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Kirk o' Field in Edinburghmarker, Scotlandmarker, is best known as the site of the murder of Lord Darnley, second husband of Mary Queen of Scots in 1567.

The site was occupied by the collegiate church of St Mary in the Fields, or the Kirk o' Field. It was approximately ten minutes' walk from Holyrood Palacemarker, just adjacent to the city wall, near to the Cowgatemarker. On his return to Edinburgh with Mary early in 1567, Darnley took residence in the Old Provost's lodging, a comfortable two storey house within the church quadrangle.

Early in the morning of 10 February, the house was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion while Mary was at Holyrood attending a wedding celebration. The partially clothed bodies of Darnley and his servant were found in a nearby orchard, apparently strangled but unharmed by the explosion. A contemporaneous drawing of the murder scene at Kirk o' Field illustrates at the top left the infant James VI sitting up in his cot praying: "Judge and avenge my cause, O Lord"; in the centre lie the rubble remains of the house; to the right Darnley and his servant lie dead in the orchard; below, the townspeople of Edinburgh gather round and four soldiers remove a body for burial.

Suspicion immediately fell upon Mary and James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, one of her closest and most trusted Noblemen. Although Bothwell was considered to be the lead conspirator, he was subsequently found not guilty at trial by the Privy council of Scotland in April, 1567. Mary married Bothwell the following month, just three months after Darnley's murder.

This led to great public disquiet and ultimately proved to be a major factor in her rapid decline in power and ultimate loss of the Scottish crown. Darnley's death remains one of the great unsolved historical mysteries, compounded by the discovery and controversy surrounding the "Casket Letters" apparently incriminating Mary in the murder plot.

The lands at Kirk o' Field went on to be granted to the city specifically for the foundation of a new university. The University of Edinburgh was founded by King James VI in 1582, and the Kirk o' Field site has long been considered to be at the current location of the Old Collegemarker. Recent archaeological investigations following the Cowgate fire of 2002 have raised some questions about the true location of the house, and possibly the true identities of the murder conspirators. [486524]

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