Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
 MARY had a secretary. named David Rizzio. He was from Savoy, a country among the Alps. It was the custom then, as it
is now, for the various governments of Europe to have embassadors at the courts of other governments, to attend
to any negotiations, or to the transaction of any other business which might arise between their respective
sovereigns. These embassadors generally traveled with pomp and parade, taking sometimes many attendants with
them. The embassador from Savoy happened to bring with him to Scotland, in his train, this young man, Rizzio,
in 1561, that is just about the time that Mary herself returned to Scotland. He was a handsome and agreeable
young man, but his rank and position were such that, for some years, he attracted no attention.
He was, however, quite a singer, and they used to bring him in sometimes to sing in
 Mary's presence with three
other singers. His voice, being a good bass, made up the quartette. Mary saw him in this way, and as he was a
good French and Italian scholar, and was amiable and intelligent, she gradually became somewhat interested in
him. Mary had, at this time, among her other officers, a French secretary, who wrote for her, and transacted
such other business as required a knowledge of the French language. This French secretary went home, and Mary
appointed Rizzio to take his place.
The native Scotchmen in Mary's court were naturally very jealous of the influence of these foreigners. They
looked down with special contempt on Rizzio, considering him of mean rank and position, and wholly destitute of
all claim to the office of confidential secretary to the queen. Rizzio increased the difficulty by not acting
with the reserve and prudence which his delicate situation required. The nobles, proud of their own rank and
importance, were very much displeased at the degree of intimacy and confidence to which Mary admitted him. They
called him an intruder and an upstart. When they came in and found him in conversation with the queen, or
whenever he accosted
 her freely, as he was wont to do, in their presence, they were irritated and vexed. They
did not dare to remonstrate with Mary, but they took care to express their feelings of resentment and scorn to
the subject of them in every possible way. They scowled upon him. They directed to him looks of contempt. They
turned their backs upon him, and jostled him in a rude and insulting manner. All this was a year or two before
Rizzio consulted Melville, asking his judgment as to what he had better do. He said that, being Mary's French
secretary, he was necessarily a good deal in her company, and the nobles seemed displeased with it; but he did
not see what he could do to diminish or avoid the difficulty. Melville replied that the nobles had an opinion
that he not only performed the duties of French secretary, but that he was fast acquiring a great ascendency in
respect to all other affairs. Melville further advised him to be much more cautious in his bearing than he had
been, to give place to the nobles when they were with him in the presence of the queen, to speak less freely,
and in a more unassuming manner, and to explain the whole case to the queen herself, that she might
co-  operate with him in pursuing a course which would soothe and conciliate the irritated and angry feelings of the nobles.
Melville said, moreover, that he had himself, at one time, at a court on the Continent, been placed in a very
similar situation to Rizzio's, and had been involved in the same difficulties, but had escaped the dangers
which threatened him by pursuing himself the course which he now recommended.
Rizzio seemed to approve of this counsel, and promised to follow it; but he afterward told Melville , that he
had spoken to the queen on the subject, and that she would not consent to any change, but wished every thing to
go on as it had done. Now the queen, having great confidence in Melville, had previously requested him, that if
he saw any thing in her deportment, or management, or measures, which he thought was wrong, frankly to let her
know it that she might be warned in season, and amend. He thought that this was an occasion which required this
friendly interposition, and he took an opportunity to converse with her on the subject in a frank and plain,
but still very respectful manner. He made but little impression. Mary said that Rizzio was only her private
 French secretary; that he had nothing to do with the affairs of the government; that, consequently, his
appointment and his office were her own private concern alone, and she should continue to act according to her
own pleasure in managing her own affairs, no matter who was displeased by it.
It is probable that the real ground of offense which the nobles had against Rizzio was jealousy of his superior
influence with the queen. They, however, made his religion a great ground of complaint against him. He was a
Catholic, and had come from a strong Catholic country, having been born in the northern part of Italy. The
Italian language was his mother tongue. They professed to believe that he was a secret emissary of the pope,
and was plotting with Mary to bring Scotland back under the papal dominion.
