Sunday, May 23, 2010

Question from Elizabeth M - Mary QOS' options for dealing with Darnley

I am wondering about Mary, Queen of Scots and her options to be rid of her degenerate spouse, Lord Darnley. She could not get a divorce based on their close relationship, being first cousins, or because they married before the Papal dispensation arrived, because that would have made her son, James, illegitimate. She and Darnley could not legally separate, because then neither could remarry. And the law in Scotland then had no provision for charging a king with treason (even though he deserved it, being an accomplice in the murder of Mary's secretary, David Rizzio, and the Queen being held captive immediately thereafter by the assassins, not to mention his correspondence with France and Spain in a possible aim to grab the Scottish crown for himself. My question is this--why could Mary not have, after Darnley had attended the christening of James (which she wanted him to attend, as there would be foreign ambassadors there and it would have been awkward to not have the baby's father attend)--why could Mary not have banished Darnley back to England and let Queen Elizabeth deal with him? Elizabeth would have been within the law to charge him with treason against England, as he married Mary without her permission, which he was supposed to get, being close in blood to the throne.


Elizabeth M. said...

Also, Queen Elizabeth never recognized Darnley as King of Scots. She seemed to like house arrest as a punishment--she did this with Margaret Clifford and Catherine and Mary Grey. Could not Mary have shipped him back to England and let Elizabeth keep him under lock and key?

Bladerunner said...

Poison would have been easier. Darnley was a heavy drinker. Made to look like illness caused by such. Would of been less messy. She most not have learned much from Catherine de Medici.

Katja Stroke-Adolphe said...

Mary Queen of Scots did not necessarily murder Darnley. New information shows that it is unlikely that she participated or new of the plot to murder her husband. I found this information in "The True life of Mary Stuart Queen of Scots" by John Guy.

Foose said...

A possible reason for Mary not sending Lord Darnley to England may lie in Scottish history. Although Darnley had not been given the crown matrimonial of Scotland, he was still referred to as "King Henry" and as the "king" of Scotland would have been a very valuable pawn had he fallen into English hands.

At various times in Anglo-Scottish history, the English king obtained control of the Scots monarch (James I, Edward's candidate John Balliol) and used it to keep Scotland weak, encouraging factionalism and rebellion. Mary would not have been able to risk letting Darnley go to England, because Elizabeth's Protestant councilors would have immediately seen an opportunity to attack the legitimacy of Catholic Mary's rule, divide her nobility and obtain the perfect pretext for more aggressive meddling in Scots affairs -- all on behalf of Scotland's own recognized king.

It's true that Darnley could have been a problem for Queen Elizabeth in that he also had a good claim to the English throne. However, I think it's likely that the queen would have kept him at the same distance that she kept Mary -- isolated and under virtual house arrest until needed to browbeat Mary Queen of Scots into a more agreeable negotiating position.

You can look at the career of Jeanne of Navarre for an example. A contemporary of Elizabeth and Mary, she married Antoine de Bourbon, First Prince of the Blood (i.e., heir presumptive to the French throne should the sons of Catherine de Medici die off -- roughly analogous to Henry Darnley's position). Like Darnley, Antoine proved an unreliable consort and was utilized as a tool by Queen Catherine and others -- setting him up as the challenger to Jeanne for possession of her own throne, one who would represent the French interest (much as an exiled Darnley would support the English interest in Scotland in order to ensure his own return to kingship). Among Antoine's wilder ideas was trading Navarre to Spain for possession of Sardinia -- without the consent of his wife.

Antoine appears to have been an unreliable weakling, much as Darnley is described by many historians. He could have been a greater danger to the French throne (as leader of the Protestant party), but Queen Catherine seems to have been able to distract him from full realization of his potential and neutralize him as a threat. Darnley might have played a dangerous role in England, as a focus for discontent and thus a double-edged sword for Elizabeth, but she might also have been able to practice the same strategy as Catherine. Executing Darnley, a "king" at that point, might have put her in pretty much the same invidious position as she experienced in executing Mary. As well as politically wasteful, a thing Elizabeth abhorred.

Jeanne of Navarre did not have to resort to murder (if that indeed was Mary's solution). She was lucky in that Antoine died before he caused too much damage, and her son was then old enough to be associated with her in her rule (young Henry was also loyal to her, in which she was again lucky).