Vulgar History Podcast
There’s Something About Mary, Queen of Scots: Part Four: The Jewelled Tortoise with Allison Epstein
June 14, 2023
Ann: Hello and welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. We’re doing this supersized series within a series about Mary, Queen of Scots. This is Part Four of There’s Something About Mary, Queen of Scots. And I have a special guest and my special guest, when I tell you who it is, you’re going to be like, “I might know what direction this story is headed” but, do you? Welcome, Allison Epstein.
Allison: Thank you for having me. I’m sorry my presence here is a spoiler in and of itself, [Ann laughs] that some silly things are going to be afoot but always happy to serve.
Ann: I just want to say also, my other special guest here is Hepburn the Cat, who is actively walking right past my microphone.
Allison: There she goes.
Ann: I think she’s just here being like… Her name is Hepburn, but she wants to disavow anyone in the story whose surname is also Hepburn, that’s nothing to do with her, she’s never been to Scotland in her life. Honestly, every time I read a story and it’s like, “Hepburn did this…” I’m just like…
Allison: Hepburn would never!
Ann: No, no exactly. Okay, so Allison you’re here on this episode. I’m working on the assumption that some people might have just joined this podcast just for this series, so maybe they’ve never heard from you before. So, can you explain who you are and what your connection is to the story of Mary, Queen of Scots?
Allison: Yes, absolutely. I am Ann’s friend who shows up sometimes, hello to the tits-out brigade if you have not heard from me before. I am a historical fiction author of two books and my first book was, sort of, adjacently about Mary, Queen of Scots. We’ll be getting into the part that I wrote about in my book later. So, I’m partly here as a Mary, Queen of Scots scheme enthusiast. I am also the author of what I refer to as a companion newsletter to the Vulgar History podcast. It’s called “Dirtbags Through the Ages,” you can find it on Substack, in which I write about men who are, usually men, who are a time; a time is had by the people I write about in my newsletter. So, that is kind of the vibe I bring on Vulgar History is, “Oh, a thing is really going to happen here,” and we’re going to get into it.
Ann: Yeah, I also like having Allison around when there’s a story with a lot of shocking twists and turns because you’re really good at reacting to shocking twists and turns.
Allison: I have an expressive voice. Also, I realized I’m the worst at plugging my own work because I did not say the name of my book which is, A Tip for the Hangman, sorry. It’s available where you buy books. My editor is screaming at me right now.
Ann: We’re going to talk about it at the end as well. We’ll have lots of time for you to plug all of your various projects. But yeah, the overlap here as well is that Allison has done two of her newsletter episodes about somebody who we’re going to be talking about today. But I explained to Allison before and I’ll tell you again, listeners, that I’m trying to tell this story the way that Mary herself would have experienced it, where she meets somebody, she doesn’t know what they’re going to be like later on, she doesn’t know what is going to happen. So, I don’t want to reveal that anybody is this way or that way until it becomes obvious to Mary herself.
One of the reasons I’m doing that is because firstly, some people, a lot of people listening don’t know this story and I don’t want to assume that you do. But also because I’ve read, and I’ll say all my sources in a minute, but I think all of them, and this is not a critique of them because I’ve been reading non-fiction books about Mary, Queen of Scots, and I don’t know how many people pick those up who don’t already know the story, but there are a lot of parts in all of these books where they’re just like, “Little did she know that this person would blah, blah, blah.” Like, the stories are really told because what happened to her later is well known to a lot of people but not to everybody so I’m really trying to– And also, when you talk about her story as though you know what’s going to happen later, it’s a way to make her sound like a dumbass to be like, “Pff well she just did this, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And it’s like, “Yeah, of course, she did this. With the information she had, that’s what she did.” But if you’re like, “But didn’t she know that [grumbles]?” It’s like, “No! She didn’t know!” [laughs]
Allison: Because she did not live in 2023 and have access to all of the books of her own life. No, she didn’t.
Ann: No, yeah. I’m coming into this recording session… Actually no, if we had recorded this last night I would have been coming in hot because I had been reading some sources that were just being like, “This is why she was a dumb-dumb. If only she had done this all this stuff wouldn’t have happened.” And it’s like, okay, I’m doing, like, an eight-part series but we’re going step-by-step through everything that happened.
So, I want to recap what we’ve talked about in previous episodes first and just to be like, the fact that she’s getting out of bed every day is remarkable at this point, let alone what’s going to happen later. So, to recap all of this, for everybody but also for Allison, I’ve sent her my notes so you know what I’ve talked about before because we’re recording this before the episodes come out so there’s a lot of characters and we need to explain them all.
So, Mary, Queen of Scots. She was born in Scotland and then her father died six days later, and then she became baby Queen of Scots. I like that she had her coronation, they were like, “Here’s your crown,” but they can’t put it on her head because she’s like…
Allison: She’s baby sized. I’d love there to be a tiny crown for baby. Because for Scotland, that would have gotten a lot of use, you would have used baby crowns fairly often.
Ann: There were like, six baby monarchs in a row, her being the sixth one, yes. So, she became Queen of Scots, and then her mother is Marie de Guise, 6-foot tall, amazing. Did what she could but the asshole lords are pervasive and everywhere, trying to make there be a Scottish Protestant Reformation. Eventually just to strengthen her position, Mary is sent to France where it’s decided that she’s going to marry the heir to the throne in France. Her mother-in-law there is Catherine de’ Medici, just growing into her own, like, power.
Anyway, so Mary goes to France, and you know what? I was thinking through her life last night and, like, the first five years of her life were kind of like, on the run, fleeing, in the middle of the night having to go somewhere. So, it’s like guess what she’s getting? Some trauma. Even if she doesn’t understand what’s happening, between ages 0 and 5, if you have to flee constantly because people are trying to kill you and kidnap you all the time, like, you’re going to absorb some of that, even if subconsciously. So, then she goes to France, and she spends the next 13 years of her life there and it’s basically great. She grows up with the French royal children, so she grows up with the boy who is going to become her husband, as well as his siblings, so she’s really close to Francis, who is the heir to the throne. And then there’s also Princess Elisabeth, she’s also really close to them. And then when she’s around 15 years old, first the king of France dies of, as I describe it, a splinter to the eye.
Allison: I did want to say, you described that in a very light-hearted and not agonizing way compared to what I think happened which was a jousting lance [Ann laughs] through the brain but, you know, trigger warning for eye stuff.
Ann: Yeah, a splinter to the eye. So, anyway, he suddenly died, nobody expected this. What they thought was going to happen was Mary would marry the heir to the throne, the King would die 20 years later or whatever, but he died suddenly because he was a dumbass who was just like, “I’m going to do jousting,” even though jousting at that point was kind of old-fashioned, and weird, and not a thing you did. He’s like, “Let’s do a Ren fair for fun,” and then he died. So then suddenly, Mary and her husband were the King and Queen of France, aged, I think, 14 and 15.
So, then she becomes Queen, she has these dirtbag uncles, the de Guise bros who are like, “This is great for us. We’re going to get so much power because our niece is the Queen,” and they do. By now, they have, sort of, infiltrated every level of French government and society and so they have a lot of power especially because she’s the Queen. And they were probably assuming, “She will be the Queen for the next 20 years.” No. Her husband dies of basically a brain tumor/ear infection, so he was always really sick in the first place then he died.
So, now she’s like 16 years old, 15-16, the widowed dowager Queen of France, and Catherine de’ Medici was like, “Oh my god, this is my chance to get these de Guise bros out of here!” So, because they’ve been trying to get too much power, Catherine de’ Medici is like, okay no, the new king is her even younger son, Charles, she’s the regent and Mary is like, “Okay, I’m kind of a queen without a country” – that’s the name of her Royal Diaries book, Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen Without a Country – anyway, shoutout to Royal Diaries fans.
Anyway, she and her uncles are like, “Okay, let’s marry her to the next king. Let’s Catherine of Aragon this up.” But Catherine de’ Medici is just like, “No, this is my chance to get the de Guise bros out of here and if their niece is no longer the Queen then they won’t have any power,” so then she doesn’t let her marry the son. So, Mary is just kind of in France being like, “What do I do? I don’t know.” No one really tells her what to do which, it’s not like, “Oh, she needs someone to tell her what to do,” but she needs helpers, she needs advisors, she’s this teenager who thought for the next 40 years of her life she would just be in France and suddenly it’s not happening.
So, then she decides her older half-brother, James Stewart, who we are calling Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, comes in and is like, “Here’s the deal. Why don’t you come back to Scotland, and I, your half-brother, can help you out?” And she’s not like, “Okay, great!” and trusts him immediately but she has to trust somebody, she has to go somewhere, and family is really important to her and she’s like, “You know what? I don’t know what else to do so I will go to Scotland.” So, she goes to Scotland which is just in the midst of the Scottish Reformation in a sort of tentative way where it could revert at any time to being Catholic again. The Reformation really hinges on the actions of John Knox, the…
Allison: Noted asshole.
Ann: What are your feelings– Oh my god, just every time I come across him in a book, I just involuntarily shake my head, I’m just like, “Eugh. Him. No.”
Allison: One side trip about John Knox that I’m sure you’ve already discussed in episodes one through three of this series.
Allison: But I’m so conflicted about John Knox because A) he is objectively the worst; I cannot stand him. And B) In the Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, Mary, Queen of Scots film, he was played by David Tennant, love of my life. So, I’m always a little bit like, “Oh, but it’s David Tennant though, what do I do?” But no, he has no redeeming qualities except one time David Tennant played him.
Ann: Yep, exactly. David Tennant and, like, 50 pounds of fake hair played him.
Allison: It’s the biggest prosthetic beard I’ve ever seen. The fact that it wasn’t in the credits as “John Knox’s beard” … Missed opportunity.
Ann: I know and also, they really should have credited that beard performer because that was half of the performance for him. Maybe it was motion capture; maybe he just had little green dots on his face, and they just inserted the beard in after, I don’t know.
Yeah, so John Knox, the worst. He’s just, like, really through force of character really made the Scottish Reformation happen because he was just apparently so persuasive at his speech giving that everyone was just like, “Yeah, let’s all be Protestant, great.” So, Mary, Queen of Scots comes over and she’s Catholic and they’re like, “Eugh.” It was not so long ago in England that Mary I came in to be a Catholic queen and she, sort of, notoriously executed a lot of Protestants so people are like, “Eugh, a queen who is named Mary, who is Catholic. How’s this going to go?” And she’s like, “No, it’s cool. I’m cool with Protestants; I’m cool with Catholics. Let’s all be chill and not have a civil war against each other,” which continues to be her approach throughout most of this story.
So, she’s like, “I’m Catholic, I can’t change that, that’s who I am. So, I’m still going to celebrate Catholic Mass myself, but the country can be Protestant, let’s all just get along.” And her half-brother is kind of encouraging this, he’s kind of like, “Yeah, that’s the approach. Let’s go with this.” The asshole lords, of whom several of them have names that we’ll get into, are upset about this, John Knox is upset about this. John Knox is coming in real hot just being like, “This 18-year-old widow, she looks like some kind of whore because she’s Catholic and obviously a whore.”
Allison: It’s real incel energy coming from John Knox.
Ann: It’s not about her. There’s nothing she could have done to make him not hate her because her very existence threatened the Reformation.
Allison: He was a Catholic, she was a woman, and she was tall. That was three strikes.
Ann: Yeah, exactly. So, she confronted him almost right away when she got to Scotland, she was like, “I need to nip this in the bud,” but he just kind of came in, [laughs] speaking of coming in hot, just impromptu suddenly started mansplaining a sermon to her to the point that she just started crying because he was so intense and scary and she realized that, like, she really couldn’t stop this guy.
So, I’m going to mention this a bunch of times probably but there’s a real… When people talk about Mary, Queen of Scots they often talk about her in comparison to Queen Elizabeth because they were both around at the same time and they were both women rulers in countries that had not previously had successful women rulers. And even at the time, this was sort of being built, like, the PR around them was kind of like, “Mary is hot-headed and passionate and leads from the heart, but Elizabeth is cool and intellectual.” And this is what people still often think of them as and compare them to each other and that all comes from John Knox. John Knox was like, “Mary is fiery and passionate.” He said all these things before she’d done anything except show up and be an 18-year-old Catholic widow. He was like, “She’s fiery, and passionate, and sexual,” and it’s like, “No, she just wears cute outfits and is Catholic.” Meanwhile, Elizabeth – and I said this in the previous episode – was the one who was actively having an affair with a married man who threw his wife down a flight of stairs.
