The murder of David Riccio

A painting of the murder of David Riccio
A painting of the murder of David Riccio

The relationship between Darnley and Mary deteriorated quite soon after their marriage. Darnley wanted influence in‘the crown matrimonial’ (decision-making) and Mary refused to give it to him.

Scottish nobles persuaded Darnley that David Riccio, the Queen’s Italian secretary, was too close to Mary and there were rumours of a relationship between them.

Darnley was enraged by this and the way in which Riccio was enjoying his status within the royal household. While some nobles saw him as a spy sent by the Pope, others simply wanted to create trouble between Mary and her husband.

  • Darnley’s aides, Morton, Lindsay and the Ruthvens, hatched a plot to kill Riccio
  • They hoped to postpone the meeting of Parliament at which Moray and the rebel Lords would be charged with treason and deprived of their lands.
  • In March 1566 the murderers burst into Mary’s chambers and stabbed Riccio to death.
  • The pregnant Mary looked on helplessly
  • In fear of her own life she later escaped with her husband.
  • Darnley’s dagger, the murder weapon, was found at the scene
  • Darnley admitted his involvement and Mary never forgave him for his part in the plot.