Queen Mary and Bothwell Accused
From the start, it was clear that Darnley’s death was the product of the conspiracy of several Lords. However, the same accounts work hard to cast the Earl of Bothwell as the prime mover of the murder. Indeed, Bothwell was tried for the murder and found not guilty in April 1567. This acquittal only served to solidify existing suspicions about the Queen’s involvement. For Bothwell might have had ambitions to be King, but it was Mary who brought Darnley back to Edinburgh after months of seeking a way to be rid of him.
The Queen’s relationship with Bothwell was undoubtedly suspicious. In the wake of the Rizzio affair, the couple had become close. It was Bothwell who had raised an army in Mary’s defense. In the months that followed, Bothwell was the only one of her Lords Mary could trust. Within days of the murder, placards began to appear around Edinburgh branding the Queen a whore. They accused Mary and Bothwell of the crime and an affair. These accusations were made harder to refute by the fact that, three months after Darnley’s death, Mary and Bothwell married, sparking a civil war and Mary’s abdication.
Mary may have developed a romantic attachment to Bothwell. Or she may have decided to cement an alliance with her main supporter as her hold on power began to unravel. The suggestion that she sanctioned the murder of Darnley does not survive scrutiny. Mary had stipulated to Maitland that any removal of her husband had to be legal and leave her untainted. This was because she knew the eyes of Europe- particularly those of Elizabeth I, who was also Darnley’s cousin- were watching. Mary also knew that the murder of a man by his wife- even if that wife were a sovereign queen would not be countenanced by the male-dominated world about her.
As for her reasons for returning Darnley to Edinburgh, these may have been duplicitous, but it was duplicity motivated by self-preservation. Darnley’s father was Earl of Lennox- and Glasgow was at the heart of Lennox territory. Soon after she began her plans for divorce, Mary learned that Darnley was using his haven as a base for further plotting. Having learned of Mary’s plans for divorce, Darnley began to attempt to blacken her name in Catholic Europe by portraying her as a ‘bad’ Catholic. This, he hoped would stall any divorce and strengthen his case for the sole crown of Scotland.
Mary traveled to Glasgow to manipulate Darnley back into compliance as she had so many times before by playing the role of “a most natural and loving wife” as Darnley described her in letters to his father. By bringing him back to Edinburgh, Mary could keep a closer eye on him. It was later implied Mary deliberately placed him in the house at Kirk O’Fields. However, this was Darnley’s choice- not his wife’s. In the wake of Mary’s abdication, evidence was manipulated or fabricated to implicate her and shift the emphasis onto Bothwell. The reason for this deception was central to the whole purpose behind Darnley’s murder