Allison: Another man we love a lot.
Ann: Who is the passionate whore? is my question.
Allison: I mean, the answer to who the passionate whore is, it’s Robert Dudley.
Ann: Yes, yes, absolutely. And later someone else that we’ll reveal to be a dirtbag. But just the fact that John Knox was like, “No, Elizabeth she’s smart.” John Knox was like, “Women shouldn’t be rulers in general because women suck and are dumb-dumbs but Elizabeth is the exception to that, she’s actually okay because she’s basically a man.” His whole thing was, “She’s Protestant so she’s okay,” and Mary was Catholic and so she wasn’t okay. So, he’s the one who was like, “Mary is passionate, leads from the heart. Elizabeth is cool and an exception and rules like a man.” That was him who started that, and people still contrast them in that way in some of the books I’ve been reading, and I just want to be like, “That is not how I see things.”
Allison: Part of that I think is also just the Catholic-Protestant stereotypes that were going on. The Protestants were only wearing black unadorned clothing and you keep all of your emotions super close and repress everything and the Catholics are those fiery French, Italian people. It’s such a complicated web of associations. Renaissance religious racism is a very odd topic.
Ann: Absolutely, for sure. We’re going to get into that because last time we were talking about how onto the scene came Davie Rizzio who came as part of a diplomatic envoy group but then he was kind of like, “I feel like my chances might be better to improve my lot if I stay in Scotland.” He heard rumours that there was an opening in Mary’s new supersized Chapel choir; they needed a fourth bass. Turns out, David Rizzio has a gorgeous bass voice, and he gets the gig. And then Mary is like, “Who is that guy with the gorgeous bass voice?” And she starts hanging out with him, playing cards, which is one of her hobbies, going horseback riding and stuff, and she realizes that he grew up in the diplomatic corps and is really smart and useful. So, she takes him on, and she gives him increasing amounts of jobs, basically. He gets a bed. When he first arrived, he had to sleep on a cabinet or something, a chest of drawers.
There’s a real bed shortage, I have to say, this comes up every now and then in various books, but Mary came to Scotland with, like, 100 beds and that’s like, 100 more beds than Scotland had at that point, apparently.
Allison: You think that’s why John Knox was so suspicious about her romantic intentions because she was trying to shoehorn the “Only one-bed” trope in the Scottish court?
Ann: [laughs] She just brought over these beds, and everyone had to share the beds. And we’re going to talk about that in a minute, who did Rizzio share a bed with? But anyway, so there’s a bed shortage but then he got a bedroom, and he started doing great, but people are suspicious of him because he was Italian and Catholic and they’re all like, “That must mean he’s up to no good.” And it’s like, “No.” Maybe but who is up to no good? Every Protestant person at the royal court who are all constantly betraying and, like, cutting each other’s arms off and whatever. This is a brutal situation.
Oh yeah, so I didn’t mention… She came to Scotland, and she went on a little trip up north to visit, as I’ve recently learned, my people, the Highlanders. She was a big fan of them, she bought some plaid fabric, and she started incorporating bagpipes into her music parties. She’s really enjoying it, as many tourists do. But then while she’s up there, her brother – who I have at this point in the podcast revealed was a piece of shit – really wanted power and land so he turned Mary against this guy George Gordon, AKA Cock o’ the North. Allison, thoughts on the name, Cock o’ the North?
Allison: Was delighted to see this in your notes. Really regret that we currently don’t give people nicknames like that. You may refer to me as Cock o’ the North if you’d like to.
Ann: Yeah. Cock o’ Chicago is what we’ll call you. [laughs]
Allison: [laughs] COC, we love it.
Ann: Yeah, so Cock o’ the North, who was a really, really powerful Catholic landowner and he had, like, 20,000 men at the drop of a hat who would follow him, and he was like, “Mary, if you want, I can bring these 20,000 men, we can make Scotland Catholic again. Say the word.” But Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart wanted his land and didn’t want the country to be Catholic, so he manipulated Mary into basically starting a civil war against Cock o’ the North, who ended up losing this battle. One of his sons was executed, his other son was put in jail and Cock o’ the North was going to go to jail but then he had a heart attack and died on his horse. Seven months later his embalmed body was stood up in a coffin and taken to Parliament and put on trial. Guess what? He couldn’t defend himself, being a corpse, and he was found guilty of treason.
Allison: You know, that tends to happen when you put the corpse on trial for treason is they’re usually found guilty of treason.
Ann: Yeah, he really couldn’t mount a good defense at all, being dead. Anyway, so the result of that was that Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart now became the Earl of Moray which in Scotland is pronounced “Murray” and in a lot of books, they refer to him as just that, Moray, as his name but I call him Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart. That happened… Rizzio came on the scene, but people were really racist against him. Anyway, everyone is scheming, schemes are flying.
Mary realizes she has to get married. She’s been in Scotland now for, I think, three to four years. She has not gotten married yet, it’s not like she came there and she’s all like, “I’m such a passionate, sexual person, ahhh. I can’t control myself.” No. It was really important who her husband was going to be; lots of people, lots of ideas. I like this part where Elizabeth was like, “If you marry who I tell you then I’ll make you heir to the throne.” And that was the whole thing Mary wanted. Her whole life story really is that she wanted to be named heir to the throne to Elizabeth because that would give her more power over the asshole lords, basically, if she was considered the heir to the throne of England. And she was Elizabeth’s preferred candidate to be heir to the throne because the other options were like, the Grey sisters who were just busy having super-secret marriages, and getting pregnant while in jail with their husbands. Elizabeth was just like, “Not them.” I guess the other option is what, like, Ferdinando, but he was Catholic also.
Allison: He was busy with his acrobats so there was no time.
Ann: [laughs] Ferdinando AKA Lord Strange is busy with Lord Strange’s Tumblers, which is a thing that he had, a group of acrobats, yes. Anyway, but Elizabeth was like, “I can’t just name her heir to the throne just like that,” so she’s like, “I need to manipulate him.” Elizabeth, by the way, is working with William Cecil who comes out in this story in my understanding, now. In the Cate Blanchett movie, he’s played by Sir Richard Attenborough from Jurassic Park. So, that’s who I’m picturing, this little Santa Claus-like guy with a twinkle in his eye but who is actually the smartest person in this whole story, I will give him that.
Allison: He’s scheming like no one’s business, yeah.
Ann: He’s like 20 steps ahead and those 20 steps all happen because he knows exactly how everyone else is going to react, how everyone’s going to act. Elizabeth did very well for herself as queen and that’s largely because she had him on her side and he knew what to do. Mary did not have him and that’s part of where she was struggling. Anyway, Elizabeth was like, “You should marry who I choose. I choose my own boyfriend, Robert Dudley,” AKA Bobby Duds.
Allison: Which is a thing I feel like history does not talk enough about is the time that Queen Elizabeth tried to get her boyfriend and Mary, Queen of Scots to form, like, a throuple.
Ann: Yeah. Which literally is it. The letters are like, “Here’s what’s going to happen: you marry my boyfriend, come down here, and we’ll all live together.” Elizabeth will bankroll their whole life. She’s like, “You and I will live like sisters.” And I’m like, “Sister wives? Are you proposing sister wives?”
Allison: I’ve read that fan fic in multiple fandoms; I know how this works.
Ann: Yeah, so Mary, Queen of Scots is like, “Mmm, I’ll think about it.” But then eventually Bobby Duds himself is like, “Wait, no one asked me, and I don’t want this.” So, he shoots that down. Anyway, meanwhile, in a series of various weird reasons, there’s this guy called Lennox who used to be in love with Mary de Guise but then she turned him down so then he was like, “Screw you!” and then he fled to England and teamed up with Henry VIII against her which meant that he had to forfeit all his lands and properties in Scotland.
Allison: To clarify, not right now he went off with Henry VIII. Henry VIII is dead.
Ann: Oh no, sorry. Yeah, this is like, 18 years ago. Yeah, so Lennox, historically, this is what he did. So, he’s been in England for the last 18 years. Because he helped Henry VIII, Henry VIII let him marry his niece, who is Lady Margaret Douglas – who I did an episode about in the Ladies Trapped in Towers season – and they have a son, and their son is called Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. And they raise him – I say this in the episode as well, but I’ll say it here again because I know you have feelings about Charles Dickens. I have not read Great Expectations, but I’ve seen the movie and as I understand it, Miss Havisham raises Estella from birth to be a weapon to avenge the wrongs of men against her or something like that.
Allison: Yeah, like, “I was left at the altar therefore I will raise this small child who I found to hate men so much on my behalf.” Yeah.
Ann: Yeah, so basically, it’s like that with Lennox and Lady Margaret Douglas and Darnley except they raise him from an early age to become the next king. Like, they raise him they’re like, “Here’s what we’re going to do. Usurp power and you’re going to be the king.” And he was raised from an early age to be like that. Now, does that explain everything about his personality? No. But that explains some of his personality. So, he was – I’m going to use the word, I’m so sorry – groomed, I think it’s appropriate in this circumstance to think of himself as literally brought up this way.
Allison: Politically groomed.
Ann: Politically, politically groomed. Yes. Anyway, so then Lennox tricks Elizabeth into letting him up to Scotland, Mary is like, “Oh, this is great.” And then Darnley shows up in Scotland as well. So, through Lady Margaret Douglas, Darnley has a claim to the throne of England because his mother was Henry VIII’s niece. And then his father was also descended from one of the previous kings of England, so he’s got, like, double claim. And Mary has a claim to the throne of England because her grandmother was Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister. Darnley’s grandmother was also Margaret Tudor, they are in fact cousins through different lines. Anyway, the two of them together is, like, a real threat to Elizabeth and if they have a child, that child will have like, I don’t know, five times the claim to the throne of England as anyone else. So, she’s like, “You know what? Politically, this just makes sense.” And in a happy coincidence, Darnley, who is, like, roughly her age, I think he’s like 20 and she’s 23, Elizabeth described him as “A long lad.”
Allison: Which I love.
Ann: Which means, he’s tall. He is a long lad. So, Mary, Queen of Scots is around 6 feet tall, and Darnley is, like, 6 foot to 6 foot-3. These are not the heights of very many people around them for, like, nutrition-based reasons. So, I think to Mary, just being a tall person who likes to wear heels, as I’ve discovered, she’s just like, “Oh my god I’ve never dreamed I could marry someone who is my same height.” And he’s also apparently super hot. Everyone wrote about his face, facially he’s just really, really, really, really good looking. Some people say that as soon as Mary saw him, she fell in love immediately in instant lust. I would like to debunk that because that record comes from a thing written after the fact by Darnley’s father.
Allison: Not an impartial man. [laughs]
Ann: He was not there at the time. Anyway, so Mary, it’s not like she was head over heels in love with Darnley, but she was just like, “This makes sense, he’s kind of hot, that’s a bonus.” So, we ended last time with, she married Darnley. So, a lot of people were upset about that because they knew that he was Catholic although he wasn’t really religious, he was, kind of, religion fluid; he could go whatever way, he wasn’t really committed to one thing or another.
Allison: Which really makes him a great political match for Mary at this point who is actively trying not to have a civil war. She’s not pulling in a John Knox-level intense man.
Ann: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Allison: “He’s hot, he’s just here to have a good time, he really makes my family tree very effective, also I can see his face without bending down.”
Ann: Yeah. So, in terms of the on paper, this is like a great match for her, and they get a dispensation from the Pope because they’re first cousins and then they get married and that’s where we ended last time.
So, I just want to take a pause at this point to mention all of my references because there are so many books written about Mary, Queen of Scots and I really appreciate the ones that I’ve been referring to which are mostly quite recent, which I appreciate also because they bring in the latest scholarship but also they come from a point of view that is less like, “Look at this dumb-dumb,” and more just kind of like, “Let’s treat her kindly.”
So, I’m going to list the titles. Some of the titles might spoil future events, so skip ahead 30 seconds if you really don’t know this story and you really don’t want to be spoiled. So, Daughters of the North: Jean Gordon and Mary, Queen of Scots by Jennifer Morag Henderson, David Rizzio and Mary, Queen of Scots: Murder at Holyrood by David Tweedie, Embroidering Her Truth: Mary, Queen of Scots and the Language of Power by Clare Hunter, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir, Mary, Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy, and also Rizzio: A Novella by Denise Mina.
