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On this day in history in 1567, died Henry Darnley.

Darnley was a politician who tried to advance his claim to the throne of England by marrying the queen of Scotland and  was assassinated by an explosion caused by his wife's next husband

Darnley was born on 7th December 1545 at Temple Newsom, Yorkshire, the son of Matthew Stuart, earl of Lennox, a Scottish nobleman with a vague claim to the Crown of Scotland, and Margaret Douglas, who had a more substantial claim to the Crown of England, being the granddaughter of Henry VII. 

Darnley’s mother introduced her young son, firstly in 1605 to Mary, Queen of Scots, who had just been widowed at the age of 18, and secondly to Elizabeth I of England, a young queen, who at that time, was looking for a husband. Darnley was invited to the English court and became one of the many suitors for the hand of Queen Elizabeth.  

In 1565, Elizabeth sent Darnley as an ambassador to the Scottish court, to spy on her and bring back reports on whatever he could find. When he failed to return after two months, another spy was sent, who brought back the uncomfortable news that Darnley and Mary were engaged to be married. Elizabeth wrote to Mary saying that the proposed marriage was ‘dangerous to the common amity’ of the two kingdoms, but notwithstanding, the marriage took place in accordance with the Catholic rite, to the horror of John Knox and the rest of the Scottish clergy.  

After the honeymoon period was over, the marriage began to falter.  Darnley was a pretentious, indolent, drunken buffoon who became insanely jealous of Mary’s secretary, Rizzio, and had him murdered in her presence. The birth of a son, James, later James VI of Scots and after that James I of England, did nothing to reconcile the couple. Mary began an affair with James Hepburn, earl of Bothwell, and sought to divorce Darnley. On 9th February 1567, Darnley was staying at the Provost’s house, Kirk o’the Fields, near Edinburgh, when a massive explosion reduced the house to rubble, killing all inside. Some say that Mary had organised Darnley’s murder, others that Darnley had plotted to kill Mary and slain himself, when the gunpowder went off early. Most suspect Mary’s paramour, Bothwell, who married Mary, three months later.  

Darnley is buried in Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh [EH8 9DX] in the company of the Kings of Scotland.

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