The royal Edinburgh love triangle that ended in a grisly murder

Lord Darnley and Mary Queen of Scots
-Credit: (Image: Wikimedia Commons/National Trust)

Royal scandals are nothing new, and it turns out centuries ago there was a pretty big one happening right here in Edinburgh.

Mary Queen of Scots had three husbands - each with equally dramatic stories. Though her second, Lord Darnley, is quite the tale.

Their marriage is part of the Real Mary King's Close pride tour, which delves into LGBT+ stories from Edinburgh's past. The tour also looks at secret gay societies from back in the day, as well trailblazing lesbian doctor Sophia Jex-Blake.

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As for Mary and Lord Darnley, their story began when they married in 1556. According to historians, their marriage was not a happy one - with Lord Darnely often violent and heavily abusing alcohol.

They became estranged, and it's suggested that Darnley began having an affair with David Rizzo - Mary's private secretary. Unfortunately, Mary had also been having relations with Rizzo.

When the truth was revealed, Darnley murdered Rizzo - stabbing him "57 times". Mary saw this, and only weeks later Darnley died, which several have suggested happened at the hands of the Queen.

The Real Mary King's Close said: "In 1556, Henry Stuart otherwise known as Lord Darnley, arrived in Edinburgh with claims to both the English and Scottish thrown as a descendant of James II of Scotland and Henry the VII of England.

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"Just four months after his arrival, he married Mary Queen of Scots after charming her with his lute playing and shared love of games. Despite celebrations of their partnership, it was doomed to be an unhappy marriage as Darnley would heavily abuse alcohol and was often violent, meaning they soon became estranged.

"Many historians believe that Darnley was bisexual and quickly started having an affair with David Rizzo, Mary’s private secretary, with recorded pieces of information stating that 'they would lie sometimes in one bed together'. The relationship came to an end when it became apparent that Mary have also been having intimate relations with Rizzo.

"Later in a fit of jealous rage, Darnley stabbed Rizzo 57 times in front of a heavily pregnant Mary. Darnley died just weeks later in what many presume to be at the hand of Mary due to the murder of their shared lover."

To celebrate Pride Month, The Real Mary King’s Close is once hosting a series of educational and thought-provoking ‘Pride History Tours’, designed to reveal the hidden histories of LGBTQIA+ community life in Edinburgh from as far back as 1546 until 1912.

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Paul Nixon, General Manager at The Real Mary King’s Close says: “At Continuum Attractions, we understand the importance of shining light on Edinburgh’s dark past and celebrating Scotland’s LGBTQ+ history. We’re delighted to be relaunching our Pride History tours once again, as part of Pride month in June.

“Our specially curated Pride History Tour is designed to reveal the untold stories of LGBT life in Edinburgh, dating back to 1533 when homosexuality was a crime. Through expert storytelling, we hope these tours will highlight just how far we’ve come in terms of LGBT equality and human rights, and hope that by sharing our knowledge of the past we can help to shape the future.”

The Pride History Tours will be running throughout June, every Friday and Saturday at 4pm and 5.30pm. Prices are £30 per adult and £24 per child.

You can find out more here.