So, the novella Rizzio by Denise Mina, I read it a while ago, like, not in this season, just as an enthusiast about Mary, Queen of Scots’s life and when I re-read it now in the sense of research, there’s some stuff in that novella where I was like, it’s really, really well researched. And some stuff from that I’m like, “Well, obviously she made up that part.” And then in one of the biographies, I’m like, “Oh no, that was true.” So, there are a couple of passages in this episode in my notes that I’m going to read because Denis Mina honestly explains some stuff the best way that I was able to understand it, the layout of some rooms for instance, she really explains it well.
Anyway, so at this point Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart has fled to England because after Mary married Darnley Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart raised an army against her and he was like, “We’re all in this, right? Everyone hates this right?” But in fact, no. [laughs] He went to Edinburgh expecting the people of Edinburgh would take his side and they did not because Mary, Queen of Scots was, like, and I do want to emphasize, at this point, so popular among the common people. In a Princess Diana-esque way, she really connected with the everyday people. She took all these progresses, every summer she would travel around the country; she liked to meet people and she was so charming and lovely, and gift-giving was her love language. Everyone really liked her except for the people who, for religious reasons, had to hate her. So basically, everyone is just happy, they’re happy that their glamorous beautiful young queen, this young widow, has a new husband, and there’s this new sexy marriage happening. Everyone’s happy about it.
Allison: Also, it’s not entirely just that she’s charming and beautiful, she’s also really good at this politically. She’s raised by Catherine de’ Medici and the de Guises; she’s not just spawning around having a lovely time. She’s like, “Okay, these people need to like me because I’m in a dangerous position here, let me make sure the people are on my side here.” And I don’t think she always gets enough credit for like… she doesn’t just stumble into popularity; she’s working for that.
Ann: Oh, great point, great point Allison. And yes, for sure, absolutely. That’s the other thing too, our other frequent podcast co-host, Lana Wood Johnson, said repeatedly, there’s this narrative around Mary, Queen of Scots that she’s this victim, that all these things just happened to her, she was helplessly watching it all happen. But it’s like, no, what you just said, she was raised by Catherine de’ Medici and the de Guises, she is so canny, and so clever, and so smart. And yeah, that’s what I really want in these episodes to look at who she was and what she was doing versus this general understanding of her as a person that stuff happened around and she was naïve and being like, “What? You did what?”
Allison: She’s making every single thing happen that happens.
Ann: No, exactly. Exactly. And that’s where, when she chooses to ally with a person it’s not because she’s just like a silly woman who is like, “Oh, you’re handsome,” she really weighs out the pros and cons. And also, knowing how many enemies she has, she needs to figure out, “Who is going to be on my side in this?” She knows she has to ally with somebody, and she really makes those choices actively. But yeah, you’re right, the whole thing where the everyday people love her is very much something that she cultivates and that she knows, and that’s part of why she’s able to defeat her brother in what’s called the Chaseabout Raids; she had an army and he had an army and they never actually met each other in battle, they were always just chasing each other.
Allison: A real Benny Hill scenario, I love it.
Ann: [Sings soundtrack of Benny Hill] Is the soundtrack of it, but on bagpipes. Anyway, so the Chaseabout Raids happened. And one of the reasons why she defeated him is because he went to Edinburgh thinking the people there would be on his side but in fact, they were all on her side. Like you just said, she knew that was going to be helpful and that was a situation in which that came in clutch, the people of Edinburgh were like, “No thanks bro, we’re not on your side. We like her actually.”
Allison: Also, the people of Edinburgh really love a 6-foot-tall lady who takes charge of things. Good for them.
Ann: Yup, who wears amazing outfits that I’m about to talk about. So, in fact, her new era had begun. So, ever since her first husband Francis died, she had been wearing black and white only, both for like, mourning reasons but also probably because that kind of helped her be, it’s like her business outfit when she’s doing her official Queen work, she’s like, “I wear black all the time and hopefully that will make these Protestants take me more seriously.” Oh, and I didn’t mention, she has four best friends all called Mary, the four Marys. And they would walk around wearing their black and white French outfits and just look so stunning and everyone is just like, “What is this fashion moment happening?” Iconic.
Anyway, then she got married. So, before she married Darnley, she, we know… So, that one book I mentioned, Embroidering Her Truth: Mary Queen of Scots and the Language of Power by Clare Hunter, so it’s a book… And a lot of what Clare Hunter was looking at was these records of who bought what and when and it’s an angle that no one’s really done with Mary, Queen of Scots before where, it’s like, if you look at when she bought what fabrics, you can really see what she was planning and what she was thinking. Before she married Darnley, she ordered so many bright-coloured patterned fabrics. So, you know she’s planning a new era, it’s very Taylor Swift of her, frankly.
Allison: Also, I love that she’s trying to coordinate her outfits with him because Darnley was notoriously really good at getting himself dressed in the morning. They both looked fantastic.
Ann: Exactly, exactly. So, she’s like, “Our outfits are going to play off each other, there’s going to be colours.” Her wardrobe was later inventoried so we learned that she had all different… So, she had her own outfits for, like, daily life, but she also liked a masque party, she liked a disguise, she liked a costume. I’m going to talk about that in much detail in a second. So, when her wardrobe was later inventoried, her tickle trunk of costumes, we learned that she had feathers of different colours, fringed masquing costumes, headdresses of silver, red, and yellow, and “Egyptian hats.”
So, the royal court, like, refocused on parties, tournaments, and having a great time. It’s like, “We have a young, sexy married couple, she’s out of mourning. Let’s have colours.“ And this is all overseen by party planner/unofficial Secretary of State Davie Rizzio who is bringing his Italian/French know-how to have these amazing parties, nothing like Edinburgh has ever seen before. Mary also loved wearing disguises, frankly, disguises.
So, days before her marriage to Darnley, for instance, she and her four Marys caused something of a scandal when they put on their, like… So, they had a hobby where they liked to dress like peasant women [laughs] and make marmalade. So, they like to play-act being normal people, it’s a very proto-Marie Antoinette vibe. Anyway, so before her marriage to Darnley, they put on their peasant women disguises and they went around town gathering money for a banquet, like, begging basically, not saying who they were, pretending they were just women and one of them was getting married. And this tradition, I don’t know if this happened before, or if Mary caused this tradition, where brides-to-be, accompanied by their gal pals, in a kind of hen party sort of thing, they take to the streets at night banging saucepans, demanding money from passing men.
Allison: That’s delightful.
Ann: Yeah, so she just wanted to take part in this thing, but people are like [laughs] “She’s 6 feet tall. We know what the Queen looks like because she comes to meet us a lot.”
Actually, I want to say something else, so if you look at any portrait of her, her hair is always pulled back in portraits, but you can see the first couple inches of her hair and it’s, like, very curly. I was looking up The Hairtress, I forget what it is. I think she’s like a 3C hair curl type pattern, it’s really, really, really… like, Kerri Russell on Felicity is her hair texture, it seems like. But one of her Marys was responsible for doing her hair and it’s described relentlessly as ‘crimping,’ whatever is done to her hair. So, was her hair actually curly or did they have some sort of, like, Renaissance-era crimping iron?
Allison: I hope they had Renaissance-era crimping irons. I mean, we’re getting close to the 1590s, like, the 1990s, could be the same.
Ann: Yeah. So, she had a very distinctive-looking, Kerri Russell in Felicity, hair.
Anyway, I previously discussed this, so when she went horseback riding – and she learned this from Catherine de’ Medici – she would wear trousers inside of her skirt so that she could ride the horse astride.
Allison: Another very 1990s look, really.
Ann: [chuckles] Pants under skirt? Yeah, for sure. And part of the reason she did that too is because she was so tall. Her skirt would ride up when she was on the horse anyway, so the pants would cover her legs. But also, she enjoyed putting on men’s clothes, for funsies. So, before her Darnley marriage, she would just walk – and I think potentially after, I can’t imagine why she would stop – she and Darnley, she’d put on her men’s clothes, he was wearing the men’s clothes he was already wearing, and they would walk around the streets of Stirling being like, “Hello, fellow men.” Yeah, so she would dress as a man with Darnley on more than one occasion to walk around town. She also liked crossdressing, that’s what I’m going to say. She liked all different kinds of clothes and some of the clothes she liked were ones generally worn by men.
Allison: You can check off ‘Pants’ on the Bingo card.
Ann: You can cross off ‘pants’ on your Bingo card. But also, I haven’t read anything that’s talking about Mary, Queen of Scots and gender identity but I’m going to say it, she is not adhering to a gender binary, she’s just not. She just, sometimes she wears pants, sometimes she wears a dress and it’s a culture where only men wear pants and she routinely was known for enjoying wearing pants sometimes so, I think that’s interesting.
Allison: And good for her.
Ann: Yeah. And she also appeared in trousers at a farewell masque given in honour of the French ambassador in 1566, she and the Marys all did, and this caused quite a stir. So, the fact that she, you know, was known for wearing pants is just, I think, really… We talk about on this podcast ‘The pants moments’ but often that’s people who have to put on pants to disguise, to run away. But she was just like, “Hey, it’s a pants day. I’m just wearing my pants today.” So, I don’t know if that’s a gender thing or if that’s just like, a fashion thing but she’s just like, “That’s what’s going on,” which I love in the sense of John Knox, and not necessarily just for gender reasons did this horrify John Knox, but he saw any wearing of disguises as, “Unnatural and immoral, a rejection of the human form bestowed by God.” And she just really liked wearing disguises all the time. It’s sort of like, I don’t know, the high fashion way that she lived her life, it’s maybe in modern terms like a Lady Gaga-esque thing where she’s just like, “Today I’m going to wear this. And tomorrow I’m going to look like a milkmaid and the next day…” She’s just kind of expressing herself through what she wore.
Allison: She’s having fun with it and she’s not letting anybody tell her what she can and can’t do.
Ann: Exactly, exactly. So, at Scottish court as well, I just want to point out, men would also crossdress for fun sometimes at parties, including Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart on at least one occasion. She also put on all these masque performances that Davie Rizzio would help her write and she would perform roles in those things, and she would wear costumes for those. She just liked a costume moment.
So, I wanted to bring up homosexuality for a moment because we’re talking about cross-dressing anyway. So, at this point, men were sleeping with each other and that was just kind of a thing that was happening and if it was rich, noble guys it’s just kind of like, you hand wave it away, basically. Legally speaking, “sodomy” was a sin but it’s also it’s just, kind of like, don’t worry about it if it’s two rich dudes.
Allison: Yeah, it’s a very weird way they thought about homosexuality in the Renaissance which is that they didn’t think of it… There was no such thing as sexual orientation in the Renaissance, you weren’t straight or gay. They legislated the acts and not the identity so it was, like, sodomy itself is a thing a person can do and that is illegal so don’t get caught but the rich can get away with anything, basically. But it wasn’t like, “This person is queer, as an entity.” That wasn’t an idea that they really had.
Ann: Exactly, so there is this ongoing, sort of, theory that Davie Rizzio was maybe sleeping with Darnley and that’s because there was, I have it somewhere in my notes, but basically, Davie Rizzio was very unpopular among the haters, people who were racist against Italians, people who hated Catholics, people who didn’t like how much power this outsider was getting. And one guy wrote like, “He’s overly ambitious,” and whatever. So, he wrote a paragraph being like, “Davie Rizzio, he’s sucking up to Darnley, it’s so gross,” and he mentions in this paragraph, “and they share the same bed.” But this paragraph, written by a hater of Rizzio, the point of this isn’t that they’re fucking, the point of this paragraph is, he’s scheming, he’s overly ambitious. That’s the insult.
Allison: Right, because we have that thing still in, like, modern-day like, “Oh, they’re in bed with somebody else. You’re in bed with corporate interest,” we still stay that. It doesn’t necessarily mean the literal thing and also, we’ve already established that there were not enough beds in this palace so… [laughs]
Ann: There were not, there were not. Davie Rizzio had only recently moved up from sleeping on, like, a sideways chest of drawers. So, that’s what I wanted to point out, that one thing, that’s the only thing that hints at the relationship between Rizzio and Darnley is like, “They were in bed together,” but that has been extrapolated to mean, maybe they were lovers which is, like, maybe they were but I don’t know… I do not know. I wanted to nod toward, that was a rumour that people had. Not helping with these rumours, there’s also a rumour that Davie Rizzio was the lover of Mary. And a lot of this is just like, Davie Rizzio is an Italian and everyone is like, “He’s a horndog Catholic, he has to be fucking somebody, and these are the two people we see him with.”
