Henry Stuart Darnley

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley


Henry Stuart, 1st Duke of Albany (7 December 154510 February 1567), commonly known as Lord Darnley, was a King Consort of Scotland, the first cousin and second husband of Mary I, Queen of Scots, and the father of her son King James VI, who also succeeded Queen Elizabeth I as King James I of England.

Early life

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. He was related to his future wife in at least three ways: they shared a grandmother in Margaret Tudor, 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; and Darnley's family surname was due to a much more ancient connection to his male-line ancestor, Alexander Stewart, 4th High Steward of Scotland.

On their marriage, which took place 26 July 1565 in the chapel of Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Darnley was given the title of King of Scots, but he was King Consort only, with no royal powers.


His marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots, was a disaster. Darnley 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. Within a short time, Mary became pregnant, but Darnley grew more and more demanding. His jealousy of Mary's private secretary, David Rizzio, culminated in the bloody murder of the latter by Darnley 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.

Following the birth of their son, the future James VI, the succession was more secure; in late 1566 and early 1567, Darnley and Mary appeared to be close to reconciliation, as she was often seen visiting his chambers. But Darnley was unpopular and petulant and offended many who should have been his natural supporters, and Mary became frustrated at his insistence that he be awarded the Crown Matrimonial. There was also some evidence that he suffered from syphillis. On 10 February 1567, the bodies of Darnley and his servant at the time were discovered in the gardens of the Hamiltons' house, Kirk o' Field, Edinburgh, where they had been staying. Darnley 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 Darnley escaping attempted assassination, only to be murdered when he got outside. There was strong evidence that Darnley 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, and held her for a week, at the end of which she agreed to marry him, under duress or desperation (Mary's power as a lone Queen was not respected, and Bothwell had proven himself loyal to Scotland for the past 10 years). There was also speculation that Bothwell had raped Mary, giving her no choice but to marry him. Darnley's death was a key event in the downward spiral that led to her loss of the Scottish crown.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles



  • 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


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