Executions of Babington Plotters Begin
Elizabeth I faced several plots throughout her reign, of varying degrees of seriousness. Somewhat paradoxically the Babington Plot of 1586 was of great value to her security, its course controlled by Francis Walsingham to enmesh the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots , and end Elizabeth’s vacillation over disposing of her rival.
Since the death of Mary I discontented Catholics had constantly whispered against Elizabeth, regarded as a usurper by them as they refused to recognize her mother Anne Boleyn ’s marriage to Henry VIII . The focus of such whispers since her foolish decision to seek sanctuary in England in 1568 was Mary Queen of Scots, an inveterate plotter.
What we call the Babington Plot would more accurately be called the Ballard Plot, as its instigator was Jesuit priest John Ballard, who recruited gentleman Anthony Babington (from Dethick in Derbyshire) to organise Catholic gentry to rise against Elizabeth I with promises of foreign invasion forces to support them.
Walsingham, however, had set up the conduit for clandestine correspondence to and from Mary; every letter to or by her was intercepted and decoded. When Babington’s summary of the plot and her approval of it were secured the conspirators were arrested, tortured for information, tried, and condemned to death by being hanged, drawn and quartered. On September 20 1586 Babington and others were taken from the Tower of London to St Giles Field in Holborn, where their horrifically protracted executions were carried out.
Mary’s trial and beheading followed early the next year at Fotheringhay , Elizabeth finally convinced there was no other option but to have her executed.
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