But okay, so even early on in her pregnancy, so Mary got pregnant probably during the Chaseabout Raids, when she and Darnley were out in their, like, bespoke armour that they had had made. Anyway, she was pregnant, and she was staying up late at night with Davie Rizzio playing cards and playing music, and having a nice time with her new friend who was loyal to her and liked her. But why was she avoiding her husband who she was just newly married to? Allison, I’m here to reveal that Darnley was… a piece of shit.
Allison: The worst! The worst. I have been sitting on my hands for 45 minutes now not to yell about how Darnley is the worst human being ever born.
Ann: I’m going to read a quote from this book, Mary, Queen of Scots’ Downfall: The Life and Murder of Henry, Lord Darnley. I forgot to say this as one of my sources but that’s another spoiler title. So, this is [laughs] okay:
Despite his careful education, he lacked common sense. Unable to hold his tongue he revealed everything he was told to his friends and servants, who themselves were not always discrete. He was arrogant, idle, and when thwarted could be petulant and uncouth with a violent temper. He was tactless and failed to keep his word. He was also selfish, vain, and extravagant, spending substantial sums on food and clothing. He was often drunk and was openly homosexual. Knox wrote that he, “Passed his time hunting and hawking and other such pleasures as were agreeable to his appetites having in his company gentlemen willing to satisfy his will and affections.”
In his history of James VI, Melville recorded that Darnley was much addicted to base and unmanly pleasures. In February of 1566, when Mary was pregnant, someone wrote to Cecil of a matter that had taken place too disgraceful to be named in a letter. Such practices were very much the vogue among pleasure-loving males associated with the French court. One of many adverse comments described him as “Mentally and morally weak and his imbecility was conjoined with reckless courage and fatal obstinacy. It is not difficult to understand why he alienated most of those with whom he came in contact.” Sir James Melville summarized him as being, “Haughty, proud, and so very weak in mind as to be a prey to all those that came about him.” He went on, “He was in constant credulous and facile, unable to abide by any resolutions capable to be imposed upon by designing men and could conceal no secret, let it be either to his own welfare or detriment.”
Allison: So, we’re not editorializing here to say that he was the worst. Literally, nobody liked this man. There’s a lot to unpack in all of the things that you just read about him and I will just get up on my tiny Darnley soapbox to say that all of his detractors like to throw in, “And also he was gay,” as, like, an equally upsetting thing to he was dumb, and he spent a lot of money, and he was a bad person because that’s the time period we’re in, that’s another automatic negative against him. I do not hate Darnley because he was gay. I hate him and he was gay. Those are two things. I would love history to be able to separate those two things better than it currently does but he truly had no redeeming qualities as a person just in a deeply modern way he sucked, he’s just the definition of a fuckboy. It’s so pedestrian the way that he’s awful that it makes me hate him more. He wasn’t doing clever schemes or trying to go behind her back and work with, like, Elizabeth or with the Dutch or someone, trying to get an army to get power, he was just… Did you see the latest Knives Out movie, Ann?
Allison: When Benoit Blanc gets to the end of the movie and he’s just like, “It’s so dumb!! It’s just dumb.” That’s how I feel about Darnley. He’s doing all of these things and they’re so stupid.
Ann: Yeah, and I think he thought he was very clever and smart.
Allison: Yes, absolutely. He absolutely… Well, he had been raised since the moment he was born, “You’re the smartest, handsomest, tallest long boy we’ve ever seen, and you’re destined to be the king of everything,” and he did not have the moral fiber to, like… You’d have to be really careful raising yourself not to become an asshole and he just didn’t have the strength of character to push back against… He had nothing going.
Ann: And so, when Mary was deciding to marry him, I think there were some people who were like, “Oh you shouldn’t marry him,” and some people were like, “Oh, maybe you should.” I think one of her de Guise uncles was like, “I’ve heard this guy is kind of an asshole.” But the thing to her is that on paper, marrying him was so good for her politically because of who he was and what he represented. And who could have known what an absolute nightmare of a person he was? It’s very much Joffrey in Game of Thrones vibes as well where it’s just, kind of like, this is an irredeemably shitty person, there’s nothing there that’s not shitty.
Allison: And an incredible political connection. On paper this is the ideal match; I would look at this written down and be like, “Yeah, Mary, right choice, for sure. This guy, your kid, going to take over Europe, for sure.” And then you sit down and listen to him talk for five minutes and you’re like, “Oh, I’ve made a terrible mistake.”
Ann: Yeah so, this is where some of the Mary haters egged on by people at the time who hated her and wrote records of things, they’re like, “She was so in lust with him she didn’t realize she was an asshole.” Where it’s like, not to his credit, but I think he would hold off showing how much of an asshole he was until he had sealed the deal. I don’t think that was apparent immediately. And people are like, “She was so carried away by lust for him.” And it’s like, politically, she was like, “This is the guy I’m going to marry,” but also there was the thing early on where he fell ill and she kind of nursed him back to health. And I talked about this in the last episode where I think she came out of that situation, like, she was hands-on nursing him when he was ill and she came out of that really determined to marry him and I think there’s some unresolved trauma from how she watched her first husband die in bed and then there’s this guy she’s able to nurse back to health so I think there’s some sort of unsolved… What is it? Like, mother wound.
Anyway, so she married this guy and he’s a piece of shit. She’s like, whatever, two months pregnant and she’s like, “Oh, okay we’re going to live separate lives and I will never sleep with him again; this is a nightmare person.” So, he was drinking a lot, he went to brothels all the time, he acted abusive and aggressively to her, in front of other people, the Queen. So, Maitland, the Scottish Machiavelli, wrote, “It is heartbreak for her to think he should be her husband.” Even the assholes around her were just like, “We feel kind of bad for her. [laughs] This is bad.”
Allison: If you look at portraits of Mary and Darnley in this period of their marriage, [Ann laughs] right before the birth of their child, you can just see, it’s the most clear depiction of two people who hate each other that you’ve ever seen in your life. She, like, barely will put her hand on his hand in these portraits. You can tell, she’s just sitting there like, “Can I leave yet?”
Ann: She’s inching away. It’s like she’s leaning away from him in portraiture.
Ann: Yeah, the portrait painter would be like, “Can you guys scooch closer?” and she’s like, “No.” [laughs]
Allison: Nope. Can’t. [laughs]
Ann: The English ambassador wrote, “I know for certain that the Queen repents her marriage, that she hates Darnley and all his kin.” He would disappear for weeks on end, drinking and carousing, which was a problem because he was her husband and they were the King and Queen and when official documents had to be signed, he had to put his seal on them and so, just everything came to a standstill because he wasn’t there, he couldn’t counterseal the documents. None of her orders had any authority without his seal added. So, he’s off on a drinking binge or a hunting expedition, like, government had to stop. So, Mary, clever girl, had a copy of his seal made and gave it to Davie Rizzio so that they could do the paperwork without him.
Allison: Which the people who hated the Italians loved.
Ann: Yeah. Because it’s just like, now he’s acting as the king. Anyway, so yeah, just to remind you of some things. So, she’s pregnant, it was 16th century Edinburgh, and she had some sort of lifelong chronic illness, porphyria, or whatever. Everyone around her was scheming against her constantly and Darnley was like, “But why won’t you have sex with me anymore?”
Allison: Also, Darnley is in at least second stage syphilis at this point so she probably shouldn’t have sex with him. He is not an ideal partner.
Ann: No, exactly. But he was really… This is like, his main thing from now until the end of this episode, he just really was mad that she wasn’t fucking him anymore. Anyway, yeah so, he was just really mad about that and it’s like, pregnancy, chronic illness, she hates you. [laughs]
Allison: Is this the part where he’s also trying to get, like, if she dies as Queen… I can’t remember but he’s going for power as well as sex.
Ann: Yeah, I forget where I have this but yeah, there’s a thing. So, he is technically the King of Scotland, coins have come out that are like, “Henry and Mary,” because his name is Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. He’s the King of Scotland but it’s like a Camila scenario, he’s the consort, right? So, if Mary dies, he wouldn’t take over.
Allison: Which is how it was for Mary in France, right? When Francis died, she couldn’t be queen because yeah, it’s the reverse of that.
Ann: Yeah exactly. So, he wanted what was called the Crown Matrimonial, which would just be a piece of paper that said, “He is equal to me and if I die, he can become King after me.” Mary sensibly would not give him that because probably he would murder her.
Ann: [laughs] So, but this is the thing, he wanted the Crown Matrimonial, he wanted to be king because it’s like, he’s been raised to be the most perfect special-est boy, so he is the King of Scotland but he’s like, “But I’m not fully king, yet.” So, he wanted to fuck her, and he wanted the Crown Matrimonial and she wouldn’t give him either and he was really mad about it. But instead of looking at himself and thinking, “How can I improve myself to get her to trust me enough to do these things?” Instead, he was just like, “Time to go to France and fuck some people,” I guess.
So, Davie Rizzio so they had the seal, Mary and Davie, dream team. Honestly, she finally had somebody who was smart politically, who was loyal to her, she didn’t have to doubt Davie Rizzio whatsoever. I don’t think I talked about this in the last one, but I did want to mention, again, in terms of anti-Italian xenophobia/racism, people… Davie Rizzio, again, it’s interesting to me how much, what people who hated Mary and Rizzio wrote, has been taken as fact for, like, centuries. But he was written about as this, kind of like, goblinesque, grotesque individual. It’s the same way as being like, “Darnley was a shitty person and gay.” Where it’s like, “Davie Rizzio was Catholic and had too much power and was ugly.” It’s like, you’re just trying to add things to it where it’s like, what we know of him… So, some objective sources wrote that he was, “Of a pleasing appearance, such courteous manners he made himself beloved by everyone.” People said he was “dwarfish and deformed,” but also, we know that he was very athletic, he went horseback riding with Mary all the time, he was playing tennis all the time, activities that certainly a dwarf person could do but I think in 16th century Edinburgh would be unlikely that there would be the accessibility for someone.
Allison: Yeah, like 16th-century historians… You can always tell when someone has a propaganda agenda because they get really unnecessarily personal. Like, it’s the whole Richard III situation again where you’re like, “He was an evil King and also, he was hideous and also, the worst person, he ate children.” You’re just like, “Okay, these historians are really trying to legitimize somebody by demonizing somebody else,” and you have to think about who is writing what and why otherwise you’re going to end up with a menagerie of cartoon villains instead of an actual historical…
Ann: I want to build on that as well. I’ve been watching some TikToks recently, I think the phrase used is, like, “Facial differences” or something like that. It’s, like, people who have facial differences, genetically because of the way that they look. And they’re just trying to petition Hollywood and stuff to be like, “Can you stop making villains like, this person is scarred, or they’re an amputee?” The shorthand for a villain in so many things, and when I started seeing these advocates talking it’s like, “Oh fuck, that’s true.” It’s like, let’s make this person, they have burns on them and that makes them… it’s like they’re bad but you have to add some sort of facial difference to make people think… And then if you look at Disney movies or anything, it’s getting into like… So, it’s exactly what you’re saying. How can we make people think that they’re bad? Let’s give them these stereotypical things. But that’s coming from times like this where it’s just like…
Allison: Yeah, ableism is not new, it’s been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, and in all of our commonly accepted historical shorthand, it’s in our fairy tales, it’s in everything.
Ann: Yeah, and I think part of it in this era, in Mary’s era, comes from… because it’s the Protestants, these are the haters, her haters are all Protestants like John Knox. And it comes from a thing where, like, some people are God’s chosen people, and you can tell who God’s chosen people are because they look pretty. So, if somebody has some sort of facial difference or whatever, it’s like, that to them was a sign that God doesn’t like them so it’s, like, self-confirming or something.
Allison: That was all the way back to like what you were supposed to do around a pregnant woman. If a pregnant woman has a sinful thought or looks at something that makes her think something that she shouldn’t, then her baby might come out with a facial difference, or you might have an inhuman hairy baby if you look at two dogs having sex or something. There’s a lot of weird purity body language projection all tangled up in all of this. There’s lots of interesting stuff written about this, I’m by no means an expert in it but I do think it’s fascinating.
Ann: Yeah. Thank you for bringing that up. I do really want to mention that because stuff about Davie Rizzio, I’m so grateful for this one book that I found, it’s a biography of Davie Rizzio and it’s so much… Like, last episode, all the stuff that I got was basically from that one biography by David Tweedie which is interesting because, well, I’ll tell you later who David Tweedie’s ancestors were. But yeah. So, people writing about David Rizzio at the time were just like, he’s this, “Dwarfish and deformed person,” he was ugly, and whatever, and he was funny looking.
