Vulgar History Podcast
There’s Something About Mary, Queen of Scots: Part Three: The Marriage Question
June 7, 2023
Hello and welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. My name is Ann Foster, and this is Part Three of Mary, Queen of Scots, so it’s kind of a series within a series. This whole season is, There’s Something About Mary, Queen of Scots. We started by looking at her grandmother, Margaret Tudor, her mother Mary de Guise, her mother-in-law, her ex-mother-in-law Catherine de’ Medici, and now we’re on Mary herself. And this is the third part of her story, and this is the point at which I’ll point out that initially when I was planning this, I thought Mary, Queen of Scots would be maybe four episodes. But here we are, three episodes in and a lot of the stuff that she’s best known for are not even on the horizon yet so, we’re just kind of sitting in this, sitting with this story. And I think, for me, just to really understand and to share this story with you as a storyteller, we really need to sit with it. There are so many people, there are so many things happening, like, to cut out anything would I think be doing a disservice to the extent of which I want to explain her story and what all happened.
So, the references for all the episodes are similar but, you know, sometimes I add a new book when there’s a new part of the story and this week is one of those times. So again, I’m using a lot of the same references that I talked about before which are all fantastic books and I really recommend you dive into them to learn more about all the sides of the story. So, Embroidering Her Truth: Mary Queen of Scots and the Language of Power by Clare Hunter, Daughters of the North: Jean Gordon and Mary Queen of Scots by Jennifer Morag Henderson, Mary Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy, Homecoming: The Scottish Years of Mary Queen of Scots by Rosemary Goring. And then this week I’m adding a new source which is the book David Rizzio and Mary, Queen of Scots: Murder at Holyrood by David Tweedie. And that’s because today we’re introducing another important character who was on the scene before, but I wanted to give him a really good introduction, so I was holding off on talking to him until now.
But just to recap, if you’re listening to this in real time then it’s been seven days since you heard Part Two. So, last time we talked about the Cock o’ the North situation, which is where Mary, Queen of Scots went to visit the North of Scotland and while she did, developed an interest in and admiration for bagpipes and, you know, plaid outfits. She also, with the encouragement of her, it turns out, piece-of-shit half-brother, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, she kind of waged war against Cock o’ the North and the Catholics up there. John Knox just wandering around being full of shit. Elizabeth I down in England was, like, keeping one eye on Mary, she also got smallpox but then got better. Mary, we talked about how she likes parties, she likes music and dancing, and that makes John Knox think she’s, like, from the devil.
And I think I probably said this before, but I do want to just underline the point that John Knox hated her before he met her, like, he hated the whole idea of her. And she showed up and he’s like, “Oh my god, she’s a whooore.” Everything she did just cemented in the fact that he knew he was going to hate her because he had to hate her because she was a Catholic monarch, she was a woman and he, the whole Scottish Reformation was still so tentative and he knew that if she gained more power, then that would be shitty for him so he kind of had to hate her. But I think it’s such bullshit. She showed up and she was working really hard to be like, “Here’s what I’m like. I think Protestants and Catholics can be cool with each other.” And John Knox is just like, “Mm sorry, sounds like slut to me,” he said as he went off, famously, to be one of the big people who paid the sex workers of Edinburgh and then married a teenager. But anyway, I just think, so much of her story is retold as, like, “She’s this passionate woman who couldn’t control her impulses.” And a lot of that is trickled down from how John Knox was writing about her, and he was full of shit.
Anyway, so, David Rizzio enters the chat. I need to talk about a man who we didn’t get into so far but who becomes incredibly important to this story and most of all is cool and chill and 100% is loyal to Mary. Some of the other people in this story, and I’m still doing this, to people who know how things end up, they know that I’m doing this, but everyone else, I’m just… Somebody comes into the story and I’m trying not to let what they did later affect how I tell you about what they were doing now because I’m trying to tell this, you know, from Mary’s point of view and who she saw, and who she trusted. And anyway, there’s not going to be a surprise twist in terms of, “Is this person a piece of shit or not?” David Rizzio is a cool guy, he’s a good guy, he was always on Mary’s side, and I am just really happy to bring that energy to this podcast series after, kind of, everyone has been, surprise, shitty to her. So, we’re going to talk about this guy. He’s going to come and meet Mary and become her, like, bestie. So, I’ll just explain who he is and what the situation is.
So, he was born in 1533 – so he’s like 10 years-ish older than Mary – in the small village of Pancalieri, 20 miles south of Turin, in the Duchy of Savoy. So, we would call this now, like, Italy. So, people called him an ‘Italian,’ but this was before Italy was a thing and, you know, it’s the same as in the Catherine de’ Medici episode, people consider these people Italians, but Italy was not one cohesive country. So, Savoy is on the other side of the peninsula from the wealthy republic of Venice, and Venice was known for running the best diplomatic core in Europe. They just, I don’t know, it was like the Washington DC of its time or the United Nations of its time. So, Venetian law stated that while ambassadors had to be rich people, their secretaries could come from a lower class, and this is where the Rizzio family fits in. His name is David Rizzio, Mary called him Davie, everyone called him Davie. So, I’m just going to call him Davie because that’s cute and it suits him.
So, the Rizzio family had a history of working in a diplomatic role, so it was, kind of like, the family business. Although his father is a music teacher, and this is probably part of where David got his skill from but also his interest and his father knew the importance of music. So, Davie studied music, he was very skilled at it, and he went off to, like, get a higher education in music composition and performance. And then later on, using family connections, he got a place working at the Court of the Duke of Savoy where he could watch and learn how royal courts worked. And this was, like, I talked about this in the Catherine de’ Medici episode, but this is like scheming is happening, this isn’t just some sort of, like, casual situation; he really got to see how this worked, how people at the highest levels of power operated.
And then in 1561 when Mary, Queen of Scots came back from France to Scotland, all the people in France were like, “What’s her deal? Who is she going to marry? And how can we get her to marry the person we want her to marry?” So, the Duke of Savoy wanted to send a diplomatic mission to Scotland on behalf of the duke just to go and see Mary and, like, kind of see what was going on. Their mission was to suggest that she marry a guy called Alfonso d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara – I haven’t even mentioned him on this podcast, and I probably won’t again because that was never really an option for her.
But anyway, this mission was being put together to go to Scotland and Davie Rizzio was like, “Can I go on this mission?” He was young, about 28 years old, and he’s just like, “I want to see the world, I want to have adventures.” And so, he got to come along, and his role was probably, sort of like, secretary/helper. There were lots of people going on this, at least a couple dozen people and he was one of those people. And Mary was like, “This is great. Welcome, the mission of the Duke of Savoy.” So, his boss de Moretta, who was the Marquis de Moretta, was in charge of this. And so, he was put up, Mary gave him a nice room to stay in at Holyroodhouse. But I think I mentioned before, last time, I can’t go into every little corner of this story but there was an overall shortage of beds in Scotland. Mary had brought over a bunch of beds with her from France but there’s still just, like, not enough beds in Scotland. But also, especially in Edinburgh where for a while, there hadn’t been a monarch on the scene and suddenly all these missions from all these places were going there. So, all the hotels or whatever, it was really hard to find a place for people to stay. So, it was very kind of her to let de Moretta stay in the Palace at Holyroodhouse but there weren’t enough beds for his whole entourage including Davie who apparently slept under his cloak on a pile of boxes and old chests somewhere in a corridor of the abbey there.
