David Rizzio

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David Rizzio, sometimes written as David Riccio or David Rizzo (c. 1533 – 9 March 1566) was an Italian courtier, born close to Turin, a descendant of the ancient and noble family still living in Piedmont Riccio Counts de San Paolo et Solbrito, who rose to become the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary's husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, is said to have been jealous of their friendship, because of rumours that he had made Mary pregnant, and joined in a conspiracy of Protestant nobles, led by Patrick Ruthven, 3rd Lord Ruthven, to murder him. The murder was the catalyst for the downfall of Darnley and had serious consequences for Mary's subsequent career.[1]



Rizzio, (whose name appears in Italian record as David Riccio di Pancalieri in Piemonte), went first from Turin to the Court of the Duke of Savoy, then at Nice. However, meeting no encouragement there, found means to get himself admitted into the train of the Count de Moretto in 1561, who was upon the point of setting out an embassy to Scotland.[2] The Court in Scotland had no employment for Rizzio, and dismissed him. He ingratiated himself with the Queen's musicians, whom she had brought with her from France. James Melville, a personal friend of Rizzio, said that "Her Majesty had three valets in her chamber, who sung three parts, and wanted a bass to sing the fourth part". Thus, he was drawn into her court (Hawkins, 1778).

He was considered a good musician, and an excellent singer, which first brought him to the attention of the cosmopolitan young Queen. Towards the end of 1564, having grown wealthy under her patronage, he became the Queen's secretary for relations with France, after the previous occupant of the post retired there. This post attracted a quarterly salary of £20.[3] Ambitious, seeing himself as all but a Secretary of State, a Catholic, and a foreigner to boot, Rizzio had too much of the Queen's ear, it was felt. Rumours became rife that Mary was having an adulterous affair with Rizzio.


Jealousy precipitated his murder in the Queen's presence, in her supper chamber ("a cabinet abowte xii footes square, in the same a little low reposinge bedde, and a table"[4]) in the Palace of Holyroodhouse after the royal guards were quickly overpowered and the palace was turned over to the control of the rebels. The Queen was seven months pregnant (with James VI) at the time. Having burst into the Queen's private dining room, the rebels, led by Patrick Ruthven, 3rd Lord Ruthven, demanded Rizzio be handed over. The Queen refused. Rizzio then hid behind Mary, who having tried desperately to protect him, was herself threatened at gun point. The hysterical screams of the Queen and Rizzio travelled out of the palace and alerted the people of Edinburgh.[citation needed] Several hundred local men poured out of the local taverns and ran to Holyrood with makeshift weapons, but with a gun held at her side, the Queen was forced to go to the window and dismiss them.[citation needed]

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