And then contemporarily, if you look at the Saoirse Ronan Queen Mary movie, or you look at Reign, he’s portrayed as kind of a Jonathan Van Ness-esque gay best friend. So, it’s not making him ugly looking but it’s really leaning into the gay side of things, which is whatever, maybe he was but it dismisses who he was as this political power player which is who he was! I was shocked, I was shocked when I learned all of that Allison.
Allison: This podcast is firmly Team Rizzio, just love. No matter what other things may or may not be true, he is a legend, he is loyal, he is a good guy.
Ann: He is one of the only truly good people in this story and he was only ever loyal to Mary, and I respect that.
Allison: Do I smell a Jane Seymour Best Friend award for this one?
Ann: Oh, oh I hadn’t thought about that, but you know what, I mean I can’t… remember this when we get to the scoring. Anyway, he also liked clothes which is something else he had in common with Mary. She was an aesthetic person; she was a fashion girly. He owned at least 18 pairs of hose, Allison.
Allison: For this time, that’s a lot. That’s a lot.
Ann: He used to sleep on sideways furniture on the floor, and now he was elevated to the point that he was living the life he dreamed, 18 pairs of velvet hose. When he was on the job, he would wear his jeweled chain of office. He just struck quite a figure, apparently.
Allison: And I’m sure this made everyone think he was even more Catholic and even more awful with the Protestants standing there in their stiff white collars and their black tunics being like, “Who is this man and why is he so fancy?”
Ann: Honestly, setting aside the fact that Darnley’s a piece of shit, you’ve got Darnley, Mary, and Rizzio, and the Marys, they’re just, like, style, showing up. Their ensembles are amazing, and the Puritans are like, “Mehh, we wear strict collars, we think that luxury fabric is a sin. Merp.”
Okay, so I need to tell you about one more man, I’m so sorry. But as I read through these biographies, and the way I’m doing these episodes is I read a chunk of time in each of the books and layer it together to make notes. And then there are so many men I’m not mentioning because…
Allison: Too many.
Ann: Who cares? But when somebody becomes crucially important, I have to put them back in. So, this is a guy who we have to talk about. His name is James Douglas because James is the default first name of every person in this story. He is the Earl of Morton so in all the books they just say Morton, but I’m going to call him Jam-Jam, which is a name that honestly, when I was researching this I’m just like, “Everyone is called James, I can’t handle it!” And I posted on my Patreon, I was like, “What are some nicknames for James?” So, the patrons helped me choose the name Jam-Jam.
Allison: I love it.
Ann: We’re going to always remember who he is, right? So, Jam-Jam, so he’s a Douglas, which means he is related to Darnley because Darnley’s mother is Margaret Douglas, so the Douglas’ are a major family in Scotland, mostly living around the Glasgow region. Anyway, so Jam-Jam had been on Mary’s side during the Chaseabout Raids against Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, but now he was just a big hater of Davie Rizzio because of how much power he had. So, Jam-Jam also, in a Darnley-adjacent way, was a shitty person, and this is not true, but this is the sort of story that people made up about him even though he was a Protestant. So, they said that when he was a boy, he found a toad in his garden and ate it live.
Allison: What? [both laugh] Okay. That one really feels like the propaganda writer got tired and they were like, “I don’t have the energy for another twisted, ugly dwarf, I’m going to just make him eat a toad. I’m done.”
Ann: Yeah, so Jam-Jam, but he is, he’s very schemey. So, this one quote said, “From his youth, he had been renowned for his treachery and of whom his father had no good opinion.” So, whether or not he ate a toad, he was a shitty person, very duplicitous, and not someone you want as your enemy.
So, Davie Rizzio had wanted to buy this hunting lodge and he and Mary would ride up there to be like, “Yeah Davie, one day this will be your house.” They allegedly planted some chestnuts there and the trees still grow. But anyway, the guy who owned the hunting lodge would not sell to him and that was because the landowner was a cousin of Jam-Jam and therefore a Douglas and refused to sell to, you know, a gross Italian Catholic. So, he just hated Rizzio. So just, Jam-Jam is going to pop up, regrettably, numerous times in this story.
Allison: I’m going to think of him as, like, Councilman Jam from Parks and Rec because that’s the kind of energy he’s bringing to this situation. [laughs]
Ann: Yes, very much. Perfect. That’s why Jam-Jam is a perfect name. But Davie Rizzio, like, he was smart and savvy, he knew lots of people hated him. So, one pal of his, a priest, tried to warn him, he’s like, “You know what? You’re doing really well for yourself, you have 18 pairs of velvet hose, why don’t you go back to Savoy? People here want to murder you, bro.” The priest told him, “Your enemies are like geese, if you handle one of them, the rest will fly upon you and pluck you so they will not leave a feather of down on you.”
Allison: Also, you don’t ever want to fight a goose, that’s an aggressive metaphor.
Ann: I don’t know if you have geese where you live but we have geese here and when the geese are in front of me on the path, I walk around them. I give geese the space they need.
Allison: Oh, we have geese. Have you ever looked at a close-up picture of a goose’s tongue?
Allison: It has teeth on it.
Ann: Oh god. [both chuckle] They’re honestly so scary.
Allison: So scary.
Ann: So, the priest was like, “Your enemies are like geese.” But Davie was like, “No, they’re just like ducks, strike one of them and the rest would lie in.”
Allison: Okay, Rizzio’s never fought a goose, he’s not sufficiently concerned.
Ann: No, maybe they don’t have geese in Savoy. But honestly, he was like, “I’m not going to give the haters time of day, I’m not going to let them dictate what I do.” And you know what? That is a good way to think in some situations, not this one, but psychologically, ones that some listeners might be in today.
Allison: I do like that he is kind of bringing Jonathan Van Ness energy to this confrontation where he’s just like, “You know what honey, I’m going to be me. It’s fine.”
Ann: Yeah, exactly. But he’d made this great life for himself in Edinburgh, he loved it there, he loved the rain, he loved the fog. Yeah, like no shade to Edinburgh, it’s a place that I also love. My hair and skin have never been as good as when I was in Edinburgh long ago. I was just like, oh, genetically, on a DNA level, my body is like, “This is where you’re supposed to be. [both laugh] In the drizzle, Ann.”
So, he wasn’t going to let the haters get in his way of letting his light shine bright. But also, he was so devoted to Mary, and he wanted to be there to help her. This is his thing, he’s so loyal to her, he wanted to protect her, and he knew that if he left, who is going to do that job with so many enemies against her? As per Denise Mina in Rizzio the novella, which again, yeah, it’s fiction but it’s like also true:
Rizzio knows his life is threatened, of course it is, he’s a proxy for a queen, they resent her power, her sex, her religious devotion, her pregnancy, which has the potential to carry on her Catholic line. They resent the compromise she represents, that there may not be a Protestant Europe, now and forever.
So, people hated him but it’s because they hated her, right? Like, he had a lot of power but ultimately, they hated her, they hated a woman who had this power, they hated a Catholic who had this power. And he was right by his side as Mary kept being like, “Let’s be cool. Protestants and Catholics can both live in this country, everyone chill out,“ which continues to be her main thesis statement which, honestly, it also is on Reign. I like to share when something on Reign is accurate. But that was part of like, in the last episode there was a weird thing where Davie Rizzio made Darnley go to a John Knox sermon and I think that was part of him being like, “Look, Catholics and Protestants can be friends, all together. We don’t have to be at war, we can go to each other’s religious services, don’t worry about it.”
So, there’s a coin-minting moment I just wanted to mention because I haven’t had a coin-minting moment on this podcast in a while. So, there was a coin minted called the ryal which is valued at, well, it was valued at 30 shillings, if you want to buy one now it’s like $700 because they’re quite rare. So, on one side of it is Mary and Darnley as King and Queen, it’s like “Henry and Maria” or “Henric et Maria,” or something, and it’s like a portrait of the two of them. And on the back is a picture of a palm tree with a tortoise climbing on it.
Ann: Yeah. So, as per the books I read, “The significance of this imagery is unclear.” [laughs]
Allison: I was going to say, there are no palm trees in Scotland, as far as I’m aware.
Ann: No. Very much no. So, you know, people are extrapolating various things. Like, it might be something to do with historically, when some people were being marginalized and then they defeated their enemies, something like that, in some sort of place with palm trees, maybe Savoy, I don’t know if Savoy has palm trees. Anyway, what’s crucial here is that there’s a tortoise climbing on it.
Mary was planning to name Davie Rizzio the head of the mint, which was also a new commission for him that would get him paid lots of money and he gave her the gift of a jewelled tortoise. So, tortoises were clearly some sort of significant thing between the two of them; they had some significance, we don’t know, and I love that we don’t know. It’s not like a secret code or cypher, it’s just, you know like on Friends it’s like, “He’s your lobster.” It’s like, tortoise, I don’t know, maybe it meant strength, or loyalty, or perseverance but I just love that she put the tortoise on her coin and then she gave him a jewelled tortoise, it just, kind of, shows their connection to each other.
Allison: It’s spectacular. I have one friend where, whenever we’re traveling and we see a little thing with an owl on it, we’ll get it for each other and be like, “I saw an owl, I thought of you.” That’s what it feels like. It’s like, “A tortoise, it’s our thing. I saw a tortoise, made me think of you, Davie.” It’s really cute.
Ann: It’s really cute. I have a thing with one of my friends where it’s just like when you’re in the, metaphorically, the stormy seas there are the boats and everything, just be the mermaid on the rock just watching it all happen. So, we’re like, “Mermaid, just be the mermaid.” So, when I see something with a mermaid, I’m like, “Made me think of you, Megan.” Anyway, so tortoise is a thing. He gave her the tortoise jewel and in return, she gave him six pieces of cloth in gold patterned with scales like a tortoise.
Allison: Aww, so he could make a little tortoise jacket!
Ann: Exactly! It’s like a real thing between them. Later on, we’re going to talk about… because she hasn’t had her baby, she’s still just gotten pregnant. But when she was going to have her baby, she wrote out a will because you know, women died a lot in childbirth, and she made special… She mentioned the tortoise jewel specifically and who she wanted to have it.
In the absence of a functional husband/king [laughs] Mary relied more heavily on her hand-picked group of trusted advisors. So, we’ve got Davie Rizzio. We’ve also got Bothwell, who you’ll recall she had brought back to be her military expert I think during the Chaseabout Raids, as well as Cock o’ the North Junior who is now on her privy council. So, both men were the heads of strong family factions as well which is crucial. Like, Cock o’ the North Junior is, you know, the whole north; everything his father had controlled, he could get those 20,000 Catholics, now he could call on them. And then Bothwell had his family, the Hepburns – no relation to my cat – they had control in the border region, near the Scottish-English border.
So, to cement these two guys and those two families being loyal to her, Mary, Queen of matchmaking – she loves to matchmake others – she matchmade, so Bothwell married Cock o’ the North Junior’s sister, Jean Gordon. So, the last time we saw Jean Gordon, she was with her mother fleeing their house after Mary and her brother had destroyed their entire family, you know, taken all their tapestries from their house, confiscated their lands, and murdered her father. And then Jean Gordon and her mother then became Mary’s ladies-in-waiting and it’s all kind of like, this is weird.
Allison: That’s a real, “Sorry, would you like a husband as an apology?” situation.
Ann: Yeah, so she matchmade Jean Gordon to Bothwell. Now, did Bothwell actively have a secret wife from Norway who is currently living in Scotland with their illegitimate son with Bothwell’s mother? Yes. But we’ll get to that later.
Allison: That’s neither here nor there.
Ann: Don’t worry, they were just hand-fasted, it’s not a real marriage.
Anyway, Mary loved love, she loved giving gifts and whenever someone she liked, one of her favourites, got married she would always supply the wedding dress and pay for the banquet. So, she supplied a wedding dress for Jean made of some sort of silver cloth. But Jean and Bothwell’s honeymoon was short-lived because just one week later, Bothwell returned to Edinburgh because Mary was in danger because Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart’s remaining sympathizers were really mad at this point.
Why were they mad? So, parliament was going to meet pretty soon and one of the things that they were going to talk about at parliament was removing all the lands and titles from Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart and all the rebels who had turned against Mary like, 5 minutes ago, all the Chaseabout Raid guys were going to lose their lands and titles. I’m like, “They didn’t already?” But they’re like, “Oh no, we have to wait for parliament to do that.” Like, make parliament meet, dummies.
Allison: Does seem like you tried to actively murder the Queen, maybe you should not be getting money from her? But what do I know?