So, they went there in, kind of like, late in the year, like, in winter, and then they left before spring. So, they went there for a super long time. And Mary, obviously, was like, “Thanks but no thanks,” to marrying this rando guy you’re suggesting. But just as the group was preparing to leave, Davie – who had made friends with other people there – he heard there was a vacancy for a fourth bass singer in the newly established Chapel Royal choir. So, Mary had re-established a choir because she was Catholic, and Catholic services, the kind that she did, there was a lot of singing in them. There hadn’t been a choir for, whatever, 13 years or something because there wasn’t a queen there, the country was turning Protestant but she’s like, “I want this choir and it needs to be a big ass choir.”
And so, like, you can imagine the size of the choir in the sense… At first when I read in another book, that she needed a fourth member of– I thought it was the fourth member of a choir, so I thought she had, like, a barbershop quartet and she needed a bass. But no, she needed a fourth bass singer for a much larger choir. So, he’s like, “Oh, I’m a great singer and I’m a bass singer,” so he got his boss de Marretto to recommend him for the post, and in fact, he got the job. So, when the rest of the people from Savoy all left, Davie Rizzio stayed on because he was an adventurous person, and he kind of saw or figured out that staying in Edinburgh, there were more opportunities for him there, probably, than back in the Mediterranean.
So, singing in a Chapel Royal choir was a job, but it was not well-paying and initially, he was unable to afford better accommodations, so he continued sleeping on old chests in the back corner of a hallway. But almost immediately upon his debut in the choir Mary was like, “Who is that guy with the deep voice over there? He intrigues me.” So, she gave him a promotion of sorts. I think he stayed in the choir but then he became one of her personal valets, so sort of, like, a personal butler, part of that team. And so, his responsibilities increased. We talked last time about how giving gifts was her love language, but she was also desperately lonely and just really wanted to find a true friend who she could talk to on this diplomatic level. And she started to realize, “Oh my god, Davie Rizzio might be that person, he might be this friend I’ve been needing.” So, she showered him with gifts because that was her love language and this was part of how we know how quickly she caught his attention because inventories or the bank account statements or whatever it’s, like, a week after he started being in the choir, she gave him a money gift because she was just like, “Ooh, that guy. I like that guy.” He was provided with chambers and a bed! So, you know, moving up in the world, not sleeping on the floor in the hallway anymore.
So, his musicality was a thing that they had in common and that’s part of what drew her to him because she was very musical, she liked music, she liked dancing, and she also liked putting on these masque performances. But also, he was Italian, he was from The Continent and that reminded her of when she was in France, and it reminded her of her ex-mother-in-law, Catherine de’ Medici, and the two of them had a lot in common in, like, a fun way as well as he knew about diplomatic shit. He also loved playing cards, he loved music, obviously, he loved masque performances and because he had just come from Italy, he could advise her on the latest fashions, we know she was a fashion girly. And he also advised her on how courts were run back in Venice, where he was from.
So, just because of his various skills, he became, sort of, her party planner. So, he would arrange pageants and he would compose music for her, the songs he wrote that we know of are mostly, like, happy love songs. George Buchanan was still there, he was the one that Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart had recommended to be Mary’s instructor. So, he was kind of writing, he was like the poet in residence but then Rizzio kind of took over doing the productions and the performances. And the two of them, Davie and Buchanan, did collaborate on some of the masque performances. And Mary was honestly just drawn to him because what I’m telling you and what it seems like is he was just a stand-up guy; he could keep secrets, he was loyal to her, he could give her advice that was impartial because he was kind of an outsider. Everyone who had been in Scotland for a while was a member of one of the clans or one of the factions, but he was, kind of like, objective and loyal to just her.
So, she took him on as, kind of, her private secretary so that meant that he would take charge of her incoming letters and advise her on what to do based on what the letter said. In at least one instance, we’re pretty sure that he wrote letters for her and then she would sign them and stuff. So, they got really close, and he got a lot of responsibility because he was up to the job, and she was desperate for someone who she could actually trust. One contemporary chronicler wrote about him, “From a musician became her Secretary of State and active politic man whose counsel the Queen made use of in her greatest affairs.” And, of course, the greatest of all things that she needed to figure out and that she was happy to get someone else to advise her on was who was she going to marry.
So, the thing is she was the Queen of Scots, and she was the dowager Queen of France and ideally wanted to marry someone of equal status to herself, e.g., someone royal. But as the people in Scotland had recently seen in England, within the last decade, Mary I had married Philip of Spain and they saw what happened there which was, kind of like, Spain… he kind of took over. So, if she married somebody who was the king of somewhere else it would force Scotland into an alliance and everything got really complicated and kind of messy with that because although she’s the queen regnant – which means she’s queen in her own name not just queen because she’s married to the king – as soon as she married a man, like, the king would have more power than the queen. So, it was kind of like, “Eugh, if we’re going to choose a man who is going to take over, who is that going to be?”
So okay, what about the option of marrying not a king? Marrying a Scottish nobleman. And this was complicated in another way because there’s this precarious balance of the assholes who are each a member of these longstanding noble families and so this would raise one family above another and that could maybe affect the other asshole lords. She also wanted to, at this point, marry somebody that Elizabeth would approve of because Mary was really working every angle she could to try to get Elizabeth to name her, Mary, as Elizabeth’s heir because Elizabeth was, at this point, like, 35, had not yet married, she’d been Queen of England for like 10 years and it was starting to seem like, “Is she going to ever get married?” And if she doesn’t, like, she just had smallpox, who is going to be her heir? And Mary was like, if she can win Elizabeth over and get named as her heir that would just be good for her. But anyway, there were no royal English men available, that’s why Elizabeth was the Queen because there were no English royal men. But if Mary married an English not-royal, like, an English subject, that would be complicated because then she’d be raising one of Elizabeth’s subjects to be equal to the Queen.
So, even since before she came back to Scotland, she had been thinking about Don Carlos, who is the sickly, insane son of the Spanish King Philip. And Don Carlos does appear in the television show Reign, and we see that he seems like an okay person at first until he gets a brain injury. He’s in this dungeon with this, like, traveling sex chair he brings with him everywhere and he’s like, “I won’t marry Mary unless I know that she can really please me in this BDSM relationship that I want.” This is Reign the TV show, not the actual story. So, then Mary is like, “I don’t know if I can do that, I don’t know if I can be a dominatrix.” So, then Catherine de’ Medici comes in and then they blindfold Don Carlos, and then Catherine de’ Medici does all the dominatrix shit. But then there’s an accident, Don Carlos falls out of the sex chair, hurts his head, and then goes insane.
In real life, he was sickly and insane I think because of Hapsburg-related inbreeding, like, to the point that his father Philip II of Spain, who knew that alliances would be great, was like, “I’m going to call this off because my son is just not capable of being a husband to anyone because of all these health things.” But she was like, “I get that,” but uniting with Spain would be major for her power for everything, for the alliance that that would probably mean.
