Friday, 14 February 2014

David Rizzio's Tree

David Rizzio was an Italian nobleman from Piedmont who came to Scotland in 1561 in the entourage of an ambassador.  An accomplished musician and an excellent singer he came to the notice of Mary, Queen of Scots when she was looking to recruit a bass singer. He was wanted to accompany  her three ladies- in -waiting who sung the soprano parts, to form a vocal quartet. Then in 1564 when the previous incumbent retired, Mary appointed David Rizzio as her secretary for relations with France, an important position that came with an quarterly salary of £20

Rizzio wanted  a country retreat to reflect his important position at court. The Queen tried to persuade Lord Ross to give her secretary the lordship of Melville. Although he did not agree to this request, David Rizzio was able take apartments in the castle outside Edinburgh, and so Melville Castle became known to locals as 'Rizzio's House'. The Queen was a frequent visitor.

On one of Mary's visits Rizzio planted a tree, a sweet chestnut (castanea sativa)  in the grounds of the castle, as a token of his affection. The tree has survived 450 years, a magnificent specimen of enduring love. In response, the Queen planted five oak trees along the drive.


Such public displays of affection as the planting of this tree were to lead to David Rizzio's downfall. The Protestant lords, managed to persuade her husband, Lord Darnley, that the Catholic Rizzio was not only the Queen's lover but was responsible for her pregnancy. In 1566 they broke into the Queen's apartments at Holyrood and stabbed him, 57 times. A few years later Darnley was himself murdered, by among others the Queen's new lover, the Earl of Bothwell. Mary was accused of complicity in Darnley's murder and as a consequence was taken capture and forced to abdicate her throne..Although Mary managed to escape, to England, after many years of imprisonment she was executed by her cousin Elizabeth. The venerable sweet chestnut at Melville Castle remains as an enduring symbol of the Queen's and Rizzio's ill-fated mutual affection.