Ann: Yeah, so Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart was concerned about this because it’s like, “That’s my income!” So, at this point, although he hated Davie Rizzio as well, everyone knew at this point you had to go through him to get to Mary because he’s like the private secretary, everyone was working under a bribery-based system. He sent Davie Rizzio a huge diamond ring as a bribe.
Allison: Should’ve just sent a turtle, messed up.
Ann: Yeah, yeah, you know what? That’s the secret password. And that’s another thing people were like, “Davie Rizzio, he was so corrupt he was accepting bribes.” It’s like, everyone was, it was a bribery-based system. Cecil was taking bribes in England; this isn’t weird or unusual.
Allison: It’s only a problem when he does it.
Ann: Yeah exactly. Oh yeah, so this is where we’re talking about, yeah, Davie Rizzio had wanted to buy that house but then Jam-Jam stopped him from buying it because of anti-Italian racism. Mary was also thinking of granting Rizzio Scottish citizenship to give him lands and a title and just really moving him up in the world. So, Mary was thinking of, like, giving him even more power, just as she was thinking of officially removing the lands and stuff from all her enemies who tried to kill her. Anyway, Darnley meanwhile is just like, “But what about having sex with me and the Crown Matrimonial?” [laughs]
Allison: “Remember me, being the worst, over here?”
Ann: Like, “Surely you don’t have enough stressors in your life, me also!”
Allison: You can just picture Mary looking at him across the room being like, “Not now Darnley. Literally any other time, I am busy.” And he’s just like, “But… I’m still hot and tall. Please?”
Ann: Yeah, that just wasn’t working for him anymore, he was so confused. You know, like, people who are hot and tall, and maybe that’s gotten them everything they wanted in their life and suddenly it doesn’t and they’re like, “But what else do I have?”
So, I’m just setting a scene of like, everything is just on edge. [laughs] Everyone, everyone is. And at this point, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart and his followers are like, “Wait, okay. We don’t want to lose our lands, that’s the most important thing.” And they’re like, “Hmm, we all fucking hate Darnley, obviously, but he’s really easy to manipulate. Can we somehow get him to help us?” And Darnley was like…
Allison: Manipulating Darnley is like… He’s got the brains of three beans and a plastic bag so that’s not going to be a tricky proposition for them.
Ann: No, exactly, exactly. So, Darnley is like, “If you can get me the Crown Matrimonial, I will literally do anything you ask me to.”
Allison: “I very famously want two things.”
Ann: [laughs] Yeah, and this is the time and place, but I find it truly bananas. So, they signed a literal piece of paper, a document that said, “I, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, will get Darnley a Crown Matrimonial at the next parliament, and in exchange, Darnley will switch over to my side, recall all the exiles back home, pardon them, and forbid their land from being confiscated.” So, this was all documented, that Darnley was going to like, supersede Mary’s authority and just like… If they got him the Crown Matrimonial then he would be able to do things as the King himself, not just as the husband of Mary.
Allison: It is nice when you’re committing treason and then you keep a nice, well-documented paper trail of all of your treason, and then you sign it with your own name. It’s very convenient, for me.
Ann: What’s wild about all of this and in terms of, like, William Cecil in England being the best at this shit, it’s like, so much of this stuff is like we know this because William Cecil had a copy of this document. Anytime anyone wrote anything on paper, William Cecil had a copy of it. His spies were like, I can’t even emphasize… he knew everything but also, everyone was writing it down on paper so… [laughs]
Allison: He’s like, “Thank you, I’m very good at my job but you make me have to work less hard, which is good.”
Ann: Yeah, “Let me just put this in my filing cabinet, treasonous contracts. Great.”
Allison: “Filed under T for treason,” yes.
Ann: But if Darnley is going to work with them, and they were all Protestants and Darnley was ostensibly Catholic so they had to have some sort of reason to be like, “Well, Darnley was Catholic, we need to have some sort of scapegoat to explain why did…” because remember he was like, religiously non-committed but when he married Mary he was like, “Yes, Catholic, great.” So, they have to be like, “No one will believe he’s working with us because he used to be Catacomb, we have to explain why he became Catholic. What about if we say, Davie Rizzio seduced him using witchcraft to make him Catholic.” [laughs] So, they decided that Rizzio was going to be the scapegoat in this whole thing and Darnley was like, “That motherfucker? That guy who I think has been sleeping with Mary?” He’s mad because Rizzio had been spending time with Mary playing cards and music and having a nice time when she could have been sleeping with Darnley.
Allison: Because Rizzio can hold a conversation and knows more than 10 words and, like yeah, they’re just buying clothes and looking at turtles together Darnley, please calm down.
Ann: Exactly, but he already… So, they were able to fuel that now and be like, “Oh, you know how they play cards together? I think they’re also having sex and maybe she’s pregnant with Rizzio’s baby, not yours.”
Allison: Spoiler, she was not.
Ann: She was not. But later on, people would lobby that as an insult against Mary’s son, who is King James.
Allison: Who, by the way, we’re not getting into King James in this season, but a son who takes after his father in a lot of obvious ways. There’s never been a less surprising line from father to son than Darnley to King James.
Ann: Yeah. I would suggest Darnley’s grandfather was Archibald Douglas, who was the dirtbag who got together with Margaret Tudor and then she had to, like, point the cannons at the castle at him because he was trying to kidnap their son. So, from grandfather to grandson, to son, there’s a real line of just, kind of like… The asshole gene is just strong, strong in that lineage. But what’s funny too is that, so you know my problematic fav, Charles II?
Allison: Hot King Charles, yes.
Ann: Yeah, who did have what one might call a Mediterranean complexion; he had black hair and olive skin. So, some people are like, “That’s the proof that Davie Rizzio is secretly the father of this whole dynasty.” It’s like really? Or is it the fact that his mother was like, from Portugal? [Allison laughs] Anyway. Yeah so, Darnley is just like, “Great, we’re turning on Rizzio, great.” And so, they decided they were going to murder Davie Rizzio, and a murder squad was assembled, and they signed paperwork.
Allison: [laughs] Of course they did.
Ann: “We, the undersigned, are going to murder Rizzio.” So, the people involved in this: Scottish Machiavelli is on board, Jam-Jam, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, the entire Douglas family, along with a guy called Lord Ruthven. Now, in previous episodes, I pronounced this as Lord Ruth-ven, which is how it is spelled, but I’ve been informed by Scottish people that you don’t say the T, it’s Lord [ph] Ruhven, [laughs] which feels very weird for me to say. But he’s another major player. So, Lord Ruthven is allegedly a necromancer/warlock. So…
Ann: Yeah. And I think Lord [ph] Ruthven is a good way to pronounce the name of a warlock/necromancer but it’s a common Scottish last name even to this day and it’s pronounced [ph] Ruhven. Anyway, he’s also on the Douglas side so basically the Douglas’ are just like, mustering behind Jam-Jam. They wrote a letter to Elizabeth and Cecil being like, “FYI, here’s what we’re planning, to murder Rizzio.”
Allison: “Put this in your file cabinet right next to the other one.”
Ann: “Attached, please find a contract we all signed, here’s a date we’re going to do it on, thanks so much.” And Cecil was like, “Okay,” so he did nothing to stop them. Even Bobby Duds, Robert Dudley, knew about this, like, these people are not good at keeping a secret. So, basically, everyone knew this was going to happen except for Mary and her inner circle. And here’s what happened.
So, Saturday, March 9th, we’re getting into a true crime podcast vibe. But unlike some of the books I read, the order in which they give the information, I’m going to tell you what happened as it happened. I won’t just be like, “This happened,” and then rewind to explain how it happened. I’m going to just like, in order. I just told you who the murderers were.
So, Saturday, March 9, 1556, Darnley had spent the afternoon playing tennis with Rizzio, which they often did but to throw off suspicion, basically. Everybody was at Holyrood Palace, Mary was now five to six months pregnant, era. So, at around 6 to 7 PM, Mary was hanging out in her chambers, a room that was not her bedroom but near her bedroom, it was a small space, it’s like 12 feet by 10 feet with incredibly more people than you would think she could fit in that space. But let’s discuss the rooms for a minute and this is where people describe the rooms but the best description I got was from Denise Mina in her novella Rizzio. And so:
Mary’s suite of apartments directly above Darnley’s in the tower is a mirror of his. Both have a large formal audience chamber served by the same grand staircase and both have a connecting passage from that room to their respective bed chambers. So, a private staircase joins their bed chambers so they can visit each other without anyone else knowing.
So, they have secret sex stairs between his bedroom to her bedroom.
Allison: Which I’m sure Mary does not enjoy having anymore. She’s like, “Can we take those stairs out?”
Ann: Nope, nope. “Can we seal this with a door? Like, a piece of stonework?”
Allison: “Can I cask of Amontillado him in the stairwell? Maybe?”
Ann: Yeah. So:
Each of these bedrooms has two small rooms leading off into turrets that make up the corners of the tower. Mary likes her little turret rooms; they’re cozy and informal and warm and this is where she’s hosting her 12 guests this evening. The guests with the highest status are gathered at the table, various servants and retainers stand or sit against the wall waiting for a turn at the food.
And it’s Lent era, which is when Catholics don’t eat meat, but Mary was allowed to because she was pregnant, and I like that as a rule. Like how in Ramadan, you don’t have to fast if you’re pregnant or on your period or things.
Anyway, so the guests include her half-sister, whose name is Jean, everyone is called Jean, the Countess of Argyll; Jean’s uncle Robert Beaton, the Laird of Creich, the Master of the Queen’s household, that’s why he’s there; her half-brother, not Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, but Robert Stewart, don’t know anything else he does her entire life but he’s there at this dinner; a guy named Sir Arthur Erskine of Blackgrange, who was her master of the horse – Mary is a horse girl so master of the horse would be a person she’s very close to – her French apothecary is there, name unknown. A page named Anthony Standen the Younger and the widow of Cock o’ the North, the Countess is also there.
Allison: Countess Cock o’ the North?
Ann: Yeah. Countess o’ the North. Davie Rizzio also there wearing, “A splendid gown of fur de masque over a satin doublet and russet velvet hose. He had not removed his cap as was customary when a man was in the presence of the Queen,” but we assume Mary knew the hat was part of his look [Allison laughs] and let him keep it on.
Allison: He’s not going to take the hat off, it’s Rizzio. It looks great.
Ann: It puts the look together and she’s like, “I respect that, yeah, you need the hat.” Anyway, so they’re just eating dinner, it’s like, dark because it’s March…
Allison: In Scotland.
Ann: It’s 7 PM, yeah, in Scotland pre-electricity, so there are just candles lighting it up. Anyway, downstairs, basically half of the nobles of Scotland, between 100 to 500 men, led by Lord Ruthven who, sidenote, was actively dying of cancer, he looked gruesome. Everyone said he was so pale, he looked like he was dying of cancer, and he was. But he was such a piece of shit his wife had recently left him even though he was dying because she was like, “Even if you die tomorrow, that’s one day too long being married to you.”
So, Lord Ruthven and Jam-Jam rushed into the castle, stole the keys from the guards, secured the gates, overcoming the guards on duty. Denise Mina says:
They are skidding around in the dark, 200 of them, crowding the entrances and overwhelming the guards. They’ve already confiscated all the keys and secured the gates. The men are to go upstairs by the private stairs, cross Mary’s bedchamber and enter the audience room, unlock the main door to the stairs, and let the soldiers into her parlour.
So basically, they go into Darnley’s room, a couple of them go up the secret sex stairs, sneak across, and then open the main door so that they can come in the main door, basically. So meanwhile, the other people are just like, capturing the castle. They’re overcoming the servants or whatever in the rest of the castle. And these men are mostly Douglas’ which is notable because they shouted their traditional war cry, “A Douglas! A Douglas!” which is…
Allison: They could have done better.
Ann: I’m not a fan of that. [laughs] “A Foster! A Foster!”
Allison: We could have workshopped that one for about 5 more minutes.
Ann: Yeah, yeah exactly but that’s kind of, like, how you know they were there. Anyway, so they scattered servants, knocked over candles, capturing the castle so nobody inside could escape, or so they thought, asterisk, we’ll get back to that point. So basically, Darnley came up the secret sex stairs and then he– there’s like a tapestry so he flings the tapestry aside to be like, “It’s me!”
Allison: Okay, that’s the most Darnley way to enter a room though, is fling aside a tapestry while coming up the sex stairs. It’s real “Granmeme, it is I, Anastasia” energy as he enters any given room.
Ann: Yes, very, very. He comes in and his job is just to distract them while the other people are sneaking around to open the other door, right?
