Gateway to the Classics: Scotland's Story by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Scotland's Story by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall

Mary—Darnley and Rizzio

It was August when Queen Mary arrived in Scotland and landed in Leith, but the day was bleak and grey. A thick mist covered sea and shore, and as she arrived sooner than was expected, nothing was ready. But it soon became known that the Queen had come, and after waiting some hours, a few poor horses were got together, and the procession started for Holyrood. It was not a very grand procession, and everything seemed poor and plain to Mary after the splendour of the French court. Yet the people were glad to have their Queen among them once again, and they did their best to show their gladness. Bon-fires were lit, and crowds gathered under the Queen's windows, singing doleful psalms, and playing on instruments much out of tune. It was anything but beautiful music, yet Mary was so good-natured that she would not have it stopped, but said she liked the melody well, for she knew that the people did it to honour her.

Soon, however, Mary was to learn how fierce her subjects could be. She had made up her mind to allow the people to worship God in their own way, and she meant to worship in her way. But it had been made a crime for any one to read Mass, as the Roman Catholic service is called, and when it became known that a priest was going to read Mass for the Queen in her own private chapel at Holyrood, there was a terrible uproar among the Protestants. "I will rather see ten thousand French soldiers landed in Scotland, than suffer a single mass," cried Knox. Another fierce Protestant buckled on his armour, and rushed into the palace courtyard, shouting that every priest should die. But the Earl of Murray, the Queen's half-brother, Protestant though he was, put his back to the chapel door, and with his sword prepared to defend it. Others joined him, and so the uproar ceased.

Afterwards, Queen Mary sent for Knox and talked to him. She wanted to be friends with Knox, but although Knox was a good man, he was very stern and narrow. He could only see his own side, and could not believe that any one was right who thought differently from himself. Mary was clever, and answered Knox and his arguments very well. But although they had many talks, they could never understand each other, and could never be friends. Knox often preached against Mary, saying cruel things of her and her way of living, and yet, perhaps, with all his sternness, he had a kindly feeling for the young Queen, and only spoke cruelly because he wished to make her better.

In spite of difficulties, the first few years after Mary returned to Scotland passed quietly. She was so beautiful and clever, that even stern Protestant nobles were glad to fight for their Catholic Queen.

Many men loved Mary and were anxious to marry her. But it was difficult to find a prince worthy of this young, beautiful Queen. At last she married her cousin, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley. He was tall and handsome. "The handsomest long man I have ever seen," said Mary. He was cousin to Queen Elizabeth as well as to Queen Mary, and if neither of them should have children, he was the next heir to both thrones. So it seemed a good thing that Darnley and Mary should marry.


Queen Mary and Knox had many talks together.

Darnley came from England, where he had been living, to visit Mary. They soon loved each other and were married.

Some people, especially the Protestants, were very angry about the marriage, for Darnley, like Mary, was a Roman Catholic. Among those who were angry was the Queen's half-brother, the Earl of Murray. He and the chief Lords of the Congregation banded together and raised a rebellion. But Mary called her army together and wearing a helmet upon her head, with pistols at her saddle-bow, and her husband beside her in gilded armor, she rode out to meet the rebels. She swept through the country, chasing them from place to place, till at last Murray and the other leaders fled into England. This rebellion was called the Run-about-Raid, from the way in which the rebels were hunted about from place to place.

For a short time Mary and Darnley were happy. But soon the Queen began to find out that her "handsome long man" was only a silly, jealous boy. He was wicked as well, and instead of loving her husband, Mary grew to hate him, and became very unhappy. The people, too, would not allow Darnley any power as King. He was only the Queen's husband, they said. This made Darnley very angry with Mary, for he thought she was to blame.

Among Mary's servants there was an Italian musician, named David Rizzio. He was clever and useful. He wrote the Queen's letters, advised and helped her in many ways, and also amused her by writing poetry and music. The Queen also wrote poetry, and she became fond of Rizzio, and made much of him. This made Rizzio very proud and haughty. He dressed in splendid robes, and was insolent to the great lords, who hated him because he was only a common man and a foreigner.

Darnley, too, hated Rizzio. He hated him so much, that he made up his mind to kill him. He made friends with some of the nobles who were Rizzio's enemies, and together they planned his murder. One windy March night, the Queen and Rizzio, with a few of her ladies and friends, were sitting at supper in a tiny room, off Mary's bedroom in Holyrood. It is such a tiny room that, if you ever go to see it, you will wonder how so many people found room to sit there.

It was about seven o'clock. The curtains were drawn, the candles were lit, and Mary sat talking merrily with her friends. But while they talked and smiled, the courtyard of the palace was filled with armed men, who took possession of the great gates and closed them, so that none of the Queen's friends might enter. Then, led by Darnley, they crept quietly up the secret stairway which led to the Queen's rooms, and which no one but he might use.

Telling the men to wait, Darnley went into the room alone. No one was surprised that he should come to see the Queen, and he sat down beside her, put his arm round her waist, and talked kindly to her.

Suddenly the door opened again. Mary looked up, and saw before her another of the conspirators called Lord Ruthven. He had been very ill, but such was his hatred of Rizzio, that he had risen from his bed so that he might help to kill him.

Ruthven's face was pale, his eyes were sunken, and he was so weak that he had to be helped up the stair. As he stood in the doorway, gaunt and terrible in his armour, his looks frightened the Queen so that she cried out in fear, and told him to be gone. But behind him crowded steel-clad men with drawn swords and fierce looks.

"If it please your Majesty," said Ruthven in his hollow, dreadful voice, "let yonder man Davy come forth from your presence. He has been over long there."

"Ah," cried Mary, turning to Darnley with a bitter look, "is this your work?"

"Nay, but I know nothing of it," replied Darnley.

Ruthven drew his dagger, and Rizzio, pale with terror, threw himself upon his knees, trying to hide behind the Queen. Holding on to her skirts he shrieked, "Save me, save me!"

In a moment all was confusion. The little room was filled to overflowing with armed men. The table was overturned. As it fell, a lady caught up one of the candles upon it, otherwise the room would have been left in complete darkness. Roughly the men tore Rizzio from the Queen. Ruthven himself took hold of her, and placing her in Darnley's arms, bade him to take care of his wife, and her to fear nothing.

Mary could do no more to save her favourite. Darnley held her fast, while the fierce soldiers dragged the poor, trembling, shrieking wretch away.

They had meant to try him in some kind of a rough fashion, but now that they had him in their power, they thought no more of a trial, but as soon as he was out of the Queen's rooms they stabbed him to death. So eager were they, that in the struggle, they wounded each other, and at last left their victim lying in a pool of blood, with fifty-six wounds in his poor body.

Weak and ill, Ruthven staggered back to the little room where Mary stood trembling and weeping with fear and anger. Too weak to stand, he sat down in the Queen's presence, hardly begging pardon for his rudeness, and called for wine.

"Ah, traitor!" cried the Queen, "how dare you come into my presence? How dare you sit when I stand?"

"Madam," he replied, "I do it not out of pride, but out of weakness of body." Then he told her that what was done, was done with the knowledge of her husband, which, far from comforting the Queen, only hurt her the more. But not knowing that Rizzio was already dead, she still begged for his life.

Then one of the Queen's Maries came running in with a pale face, and the news that Rizzio was killed. "And is it so?" cried Mary, dashing the tears from her eyes. "Then farewell weeping. Now will I study revenge."

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