What happened to Lord Darnley?

10 February 2012

Today is the anniversary of the explosion at the Kirk O’ Field House in Edinburgh, which killed Lord Darnley, the horrible second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.

By all accounts ‘King’ Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley was a reptilian, repulsive youth whose handsome face, impressive height and elegant bearing masked a deeply unpleasant personality, which he seems to have been at some pains to hide from his unfortunate cousin Mary until he had put a ring on her finger and she was unable to escape his sweaty palmed clutches.

Ill advised and occasionally annoying though she may have been, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for Mary’s plight as how many good women have found themselves in similar straits and it’s not like she was alone in being a bit of a sucker for a handsome faced cousin, as Elizabeth I would be able to concur. And let’s face it, it’s not unusual for men to be all charm and sweetness and light until one day you realise they’ve chased away all your friends, haven’t been sober for weeks and no longer seem to be around most nights. In short, Mary had landed up with a bit of a lemon. Well, not just a bit of a lemon. More like a whole crate of them. I mean, most grumpy rubbish husbands don’t actually murder people in front of their pregnant wives or scheme against her, unlike Darnley.

It’s such a shame – she was such a romantic woman, with aspirations to beauty, glamour and a graceful mode of living that raised more than a few eyebrows at the less than charming Scottish court that she had inherited from her father. Disappointed by the way that her life was going, you can see why she fixed on the idea of a handsome (and well connected!) aristocrat to add a bit of a sparkle to her existence.

To be frank, I couldn’t really blame her if she HAD wanted to murder him. However, secretly WANTING to kill someone; feeling relief when someone else jumps in and offs the swine; dropping hints in fertile ears; giving a direct order or actually placing gunpowder with one’s own fair lily white hands are all very different things and there’s a lot of debate about which one is the most likely scenario when it comes to Mary’s level of complicity in the events of the 10th of February 1567.

In fact, there are theories that Mary herself was the intended victim that chilly morning but that Lord Darnley, in his usual hapless and rather pathetic fashion, managed to bungle it completely. After all, he wasn’t actually blown up with the house but had managed to escape through a window before being cornered in the garden and strangled. Either he had heard something suspicious and done a runner straight into the arms of his killers or he had believed that Mary was entering the property to visit him, as she had promised to do and after giving orders that the explosives be lit, had jumped out of the window and collided with either an avenging Bothwell and his men or a group of turncoat conspirators.

Either way, it’s all a bit French farce like, isn’t it?

God, will you just LOOK at his smug face?

I don’t suppose we will ever know the absolute truth about what happened that morning, but I rather like the idea that it was all Lord Darnley’s doing. This sucks for Mary though as the explosion at Kirk O’ Field put in motion a series of events that would eventually culminate in the loss of her son, the forfeiture of her crown and those long years of exile in England followed by her execution in 1587, just a few days before the twentieth anniversary of Darnley’s death in fact.

Anyway, what do YOU think happened?

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Set against the infamous Jack the Ripper murders of autumn 1888 and based on the author’s own family history, From Whitechapel is a dark and sumptuous tale of bittersweet love, friendship, loss and redemption and is available NOW from Amazon UK, Amazon US and Burning Eye.

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