Allison: Which he’s great at because he has three brain cells and he’s very tall so it’s easy to look at.
Ann: So, he just comes in and Mary’s like, “What are you doing here? There’s not a plate made for you. And he’s like, “That’s okay, I already had supper, don’t worry about it.” Anyway, meanwhile Lord Ruthven goes up the sex stairs and sneaks behind the tapestry to open the door and let the others in. I do want to say also, which is impressive no one heard anything because Lord Ruthven, for no reason at all, and everyone then even thought it was weird, was wearing a full suit of armour.
Allison: [laughs] What a weirdo!
Ann: Yeah. So, it’s like, “You have to be quiet.” It’s like, “Okay well, I wore this entire suit or armour and I’m actively dying so let’s see how this goes.” Anyway, apparently it went okay. He made a noise and Mary’s like, “What’s that noise?” And Darnley’s like, “Noise? It’s a cat outside, I don’t know.”
Allison: “Wearing a full suit or armour, don’t worry about it.”
Ann: “Maybe one of the suits of armour in the hallway just toppled over.” Anyway, so Lord Ruthven bursts in looking like a whole mess and he’s like, “Where is Davie Rizzio?” And Mary quickly figures out what’s going on and she’s like, “Okay, I get you don’t like Davie Rizzio, shall we re-meet in parliament and impeach him?” Then she turns to Darnley to be like, “Did you know this is happening?” And he’s like, “Meeee? Whaaaat?” So, Mary commanded Ruthven to leave the room or else be arrested for treason. He ignored her, which was shocking to all the men in the room. So, the men in the room, again Mary’s brother Robert, the master of the horse, the French apothecary, all the men tried to grab him but then he drew out a pistol, and that stopped them. He drew out a pistol from his armour? Unclear. So, then Ruthven also pulled out a dagger, so I guess pistol in one hand, dagger in the other hand?
Allison: This seems like overkill. Whatever he was doing, it was too much.
Ann: Oh, Ruthven is too much, he is too much, this whole situation. But yeah, piecing this together for this episode, I was going book to book and each one had… Like, there are certainly commonalities in how they described what happened but what I really settled on was a few days after this happened, Mary wrote a letter and I’m relying mostly on how she described it.
So, he pulls out a dagger and advances on Davie Rizzio. Davie Rizzio reaches for his own dagger, but he fumbles, drops it, and then he just goes into, sort of like, there’s a sticky-out part of the tower where the windows are and he’s kind of hiding there. He gets behind Mary, Mary is like, “No one gets to my best friend. I’m the tortoise now, I’m protecting him like a tortoise shell.” So, he’s just behind her on the ground I think, because he was trying to pick up his dagger, clinging to her skirts.
Then, six more murderers come into the room. A violent struggle ensues in which the table, remember they were having, like, a dinner for 12 in this corner, the table was overturned, and everything on it came crashing to the ground including all the candles. Jean, Mary’s half-sister, managed to save one lighted candle which together with the firelight illuminated the scene but also, Jean stopped the candle from lighting the nearby tapestry on fire and killing them all. So, good job, Jean.
So, last night where I live, no, two nights ago, there was a thunderstorm and the power went off and I’m like, “Oh, it’s so dark. Dark. Like that night in the turret.” [both laugh] I turned on the flashlight on my phone and I was like, “This is like the candle held by Jean!” [both laugh] Anyway, so I think the darkness adds to the confusion and the scariness.
So, Ruthven manhandled Mary out of the way and told Darnley, “Keep a hold on her!” So, Darnley did. One of the murderers, I don’t understand this, “Brutally rammed a chair toward her stomach,” I don’t know if that was intentional or not or was just, kind of like, furniture was everywhere?
Allison: Well, she’s pregnant at this point, right?
Ann: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But then another pointed a pistol at her stomach and maybe would have fired it, but the gun refused to give fire so it’s kind of, like, “We will kill you and your unborn child if you don’t stop protecting Davie Rizzio.”
Then one of the Douglas’ grabbed Darnley– this is just chaotic, right, and it’s dark and what’s happening? Anyway, so one of them thrust Darnley’s dagger toward Davie Rizzio over Mary’s shoulder and she said that she could feel the steel on her throat it was so close. Davie was likely wounded by this blow and the dagger was left sticking out of him. Then, Anthony Standen, who was one of the pages, he’s, like, the servant, he grabbed, some guy was pointing a dagger at Mary, Anthony Standen pointed it away. Later he would tell Mary’s son, James, as an adult that he had saved his life and that of his mother. Did he? Anthony Standen, I don’t know but okay.
So, Davie Rizzio is still crouching behind Mary’s skirt, clinging on with his fingers, and then somebody starts brutally bending his fingers back, potentially breaking them to make them stop clinging and then he was dragged kicking and screaming. So, first, they dragged him down the sex stairs into Darnley’s room where the other conspirators were waiting. But then they were like, “Change of mind.” So, then they dragged him back up the sex stairs through Mary’s bedroom and out into the front entryway where he was stabbed 56 times.
Allison: Entirely too many times.
Ann: Literal overkill.
Allison: These are the worst murderers in the whole world. They brought 200 people to stab one man 56 times. He couldn’t– He had dropped his knife to the ground two seconds into the battle. It’s just gross.
Ann: I think the stabbing of 56 times was like, they all wanted… So, maybe 56 people were in the room at the time or something, he was clearly dead by the time stab number 56 happened, but it was like, they all wanted to be like, “This was our pact, we all signed a piece of paper, we’re all going to stab it.” No spoilers, like a Julius Caesar thing/the end of an Agatha Christie book I will leave unnamed because it’s a surprise ending. [Allison laughs]
Anyway, while they were doing that, Darnley was not in the stabbing area, he was back with Mary but someone else had taken his dagger and after they stabbed Rizzio, they left Darnley’s dagger in the body as proof Darnley had been complicit in the murder even though he hadn’t actually stabbed. And that’s when Darnley was like, “Wait a minute, am I… am I a scapegoat?” This is where he might have started thinking that.
Anyway, Davie Rizzio, RIP, his final words were, “Madama, io son morto,” which means “Madame, I am dead.” Note, the place where Rizzio was stabbed can be viewed by anyone who visits Holyrood now, and the red stain on the floor is said to have lasted nearly five centuries defying any attempts to clean it off. Although one of the books, I feel like it’s Clare Hunter’s book, she’s like, “I feel like the stain is bigger and a bit redder than last time I was here, but I don’t say anything.” [both laugh] Don’t want to spoil the illusion, “No matter how much we clean it, the blood stays.” But there’s a little plaque saying, “This is where, allegedly, Davie Rizzio was killed.” So, RIP. If you’re anyone, if you’re in Edinburgh, if you go to Holyrood, you know, just, like, a moment of silence at the place where Davie… because he was a real one. Can we just say, I love him. He was great.
Allison: If they let you leave little things at the plaque, bring a little tiny turtle.
Ann: Little turtle! That’s what I would leave. Oh, that’s a beautiful idea, Allison. Yeah, you know what, he was loyal to Mary to the end.
So, his body was just there, his body was thrown down the stairs and then thrown across a wooden chest in the porter’s lodge by the door. The porter got to take his fancy clothes, his russet velvet hose, and his hat. The porter allegedly said something about, “Ironic, when Davie first came to this palace he had to sleep on a chest in the hallway and now he is laying on a chest again.” That’s a very, like, Shakespeare’s porter, sort of, wise thing to say. And then the next day, the body was buried in a pauper’s grave in the Canongate cemetery near the door to Holyrood Abbey.
And now we’re into the aftermath of the murder. I’m just curious how long– Oh, this is going to be a long ass episode. [laughs]
Allison: We could probably do a whole hour-long episode just us describing the scuffle in the tower.
Ann: Yeah, true. This all happened. Mary is just in her little turret room, I guess her sister is just holding one candle. Darnley is there, Ruthven is there, and Ruthven decided the time was right for, you know what, impromptu marriage counselling.
Allison: Jesus Christ man.
Ann: He’s like, “Why don’t you fuck Darnley? That’s why he’s upset, that’s why this happened.”
Allison: Just clanks over there in his giant suit or armour to be like, “Hey, I have a thought.”
Ann: Yeah, no literally this is what he does. This had just happened and he’s like, “You know what? You should let him fuck you.” And then Mary said, “It is not the woman’s part to seek the husband and therefore it is in that, the fault was his own.” So, I guess she’s like, “He needs to come down the sex stairs, I’m not going up the sex stairs.” But yeah, anyway Lord Ruthven was just like, “You’ve got to fuck your husband more often, that will solve all the problems.” And Mary was like, “Really? Should I ask your wife about that, who just left you?” In fact, she said, “Why may not I leave him as well your wife did her husband?”
Allison: Ooooh, sick burn Mary.
Ann: Exactly. So, then he called for some wine because he was thirsty and he started just mansplaining in a sort of little sermon why what they did made sense because Rizzio was making the country Catholic and it’s just like how Brutus had to stab Julius Caesar for tyranny reasons, which like, can I just point out? Neither Mary nor Davie Rizzio was doing anything whatsoever tyrannical, they were like, “Let’s bring this to parliament and have everyone vote on it,” anytime they wanted to do anything. Like, there was not a tyrannical, “Let’s make the country Catholic,” happening.
Mary said, “If I die in childbirth as a result, I will leave the revenge to my friends to be taken of you Lord Ruthven, and your posterity. I have the King of Spain and the emperor, my great friends, and likewise the King of France. Likewise, my good brother with my uncles or Lorraine, beside the Pope’s holiness and many other princes in Italy.” So basically, she’s just like, “I’m going to destroy you.”
Allison: “If I die, the Pope is going to come whoop your ass,” is what she said.
Ann: Yeah. Anyway, so the asshole murder squad, not done yet. They also wanted to murder Bothwell and Cock o’ the North Junior because those were Mary’s other advisors. Where were these guys this whole time? One might ask. At this point they were also at Holyrood but chilling in their own room waiting to be served their own meal, not knowing that all the servants were being held hostage. But then they heard “A Douglas! A Douglas!” [laughs]
Allison: They’re like, “The war cry of the Douglas’.”
Ann: So, they were like, “Oh my god something’s happening.” So, then everyone took up weapons to help out including the cooks. So, they rallied as many servants as they could find the cooks who took the sharp spits the meat was roasting on as weapons. I feel like people just like, taking a stapler, whatever, they’re all just like, “We’ll help.” So, they ran to Mary’s room but inside the conspirators are like, “Everything’s fine, don’t worry about it.” And then Ruthven came out of the room, clanking in his armour with a glass of wine like, “Let’s share some wine.” So, Bothwell and Cock o’ the North were like, “Thanks, no thanks,” and so they in fact fled all the way out of the building through a small window that overlooked a small garden which is allegedly where the over-the-hill lions lived, there was a royal menagerie including lions, who were clearly not very active or hungry because they were able to just scoot out that way.
Then, as per Denise Mina:
Lights are appearing, first one then another, then five or twenty, and they’re coming straight for the palace gates. The men of the city of Edinburgh,
Remember they love her.
400 citizens walk in formation carrying torches that form a river of fire. These are the ordinary men of the town who have sworn to keep the peace, called from their beds by the keepers of the watch. They are all of a single mind, armed with lances and torches, fuelled by fierce loyalty to the Queen.
So, the people of Edinburgh, again her secret weapon, they come by and they’re like, “Something is happening, what is happening?” They stopped below her windows and they’re like, “We demand to see her, bring Mary to the window.” Darnley went to the window and he’s like, “Don’t worry, it’s fine. I’m the King now. I’m the captain now.”
Allison: And they’re like, “No, this is not what we the people of Edinburgh wanted to happen.”
Ann: No. Meanwhile, Mary was in the room guarded by men who are like, “If you make one sound, we will murder you.” So, the keepers of the watch are like, “Ohh-kay.” Anyway, Mary obviously didn’t sleep at all that night, but she was kept company by the Countess, the widow of Cock o’ the North, and her other ladies, and this is crucial. In the morning, Darnley returned, and they argued.
Allison: Yeah, can you imagine what that night must have been like? [laughs]
Ann: [laughs] “Why won’t you fuck me?”
Allison: “Because you just stabbed my best friend and threw his body down the stairs… bro, what do you think?”
Ann: Yeah, so sometime overnight, one of the ladies had seen the stabbed body of Davie Rizzio and told Mary, “He’s for sure dead.” She cried and then said, “No more tears, I will think upon a revenge.”
Allison: Yesss, my girl.
