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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

David Riccio of Poncalieri in Piedmont


those around her was an Italian, David Riccio of Poncalieri in Piedmont, who had previously been secretary to the Archbishop of Turin, and then in the same capacity accompanied his brother-in-law, the Conte di Moretta, who went to Scotland as ambassador of the Duke of Savoy. He knew how to express himself well in Italian and French, and was besides skilful in music.[216] As he exactly supplied a voice which was wanting in the Queen's chapel, she asked the ambassador to let him enter her service. Riccio was not a blooming handsome man; though still young, he gave the impression of advanced years: he had something morose and repellent about him; but he showed himself endlessly useful and zealous, and won greater influence from day to day. He not merely conducted the foreign correspondence, on which all now depended and for which he was indispensable,--it became his office to lay everything before the Queen that needed her signature, and through this he attained the incalculable actual power of a confidential cabinet-secretary; he saw the Queen, who took pleasure in his company, as often as he wished, and ate at her table. James Melvil, whom she had commissioned to warn her, if he saw her committing faults, did not neglect doing it in this case; he represented to her the ill effects which favouring a foreigner drew after it: but she thought she could not let her royal prerogative be so narrowly limited.[217] Riccio had promoted the marriage with Darnley: the latter seemed to depend
on him;[218] it was even said that the secretary used at pleasure a signet bearing the King's initials. It was no wonder indeed if this influence created him enemies, especially as he took presents which streamed in on him abundantly: yet the real hostility came from quite another quarter.

The English Council of State did not fail to notice the danger which lay in a policy of estrangement on the part of Scotland. It was proposed to put an end to its progress once for all by an invasion of Scotland: or at least the wish was expressed to arm for defence, e.g. to fortify Berwick, and above all to renew the understanding with the Scotch lords; Murray, whom Mary had in vain tried to gain over by reminding him of the interest of their family and the views of their father, would most gladly have delivered Darnley at once into the hands of the English. By thus openly choosing his side he had been forced, together with his chief friends, Chatellerault, Glencairn, Rothes, and some others, to leave Scotland: the Queen, refused with violent words the demand of the English court that she should receive them again; she called a Parliament instead for the beginning of March, in which their banishment was to be confirmed and an attempt made to restore Catholicism. This was not so difficult, as the resolutions of 1560 had never yet been ratified. There appeared at court the Catholic lords, Huntley, Athol, and Bothwell who was ever ready for fighting (he had returned from banishment); they came to an understanding with Riccio. But now it happened that the personal union (on which all rested) between the King, the Queen, and

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