So, Mary wrote two letters toward the end of January with the help of Davie Rizzio, presumably. One was to her uncle Charlie de Guise, the Cardinal of Lorraine. And the other letter was to the Pope. She asked Charlie to intercede with the Pope on her behalf, just to tell the Pope, “Mary is such a great prize. Any Catholic monarch should want to marry her.” And then she wrote to the Pope to be like, “Heads up, Uncle Charlie is going to be writing to you. As Catholics, let’s figure this out.”
The other thing that was happening with the Don Carlos situation, besides him being insane, was that Catherine de’ Medici was getting in the way of it, actual Catherine de’ Medici. On Reign, she was very supportive of Mary. In real life, she was not because she didn’t want Mary to marry Don Carlos. So, Catherine de’ Medici’s daughter, Elisabeth of Valois, was the latest wife of Philip of Spain. So, Don Carlos was Philip’s son from his first wife, who had died. Philip later married, I’m going to call her Elisabeth de’ Medici, Catherine’s daughter. And Catherine de’ Medici just didn’t want Mary to get involved in that because she was hoping her daughter Elisabeth would have maybe the next heir to Spain. So, she really didn’t want… Like, at this point, Elisabeth, Catherine’s daughter, hadn’t had any children yet. So, anyway, Catherine de’ Medici was cockblocking this.
And then meanwhile, her de Guise uncle started negotiating without asking her, for a marriage to the Archduke Charles of Austria. My notes here just say, “Why is everyone called Charles?” Everyone is called James, Charles, George, and Janet in the story and I’ll try to give them cute nicknames so you can tell them apart, but this guy doesn’t really matter.
So, Archduke Charles of Austria, who was the third son of Ferdinand I the Holy Roman Emperor, was also one of the candidates to marry Elizabeth as well. Mary rejected him on this basis; she rejected anyone who was also considering marrying Elizabeth I think because she just didn’t want to get her hand-me-downs but also, she didn’t want to get in the way of Elizabeth by like, taking somebody maybe Elizabeth was going to marry. The de Guise uncles were like, “Even though we arranged the education of our niece so that she would be intelligent and think for herself, we don’t like that she’s thinking for herself in a way that’s not good for us.” So, they sent an emissary to convince her to do what her uncles said. Meanwhile, Catherine de’ Medici was thinking, “But who could marry Mary? Thinking about potentially mentally unstable men, how about Arran Junior?” Remember him? He’s in Scotland. He was the one that got in a fight and then was sent to jail and then was on house arrest and similar to Don Carlos; he was just not in a position to be a youthful husband to Mary at this point.
Meanwhile, John Knox, goddamn John Knox, on the prowl. He’s ready to get all the Protestants worked up should Mary marry somebody Catholic. So again, he’s not waiting for her to do shit to get mad at her, he’s like, “I think she might do shit, so I’m preemptively mad at her.” And it really reminds me, I don’t want to get controversial here, but of the way that the British tabloids write about Meghan Markle. They’re just preemptively mad about what they think she might do without actually paying attention to what she actually does. It’s a similar misogynistic thing.
Anyway, so there was a situation where he flipped out one time at Parliament and Mary called him to speak with her and she was like, “Fuck off talking about me and my marriage.” What she literally said was, “What have you yet to do with my marriage?” And he was just like, “If you marry a Catholic then the realm will be betrayed,” blah-blah-blah. Again, his whole thing was he hated her, he hated the idea of her, he hated Catholics, and he hated women. He thought that she and all Catholic women were sexy sluts who were unable to control their passion. Just a reminder that he was known to frequent the sex workers of Edinburgh and he also married a teenager who he had been friends with that person’s father and, one might say, groomed that girl. So, the fact that he’s slut-shaming Mary it’s, like, fuck off. And what’s wild about this and just really speaks to his hypocrisy, he was just like, “Mary is a crazy slut,” where all she’s done is show up in this country as a young widow and she’s trying to figure out who to marry. Meanwhile, Elizabeth I in England was actively having an affair with a married man who may have murdered his wife to be with her. So, it’s like, who’s the horny slut that we’re mad at here? But John Knox was like, “Yeah, Elizabeth is okay because she’s Protestant. Even though she’s a woman in charge, it’s okay because she’s Protestant. Even though she’s having an affair with a married man who maybe killed his wife, it’s okay because she’s Protestant.” Meanwhile, Mary, who is literally doing nothing to anybody he’s like, “Whooore.”
Meanwhile, as time went by and Mary was just getting into just understanding who she could trust and who she wanted around her and, to her credit, swapped out her half-brother, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart as her right hand man, instead choosing this other guy Maitland, AKA, the Scottish Machiavelli. She also brought Lord Ruthven, who you might recall some people thought was a warlock/necromancer, into her inner circle. You know what? Always good to have a warlock/necromancer around you.
And the matter of marriage was of prime importance to all of her advisors including, new-coming advisor, Davie Rizzio. And what he was able to offer here was because he was Catholic also, but he was also from Savoy and he knew from his diplomatic work, he knew what kind of man the Spanish King Philip or who the Duke of Savoy would want her to choose because Mary needed to choose somebody even if it wasn’t specifically the son of a specific king, somebody that would mean that these other men, these other Catholic kings would approve of it and want to work with her.
By this point, Davie Rizzio was appointed her Secretary for French Affairs, so I guess all the letters between her and Catherine de’ Medici were going through him now as well. The more power he got, so remember with Catherine de’ Medici, there was, I don’t know if it’s technically racism or xenophobia or both, or just prejudice, but people hated Italians. Remember even Catherine de’ Medici, she was like the Queen of France and people were like, “Mmm, but she’s Italian, eugh. That means she’s a gross person.” So, Davie Rizzio was dealing with this sort of xenophobia racism as well, a lot of people didn’t like him because he was Italian. A lot of people didn’t like him because he was not from Scotland, people didn’t like him because he was Catholic. So, he had enemies, and part of how much we know about him is because his enemies wrote a lot of shit about him.
He was accused by his enemies of corruption to which I say, “Who in this story was not?” In this court, at this time, it’s like, “Oh, he was taking bribes to put your letter to Mary at the front of the pile of letters? Yeah, everyone was doing shit like that.” William Cecil was doing that for Elizabeth in England. What is most important about Davie Rizzio is that he never took English money to betray Scotland’s secrets; he never betrayed Mary, which I can’t say for a lot of other people in this story. So, they just hated him, not because of his actions but because of who he was and the power that Mary was getting.
