Like the J.F. Kennedy murder fifty years ago, we might never know with certainty who killed Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, the second husband of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, near Kirk o’Field house in Edinburgh in 1567. The latest exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, dedicated to the infortunate queen, didn’t bring an answer either, but displayed a small reproduction of a painting showing the young queen and her good looking prince, held in the National Trust Collections at Hardwick Hall.
On this oil on panel painting, the young and beautiful couple is finely dressed in bright silk and dark velvet and gold. Henry Stuart is holding a rapier in his left hand, and Mary a handkerchief, her right hand resting lovingly on his husband’s arm. A white feathered fan decorated with a large precious stone in the middle of two white figures is in her hand in the center of the image. The only gesture showing who is in command is this Mary’s white hand. She looks confident next to the vain and arrogant look on her cousin Henry Stuart’s face. Mary also wears a fashionable hat, lined with pearls and feathers. This double portrait doesn’t give the impression of an official wedding portrait, but of a more intimate representation. As far as I can see, there are no crests or inscriptions of the two princely persons.
Two years after this painting was made by an unknown artist, Henry Stuart was murdered at only twenty one, having tried in vain to become a king of Scotland and not only king consort. With his death, Mary’s fortune darkened. She never went back to the years of bright bals, masks and pleasures she enjoyed so much when she had returned to Scotland from France in august 1561, after thirteen years of absence.