Regicide: Mary, Queen of Scots - ENTRAPMENT

Chartley Hall where Mary, Queen of Scots was under house arrest during 1586.  It was here that she exchanged letters with Anthony Babington.  Illustration from Robert Plot's 1686 book, Natural History of Staffordshire (see Tab 5 at pages 92-93).  The house, as it appeared during Mary's stay, no longer exists.  After it burned, the place was rebuilt. Online via Google Books.  PD


Mary had not been forgotten, however. Many ardent Catholics still thought Mary - now quite ill with various ailments, including rheumatism - should be queen of both Scotland and England.

Sir Francis Walsingham (brilliantly portrayed by Geoffrey Rush in the movie, Elizabeth) knew that's what Catholics in England and Scotland thought. He decided to concoct a scheme that would implicate Mary once and for all.

Using the unsuspecting Sir Anthony Babington, a Catholic, as his pawn, Walsingham allowed Mary to secretly correspond with Babington who wanted to help Mary escape. Mary's two secretaries coded all messages, but Walsingham knew the code.

Anxious to be free, and relieved someone was finally talking about escape, Mary responded to Babington's letters.

If the letters had just talked about escape, Walsingham's efforts would have come to nothing. But in one letter Babington went much farther than the subject of escape. He could not resist a reference to Elizabeth.

Babington wanted to know if Mary would reward him and his compatriots "For the dispatch of the usurper." (Follow this link to read Babington's letter.)

Once again ignoring the advice of her counselors, who were concerned about the veiled reference to a plot against Queen Elizabeth, Mary wrote to Babington.

While she said nothing at all about Elizabeth, Mary did agree to Babington's proposed plans for her escape. Her signature was on the letter.  

Gilbert Gifford - a double-agent who was really working for Walsingham, not with Babington - made sure the letter reached Elizabeth's spymaster.

When Walsingham read it for the first time, he must have muttered, "I've got her."  His chief code-breaker, Thomas Phelippes had already drawn a picture of the gallows on the intercepted letter.  

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2007

Updated Last Revision: Jul 15, 2019

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