On 9th March 1566 David Rizzio was murdered in Holyrood Palace. He was secretary to Mary Queen of Scots. We don’t know how good a secretary he was, but he is said to have been an excellent musician and singer, which is how he came to the attention of Mary.

There are sources that claim Rizzio was an agent of the pope, and / or the Jesuits, and that he arranged the marriage between Lord Darnley and Mary. There are also claims that he was a lover of both Darnley and Mary, and that he may even have been the father of Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland and James I of England. On the night of the murder, a gang led by Lord Ruthven, and including Darnley, stabbed Rizzio 57 times. Mary alleged that one of the gang, Patrick Bellenden, pointed his gun at her pregnant belly during the affray, and that Andrew Kerr threatened to stab her.

Sir Anthony Standen was present, having travelled to Edinburgh with Lord Darnley as his master of horse. According to Standen’s account, he saved Mary’s life during the affray, and Mary forced Darnley to knight him as a result. The murder of David Rizzio was certainly a pivotal moment, since Lord Darnley was assassinated within a year, and Mary was forced to abdicate shortly afterwards.

Sir Anthony Standen was knighted in January 1596 by Queen Elizabeth I for his espionage against the Spanish Armada. I have told his amazing story in The Spy who Sank the Armada. He was the elder brother of my 10th great-grandfather. The illustration of this post places my book cover alongside an AI generated image of the murder of David Rizzio. I don’t know how authentic the AI image is, but it looks bloody enough. I’ve visited Holyrood Palace, and you can still see David Rizzio’s blood stains.