The 1583 Throckmorton Plot was one of a series of attempts by English Roman Catholics to depose Elizabeth I of England and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots, then held under house arrest in England.
The plot is named after the key conspirator, Sir Francis Throckmorton, cousin of Bess Throckmorton, lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Francis was arrested in November 1583 and executed in July 1584.
The plot aimed to free Mary, Queen of Scots, under house arrest in England since 1568, make her queen in place of Elizabeth and legally restore Roman Catholicism. That would be achieved by a Spanish-backed invasion of England, led by the French Duke of Guise, supported by a simultaneous revolt of English Roman Catholics. Guise would marry Mary and become king.
Guise was head of the Catholic League, a key participant in the French Wars of Religion. As one of those who planned the 1572 Bartholomew's Day massacre, he was loathed by Protestants throughout Europe and perhaps the least likely candidate for such an undertaking.
It was typical of the amateurish and overly optimistic approach of many such attempts; Throckmorton was placed under surveillance almost as soon as he returned to England, and the plot never put into action.
Francis Throckmorton (1554-1584) came from a prominent English Catholic family, his father John Throckmorton being a senior judge and witness to Queen Mary's will. While travelling in Europe with his brother Thomas from 1580 to 1583, they visited Paris and met with Catholic exiles Charles Paget and Thomas Morgan.
After returning to London in 1583, Francis carried messages between Mary, Morgan and Bernardino de Mendoza, Philip II of Spain's ambassador in London. Correspondence was routed through the French embassy in London and an agent within the embassy notified Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's Secretary of State. Throckmorton was taken into custody in November, along with incriminating documents, including lists of English Catholic supporters.
Shortly before his arrest, Throckmorton managed to send a casket of other documents to Mendoza; it has been suggested this was exactly what Walsingham wanted him to do. Throckmorton was a relatively minor player, whose significance was to confirm the extent of Spanish involvement in seeking to overthrow Elizabeth.
Protected by diplomatic immunity, Mendoza was expelled in January 1584; he was the last Spanish ambassador to England during the Elizabethan era. After being tortured to ensure he had revealed as much information as possible, Throckmorton was executed in July 1584. His brother Thomas and many others managed to escape; some were imprisoned in the Tower of London but Francis Throckmorton was the only one executed.
Mary was placed under strict confinement at Chartley Hall in Staffordshire, while Walsingham and Lord Burghley drew up the Bond of Association, obliging all signatories to execute anyone who attempted to usurp the throne or to assassinate the Queen. Mary herself was one of the signatories and it provided the basis for her execution following the 1586 Babington Plot.
Many participants in the Babington and Gunpowder Plots were related by blood or marriage to Francis, among them Robert Catesby and Francis Tresham. Bess Throckmorton (1565-1647) secretly married Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618).
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Sir Francis Throckmorton was a conspirator against Queen Elizabeth I of England in the Throckmorton Plot.
Sir William Wade was an English statesman and diplomat, and Lieutenant of the Tower of London.
John Ballard was an English priest executed for being involved in an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I of England in the Babington Plot.
The Bond of Association was a document created in 1584 by Francis Walsingham and William Cecil after the failure of the Throckmorton Plot in 1583.
Gilbert Gifford was a double agent who worked for Sir Francis Walsingham and played a role in the uncovering of the Babington Plot. Shortly before his death in Paris, he was ordained as a Catholic priest in Rheims. His true allegiances, whether to Queen Elizabeth I or to Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Catholic cause – are unclear.
Events from the 1580s in England.
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Sir Robert Throckmorton, KG, of Coughton Court in Warwickshire, was a Member of Parliament and a distinguished English courtier. His public career was impeded by remaining a Roman Catholic.
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