issue of Mary’s guilt, seemingly, are the controversial Casket Letters. If genuine, they go a long way towards proving her involvement in Darnley’s murder, but many have argued that they are forgeries or genuine letters that have been deliberately altered by Mary’s enemies. It should be said, however, that Mary’s guilt or innocence can be determined by other evidence than the Casket Letters, and that their importance has been somewhat overstated.

  As an English historian married for thirty years to a native of Edinburgh, I have long been entranced by Scottish history, and I have visited, on many occasions, most of the places mentioned in this book. It had long been my intention, following on from the success of The Princes in the Tower, to write about another historical mystery, and I was delighted to be given the opportunity to take a fresh look at one of Scotland’s most celebrated crimes.

  I make no apologies for the long build-up to Darnley’s murder in this book. It is essential to establish the characters, motives and relationships between the various protagonists, and also to examine the sequence of events leading to Darnl
ey’s violent death, in order to arrive at a full understanding of what took place at Kirk o’Field. It is equally important to trace the course of the relationship between Mary and Darnley, and also to examine the history of Mary’s policy on religion, because that may well shed light upon the murder.

  Nor do I apologise for the length of the text. Every aspect of this case is controversial, and for any study to be credible and exhaustive, each piece of evidence that has a bearing on the conclusion needs to be fully examined and re-evaluated. There is, also, a large cast of suspects whose actions need to be tracked.

  Above all, it is vital to become familiar with the bias in contemporary source material, because that is as relevant to solving the mystery of Kirk o’Field as the deeds of those who were there on that fateful night. The chief problem facing the historian is that most of the evidence about Mary comes from hostile later sources that were composed with the specific purpose of proving her guilt, such as propaganda written by the zealous Protestant scholar George Buchanan and by Darnley’s father, the Earl of Lennox.

  Some scholars did write in Mary’s defence, notably John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, who defended her against her Scottish accusers, and the intelligent and able Claude Nau, who became Mary’s Secretary in 1575 and wrote his Memorials of her reign in Scotland three years later. Nau’s informant was probably Mary herself: no one else in her entourage at that time could have had such an intimate knowledge of the details of her life in the 1560s; Nau’s work is therefore the closest to an official account that we have.

  The memoirs of Mary’s third husband, the Earl of Bothwell, which were written in 1568 whilst he was a prisoner in exile in Denmark, have very little to say about Darnley’s murder. Bothwell was widely believed to have been the man who plotted Darnley’s death, so it is unlikely that he would have revealed anything incriminating, especially in a work that was written “to enable the King of Denmark to get a better and clearer idea of the wickedness and treason of those who are accusing me.”1

 
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