'The Death of Rizzio' (David Riccio (Rizzio); Mary, Queen of Scots)

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

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'The Death of Rizzio' (David Riccio (Rizzio); Mary, Queen of Scots)

by P. Rothwell, published by Thomas Kelly, after Miers
line engraving, early 19th century
10 1/4 in. x 7 1/4 in. (261 mm x 183 mm) paper size
Given by Marion Harry Spielmann, 1893
Reference Collection
NPG D13131

Sittersback to top

Artistsback to top

  • Thomas Kelly (active 1809-1871), Publisher. Artist or producer associated with 14 portraits.
  • Miers, Draughtsman. Artist or producer associated with 1 portrait.
  • P. Rothwell (active 1794-1812), Engraver. Artist or producer associated with 6 portraits.

This portraitback to top

David Rizzio, or Riccio, came to Scotland with an Ambassador from Savoy in 1561. The Queen employed him first as a singer and then as her private secretary. To Mary's enemies he became a symbol of her reliance on Catholic foreigners, and (unfounded) rumours were spread that she was having an adulterous affair with him. In 1566 he was violently murdered in Mary's presence by a group of rebellious nobles assisted by Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Mary's second husband. Scenes of the murder of Riccio were immensely popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, providing as they did an opportunity to depict extremes of drama and emotion.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1800back to top

Current affairs

Widespread food riots after poor harvests of 1798-9. Theorist, Thomas Malthus, controversially argues that poverty and food shortages are an inevitable consequence of population growth, challenging assumptions that populousness was a sign of national prosperity and power. His thesis contributed forcefully to the debate over the existing Poor Law.

Art and science

William Wordsworth publishes his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads; a retrospective explanation of his experimental poems written with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It becomes one of the best-known manifestos of Romantic literature.


Lord Castlereagh, Chief Secretary for Ireland, is the main architect of the Act of Union under which Ireland is merged with Great Britain and the Irish parliament is abolished.
British troops support successful uprising by Maltese against the French.
Napoleon is victorious against Austrians at Marengo and reconquers Italy.

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