I have to tell you this also. One other unsuccessful suitor for Mary’s hand was the Swedish King, Eric XIV, AKA, when I saw this I was like, “Wait. Eric, is this this guy? Yeah.” So, numerous episodes ago, I did a super special episode about Princess Cecelia of Sweden who was the sexy Swedish princess. She had, kind of like, a 12 dancing princesses thing where she and her sisters would secretly go dance with people at night, she ran off to be a pirate. She’s the sister of this guy, of Eric. So, at one point, Cecelia and her husband were sent to England to try and get Elizabeth to marry Eric but instead of doing that she just hung out with Elizabeth in England and became besties, kind of ran a grift on her, stole some stuff from her, and then ran away to be a pirate. Anyway, this is her brother Eric. And he was one of the people who was trying to marry Elizabeth, but he was also trying to marry Mary as well. He’s also the one that when Princess Cecelia was a teenager, there was a situation where she was caught in a compromising position in her bedroom with a man and the man had his pants down and Eric was like “[gasps] Oh my god, this is the worst thing I’ve ever heard about.“ Meanwhile, he’s just this fuckboy trying to marry every queen in Europe.
Anyway, nobody in Scotland supported Eric’s suit because Sweden was also a pretty newish country. And this is a great quote, John Knox, you know I hate him, but this is a great line from him. He said about Eric, “Such a man was too base for her estate. Had she not been a great Queen of France? Fie of Sweden, what is it?“ Which, I don’t know what my next merch drop is going to be but I do love, “Sweden, what is it?” It’s a great line.
So, as much as everyone was, like, preemptively waiting for there to be a scandal– And a scandal actually did happen to Mary, not that she had anything to do with it, although John Knox would later – or I guess right at the moment – claim that she had. So, remember when she came over from France on her boat, there were two poets both called Pierre. One of them was called Pierre de Chatelard and he and Mary had always gotten along well because, remember, she loves French poetry, he’s a French poet, and he also liked dancing. And then they engaged in innocent courtly flirtation, which I think all the young people did in her court, which was one of the things John Knox was really mad about.
But then, in fact, on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, Mary was taking one of her little trips, she was on route to her home in St. Andrews so before she went to bed, her male servants would double check her room to make sure there were no men hiding in it or whatever, and this time there was. Her men found Pierre hiding under the bed’s canopies with a sword and a dagger and they were like, “What the fuck?” And Pierre was like, “Oh, it’s just, I was sleepy, and I came in here for a nap,” and they were like, “Yup, no.” So, he was banished from court, obviously, but he continued to pursue the Queen which means either he didn’t take the hint and was a deranged stalker, or he was secretly a spy who was sent there to besmirch her reputation by getting her caught up in a scandal. Either is possible, both are equally likely, I think.
So anyway, Mary went on to St. Andrews and so did Pierre, secretly following her. So, he snuck into the castle, and he burst into her chamber just as the Marys were about to prepare her for bed. So, Mary screamed so loudly everybody heard. In seconds, to his credit, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was in the room. She yelled at him to run him through with his sword right then and there. Like, “Kill this guy, fuck this. What is happening?” Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was like, “No.” And this is actually good of him because he’s like, “Because then the story would become way too scandalous, and your reputation would be ruined if he was run through with a sword right now.” Rather than kill Pierre, they had him arrested and imprisoned, then there was a really quick trial, and he was sentenced to death. For months afterward, Mary, understandably, wouldn’t sleep alone. She insisted that her bestie Mary Fleming stay with her. So, John Knox was just like, “Ha-ha! This man snuck into her room, that means she’s a whooore!” But really, that means either Pierre was unhinged, or somebody had paid him to do that to ruin her reputation and make her look slutty. One of the other things John Knox said about her was, “We call her not a whore, but she was brought up in a company of the vilest whore mongers.” So, basically calling her a whore.
So, two days after Pierre’s execution, her Uncle Frank the Duke of Guise, the one who had been like her surrogate father and helped raise her, was assassinated by a Huguenot in France, he was shot in the back. She consoled herself by riding for days on end across the fields. She has this in common with Empress Sisi, just horseback riding and athletics were, like, a way that she managed her various emotions. Not just riding a horse, she was also hawking, she was good at falconry, and she also liked hunting. Somebody wrote later that they saw her weeping, that she was all alone, and awful things kept happening to her which, yes. [laughs] Again, just her loneliness; she had the Marys there, she had Davie Rizzio, but no one was truly able to be there for her to help with this string of really weird crises.
A week later, like, after her uncle’s murder, a letter of condolences arrived from Elizabeth, which she was still sort of hoping that that could be her person, that could be her bestie who could understand her. And she made sure everybody saw and heard that she read and loved this letter so that Elizabeth would hear that Mary was so appreciative. I think she put the letter in the bodice of her dress to carry it close to her heart and she told everyone she was doing that. Meanwhile, John Knox, still full of shit. He was still, like, in ways that really echo, kind of like, contemporary conservative politicians in numerous countries, he passed an act that said that the penalty for adultery was death. Oh, hey John, what about you’re married to a teenager and you’re visiting sex workers, is that adultery? I don’t know.
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And we’re back.
Shortly after this was passed, one of Mary’s French chaplains was discovered in bed with another man’s wife and John Knox was like, “See, this is proof that Mary’s court is full of licentiousness and that speaks badly of her because this guy was in bed with this other woman,” nothing of which has to do with her. That summer, the summer after Pierre was executed, Mary went on her usual summer progress, like, she’s been in Scotland now for a couple of years and every summer she likes to travel around and see other parts of Scotland. While she was away, some mass was still being celebrated for people who were Catholic in her private chapel. She wasn’t there personally but a crowd forced its way into her private chapel while mass was being celebrated. During this altercation, the priest’s life was threatened. As a result, two of the ringleaders were scheduled for trial. John Knox was obviously on the side of these assholes; he sent out letters calling the nobles to intervene. He was just basically being like…
“Don’t be mad at these guys.” Mary saw one of these letters John Knox wrote, and she was like, “Is this not treason? Is this not a treasonable act?” So, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart and the Scottish Machiavelli asked John Knox to admit he was wrong and to settle the matter quietly. John Knox, of course, refused and was put on trial. And guess what? He defended himself like all assholes do. Mary was like, “Oh my god finally, I’ve got this guy where I want him. This fucking guy, he’s been on my ass this whole time.” Apparently, when she saw him in the courtroom, she smiled and laughed, and she was in high spirits. She said, “Yon man made me weep and shed never tear himself. I will see if I can make him weep.” But, of course, John Knox had enough friends in the group that they voted to not charge him with treason. When Mary heard that that was the result, she demanded a revote, but it came back the same. And one of the reasons why everybody voted this way was because her goddamn half-brother Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, was still mad at her for giving him less power and he’d used his influence to convince the others to vote for acquittal. And this was actually his first open act of betrayal that, like, Mary could not see as anything other than that.
And Elizabeth demanded that Mary had to marry somebody from England who supported Scotland and England not going to war with each other and Mary was like, “Okay.” There were many things she had to balance but she didn’t want Elizabeth to be mad at her, so she had to at least pretend that she was going to go along with what Elizabeth said. Elizabeth was like, “I’m just going to choose someone, and you can marry who I choose.” And Mary was like, “We’ll see!”
Through all of this stress though, Mary fell ill again, and we know that the sequence of events for her was often, she was stressed about something, that affected her appetite, which would trigger her underlying chronic illness, which is maybe porphyria, one of the symptoms of which is severe depression. So, at this point she felt ill for about two months; it was described as she was suffering from, “Diverse melancholies.” This might have been a gastric ulcer and maybe porphyria.
