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Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

The Memorial of Lord Darnley


Creator: Livinus de Vogelaare (active c. 1551-1600) (artist)
Creation Date: 
Dated 1567
Materials and techniques: 
Oil on canvas
142.3 x 224.0 cm
OM 90
Acquirer: Queen Caroline, consort of George II, King of Great Britain (1683-1737)
Presented to Queen Caroline

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (1545-67) was the second husband of Mary Queen of Scots and the father of James VI and I. He died a violent death when on the night of 9th February 1567, after a visit from Mary, the house where he was staying just outside Edinburgh was blown up by gunpowder. In the morning the bodies of Darnley and a page were found strangled in an adjoining garden. One of the main protagonists in the plot was James Bothwell, who Mary later married.

This painting was commissioned by Darnley’s parents, the Earl and Countess of Lennox, who kneel beside the tomb of their son, with their grandson, the future James VI and I in front of them and Darnley’s brother, Charles Stewart, behind them.

On the tomb are two reliefs, one showing the murder of Darnley and his page as they are dragged from their beds. The other, showing their bodies lying in the garden. In the corner is an inset picture of the encounter at Carberry Hill (15 June 1567); Mary is seen surrendering to the insurgent lords, supporters of the Lennox family. In the distance Bothwell can be seen riding from the field according to the terms of the Queen’s surrender. He fled to Denmark where he was imprisoned and later died.

This picture should be read as a damning indictment of the part played by Mary, Queen of Scots, in the murder of her husband and of her association with the Earl of Bothwell and as a cry for vengeance on Darnley’s murderers. The meaning is driven home by the succession of inscriptions, some of them now illegible. The section referring to Mary’s part in Lord Darnley’s murder may have been erased by her son, James VI.

Indistinctly signed: Livinus Voghelarius...

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