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January 8, 1543 – James V Buried…With a Surprising Companion

Portrait of James V, circa 1536, by Corneille de Lyon
Portrait of James V, circa 1536, by Corneille de Lyon (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

First, an apology: the “surprising companion” was a later addition. Second, let me back up: there is a lot of story before we get to that point!

Today is the anniversary of his interment, the day his body arrived from Falkland Palace, where he had died shortly after his army suffered a terrible defeat to the English at the Battle of Solway Moss. James V was placed in a vault in the Abbey with his first wife, Madeleine of France. So far, no surprises.

But then Scotland dragged its feet over Henry VIII’s determination to have their infant Queen Mary marry his son Edward – so Henry invaded Scotland (the “Rough Wooing”) and Holyrood Abbey was damaged. Early in the next century, James’ grandson (who had united Scotland and England under one crown) had his body moved into a new vault…along with several other bodies that had been interred in the intervening years. Apparently, the world forgot all about that vault because in 1683 his tomb was “rediscovered.” John Lauder, Lord Fountainhall (a leading jurist) heard about it and went to see for himself. This is how he described it:

In this month of January 1683, was discovered accidentally, by the removing some seats in the Church of Holyroodhouse, the vault on the south-east end of the Church, where the body of King James the 5th lies buried. Skeen and others, in their Chronologies of the Scots Kings, tell us he was buried at Holyroodhouse, but the length of time and negligence had worn the particular place out of the memory of men. It was known to be him by the inscription on his leaden coffin. I had the curiosity to go and view the relicts of that gallant Prince. In the pend or cell there are six lead coffins. The first is King James the 5th who died in the year 1542; but [….] was transported into this vault by King James the 6th and reimbalmed, which appears by the freshness of his body and the liquor about him. The second is his first Queen, Madeline, daughter to Francis the 1st King of France, who died in 1537. The third is Henry, Lord Darnley, father to King James the 6th and Queen Marie’s husband who was strangled in 1567: by his body he appears to have been a very tall proper man; others call this body Seigneur David Rizzio, the Italian musician’s. The fourth is Lady Jean Stewart, bastard daughter to King James V and Countess of Argile, who died in 1587. The other 2 are some of their children.

Are you as surprised as I was by the news that James V ended up in a vault with Darnley? I can tell myself I should not be since this was arranged by James VI – so of course he would have honored his father and grandfather together…but then I consider that this might have been RIZZIO, the man his father helped to murder, and the pendulum swings right back to shock!


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January 8, 1543 – James V Buried…With a Surprising Companion
Published inOn This Day


  1. Elaine Elaine

    Darnley, how odd, One of the first of Mary Queen of Scot’s mistakes. Do you think Mary wished she’d married Robert Dudley as Elizabeth suggested. Although I’ve just quickly read that Robert refused to be married to her. It was in Wikipedia, so I’d have to double check that one 😀 I’ve always read it was Mary who refused him (and had a bit of a hissy fit in the process),as Elizabeth’s cast off. So for Mary to receive a letter, then Dudley must have agreed and why wouldn’t he. Although he wouldn’t have been joint king as I believe that was something Mary repeatedly denied Darnley. Now that when I think about it was Mary showing a little sense.

    But, let’s think about it. If Mary had married Dudley, I think she wouldn’t have been executed. Dudley I’d say would have always stayed faithful to Elizabeth and would have relished the elevation in rank. I must admit to having that tiny, teeny little niggling doubt about how faithful Dudley would have stayed to Elizabeth, let’s just say it would have depended on the circumstances and may have involved joint rule.

    But, come on going back to the original subject, the people interred in that tomb, come on, Rizzio. He’d be rolling in his grave.

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