But as usual, she bounced back afterward, and she refocused herself on finding a husband that would still not make Elizabeth mad. So, she was like, “Okay, Elizabeth, who do you suggest? Who do you think I should marry?” And Elizabeth was like, “Okay, this is going to sound crazy, it’s a bit out of the box, but what if you marry my boyfriend, Robert Dudley,” AKA, Bobby Duds, who was the boyfriend who she was with, who was married and then he maybe killed his wife. Everyone knew that this was her favourite and maybe her boyfriend. So, this plan was categorically outrageous but wait, there’s more.
Elizabeth said her plan was that if Mary accepted Bobby Duds as her husband, Elizabeth would then officially name Mary her successor. So, to pave the way for this, she made Bobby Duds into the Earl of Leicester and furthermore… This plan was delusional. It was that Mary would live in England with them. So, Elizabeth and Bobby Duds and Mary would all live together and Elizabeth’s court with the two women like sister wives, and Elizabeth would be, like, the sugar daddy, like, paying for everything. Like, what is this plan? It is a bad plan and Mary was like, “We’ll see!” Because she couldn’t say no to Elizabeth because then she’d get in trouble. And she was honestly at this point still being like, “Can I marry Captain Insane-o Don Carlos,” but eventually Philip was just like, “Truly, no. My son, no. No one can marry him; he is not doing well.”
And into the void of who can her husband be, came a new option, Henry Stuart, AKA Lord Darnley. And we’re going to call him Darnley because that’s what everyone always calls him, and the name suits him. So, I didn’t mention this before, but Darnley had already met Mary once before. He’s like, slightly younger than her so when he was 15 and she was 18 just after the King of France had died, he had been sent by his parents to send their condolences to her to be like, “We’re so sorry the King has died,” et cetera. And this was maybe to, kind of like, get him in front of her in case in future she needed a new husband because his parents were super schemey.
So, his dad was Lennox, who I mentioned in Part One. He was the guy who wanted to marry Mary de Guise and then he was so mad when he couldn’t that he in fact left Scotland and betrayed the country to go and work with Henry VIII instead. And his wife is Margaret Douglas, and we did a whole episode about Margaret Douglas in the Women Trapped in Power season. Margaret Douglas is the daughter of Margaret Tudor, and therefore Mary, Queen of Scots’s half-aunt so this made Darnley and Mary cousins, they share a grandmother. Margaret Douglas was also very ambitious, Lennox was very ambitious, and they knew that between them, their son Darnley had a claim to maybe be the next King of England. And then Lennox was a great-grandson of Henry VII, so Darnley also had a claim to the throne from that as well. So, they were just, kind of like, “This kid, we’re going to make him be king of somewhere.” They’re just big stage-parent energy.
So, Darnley had grown up in the English royal court where, as a teen, he was briefly one of Elizabeth’s favourites because she liked handsome young men. She called him a “Long lad” because he was tall, he was 6 feet tall so, like, a similar height to Mary. He had been educated in France, was a skilled musician, a passionate huntsman, and a fine dancer which is, like, of course, Liz doesn’t just choose anyone to be a favourite, they have to be a handsome young man but also have some skills. So, his parents were like, “We think that Mary should marry him and then he can be the King and that will be the end result.” It’s like, now, I haven’t read this book but Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. But I have seen the movie and I believe in that movie, Miss Havisham raises this girl, Estella to, kind of like, revenge on her behalf against all men. So, Estella is raised to be kind of a weapon. And in a similar way, Lennox and Margaret raised Darnley to be kind of their weapon like, he was raised being told, “You should be the King and one day you’re going to be the King,” so he was just kind of rotted in that way, to begin with. Sorry, spoilers.
So, this whole thing might have come together with an assist from Bobby Duds. So, Elizabeth was just being like, “Mary and I can be sister wives of Bobby Duds and all live together and whatever.” And Bobby Duds was like, “That is not what I want out of my life.” So, he encouraged Lennox to ask Elizabeth for permission to return to Scotland. So again, Lennox had been one of the asshole Lords in Scotland but then he got mad at Mary de Guise, left Scotland, basically in exile, to go to England to work with Henry VIII against Mary de Guise. So, all his lands and titles had been taken away. So, what Bobby Duds is suggesting is, “What if Lennox asks permission to go back to Scotland to try and get to legally reclaim his territories that had been taken away?” Elizabeth was a little suspicious because she knew that he was a scheming schemer but everyone there was, so he was like, “Elizabeth, let him go.” And she’s like, “Okay, but I’m going to hold your wife Margaret Douglas as kind of a hostage.” She was put in, basically, house arrest so that if he pulled any shit, the wife would be punished, basically. But what she didn’t know was that Lennox didn’t give a shit and Margaret Douglas was willing to put up with anything to make her son be King.
Anyways, so up in Scotland the Scottish Parliament was meeting. At this point, it was being led by Maitland the Scottish Machiavelli. And Scottish Machiavelli made the motion to have Lennox’s hereditary lands and honours returned to him on the basis that Elizabeth had sent him there, and Elizabeth and Mary were friends, so they should do this as a nice thing for Elizabeth who was Mary’s friend. Anyway, this passed, and Lennox got his lands back.
I do want to mention, just because this came up when I was reading about this particular meeting of Parliament: the people of Edinburgh, everyday people, stand for Mary. They love her. If they were here today, they would be calling her “Mother,” they adored her. At one point when she was going to parliament, she was going down the Royal Mile – which is the road between the palace and parliament – people shouted at her about how she was like the goddess Diana, goddess of the hunt and she did like hunting. And sometimes in the masque parties arranged by her bestie, Davie Rizzio, she would sometimes appear as Diana in these productions. And also, that’s another point where Reign was accurate because there was a costume party, and she was dressed as Diana on that show.
Anyway, also note, this winter, just for context, 1564, there was a little ice age gripping Europe, so climate change, in which it was so cold the four days before Christmas that Mary was confined to her rooms. I guess the fire was on, the tapestries were up, she had all her duvets on. Just to add to everybody’s, kind of like, overall stress level.
Anyway, so Lennox is in Scotland, he’s getting his land back. He’s like, “Ooh, but my son has to be here to sign this paperwork,” so he asked Elizabeth, “Can my son come up here just for paperwork reasons?” And Elizabeth was like, “Okay, I guess.” So, things are coming together for this potential marriage match. And cheering this on and helping this out honestly, was Davie Rizzio, who knew what sort of man Mary probably should marry. He saw the angles that Darnley would be a good match on paper. And to their credit, Lennox had noticed how influential Rizzio was and he knew that if he got on Rizzio’s good side, that Rizzio would encourage Mary to do this. So, they bribed him to get nice things and cozied up to him and stuff like that.
