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Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Babington Plot


On September 20, 1586 Sir Anthony Babington and other co-conspirators were executed for their part in plotting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth.


Babington with his accomplices


One of the two architects of the plot was none other than King Philip II of Spain who had once been King of England by right of his wife, Mary I who had been the Queen until she died in 1558.

The goal of the plot was to restore the Catholic faith to England by killing the Protestant Elizabeth and put her cousin, the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne.

But the plot never actually even got off the ground. 


Mary, Queen of Scots


Elizabeth's Secretary of State and spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, and her chief adviser, William Cecil (who would later become the single most powerful man in England) had spies who had infiltrated the plot long before it would ever have been executed.

Walsingham and Cecil were aware that Mary, Queen of Scots was behind it but they could not punish her unless they had written proof of her involvement.

When Babington had doubts about killing Elizabeth, Mary wrote him a letter to inspire him to fight on. He wrote her back, and divulged all of the details of the plot.

The letter was intercepted.

Walsingham and Cecil had their proof, and they rounded up the conspirators and then had them hanged, drawn and quartered.

Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded.


The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots



This is a very interesting episode in Elizabeth's life. She had enemies all around her, and it must have been very difficult to survive, let alone reign, during this period.

It was not the first plot against her life and it would not be the last.


As far as Shakespeare is concerned, he may have been in London by this time, just getting his foot in the door, and beginning his career.

If he was still in Stratford then he would have been brimming with ideas for plays, and making ambitious plans to go to London.

But whether he was still in Stratford, or in London by the time of this plot, he would have been fascinated by this story.

It wouldn't be long before Shakespeare would have his own success on stage, and would eventually perform at court before Queen Elizabeth herself, and see men like William Cecil, and Francis Walsingham in person.


Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex


It wouldn't be long before Shakespeare was not an outsider at Queen Elizabeth's court, and he became an insider, befriending men like the Earls of Essex and Southampton, and the brothers William and Philip Herbert.

As I explore in my version of Hamlet, little did Shakespeare know at this point in his life that he would eventually be pulled into another plot against the Queen, the Essex Rebellion in 1601.


Cheers,


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