Ann: And she did. So anyway, meanwhile the asshole murderers were all hanging out together in the castle being like, “Amazing, now we’re the kings,” or whatever. But again, Denise Mina puts this perfectly:
These men know they are great, they feel confident they have just changed the course of history with the forcefulness and righteous vengeance. They haven’t. Their plans will be usurped by a dumpy widow woman carrying a piss pot.
So, Mary needed to exchange information with the outside world, specifically Bothwell and Cock o’ the North Junior, and the way that she knew how to do that, in a callback to anyone who has heard Allison and my episode about the bush rangers, is to weaponize her female body. So, when Darnley returned to check up on her, she pretended she was miscarrying.
Allison: We love a fake pregnancy diversion, it’s so good.
Ann: Yeah, so she’s just like, “Oh no, I’m miscarrying and it’s because you won’t let me see my midwife.” Darnley’s like, “Oh no!” So, then she was allowed to see her French physician and her midwife who were both loyal to her and they were both like, “Oh yeah, she’s totally miscarrying. Do you know what else helps with miscarriage? If all her ladies-in-waiting are allowed to see her again.” And Darnley was like, “Okay, sure. That’s how pregnancy works? Great.” But Ruthven and Jam-Jam, to their credit, were suspicious because I think they said at this point, she was raised by the de Guises and Catherine de’ Medici, “Don’t trust her, bro.”
Allison: And Darnley’s like, “How am I supposed to know how the female body works? I’ve never once thought about that in my whole life. I assume this is normal.”
Ann: Yeah, so they were like, “Is she going to switch clothes with one of the ladies and flee?” A good option. Her guards were doubled, nobody was allowed to leave the room while wearing a face covering or a muffler in case she tried to leave in disguise. Here’s the thing, she was good, but they knew she was good. Darnley didn’t.
Anyway, so one of the ladies she’s allowed to see is the Countess, widow of Cock o’ the North. So, remember Cock o’ the North’s family, the Gordons, they hate Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart because they blame him for having destroyed their family.
Ann: Yeah, and they know that it was him, not Mary. She was complicit in that, but it was because she was taking his advice. Anyway, so the Countess had been in touch with her son, Cock o’ the North Junior, who was off with Bothwell wanting to help and so she had messages to pass along from them. So, because the Countess had had 12 children, she was trusted in, like, a midwife-adjacent situation she was like, “I need to take Mary into the other room to pee and we need to be alone for pregnancy reasons.” And they’re like, “That makes sense.” So, she and Mary went, and they were talking in private. She passed along intel that Bothwell and Cock o’ the North Junior had raised some troops so if Mary could descend through a window by means of a rope ladder, they would be waiting to receive her. [chuckles] And the Countess was like, “I could smuggle in the rope ladder, maybe concealed in a food tray.” And Mary is like, “I’m six months pregnant and that’s not the plan I’m going to do, thank you.”
Anyway, so she was like, the whole time they were talking, Mary was peeing into a little chamber pot thing and then the guys were like, “They’ve been talking for too long,” and she’s like peeing and she’s like, “I’m just peeing into this little pee pot.” She had given the Countess a letter with instructions and the Countess stuck it inside of her undershirt layer next to her skin and the guards were like, “Hmm, we’re going to frisk this person leaving.” But it’s like an old lady and they’re like, “Well, it’s an old lady carrying a piss pot, we’re not going to… whatever.” So, she left carrying the piss pot with Mary’s secret instruction letter on her body.
So, later that night, because this is the next day, the next night, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart came to town and Mary was like, “Bring him to me please.” And he was like, “If only I’d been here last night, I wouldn’t have let them treat you so badly,” and she’s like, “What the fuck bro? If you want to get on my good side, can you free me from this castle situation?” And he’s like, “We’ll see,” because he just always is playing both sides, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart. He’s also never there when the shit goes down, he’s always conveniently out of town even though he plans everything. Anyway, Mary knew her best chance to escape was via manipulating Darnley. She knew he was stupid, cowardly, vain, drunken, dissolute, narcissistic, and also violent, vindictive, and a skilled liar. So, she had to use him as a weapon.
So, Darnley was meanwhile, remember that they had left his dagger in Rizzio’s body and Darnley was like, “Wait a minute, why did they do that?” So, he’s starting to be like, “Are these guys on my side or not? Hmm.” So, she was left alone with Darnley, and she offered… She’s like listen, “If you help me escape, I will have sex with you.”
Allison: ”The only thing I’d ever want, other than the crown matrimonial.”
Ann: Yeah, but basically, she’s like, “Come back tonight and I’ll have sex with you,” but she knew he was going to be drunk and passed out and in fact, he was. So, in the morning he was like, “Oh fuck,” and he came up the secret sex stairs and Mary was asleep or pretending to be, making him wait for an hour until she was ready to speak to him. And then she’s like, “Oh, I totally would have had sex with you last night but like, now this morning I feel unwell. Sorry about that.”
Anyway, she used all of her skills of manipulation that she learned growing up with the de Guises, and Catherine de’ Medici but also using, honestly, the truth. She’s like, “As soon as these assholes have their pardons, they’re going to ditch you and they’re not going to give you the Crown Matrimonial bro. Why would they when they already have what they want?” So, she persuades him to help her escape. And in fact, he agreed. So, she knew where to go because the Countess had secretly been smuggling her letters and she knew where Bothwell and Cock o’ the North Junior were waiting. So, the plan was to pretend that she, for pregnancy reasons, had to leave.
Allison: Pregnancy reasons explain so much because not a single man in this castle is going to be like, “Can you tell me more about your pregnancy? Can you please explain more to me about the female reproductive system?” They’re all just like, “Mm-hm, must be correct. Go right ahead.”
Ann: Exactly, it’s all so mysterious to them. So, her midwife and French physician came in and they’re like, “You know what? She’s truly having a miscarriage. The only way to have her not miscarry is to move her to a different castle with sweeter and pleasanter air.” And Darnley’s like, “That sounds true, that sounds true.” So, he convinced them… What they said was, “Mary said she would sign the papers.” And they’re like, “Okay, as soon as she signs the papers, we will remove her guards and we will leave.” Darnley was like, “Oh yeah, Mary looked at the papers, she thought they were great, but she was sick and couldn’t sign them tonight, but she’ll sign them tomorrow, so if you could just remove the guards now, that would be great.” And so, that’s what they did because the assholes were foolish and thought that Mary had given in to them.
So, shortly after midnight, the guards were removed, Mary and Darnley slipped out a secret passage in the wine cellar and then they met six of their most trusted servants who had fetched her horses. At the last minute, Darnley was like, “But can my father come also?” And Mary was like, “Categorically, no.” So, then they rode hard through the night. This was like a 5-hour horse ride, 25 miles away.
Allison: She is still 6 months pregnant at this point so, not easy.
Ann: Yeah, and I don’t think she even got to eat dinner. Darnley was like, “Ride faster, woman” and she was like, “I’m pregnant, you asshole,” and he was like, “Well if you lose this baby, we can have others.”
Allison: “If we just keep having sex AKA the only thing I want.”
Ann: So, Mary was like, push on and take care of yourself, and he did. So, he just rode away ahead of them, basically abandoning them. Anyway, so part way there, from this castle they were going to, Bothwell, Cock o’ the North Junior, and other helpful loyal people were waiting for them, and they arrived at 5 AM to Dunbar Castle. And I love this detail. So, like all this had happened, I just said, did she even have supper with all these things that had happened? She arrived and she was like, “Bring me fresh eggs.” And they were like, “Okay.” Then she cooked scrambled eggs for everybody.
Allison: Yesss, Queen.
Ann: Literal yes Queen! She loves scrambled eggs, and she knows that they need some breakfast, so she made them herself and I love that.
Allison: It’s a real stop at Denny’s after a wild night out kind of move and that’s great, I can relate to that.
Ann: Exactly. So, she wrote a letter to Elizabeth right away being like, “Hey, these guys are probably going to flee to England, and you better not help them.” She also rewarded Bothwell for helping out by giving him a wardship to this castle which is called Dunbar Castle. And because the everyday people loved her, right, even though they didn’t care one way or another about Davie Rizzio specifically, they were like, “Someone is going after our Queen? Our Queen, who we love?” So, more families, like the Hepburns, Bothwell’s family, the Hamiltons, the family of Arran, the Gordons, Cock o’ the North’s family, and others from the borders came to defend her cause. And within five days, the asshole rebellion had collapsed, and Mary returned to Edinburgh with her supporters, a triumphant return! And that’s the end of today’s story. [both laugh] A happy ending.
Allison: Except for Rizzio, RIP.
Ann: Except for Rizzio, RIP. But, like, Mary triumphant, scrambled eggs and all. So, Allison, can you please tell everybody again about your books?
Allison: Sure. I have two books if you like historical nonsense et cetera. My first book available now is called A Tip for the Hangman. It is tangentially about Mary, Queen of Scots in her final scheming era which you will get to later on this podcast. I have another book coming out in October which is called Let the Dead Bury the Dead, it is a 19th-century Russian alternative history, and you can pre-order that now if you’d like. You can also subscribe to my newsletter, “Dirtbags Through the Ages,” just google that and it will pop up.
Ann: And I’ll just remind everybody that I also, I forget to say this sometimes, but I also have a newsletter that I haven’t updated in a while but I’m sure I will soon. It’s called ThreeNiceThings.Substack.com, and that’s where I talk about non-women’s history things, I mostly talk about murder mysteries. So honestly, this episode is my jam to be, like, murder mystery adjacent.
Also, recently we’ve started having transcripts available of the podcast which are courtesy of Aveline Malek of The Wordary so if you go to VulgarHistory.com, the most recent episodes, there’s a link in those to see transcripts of recent episodes.
And we have our new and improved store, so VulgarHistory.com/Store is where I suggest you go if you’re in the US. And if you’re international, I suggest you go to VulgarHistory.RedBubble.com where the shipping is better for non-US countries. We have the “Where is your God now, John Knox?” design by Jennifer Ferguson, and we have the “Renaissance Reformation Girl Squad”, and “Goth Queen Mom Friend,” design by Karyn Moynihan. The “Flying Squadron” emblem by Jan Jupiter and yeah, just some real weird merch. I feel like we need to do some sort of RIP Davie Rizzio tortoise design but…
Allison: We’ve got to do, “You’re my tortoise.”
Ann: Bejewelled tortoise, I love it. And then also, if you want to support this podcast, you could support me on Patreon. So, if you go to Patreon.com/AnnFosterWriter, that’s where if you give a monthly donation then that money goes toward things like me having an editor, hiring a transcriptionist, and getting artists to design merch. Anyway, so on Patreon if you pledge at least $1 a month, you get early access to all the episodes as well as ad-free access. If you pledge $2 or more a month, you get that and also you can vote on polls of things like, what should I call this guy called James in this story? Jam-Jam came from that. And then if you pledge at least $5 or more, you get access to the bonus podcasts including one that Allison does with me and our other friend, Lana Wood Johnson, called Vulgarpiece Theatre where we talk about costume dramas. I also do So This Asshole episodes that you can get if you’re on the Patreon. And I have said, and I will stick to this, that once I get to 500 people following me on Patreon, I will do So This Asshole, John Knox. But know that that is the only circumstance in which I will do that.
But also, this is a new thing, if you want to try and see what Patreon is like, now you can try a 7-day trial. So, if you have a week off work and you want to binge all the bonus content, one could. Yeah, so I’m excited about the 7-day trial so people can see what it’s like, people who haven’t been able to join or if you’re not in a position where you’re able to support me on Patreon, you can still get access to that stuff for 7 days. Anyway, that’s on Patreon.com/AnnFosterWirter.
Next week, Allison is going to be back and we’re going to talk more about what happens next in this weird saga of people all called James and our six-foot-tall queen and what she does next.
Allison: There will be some explosive reveals in the next episode, you don’t want to miss it.
Ann: I see what you did, I see what you did. Thank you so much, Allison. And so, for all the listeners, keep your pants 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
Daughters of the North: Jean Gordon and Mary Queen of Scots by Jennifer Morag Henderson
David Rizzio and Mary Queen of Scots: Murder at Holyrood by David Tweedie
Embroidering Her Truth: Mary Queen of Scots and the Language of Power by Clare Hunter
Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir
Mary Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy
Rizzio: A Novella by Denise Mina
Support Vulgar History on Patreon
Vulgar History is an affiliate of Bookshop.org, which means that a small percentage of any books you click through and purchase will come back to Vulgar History as a commission. Use this link to shop there and support Vulgar History.