Rizzio, David

, a musician of the sixteenth century, whose misconduct or misfortunes have obtained him a place in the history of Scotland, was born at Turin, but brought up in France. His father was a musician and dancing-master, and the son probably possessed those talents which served to amuse a courtly circle. He appears to have come to Scotland about 1564, when, according to most accounts, he was neither young nor handsome. The count de Merezzo brought him hither in his suite, as ambassador from Savoy to the court of the unfortunate queen Mary. Sir James Melvil, in his “Memoirs,” tells us that “the queen had three valets of her chamber who sung in three parts, and wanted a base to sing the fourth part; therefore, telling her majesty of this man, Rizzio, as one fit to make the fourth in concert, he was drawn in sometimes to sing with the rest.” He quickly, however, crept into the queen’s favour; and her French secretary happening at that time to return to his own country, Rizzio was preferred by her majesty to that office. He began to make a figure at court, and to appear as a man of weight and consequence. Nor was he careful to abate that envy which always attends such an extraordinary and rapid change of fortune. On the contrary, he seems to have done every thing to increase it; yet it was not his exorbitant power alone which exasperated the Scots; they considered him as a dangerous enemy to the protestant religion, and believed that he held for this purpose a constant correspondence with the court of Rome. His prevalence, however, was very short-lived; for, in 1566, certain nobles, with lord Darnly at their head, conspired against him, and dispatched him in the queen’s presence | with fifty-six wounds. The consequences of this murder to the queen and to the nation are amply detailed in Scotch history, and have been the subject of a very fertile controversy.

As a musician, Rizzio’s instrument was the lute, which was at that time the general favourite all over Europe; and an opinion has long prevailed that he was the great improver of Scotch music, and that he composed most of the Scotch tunes which have been heard with so much pleasure for two centuries past, and are in their style to be distinguished from all other national airs. This matter, however, has been investigated both by sir John Hawkins, from records, and by Dr. Barney, from personal inquiry at Turin; and the result is, that the opinion has no foundation. Some part of Dr. Burney’s sentiments on the subject xve have already given in our account of king James I. of Scotland. It does riot, in fact, appear that Rizzio was a compeser at all; and his stay in this country not exceeding two years, with the variety of business in which he was, 'fatally for himself and his royal mistress, engaged, could have left him little leisure for study, or for undertaking the improvement of the national music. 1

1 Burney and Hawkins’s Hist, of Music.