In the mean time, Rizzio devoted himself with untiring zeal and fidelity to the service of the queen. He was
indefatigable in his efforts to please her, and he made himself extremely useful to her in a thousand different
ways. In fact, his being the object of so much dislike and aversion on the part of others, made him more and
more exclusively devoted to the
 queen, who seemed to be almost his only friend. She, too, was urged, by what
she considered the unreasonable and bitter hostility of which her favorite was the object, to bestow upon him
greater and greater favors. In process of time, one after another of those about the court, finding that
Rizzio's influence and power were great and were increasing, began to treat him with respect, and to ask for
his assistance in gaining their ends. Thus Rizzio found his position becoming stronger, and the probability
began to increase that he would at length triumph over the enemies who had set their faces so strongly against
Though he had been at first inclined to follow Melville's advice, yet he afterward fell in cordially with the
policy of the queen, which was, to press boldly forward, and put down with a strong hand the hostility which
had been excited against him. Instead, therefore, of attempting to conceal the degree of favor which he enjoyed
with the queen, he boasted of and displayed it. He would converse often and familiarly with her in public. He
dressed magnificently, like persons of the highest rank, and had many attendants. In a word, he assumed all the
airs and manners of a person of high
dis-  tinction and commanding influence. The external signs of hostility to
him were thus put down, but the fires of hatred burned none the less fiercely below, and only wanted an
opportunity to burst into an explosion.
Things were in this state at the time of the negotiations in respect to Darnley's marriage; for, in order to
take up the story of Rizzio from the beginning, we have been obliged to go back in our narrative. Rizzio
exerted all his influence in favor of the marriage, and thus both strengthened his influence with Mary and made
Darnley his friend. He did all in his power to diminish the opposition to it, from whatever quarter it might
come, and rendered essential service in the correspondence with France, and in the negotiations with the pope
for obtaining the necessary dispensation. In a word, he did a great deal to promote the marriage, and to
facilitate all the arrangements for carrying it into effect.
Darnley relied, therefore, upon Rizzio's friendship and devotion to his service, forgetting that, in all these
past efforts, Rizzio was acting out of regard to Mary's wishes, and not to his own. As long, therefore, as Mary
and Darnley continued to pursue the same objects and aims, Rizzio
 was the common friend and ally of both. The
enemies of the marriage, however, disliked Rizzio more than ever.
As Darnley's character developed itself gradually after his marriage, every body began to dislike him also. He
was unprincipled and vicious, as well as imperious and proud. His friendship for Rizzio was another ground of
dislike to him. The ancient nobles, who had been accustomed to exercise the whole control in the public affairs
of Scotland, found themselves supplanted by this young Italian singer, and an English boy not yet out of his
teens. They were exasperated beyond all bounds, but yet they contrived, for a while, to conceal and dissemble
It was not very long after the marriage of Mary and Darnley before they began to become alienated from each
other. Mary did every thing for her husband which it was reasonable for him to expect her to do. She did, in
fact, all that was in her power. But he was not satisfied. She made him the sharer of her throne. He wanted her
to give up her place to him, and thus make him the sole possessor of it. He wanted what was called
the crown matrimonial. The crown matrimonial denoted power with
 which, according to the old
Scottish law, the husband of a queen could be invested, enabling him to exercise the royal prerogative In his
own name, both during the life of the queen and also after her death, during the continuance of his own life.
This made him, in fact, a king for life, exalting him above his wife, the real sovereign, through whom alone he
derived his powers.
