Historical Figure
David Rizzio
History's David Rizzio
Biographical Information
Real Name: David Riccio di Pancalieri
Born: 1533
Death: 9 March 1566
Age: 33
Religion: Catholic
Gender: Male Male
Originally From: Turin, Italy
Family: Joseph Rizzio (Brother)
Affiliations: Kingdom of Scotland
COD: Stabbed
TV Character Information
First appearance: Unchartered Waters
Portrays: David Rizzio
Portrayed by: Andrew Shaver

David Rizzio, was an Italian courtier, born close to Turin, Italy, a descendant of an ancient and noble family still living in Piedmont, the Riccio Counts di San Paolo e Solbrito, who rose to become the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary's husband, Lord Darnley, is said to have been jealous of their friendship, because of rumors that he had impregnated Mary, and joined in a conspiracy of Protestant nobles, led by Lord Ruthven, to murder him. The murder was the catalyst for the downfall of Darnley, and it had serious consequences for Mary's subsequent career. Mary was having dinner with Rizzio and a few Ladies-in-Waiting when Darnley joined them, accused his wife of adultery and then had someone murder Riccio, who was hiding behind Mary. Mary was held at gunpoint and Rizzio was stabbed numerous times. His body had over 50 wounds.


Rizzio went first from Turin, Italy to the Court of the Duke of Savoy, then at Nice, Italy. However, finding no opportunities for advancement there, he found means to get himself admitted into the train of the Count de Moretto in 1561, who was about to lead an embassy to Scotland. The Court in Scotland had no employment for Rizzio, and dismissed him. He ingratiated himself with Mary, Queen of Scots'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.

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. Ambitious (seeing himself as all but a Secretary of State), a Catholic and a foreigner to boot, Rizzio, it was felt, was too close to the Queen. Rumors became rife that Mary was having an adulterous affair with Rizzio.


Jealousy precipitated his murder in the Queen's presence, in her supper chamber in the Palace of Holyroodhouse 9 March 1566. 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, with Lord Darnley, led by Lord Ruthven, demanded Rizzio be handed over. Mary, Queen of Scots refused. Rizzio then hid behind Mary but was nevertheless seized and stabbed to death in the presence of the Queen.

After this violent struggle, Rizzio was stabbed an alleged 56 times, before being thrown down the main staircase and stripped of his jewels and fine clothes. He was buried within two hours in the cemetery of Holyrood. Buchanan and Daniel state that shortly afterward his body was removed by the Queen's orders and deposited in the sepulcher of the Kings of Scotland; a measure most impolitic, as it strengthened the previous reports of her familiarity with him. Rumors were thrown around as to why this happened to Rizzio – most claim Lord Darnley was jealous.


Robert Melville arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland from London, England and reported back to Queen Elizabeth and William Cecil on the aftermath of the murder. He noted that Lord Ruthven, and Lord Lindsay had fled, and William Maitland and some gentlemen of Lothian who were suspected of having knowledge of the plan had fled. Mary, Queen of Scots had escaped from Edinburgh to Dunbar Castle.

Rizzio's brother, Joseph, arrived in Scotland with Michel de Castelnau and was appointed secretary in David's place by 25 April 1566. Joseph and an Italian colleague, Joseph Lutyni, had some trouble over coins taken from the queen's purse, and in April 1567 he was accused and acquitted with Lord Bothwell of Lord Darnley's murder.


Historical Figure

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