Stewart, Henry (1545-1587) (DNB00)
|←Stewart, Henry (1495?-1551?)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 54
Stewart, Henry (1545-1587)
STEWART or STUART, HENRY, Lord Darnley (1545–1567), second but eldest surviving son of Matthew Stewart, fourth or twelfth earl of Lennox [q. v.], and Lady Margaret Douglas [q. v.], was born on 7 Dec. 1545 at Temple Newsam, Yorkshire. He was educated privately under the direction of John Elder, a Scottish priest, a member of the collegiate church of Dumbarton. From his master he learned to be an accomplished penman, as is attested by a letter of his sent in 1554 to Queen Mary of England (facsimile published in the National MSS. of Scotland, pt. iii. No. xvi.), in which he asked her to accept ‘a little plote of my simple penning which I termed Vtopia Noua.’ It is further affirmed that he translated Valerius Maximus into English (Montague's Preface to King James's Works, 1619); and there is even ascribed to him a ballad, ‘The Complaint: an Epistle to his Mistress on the Force of Love,’ which Allan Ramsay published in the ‘Evergreen;’ but these instances of literary accomplishment must be regarded with more than suspicion, since it is clear that Darnley's intellectual gifts were quite below the average. On the other hand, his physical endowments were exceptional; like his father, he was an adept in all the manly accomplishments of the time; and he attained no small skill with the lute. But while it is evident that his mother did her utmost to train him worthily to fill the great position which she never ceased to anticipate for him, it is no less certain that, owing it may be to fatal natural defects, he did comparatively little credit to her methods.
Shortly after the coronation of Francis II of France and Mary Stewart in 1559, Darnley was sent by his mother to the French court with letters to the French king, which it can scarce be doubted concerned the restoration of Lennox to the family estates in Scotland. After the death of Francis he again visited France (Cal. State Papers, For. 1560–61, No. 88), but on a more important errand. The Spanish ambassador, De Quadra, who was in constant communication with the Lady Margaret, reported to his master in 1560 that it was understood that, should any disaster happen to Elizabeth's life or estate, the catholics would raise Darnley to the throne of England (ib. Spanish, 1558–67, p. 135). The hope would therefore be held out to Mary that by marrying Darnley the throne of England as well as Scotland might be hers; and to bring further influence to bear on Mary, the Lady Margaret entered about the same time into communications with the Scottish catholic nobles in view of the marriage (ib. For. 1562, No. 26). But Darnley was then a mere boy, and Mary's regards were directed towards Don Carlos of Spain. Negotiations with Spain having come to nothing, Lady Margaret, soon after Queen Mary's return to Scotland, endeavoured to awaken the queen's interest in Darnley by sending his tutor, Arthur Lyhart, to Scotland to communicate with her (ib.) These intrigues of the Lady Margaret were closely watched by Elizabeth; and in November 1561 she and Darnley were summoned to London and placed in confinement [see under Douglas, Lady Margaret]. But towards the close of the following year they were set at liberty, and soon afterwards were received, at least nominally, into favour, Darnley being in almost daily attendance on Elizabeth, and frequently playing before her on the lute (Cal. State Papers, For. 1563, No. 1027).
After the departure of Lennox for Scotland [see under Stewart, Matthew, fourth Earl of Lennox}], Sir James Melville [q. v.] was secretly commissioned by Mary Queen of Scots to obtain permission from Elizabeth for Darnley to pass to Scotland, that ‘he might see the country, and carry the earl his father back again to England.’ All the while Elizabeth was ostensibly engaged in the promotion of a marriage between Mary and Leicester; but that she knew perfectly the ulterior purpose of Darnley's visit to Scotland might be assumed, even had there not been the testimony of her own remark to the Scottish ambassador Sir James Melville: ‘Ye [that is ‘you Scots,’ or ‘you and your mistress’] like better of yon long lad’ (Melville, Memoirs, p. 120). True, Melville discreetly answered that ‘No woman of spirit would make choice of sic a man, that was liker a woman than a man;’ but it is impossible to suppose that the reply was sufficient to deceive Elizabeth. In fact—whatever may have been her motive, and not improbably it was a desire to prevent an arrangement with Leicester, although he was the suitor she herself had selected—Elizabeth virtually sent Darnley to Scotland in order that he might visit Mary.
