Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Archive Anecdotes

Snippets from the city's archives.

Mar 9, 2016

Image of David Rizzio courtesy of Wikimedia Commons PD

Four hundred and fifty years ago, on Saturday 9 March 1566, David Rizzio, an Italian courtier and trusted private secretary to Mary Queen of Scots, was murdered in the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse.

A group of Protestant nobles were allowed entry to the Queen’s private chambers by her husband Darnley who was said to harbour deep jealousy of his wife’s high regard for Rizzio. The nobles alleged that Rizzio was an agent of the Papacy. Mary was however six months pregnant and it has often been speculated that the murder was carried out in her presence in the hope that it might cause the Catholic Queen to miscarry so removing the prospect of a Catholic heir to the throne of newly Protestant Scotland. The events were brutal:

"The King was before gone up to the Queen, and was leaning upon her chair, when the Lord Ruthven entered with his helmet upon his head, and George Douglas and divers others with them so rudely and irreverently that the table, candles, meat and dishes were overthrown. Riccio took the Queen about the waist, crying for mercy, but George Douglas plucked out the King's dagger, and stroked Riccio first with it, leaving it sticking in him. He making great shrieks and cries was rudely snatched from the Queen, who could not prevail either with threats or entreaties to save him. But he was forcibly drawn out forth the closet and slain in the outer hall and Her Majesty kept as a captive." Memoirs of Sir James Melville of Halhill 1535-1615.

Mary did not miscarry. In the following days she won her husband away from the plotters and, under cover of darkness. he assisted her escape from her captors. Three months later, within the safety of Edinburgh Castle, she gave birth to a son who was later to become James VI of Scotland and James 1 of England.

Bronze relief  from the Prince's Chamber, Houses of Parliament.  Image courtesy of www.explore-parliament.com

Click here to view Sir William Allan's painting of the murder (National Galleries Scotland).



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