Now Darnley was very urgent to have the crown matrimonial conferred upon him. He insisted upon it. He would not
submit to any delay. Mary told him that this was something entirely beyond her power to grant. The crown
matrimonial could only be bestowed by a solemn enactment of the Scottish Parliament. But Darnley, impatient and
reckless, like a boy as he was, would not listen to any excuse, but teased and tormented Mary about the crown
Besides the legal difficulties in the way of Mary's conferring these powers upon Darnley by her own act, there
were other difficulties, doubtless, in her mind, arising from the character of Darnley, and his unfitness,
which was every day becoming more manifest, to be intrusted with such power. Only four months
 after his
marriage, his rough and cruel treatment of Mary became intolerable. One day, at a house in Edinburgh, where the
king and queen, and other persons of distinction had been invited to a banquet, Darnley, as was his custom, was
beginning to drink very freely, and was trying to urge other persons there to drink to excess. Mary
expostulated with him, endeavoring to dissuade him from such a course. Darnley resented these kind cautions,
and retorted upon her in so violent and brutal a manner as to cause her to leave the room and the company in
When they were first married, Mary had caused her husband to be proclaimed king, and had taken some other
similar steps to invest him with a share of her own power. But she soon found that in doing this she had gone
to the extreme of propriety, and that, for the future, she must retreat rather than advance. Accordingly,
although he was associated with her in the supreme power, she thought it best to keep precedence for her own
name before his, in the exercise of power. On the coins which were struck, the inscription was, "In the name of
the Queen and King of Scotland." In signing public documents, she insisted on having her
 name recorded first. These things irritated and provoked Darnley more and more. He was not contented to be admitted
to a share of the sovereign power which the queen possessed in her own right alone. He wished to supplant her
in it entirely.
Rizzio, of course, took Queen Mary's part in these questions. He opposed the grant of the crown matrimonial. He
opposed all other plans for increasing or extending in any way Darnley's power. Darnley was very much incensed
against him, and earnestly desired to find some way to effect his destruction. He communicated these feelings
to a certain fierce and fearless nobleman named Ruthven, and asked his assistance to contrive some way to take
vengeance upon Rizzio.
Ruthven was very much pleased to hear this. He belonged to a party of the lords of the court who also hated
Rizzio, though they had hated Darnley besides so much that they had not communicated to him their hostility to
the other. Ruthven and his friends had not joined Murray and the other rebels in opposing the marriage of
Darnley. They had chosen to acquiesce in it, hoping to maintain an ascendency over Darnley, regarding him, as
they did, as a
 mere boy, and thus retain their power. When they found, however, that he was so headstrong and
unmanageable, and that they could do nothing with him, they exerted all their influence to have Murray and the
other exiled lords pardoned and allowed to return, hoping to combine with them after their return, and then
together to make their power superior to that of Darnley and Rizzio. They considered Darnley and Rizzio both as
their rivals and enemies. When they found, therefore, that Darnley was plotting Rizzio's destruction, they felt
a very strong as well as a very unexpected pleasure.
Thus, among all the jealousies, and rivalries, and bitter animosities of which the court was at this time the
scene, the only true and honest attachment of one heart to another seems to have been that of Mary to Rizzio.
The secretary was faithful and devoted to the queen, and the queen was grateful and kind to the secretary.
There has been some question whether this attachment was an innocent or a guilty one. A painting, still hanging
in the private rooms which belonged to Mary in the palace at Holyrood, represents Rizzio as young and very
handsome; on the other hand, some of the
his-  torians of the day, to disprove the possibility of any guilty
attachment, say that he was rather old and ugly. We may ourselves, perhaps, safely infer, that unless there
were something specially repulsive in his appearance and manner, such a heart as Mary's, repelled so roughly
from the one whom it was her duty to love, could not well have resisted the temptation to seek a retreat and a
refuge in the kind devotedness of such a friend as Rizzio proved himself to be to her.
However this may be, Ruthven made such suggestions to Darnley as goaded him to madness, and a scheme was soon
formed for putting Rizzio to death. The plan, after being deliberately matured in all its arrangements, was
carried into effect in the following. manner. The event occurred early in the spring of 1566, less than a year
after Mary's marriage.
