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The Babington plot

conspirators seen through a window
Conspirators seen through a window
By 1586 Mary Queen of Scots has become a real psychological thorn in Elizabeth's side. Doubtless to free their hand to murder more Catholics, the State's increasingly aggressive secret police and intelligence service may "sex up" the threat posed by Catholic supporters of the imprisoned Scottish Queen. Elizabeth, torn between her horror of being forced into regicide (the killing of a fellow monarch), but at the same time worried that the same fate might befall her, probably gives tacit approval for Walsingham to unleash his operatives.

Agent provocateurs like the amoral Robin Poley are dispatched across the country to seek out - or perhaps better still, engineer - the evidence the State needs to find the final solution to the Catholic problem.

Rather conveniently, they find evidence of a plot to kill Elizabeth and replace her with the Catholic Queen of Scots. The Babington plot has all the hallmarks of a government sting. The gullible and the disenfranchised are probably just entrapped into repeating what the State agent provocateurs feed them, thus signing their own death warrants and those of the more influential and powerful people that the State really wants to neutralize.

Mary Queen of Scots is tried, and her death warrant signed in December. In the bloody aftermath, many lesser-known Catholics are also tried and executed. One is Robert Debdale, a Jesuit, a former neighbor of Anne Hathaway, a kinsman to William Shakespeare's mother and like William, a former pupil of Stratford Grammar School.

Once again, someone close to Shakespeare's family will appear to have been murdered by the State purely for his Catholic beliefs.


Mary Queen of Scots portraitMary Queen of Scots

portrait not availableRobert Poley

Sir Francis Walsingham portraitSir Francis Walsingham

sketch of Anne HathawayAnne Hathaway


Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-AvonStratford upon Avon, Warwickshire

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