So, Darnley and Mary had met earlier as teens but now they met again as, I’m going to say adults, but she was 23, he was 20, so young adult. So, they met at Wemyss Castle that February, and in a charming detail, Mary had been… She rode there from St. Andrews where she had been hanging out and doing one of her play-acting things with the Marys where they were pretending that they were little bourgeois housewives who lived simply, in a small house, away from the royal court. While she was there, she gave some speeches including one arguing in favour of female empowerment, so it’s just like a little feminist enclave, her and her friends. And it’s so interesting that Mary did this play-acting that she was, like, a normal person. We talked about Queen Charlotte did that; Marie Antoinette did that. It’s just an interesting thing. Do rich people today pretend like they’re normal also? I don’t know.
Anyway, so they met. Again, they’re both 6 feet tall. I think when you’re 6 feet tall and you meet someone else who is 6 feet tall, you’re just like, “Oh, you get it!” He was graceful, he was the long lad and they hung out for a few hours, and he showed off how he was good at hunting, and at dancing, and at music. Mary seemed polite but not over the moon about it. Some people wrote that when she met him, she fell into instantaneous lust and couldn’t forget about him, but she was just, kind of like, “Okay, okay. This is an option, fine.” Meanwhile, Elizabeth was just like, “But what about marrying Bobby Duds?” She’s just like, “Get over it, Elizabeth.”
But we do know that one month later, Mary made a significant investment in new gowns for her wardrobe of like, non-black outfits so we can see whether it’s Darnley or somebody else, she’s preparing for a new era of her life, after four years – which is how long she’d been in Scotland by now – of black outfits, this was as significant of a switch from black and white to colour in The Wizard of Oz or as Taylor Swift going from the reputation era to the lover era. So, she didn’t start wearing coloured clothes, but she was ordering fabric to make them.
So, the Don Carlos scenario was officially off the table, and then finally, Elizabeth went to Bobby Duds and was like, “Do you want to marry Mary?” And he was like, “No! You never asked me, and I don’t want that either.” So, that was off the table. So, Darnley was truly becoming the best option, it seemed like things were falling into place, that that is what she was going to choose. So, then he fell ill with maybe measles but with probably the early stages of syphilis because later his symptoms line up with that. So, he stayed at Stirling Castle and Mary personally tended to him, she spent time at his bedside, she personally brought him sweetmeats, and mopped his brow, she was personally tending to him.
So, it’s in a real thing like on Grey’s Anatomy, early Grey’s Anatomy where Katherine Heigl fell in love with the patient, she seemed to come to fall in love with him as he convalesced. So, by the time he was released from his sick room and returned to court, she was clearly in love with him or just really had a big crush on him. So, there’s going to be one other scenario later on where she tends to another sick man and I wonder if – she was so young when Francis, her first husband, fell ill and died –if she’s getting some sort of, like, trauma, PTSD-esque thing. She couldn’t save Francis, she stayed by his bed day and night and then he died, but if she stayed by Darnley’s bed day and night and he got better so it’s sort of like, is that healing that wound? I don’t know. Or if it’s something about… I don’t know. She’s just a really kind person; she likes helping people, she loves giving gifts. And anyway, him falling sick seemed to be the best thing that happened for this match because she was now all in.
Davie Rizzio was shipping this, he was like, “This is the best option.” But he cautioned her to keep negotiations open with the other suitors so nobody knew that she’d made up her mind about who would get the final rose, so to speak. It is kind of like The Bachelorette in that sense. Anyway, as per Davie Rizzio, marrying Darnley would please the King of Spain and hopefully, marrying him would be a way that with Darnley on the scene, that’s a way to get Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart off her back, like, it would truly sideline him. And just to highlight how influential Davie Rizzio was at this point, John Knox wrote, “Her council at this time was only the Earl of Lennox, the Lord Ruthven, but chiefly Davie Rizzio, the Italian, ruled all.” So, he was, like, really influential at this point, and the fact that he supported this match, which he saw was a good idea, was I think influential as well.
Now, this brings us to… There is an overall thing that shows up in a lot of Mary, Queen of Scots’ movies and some books about her, there were Darnley and Rizzio fucking which… who knows. This is all based on one passage where it was written that they lay down together in the same bed. But it’s a longer passage, and the point of it – which was written by a hater – is more saying that just, like, Rizzio went so hard for team Darnley because it was a way to get himself more power, to get the other assholes out of power. So, the insult, as it were, in this one passage isn’t about, “These two were having sex,” it’s more about how Davie Rizzio was being duplicitous. So, were they fucking? You know what? Maybe. But the one quote that a lot of people pull on for evidence about that doesn’t necessarily mean that. And if people had thought they were fucking, then maybe, I don’t know… I don’t know. I don’t want to say they weren’t. There’s also a rumour that Davie Rizzio was Mary’s lover which I feel more strongly suspecting was very not true because she, despite what John Knox was saying, Mary was very cautious to not be seen as a slut.
So anyway, this is all unfolding, all the spies in Scotland were writing back to Elizabeth, like, “Kind of looks like Mary’s going to Mary Darnley.” So, Elizabeth demanded Darnley return to England, Mary demanded he stay in Scotland. Because he was an English subject and because of his family connections that made him be somewhere in the line of succession to England, he couldn’t marry without Elizabeth’s permission. I mean, as much as we know, if you recall from the Lady Jane Grey season, it seems like no one ever got Elizabeth’s permission to marry anyone.
Anyway, so remember his mother was sort of on house arrest to make sure they didn’t pull anything shitty? Well, they did. So, this is at the point where Margaret Douglas, Darnley’s mother, was put in prison but Darnley still didn’t leave Scotland. I’m sure the mother was like, “I’m fine. Just become the King that you were meant to be.” Margaret wound up being in the tower for two years! And I’ll let you know when she’s freed up when that comes up in the story. Anyway, the reason why this marriage, aside from Darnley being a person who needed to get Elizabeth’s permission, the big threat was Catholicism. So, together, these two people could reignite the ambitions of English Catholics, which combined with Mary’s Scottish Catholic forces and those of other Catholic countries like Spain, could maybe usurp Elizabeth and put Mary in her place. So, I’m saying Elizabeth was freaking out about it but it’s, like, legitimately, this was kind of an act of war, Mary choosing to marry him.
A lot of people didn’t want this marriage to happen, like Elizabeth, obviously. The Marys were also like, “We don’t necessarily support this marriage.” But some people did support it, the Spanish King Philip did, the French boy King Charles and his mother Catherine de’ Medici, both supported it. Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart did not support the marriage because he knew it would mean he got less power. He, great insult here though, he called Darnley a “Girlish nincompoop.” And Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart and Darnley did not get along because shortly after Darnley arrived, he was shown a map of Scotland. And remember that Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was the Earl of Moray, which is this large area of northern Scotland and Darnley was like, “Ooh, what’s Moray? That seems like that’s a lot of land for one guy to have.” So, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was just like [grumbles]. He didn’t like being called out for, like, how he obviously had destroyed Cock o’ the North for his own power.
Anyway, regardless, Mary was like, “You know what? Watch me.” And she prepared to marry Darnley. She had him knighted, the Lord of Ardmanoch and the Earl of Ross in a grand investiture ceremony. So, this was meant to, sort of, consolidate support for the match among all the assholes. At the same time, 14 of his kinsmen were also knighted to get his family to support the match as well. During the ceremony, Darnley himself took an oath that he would always be true and loyal to Mary, which, not going to spoil anything for people who don’t know this story but, like, sure, Jan.