Morton, who was one of the accomplices, assembled a large force of his followers, consisting, it is said, of
five hundred men, which he posted in the evening near the palace, and when it was dark he moved them silently
into the central court of the palace, through the entrance E, as marked upon the following plan.
PLAN OF THAT PART OF TEH HOLYROOD HOUSE WHICH WAS THE SCENE OF RIZZIO'S MURDER.
E. PRINCIPAL ENTRANCE. CO. COURT OF THE PALACE. PP. PIAZZA AROUND LT. AA. VARIOUS APARTMENTS BUILT IN MODERN TIMES.
H. GREAT HALL USED NOW AS A GALLERY OF PORTRAITS. T. STAIR-CASE. O. ENTRANCE TO MARY'S APARTMENTS, SECOND FLOOR.
R. ANTE-ROOM. B. MARY'S BED-ROOM. D. DRESSING-ROOM IN ONE OF THE TOWERS. C. CABINET, OR SMALL ROOM IN THE OTHER TOWER.
SS. STAIR-CASES IN THE WALL. D. SMALL ENTRANCE UNDER THE TAPESTRY. CH. ROYAL CHAPEL. M. PLACE WHERE MARY AND DARNLEY STOOD
AT THE MARRIAGE CEREMONY. PA. PASSAGE-WAY LEADING TO THE CHAPEL.
 Mary was, at the time of these occurrences in the little room marked C, which was built within one of
the round towers which form a part of the front of the building, and which are very conspicuous in any view of
the Palace of
 Holyrood. This room was on the third floor, and it opened into Mary's bedroom, marked B.
Darnley had a room of his own immediately below Mary's. There was a little door, d, leading from Mary's
bedroom to a private stair-case built in the wall. This stair-case led down into Darnley's room; and there was
also a communication from this place down through the whole length of the castle to the royal chapel, marked
Ch, the building which is now in ruins. Behind Mary's bedroom was an ante-room, R, with a door,
o, leading to the public stair-case by which her apartments were approached. All these apartments still
remain, and are explored annually by thousands of visitors.
It was about seven o'clock in the evening that the conspirators were to execute their purpose. Morton remained
below in the court with his troops, to prevent any interruption. He held a high office under the queen, which
authorized him to bring a force into the court of the palace, and his doing so did not alarm the inmates.
Ruthven was to head the party which was to commit the crime. He was confined to his bed with sickness at the
 he was so eager to have a share in the pleasure of destroying Rizzio, that he left his bed, put on a
suit of armor, and came forth to the work. The armor is preserved in the little apartment which was the scene
of the tragedy to this day.
Mary was at supper. Two near relatives and friends of hers—a gentleman and a lady—and Rizzio, were with her.
The room is scarcely large enough to contain a grater number. There were, however, two or three servants in
attendance at a side-table. Darnley came up about eight o'clock, to make observations. The other conspirators
were concealed in his room below, and it was agreed that if Darnley found any cause for not proceeding with the
plan, he was to return immediately and give them notice. If, therefore, he should not return, after the lapse
of a reasonable time, they were to come up by this private stair-case, in order to avoid being intercepted or
delayed by the domestics in attendance in the ante-room, R, of which there would have been danger if
they had ascended by the public stair-case at T.
Finding that Darnley did not return, Ruthven
 with his party ascended the stairs, entered the bed-chamber
through the little door at d, and then advanced to the door of the cabinet, his heavy iron armor
clanking as he came. The queen, alarmed, demanded the meaning of this intrusion. Ruthven, whose countenance
was grim and ghastly from the conjoined influence of ferocious passion and disease, said that they meant no
harm to her, but they only wanted the villain who stood near her. Rizzio perceived that his hour was come. The
attendants flocked in to the assistance of the queen and Rizzio. Ruthven's confederates advanced to join in the
attack, and there ensued one of those scenes of confusion and terror, of which those who witness it have no
distinct recollection on looking back upon it when it is over. Rizzio cried out in an agony of fear, and sought
refuge behind the queen; the queen herself fainted; the table was overturned; and Rizzio, having received one
wound from a dagger, was seized and dragged out through the bed-chamber, B, and through the ante-room,
R, to the door, o, where he fell down, and was stabbed by the murderers again and again, till he
ceased to breathe.
