Babington Plot

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The Babington Plot was the event which most directly led to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. This was a second major plot against Elizabeth I of England after the Ridolfi plot. It was named after the chief conspirator Sir Anthony Babington (1561–1586), a young Catholic nobleman from Derbyshire.

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Mary's imprisonment

Ever since Mary, Queen of Scots, the Roman Catholic claimant to the throne of England, came under the custody of her cousin, Elizabeth I, a year after her abdication from the throne of Scotland in 1567, she became the focus of numerous plots and intrigues to restore England to the Catholic fold. Because of this threat, she was imprisoned for eighteen years through a series of jailers, for the most part by the Earl of Shrewsbury. In 1580 her confinement was transferred to Sir Amias Paulet.

Because of increasing concern surrounding Queen Elizabeth's safety, in 1584 Elizabeth's Privy Council had signed a "Bond of Association",[1] which stated that any one within the line of succession to the throne on whose behalf anyone plotted against the queen, even if the claimant is ignorant of the plot, would be excluded from the line and executed. This was agreed upon by hundreds of Englishmen, who likewise signed the Bond. As if to allay the Queen's suspicions, Mary likewise signed. The following year, Parliament passed the Act of Association[2], which provided for the execution of anyone who would benefit from the death of the Queen if a plot against her was discovered. Whilst Mary had escaped formal reprimand as she had not actively participated in a plot, now she could be executed if a plot was initiated that would lead to her ascending to the throne of England.[3]

However, in the aftermath of the Throckmorton plot, in January 1586, Mary found herself in the strictest confinement she had experienced in the eighteen years she had been imprisoned by the English. She was confined to Chartley Hall in Staffordshire, placed under strict observation, under the control of Sir Amias Paulet. Paulet was a Puritan, and although Mary had been able to win over her previous jailers, Paulet was able to resist her charms and kept her in extremely strict conditions. Having been instructed to watch the comings and goings of servants and visitors to Mary, he stopped all open correspondence.

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