Leaving London on 3 Feb. 1564–5, he reached Berwick on the 10th. On arriving on the 13th at Edinburgh, he found that the queen was at Wemyss Castle; and on the 18th, at the suggestion of his father who was in Atholl, he went to Wemyss to pay his respects to her, remaining there for two or three days. After visiting his father in Atholl he again returned to Edinburgh, shortly before the queen's arrival there. The two main incidents following his arrival in Edinburgh were his attendance on the preaching of Knox and his dancing a galliard with the queen the same evening, the Earl of Moray looking on. It may be that neither Moray nor Knox at first was altogether unfavourable to the match, but much depended on Darnley's character and inclinations. Chiefly, if not solely, on the grounds, first, that Mary expressed to Melville the opinion that Darnley ‘was the properest and best-proportioned long man that ever she had seen’ (ib. p. 134), and secondly, that when Darnley fell ill of the measles in Stirling, Mary spent much of her time in his sick room, the theory has been formed that the brilliant and beautiful widow of twenty-two fell violently in love with this girl-faced youth of nineteen. If so, the fact would be little to her credit; for there was nothing in Darnley's character or talents to fascinate any one of average intelligence; and it is at least significant that the queen made no mention to Melville of any special excellence or charm in his disposition.
With regard to Darnley's attitude to Mary there is certainly no evidence of any strong affection. Indeed the vain efforts of Mary to captivate the handsome but headstrong youth are almost pathetic, especially in view of the disastrous sequel. She failed with Darnley almost as wofully as she had done with Knox. Occasionally by adroit flattery she was able to obtain important victories; but all the evidence goes to show that she never had any real hold on his affections, such as they were. On the contrary, their natures seem to have been strongly antagonistic, although neither probably realised their utter incompatibility of temperament until after the marriage. But in the case of both, other considerations were paramount. Darnley had the hope of the joint sovereignty of two kingdoms; Mary, now that the more brilliant prospects of the Spanish alliance had vanished, had concentrated her ambition on winning the sovereignty of England for herself and Britain for Roman catholicism through the Darnley alliance.
On 15 March Darnley was knighted and created Earl of Ross. After his recovery in April from an attack of measles at Stirling, it was announced, but on no tangible evidence [see under Mary Queen of Scots], that he had been secretly married to the queen; again, on l6 July, it was reported that the marriage had taken place secretly on the 9th, and that he and the queen had gone to bed at Seton (Cal. State Papers, For. 1564–1565, No. 1298). On the 22nd a dispensation for the marriage arrived from the pope, and the same day Darnley was created Duke of Albany (Bedford to Cecil, 23 July, ib. No. 1312); finally, on the 29th, the marriage did take place in the chapel of Holyrood. The opposition to it in Scotland is to be traced mainly to Darnley's imprudence. It was impossible for him to keep a secret, and the queen was forced to adopt a line of action which prematurely disclosed her real aims. Maitland and Moray, when they had fathomed Darnley's character, must have been convinced—even apart from their knowledge of the queen's purposes—that the results of the marriage would be calamitous. Scarcely had Darnley set foot in Scotland when he began to manifest his folly. He chose as his special friends Lord Robert Stewart (afterwards Earl of Orkney) [q. v.] and other nobles notoriously disreputable (Randolph to Cecil, 20 March 1564–5, in Keith, ii. 272). To those who were not his special friends ‘his pride’ was ‘intolerable,’ and ‘his words not to be borne, except where no man dare speak again’ (Randolph to Leicester, 3 June 1565, Cal. State Papers, For. 1564–5, No. 1221). Moreover he imprudently expressed his surprise at, and disapproval of, the extent of Moray's possessions, and made no secret of his conviction that his power would need to be curbed. It was thus almost inevitable that Moray, since he was backed by Elizabeth, should do his utmost against an alliance which foreboded his ruin.