So, by now, everything was kind of coalescing in this way that Mary was getting more control and the people who had previously been manipulating her were being sidelined. So, both Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart and Maitland, the Scottish Machiavelli had lost influence and power because Mary was all about this new circle of advisors including Davie Rizzio, Lennox, Darnley’s dad. And the influence of Davie Rizzio was so well known, even Catherine de’ Medici was told about how powerful this Italian now was. So, I don’t know, she was like, “Yeah, Italians! Power. Love it.” Or not.
But anyway, we’re talking a lot about Davie Rizzio because he’s a really important part of this story, and because I think in a lot of retellings, his importance is downplayed because there’s a lot of stuff that happens. I’m doing, whatever, 12 hours of podcasting about it so I can dive into it, but some people are like, “He was her musician.” Where it’s like, he was basically acting Secretary of State, to the point that Catherine de’ Medici knew his name.
Anyway, so the marriage had not yet happened, right? So, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart petitioned Elizabeth for support to sabotage the marriage and she responded by sending him £3,000, like, money. So, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart’s plan was to kidnap Mary, Darnley, and Lennox and bring them all to London, but Mary was warned, and she escaped her pursuers along with an armed escort of 2,000 men. Everyone keeps trying to kidnap her and she is just always one step ahead and you love to see it. And honestly, the more the people were like, “Don’t do it!” that made her realize, “I really need to do it because the people that I want to be pissing off are really mad about it so that must mean it’s the right thing to do.” So just, by the way, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart and the lords asking Elizabeth for money to help kidnap Mary was literally treason.
Anyway, Mary and Darnley did in fact get married. Davie Rizzio was the event coordinator, so they got married on July 29, 1565, at the Palace Chapel at Holyrood. You know the music was amazing and Davie Rizzio himself stood by the altar wearing a cloak of black velvet brocaded with gold. Mary wore a great mourning gown of black with a great white mourning hood, not unlike what she had worn the day that her first husband Francis had been buried. It was a Catholic ceremony, Darnley apparently, kind of like, tastefully stepped outside for the Catholic bits because he was, like, not truly a committed Catholic, he was maybe Protestant-adjacent. But anyway, after the marriage happened, Mary got her ladies to help her switch out her outfit into a new outfit to unveil her new era. Mary was now wearing colours again.
So, with Davie Rizzio arranging things, you know the reception was iconic, there were three masques were performed, one of which the goddess Diana appeared, [laughs] not literally the goddess Diana, somebody dressed as her. Who knows? Davie Rizzio had connections. So, the goddess Diana was portrayed in this masque, reciting melancholy verses in Latin, complaining she was so miserable now that her handmaiden Mary was to be taken from her side by the jealous power of love. The newlyweds bought new outfits for their household with their new coat of arms on it, along with other gifts for everybody like bed linens, and jewelry. It’s a total rebrand; everything is like colours now! They’re married, I’m calling him Darnley, but his name is Henry so it’s like King Henry, Queen Mary, let’s do this, it’s a new era.
Of course, their enemies were still plotting to undermine their joint rule and destroy their power. There were rumours that Darnley was planning to murder Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, he probably was, I mean. The rumours of Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was planning to capture Darnley and his dad Lennox and send them back to England, which I think we know he was. But Davie Rizzio was on all this, he suggested that they mobilize their defenses just to get ready for inevitable civil war. In order to get nobles on their side and loyal men to fight with them, Mary released Cock o’ the North Junior from prison where he’d been ever since, what, episode two? So, Cock o’ the North Junior, his lands and honours were restored, he became the Earl of Huntly again and this got all the Gordons – all the people that Cock o’ the North originally had influence over – back on Mary’s side. In fact, she promoted Cock o’ the North Junior to her Privy Council in the seat left vacant from when she, you know, contributed to his father dying.
And then at Rizzio’s advice, Mary proclaimed Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart an outlaw, which, the irony is that Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was kind of now in the same situation where he had put Cock o’ the North Senior three years earlier. He had been an overly ambitious subject facing a charge of treason. But in this case, he was not dead and stuffed with herbs like Cock o’ the North Senior had been so, he knew he could get people on his side to fight back and thus began a civil war.
So, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart teamed up with Arran Senior, who already hated Lennox for various reasons, so he was happy to join and bring his family, the Hamiltons. Their plan was, again, to kidnap Mary, kill Darnley, and hold Mary somewhere under house arrest while he took over as king. And when I wrote that out, I was like, “This is kind of like Fuck, Marry, Kill. But not really.” That was their plan. Davie Rizzio for various reasons convinced Darnley to go with him to one of John Knox’s sermons. I think this was just to sort of, like, to show everybody, “Look, I know this civil war is happening, but Mary is still cool with Protestants, she’s cool with Catholics. She’s not a hater.” Anyway, Mary made a formal proclamation of religious tolerance.
By now, Maitland, AKA the Scottish Machiavelli had kind of peaced out. He was just kind of backing away slowly. He didn’t want to necessarily team up with Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart but he was on the outs with Mary, so he was like, “I’m just going to lay low for a while,” in true Scottish Machiavelli style. In his absence though, he was Secretary of State, so when he left someone had to take over. And that’s where I said before, like, Davie Rizzio was basically now acting Secretary of State. This was never made officially official, which is why maybe some people don’t realize how influential he was, but he was doing all the stuff the Secretary of State would be doing.
Anyway, so… civil war. Mary and Darnley, you know they’re going to serve looks. They got bespoke Met Gala-level armour outfits, kind of like when Zendaya came dressed as Joan of Arc to the Met Gala that time, I imagine. They wanted to oversee their army. So, the overall impression that Mary portrayed was kind of Boudica. She was wearing a steel bonnet on her head which is maybe a helmet, she had chainmail on under her cloak, pistols at her side, and on her belt, she had made special lady armour to fit the contours of her body. She looks amazing. You know, Elizabeth I gets a lot of shoutouts for her showing up in armour that time, but you know, Mary did it first, frankly… I think, don’t correct me, maybe I’m wrong. But Mary did it also.
And honestly, she was not just wearing this outfit, she was there with the army, she’d been with the army during the Cock o’ the North scenario as well, so she had some experience with battlefields and stuff. And honestly, she was so impressive that even John Knox was impressed with her stamina. She stayed out and about for weeks on end, he said, “The Queen’s courage increased manlike so much that she was ever with the foremost.” So, he was like, “Oh my god, she’s so good, she’s almost to the level of a man.” Which is, I guess, the highest compliment he could ever pay. One thing I read said, “Only one other woman could keep up with her.” Like, the men could, but only one other woman. I don’t know who, it didn’t say who! Who? One of the Marys? Who? Who was this icon? I don’t know.