After this scene was over, Darnley and
Ruth-  ven came coolly back into Mary's chamber, and, as soon as Mary
recovered her senses, began to talk of and to justify their act of violence, without, however, telling her that
Rizzio had been killed. Mary was filled with emotions of resentment and grief. She bitterly reproached Darnley
for such an act of cruelty as breaking into her apartment with armed men, and seizing and carrying off her
friend. She told him that she had raised him from his comparatively humble position to make him her husband,
and now this was his return. Darnley replied that Rizzio had supplanted him in her confidence and thwarted all
his plans, and that Mary had shown herself utterly regardless of his wishes, under the influence of Rizzio. He
said that, since Mary had made herself his wife, she ought to have obeyed him, and not put herself in such a
way under the direction of another. Mary learned Rizzio's fate the next day.
The violence of the conspirator, did not stop with the destruction of Rizzio. Some of Mary's high officers of
government, who were in the palace at the time, were obliged to make their escape from the windows to avoid
being seized by Morton and his soldiers in the court. Among
 them was the Earl Bothwell, who tried at first to
drive Morton out, but in the end was obliged himself to flee. Some of these men let themselves down by ropes
from the outer windows. When the uproar and confusion caused by this struggle was over, they found that Mary,
overcome with agitation and terror, was showing symptoms of fainting again, and they concluded to leave her.
They informed her that she must consider herself a prisoner, and, setting a guard at the door of her apartment,
they went away, leaving her to spend the night in an agony of resentment, anxiety, and fear.
Lord Darnley took the government at once entirely into his own hands. He prorogued Parliament, which was then
just commencing a session, in his own name alone. He organized an administration, Mary's officers having fled.
In saying that he did these things, we mean, of course, that the conspirators did them in his name. He was
still but a boy, scarcely out of his teens, and incapable of any other action in such an emergency but a blind
compliance with the wishes of the crafty men who had got him into their power by gratifying his feelings of
revenge. They took possession of the government in his name, and kept Mary a close prisoner.
 The murder was committed on Saturday night. The next morning, of course, was Sunday. Melville was going out of
the palace about ten o'clock. As he passed along under the window where Mary was confined, she called out to
him for help. He asked her what he could do for her. She told him to go to the provost of Edinburgh, the
officer corresponding to the mayor of a city in this country, and ask him to call out the city guard, and come
and release her from her captivity. "Go quick," said she, "or the guards will see you and stop you." Just then
the guards came up and challenged Melville. He told them he was going to the city to attend church; so they let
him pass on. He went to the provost and delivered Mary's message. The provost said he dared not, and could not
So Mary remained a prisoner. Her captivity, however, was of short duration. In two days Darnley came to see
her. He persuaded her that he himself had had nothing to do with the murder of Rizzio. Mary, on the other hand,
persuaded him that it was better for them to be friends to each other than to live thus in a perpetual quarrel.
She convinced him that Ruthven and his confederates were not, and could
 not be, his friends. They would only
make him the instrument of obtaining the objects of their ambition. Darnley saw this. He felt that he as well
as Mary were in the rebels' power. They formed a plan to escape together. They succeeded. They fled to a
distant castle, and collected a large army, the people every where flocking to the assistance of the queen.
They returned to Edinburgh in a short time in triumph. The conspirators fled. Mary then decided to pardon and
recall the old rebels, and expend her anger henceforth on the new; and thus the Earl Murray, her brother, was
brought back, and, once more restored to favor.
After settling all these troubles, Mary retired to Edinburgh Castle, where it was supposed she could be best
protected, and in the month of July following the murder of Rizzio, she gave birth to a son. In this son was
afterward accomplished all her fondest wishes, for he inherited in the end both the English and Scottish