The Tudor Society

29 July 1565 – The marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley

On Sunday 29th July 1565, twenty-three-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots, married nineteen-year-old Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.

Mary, Queen of Scots, was queen regnant of Scotland and was the daughter of James V of Scotland (son of James IV and Margaret Tudor) and Mary of Guise. She had become queen when she was just six days old. The bridegroom was the son of Matthew Stuart, the 4th Earl of Lennox and Margaret Douglas (daughter of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII's sister). Mary and Darnley were related; they were half-cousins.

The banns for the marriage had been read in St Giles's Cathedral, High Kirk of Edinburgh, on Sunday 22nd July and in that afternoon Darnley was made Duke of Albany. On Saturday 28th July, heralds proclaimed the forthcoming marriage of Mary and Darnley at the Market Cross in Edinburgh and proclaimed that Darnley would be made king following the wedding.

At 6 am on Sunday 29th July, the couple got married in Mary's private chapel at Holyrood Palace (the Palace of Holyroodhouse), Edinburgh. The bride, who had been married before, to Francis II of France, and had been widowed following his death in 1560, wore her "deuil blanc" (mourning attire) was led to the altar by the Earls of Lennox and Atholl. The couple made their vows and Darnley placed three rings on Mary's right hand. After prayers, Darnley left, leaving Mary to celebrate the nuptial mass without him. Historian John Guy writes that Darnley "wished to avoid the charge of 'idolatry'".

At midday on Monday 30th July heralds proclaimed that Darnley was King of Scotland, with the couple's official title being "Henry and Marie, King and Queen of Scotland.

The marriage was not to be happy for very long. In March 1566, Darnley, with a gang of friends, murdered Mary's private secretary, David Rizzio, in front of a pregnant Mary. Darnley was apparently jealous of Mary's friendship with Rizzio. Mary gave birth to Darnley's son, the future James VI of Scotland (James I of England) on 19th June 1566. Darnley's increasingly erratic behaviour, along with his desire to be awarded the Crown Matrimonial (the right to co-reign with Mary) had led to him becoming unpopular, and he became a real problem for Mary and the Scottish Lords. In February 1567, the problem was solved when Darnley was killed in an explosion at Kirk O'Field. It is thought that James Hepburn, Lord Bothwell, supplied the gunpowder but he was acquitted of murder in April 1567. On the 24th April 1567, Mary was kidnapped by Bothwell (it is unclear whether this was planned by Mary and Bothwell) and allegedly raped. They were married on the 15th May 1567.

The very best book there is, in my opinion, on Mary, Queen of Scots is My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary, Queen of Scots by John Guy and we have a recording of John talking about Mary - members can click here to listen to it.

There are 7 comments Go To Comment

  1. D

    And it was down hill for Mary from now on…it seems Mary’s own choice in men was dire.

    1. C - Post Author

      Yes, she didn’t have much luck!

  2. R

    Henry Darnley was a man to have a weekend in Blackpool with, the man with looks and charm and connections, but everything you should find bad in a man, but are so head in the clouds that you end up marrying.

  3. S

    Poor Mary didn’t have much choice about who to marry. All choices were about political alliances in order to secure the throne, lands, and resources. She was vulnerable as a ruler all her life.

  4. R

    The man I cant stand is John Knox. A hTred of women and releligous zealout .he made Mary’s life miserable.

  5. D

    They say as Queens, Elizabeth was ruled by her head & Mary by her heart. That accounts for some of the just stupid things Mary did.

    1. C - Post Author

      Perhaps so, but I think Elizabeth was also lucky in being surrounded by good advisors like William Cecil, Francis Walsingham, and others. Mary doesn’t seem to have had that. Elizabeth was also known to her kingdom growing up, whereas Mary spent a lot of her early life in France and so was a stranger to her people.

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29 July 1565 – The marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley