Scottish experts have handed down their judgment on a crime that occurred almost 450 years ago. Mary, Queen of Scots has been exonerated of any involvement in her husband’s murder in 1567 by a group of investigators convened by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

After the death of her first husband, King Francis II of France, Mary returned to Scotland and married her cousin, the earl of Darnley. Lord Darnley later died in the wake of a mysterious explosion, and Mary has always been suspected in the plot—not least because she married one of the main suspects, James Hepburn, just three months later.

Darnley was not your average innocent victim. He was a jealous, violent man, who had killed Mary’s secretary, David Rizzio, the year before. In front of the pregnant queen, Darnley stabbed Rizzio 56 times because he believed Rizzio and Mary were having an affair. When Darnley himself was found dead in his nightshirt, it made sense that the crime was retribution of some sort for Rizzio's murder. 

A 1567 drawing of the crime scene. Image Credit: National Archives via Wikipedia // Public Domain

Modern experts examined drawings of the location of the murder, Kirk o’Field in Edinburgh, and a recreation image of the crime scene based on original sketches. They determined that Darnley’s body, along with his squire’s, had been dragged into the orchard after a mysterious explosion struck his house. Their injuries didn’t indicate that they had died in the explosion, though—they seemed to have been strangled or suffocated.

The investigators, led by forensic anthropologist Sue Black of the University of Dundee, concluded that the murder wasn't arranged by Mary to make room for a new romantic alliance. Instead, they believe the killing was carried out by Darnley’s own relatives, who were angry about his involvement in Rizzio’s murder and needed to keep the powerful, out-of-control noble in check.

[h/t: Scottish Legal News]