Anyway, so while Mary was off leading armies elsewhere in her Met Gala armour, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart came to Edinburgh and he presumed, he dared to presume, that the people there would support him because he thought they all loved him but guess what? They did not, they all supported Mary because remember, they love her. In fact, the canons of Edinburgh Castle were fired upon him just as they were aimed at Archibald Douglas by Mary’s grandmother Margaret Tudor all those years ago. Edinburgh does not permit assholes and these canons can sense it and they will be aimed at you if you’re an asshole trying to get in. In fact, the people of Edinburgh rose up and forced Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart and his guys to flee.
Meanwhile, Davie Rizzio knew Mary needed support from other countries and he put into practice lessons in diplomacy he learned from his old boss de Marreto, back when he was at the court of the Duke of Savoy. So, he wrote some letters for Mary to send. She’s busy; he writes the letters, and she signs them, but they talk about what the letters are going to say. So, he wrote a letter to send to Madrid in Spain and what’s crucial about that is that it shows the Scottish civil war was already of international concern. And perhaps he was inspired by how his native land of Savoy had won freedom from French occupation when it put its trust in the Hapsburgs a few years earlier because remember, the Spanish royal family are Hapsburgs.
Now, I didn’t find any other things about this to learn more about it, but I know there are people listening from Ireland and I had to let you know that I’m not forgetting about you. Davie Rizzio also considered stirring up trouble in Ireland, where lots of people there hated England so he thought maybe they could come and help out Mary’s side in this battle. Davie Rizzio sent two Gaelic-speaking highlanders were sent over the water to track down the great Irish Chieftain, Shane O’Neill in his Ulster refuge. They wanted him to launch an onslaught on the English settlements in the names of Mary and Darnley and I picture, like… I’m familiar with a medium amount of Irish actors but I have to picture Colm Meaney, Miles O’Brien from Star Trek, as this guy, as the great Irish chieftain Shane O’Neill. And they just came to him and were like, “Hey, will you attack the English for us?” and he’s like, “Tell me less, [laughs] I’m already on it.”
So, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart issued a wordy, badly written proclamation of all of his grievances one of which was that he felt that Davie, as an Italian, was offering, “Sinister counsel on the weighty matter of Her Majesty’s marriage.” And I love that he wrote this letter and just when I was reading about it said that the Scots ignored this completely; no one gave a shit about Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart at this point, he was less than powerless. He tried to get support from Elizabeth in England again, but she refused because she wasn’t into the idea of rebels usurping a literal queen because that was kind of a bit of a slippery slope for her.
Meanwhile, Mary was getting support from the Pope, Philip in Spain was also helping out. But she kept reassuring her subjects, like, “Yes, I know that these Catholic people are supporting us but I’m not going to pull Mary I bloody Mary on you. I’m not going to make this kingdom be Catholic again, I’m still cool with Protestants.” But also, just the way that she was phrasing all this, she was making everyone see, like Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart wanted to be like, “I’m the face of Protestantism.” But she was like, “No, he’s just this fucking rebel. Please don’t follow him.” And nobody did. So, this whole thing became known as the Chaseabout Raid because Mary’s army and Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart’s army never actually faced off against each other, they were just chasing each other around for, like, months, and months, and months.
Eventually, her forces which comprised as many as 18,000 were preparing to attack his much smaller group of people and he just gave up, he ran off to England and so did all of his guys. And Elizabeth let them into England. One person that she let leave was Arran Senior who had been given this land in Châtellerault in France and he was allowed to go to France. But anyway, so they’re all gone.
So, Mary needed a new military guy to step in because of, just, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart kind of used to play that role for her and he had taken a lot of military guys with him. She’s like, “I need a really good military guy,” and she remembered her mother had recommended this guy, Bothwell, before her mother had died because Bothwell had come in in a clutch time and really helped out in a military way for her mother. And remember she had once attended a wedding fireworks party at Bothwell’s house that time when Bothwell’s sister got married. So, he had been in Paris, where he’d been living in exile because he’d been put in prison for fighting with someone but then escaped prison. Anyway, so, Bothwell was in Paris, and Mary just sent for him. She was like, “I need an army guy, I think Bothwell is the guy in this moment.” She appointed him Lieutenant Governor of the Queen’s Army and this made Darnley mad because he wanted his dad to get the job but like, fuck off Darnley.
Yeah, and so, as I had mentioned before Cock o’ the North Junior was now on her Privy Council, and Bothwell also joined the Privy Council. Scottish Machiavelli was out of town and then it turns out that somewhere during all these raids, which were basically her honeymoon period, Mary had become pregnant.
What will happen next? Maybe something good! What could go wrong? We’ll find out next time in the next chapter of There’s Something About Mary, Queen of Scots.
So yeah, just wanted to let you know, starting this month new episodes and then working backward from them, there are now transcripts available of episodes of Vulgar History, so you can get those if you go to VulgarHistory.com and just click on the episode you want the transcript for. They’re going to be on the newest ones and then working backward. So, I’m really happy to be working with Aveline Malek of The Wordary for her transcriptions.
We also have our store; the merch is now available. VulgarHistory.com/Store is where you go if you’re in the US and if you’re international, the shipping is much better if you go to VulgarHistory.RedBubble.com, we’ve got all the designs there. Beautiful artists design things. “Where Is You God Now, John Knox?” designed by Jennifer Ferguson. “Renaissance Reformation Girl Squad,” and “Goth Queen Mom Friend,” designed by Karyn Moynihan. Catherine de’ Medici’s “Flying Squadron,” designed by Jan Jupiter, as well as “La Chevalière d’Éon,” designed by January Jupiter.
And you can also support me on Patreon.com/AnnFosterWriter. So, if you pledge at least $1 a month you get early ad-free access to all episodes of Vulgar History, like, if you can’t wait to hear what happens next to Mary, you get that almost a week early, honestly. Also, if you join the Patreon for at least $5 or more a month, then you get access to my special Patreon-only spin-off podcasts. So, Vulgarpiece Theatre, where I talk with Lana Wood Johnson and Allison Epstein about costume dramas. Most recently we talked about The Woman King, and we’re going to be talking about Chevalier, the movie about Chevalier de Saint-Georges. We’re going to be… Anyway, there are lots of old episodes there about us talking about movies and then also we do those about once a month.
And I also do the spin-off podcast So This Asshole where I talk about terrible men from history. There are so many terrible men in this story. I have had a request to do this episode So This Asshole: John Knox, which I have pledged I will do if and when I get to 500 Patreon followers, I’m currently at 300-and-something. So, if you want that, join Patreon, Patreon.com/AnnFosterWriter because I will do that once I reach that goal.
Anyway, you can follow me and this podcast on Instagram @VulgarHistoryPod and on TikTok @VulgarHistory. And until next time my friends, keep your pants on and your tits out.
Vulgar History is hosted, written, and researched by Ann Foster and edited by Cristina Lumague.
Transcribed by Aveline Malek at TheWordary.com
David Rizzio and Mary, Queen of Scots: Murder at Holyrood by David Tweedie
Daughters of the North: Jean Gordon and Mary Queen of Scots by Jennifer Morag Henderson
Embroidering Her Truth: Mary Queen of Scots and the Language of Power by Clare Hunter
Homecoming: The Scottish Years of Mary Queen of Scots by Rosemary Goring
Mary Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy
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