Friday, July 17, 2009

On This Day in Tudor History:

On July 17, 1586, the Babington Plot to kill Queen Elizabeth I and replace her on the throne with the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots was foiled by Sir Frances Walsingham and his spy network. It was on this date that Mary wrote the letter that would seal her fate.

Walsingham had long pleaded with Elizabeth to try her cousin Mary for treason and put her to death - to no avail. Elizabeth would not be moved to execute a fellow queen of royal blood. So when he intercepted a letter Mary wrote to young Anthony Babington concerning the plot to rescue her and assassinate Elizabeth, Walsingham used this opportunity to forge additions to the letter which would be certain to seal the fates of both Babington and Mary.

Queen Mary went on trial at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire and denied her part in the plot, but her correspondence was the evidence although many believed correctly that some of it had been forged. Mary was sentenced to death. Elizabeth finally signed her cousin's death warrant, and in February 1587, in front of 300 witnesses, Mary, Queen of Scots, was executed by beheading.

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