Their common dangers and difficulties tended for the time being to foster cordiality between husband and wife; but the essential unhappiness of the union was manifest almost from the beginning. That Darnley was mentally and morally weak was not in itself a fatal objection; but this imbecility was conjoined with reckless courage, strong animal passions, intolerable pride, and fatal obstinacy. In September Randolph reported that he had shown himself altogether unworthy of what the queen had called him to (ib. No. 1519); and this judgment the sequel more than justified. On one occasion when the queen, during a visit to an Edinburgh merchant, tried to dissuade him from drinking too much and encouraging others to do so, he not only declined to listen to her advice, but ‘gave her such words that she left the house in tears’ (Drury to Cecil, 12 Feb. 1565–6, in Keith, ii. 403). Other vicious habits are also alluded to (see especially ib. ii. 405); and while it is quite clear that his conduct to the queen was such as rapidly to dissipate any illusion she may at first have cherished, she quickly recognised that he was unfit not merely to aid her with his advice in matters of state, but even to share her political confidence. Thus being compelled to refuse him the matrimonial crown, she found it needful to elevate Riccio to the place in her political counsels which properly belonged to her husband.
Riccio had been the main assistant of the queen in arranging the marriage with Darnley, and he was now engaged with her in a conspiracy for realising its full political fruits. The queen had no reason for ignoring Darnley more than was essential to the success of the scheme; and for its full success it was necessary not merely that the marriage should be maintained in its entirety, but that there should be cordial relations between them. But it was scarcely possible for Darnley to play any other political part than that of dupe; and he never was more a dupe than when he imagined himself engaged in the circumvention of his enemies. Lacking in modesty as in other gifts and graces, he never had a doubt as to his fitness to grapple with the most difficult emergencies; and he seems to have thoroughly convinced himself that his exclusion from the queen's counsels was primarily due to Riccio, and that Riccio's influence with the queen was rooted in his own dishonour. In any case the opponents of Riccio recognised the supreme importance of convincing Darnley of this. It was advisable that he should be utilised as a dupe and tool; and without doubt or misgiving he was, up to a certain point as compliant as could be wished. The conspirators against Riccio were nominally his agents, acting less in their own behalf, or even in behalf of protestantism, than in behalf of an outraged husband. Thus, on 6 March, three days before the murder, Bedford and Randolph wrote to Cecil that Darnley had determined to be present at Riccio's apprehension and execution; and this because the crime of Riccio was that he had done Darnley ‘the most dishonour that could be to any man’ (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1566–8, No. 162). This meant that the conspirators intended to give such a complexion to the assassination; and in token that they were acting on Darnley's behalf, Darnley's dagger was left by George Douglas sticking in his body [for further details of the plot and its execution see under Douglas, James, fourth Earl of Morton; Mary Queen of Scots; and Riccio, David]. But not merely was Darnley bent on revenge; he was resolved on the reality of kingship, and it suited the plotters to flatter his ambition; for they meant, for the time being, to set him up as the nominal head of the government. And thus it was that the chief enemies of Darnley—Moray, Argyll, and others, who had risen in rebellion on account of the marriage—now appeared in the guise of his friends and succourers. These nobles without scruple now engaged to be true subjects to him, to guarantee him the crown matrimonial, and to maintain his right to the crown failing the succession (ib. No. 165); and, on the other hand, he did not hesitate to promise them not merely full pardon for their offences, but even the full establishment of the protestant religion (ib. No. 164).
