10 February

Henry Stewart or Stuart, Duke of Albany (7 December 1545 – 10 February 1567), styled Lord Darnley before 1565, was king consort of Scotland from 1565 until his murder at Kirk o’ Field in 1567. He was the second but eldest surviving son of Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, and his wife, Lady Margaret Douglas. Darnley’s maternal grandparents were Archibald Douglas, sixth Earl of Angus, and Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England, and widow of James IV of Scotland. It is the common belief that Henry Stewart was born on 7 December, but this is disputed. He was a first cousin and the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, and was the father of her son James VI of Scotland, who succeeded Elizabeth I of England as James I.

Darnley was murdered eight months after James’s birth. On 9 February 1567, his body and that of his valet were discovered in the orchard of Kirk o’ Field, in Edinburgh, where they had been staying.

During the weeks leading up to his death, Darnley was recovering from a bout of smallpox (or, it has been speculated, syphilis). He was described as having deformed pocks upon his face and body. He stayed with his family in Glasgow, until Mary brought him to recuperate at Old Provost’s lodging at Kirk o’ Field, a two-storey house within the church quadrangle, a short walk from Holyrood – with the intention of incorporating him into the court again.

Darnley stayed at Kirk o’ Field while Mary attended the wedding of Bastian Pagez, one of her closest servants, at Holyrood. Around 2 am on the night of 10 February 1567, while Mary was away, two explosions rocked the foundation of Kirk o’ Field. These explosions were later attributed to two barrels of gunpowder that had been placed in the small room under Darnley’s sleeping quarters. Darnley’s body and the body of his valet William Taylor, were found outside, surrounded by a cloak, a dagger, a chair and a coat. Darnley was dressed only in his nightshirt, suggesting he had fled in some haste from his bedchamber. Upon further examination, the bodies had no signs of injuries that could be associated with the explosion, so the blast was not considered to have killed Darnley. It was determined that the two men were killed by strangulation, believed to have taken place after the explosion. (However, modern medicine recognises that internal injuries can kill explosion victims with no sign of injury.)