But after having been duped so far as to commit himself to the murder, and to play so conspicuous a part in it, Darnley immediately became the dupe of the new circumstances which were thus created, and the new influences they introduced. For one thing, Riccio had ceased to be a rival; for another he had a rooted dislike and dread of Moray; but, more than all, the queen not merely convinced him that they had common interests paramount to all other considerations, but that she would now confer on him the position of trust which he coveted. While concealing from her his own share in the conspiracy, Darnley therefore did not scruple to disclose ‘all that he knew of any man’ (Randolph to Cecil, 21 May, No. 205); and as he did his utmost to aid her in her escape from Holyrood to Dunbar, their relations became for the time being as cordial as during their days of courtship. But early in April the queen was shown the covenants and bonds between him and the lords, and discovered that his declaration before her and the council of his innocence of the murder was false (ib. No. 252). This discovery was fatal to him [see under Mary Queen of Scots], and although they nominally became somewhat reconciled in June, before the birth of James VI, there never was a recurrence of real friendship. The favour which the queen now began to show, not merely towards Bothwell, but towards Maitland, Moray, and other avowed enemies of the king, was ominous of how matters were drifting. Left almost without a friend—for even the catholic earls had grown weary of him—and seeing that the queen was more and more favourably disposed towards those whom he had most cause to dread, it is small wonder that he began to find his position almost intolerable. Perhaps, however, it was more in a spirit of sullen resentment and outraged pride than of fear that after the queen's departure on 25 Sept. from Stirling—where he remained—to Edinburgh, he began to form the resolution to leave the kingdom. This resolution he communicated to Le Croc, the French ambassador, who endeavoured to dissuade him, but without effect (Le Croc to Catherine de Medicis, 17 Oct., in Teulet's Relations Politiques, ii. 289–93), and on 29 Sept. Lennox informed the queen of his son's resolve and of his inability to change it. The same day Darnley came to Holyrood with the purpose of bidding the queen farewell; and, although he was induced to stay a night at the palace, he on the following day persisted in his resolve before the council, while admitting that he had no special complaint to make against the queen. He then left for Glasgow on a visit to his father, by whose persuasion, probably, he was induced to have another interview with Le Croc, who was successful in inducing him at least to postpone his departure (ib.) From Glasgow, however, he wrote a letter to the queen, in which he informed her that his resolution to depart was unchanged, and assigned as his reasons the refusal of the queen to grant him any real authority, and the fact that the nobility had left him in complete isolation (The Members of the Scottish Privy Council to Catherine de Médicis, 8 Oct. 1566, in Teulet, ii. 288).
During the queen's illness at Jedburgh, Darnley on 28 Oct. paid her a visit, but he left next morning for Glasgow. It was probably his attitude towards the nobles during this short visit that decided them to hold the famous conference at Craigmillar, when it was unanimously resolved that by fair means or foul Darnley should be got rid of. He also visited the queen when she was at Craigmillar, and while there had another interview with Le Croc, who on 2 Dec. expressed to Archbishop Beaton the opinion that he ‘did not expect, upon several accounts, any good understanding between them unless God effectually put his hand’ (Tytler, History, iii. 230). Le Croc also informed Beaton that he was much assured Darnley would not be present at the baptism at Stirling. His surmise was correct; for, though Darnley went to Stirling, he remained in his own room during the ceremony, and was not even present at the public entertainments—the fact probably being that the ordeal of facing insulting neglect from the queen and the court was more than his pride could brook. Writing from Stirling, Le Croc reported to Beaton that Darnley's ‘bad deportment was incurable;’ that ‘no good could be effected of him;’ and that matters could not ‘remain long as they are,’ without ‘sundry bad consequences’ (ib. iii. 232). On learning that Morton, Lindsay, Ruthven, and other murderers of Riccio had received pardon, he seems to have finally concluded that his cause was hopeless, if not worse, and abruptly left Stirling for Glasgow. His purpose was to have left the country by a ship from the west coast, but a sudden illness rendered this impossible. Knox, Buchanan, and others have attributed the illness to poison; officially it was stated to be small-pox; but some surmise it to have been an infectious malady of a different character. The queen sent her own physician to visit him, and, when she learned that he was convalescent, resolved to go to Glasgow that she might persuade him to come with her to Edinburgh for change of air. A reconciliation took place, and Darnley resolved to accompany her. But coincident with the queen's visit to Glasgow a conspiracy had been formed, which resulted in the blowing up of Darnley's lodging at Kirk o' Field in the early morning of 10 Feb. [see under Hepburn, James, Earl of Bothwell, and Mary Queen of Scots]. Darnley and his servant were, after the explosion, found dead in an adjoining garden some forty yards distant (see engraving in Chalmers's Life of Mary Queen of Scots, from a sketch in the state paper office). There were on them no marks of injury from the explosion, and they were supposed to have been strangled while making their escape some time before the explosion took place; but although a physician examined the bodies, no authentic statement as to the exact cause of death is in existence. The body of Darnley was disembowelled and embalmed, and on 14 Feb. he was buried in the sepulchre of King James V, in the south-east corner of the chapel of Holyrood.
There are two portraits by Lucas de Heere at Holyrood and a third at Hampton Court. There are also portraits at Newbattle Abbey and Wemyss Castle (cf. Cat. First Loan Exhib. Nos. 322, 323, 326).[There is a biography of Darnley in Chalmers's Life of Mary, and in Sir William Fraser's Lennox (privately printed); see also under MARY Queen of Scots, and the authorities there referred to.]