July 17th 1586. The Babington plot and Mary’s final fuck up
It always seems to be cousins at war when you read about the Tudors, but to be fair they were all a bit incestuous and so had about a million cousins a piece; with that number it’s inevitable that you’re going to annoy a few of them along the way. With so much deceit and scandal that they all hated each other, though I suppose that’s families for you isn’t it?
However for these particular cousins things got really bad, (well second cousins to be precise). Both were Queens in their own right, both well-educated and formidable, both had shady pasts and both wanted the English throne: Welcome to the battle arena Mary Queen of Scott’s and Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth I had been on the English Queen for 27 years. Everything was going sweet. There had been a couple of assassination attempts but nothing major and besides, Liz had the best spy master around, Francis Walsingham. Mary’s social standing is not so easy to explain so we have to go back to the beginning; I will keep it brief because we all have stuff to do.
Mary Stuart was born to James V of Scotland and his wife Mary of Guise (James was Henry VIII nephew, Henry was Elizabeth’s dad, hence second cousins…complicated isn’t it). Anyway Mary’s Dad died when she was 6 days old making her an infant Queen. She was betrothed to a French Prince and sent to French court until she was married. In marrying Mary her husband, Francis II, became king of France and Scotland but kicked the bucket 2 years later. Her mother in law shipped her back to Scotland after this but Mary was catholic and Scotland was protestant, not that she wasn’t unpopular at this point, but it made things a bit tricky for her. Loads of the Scottish public thought that Mary would inherit the English throne, Elizabeth had no kids so it put Mary as close as you can get without being executed.
Anyway, Mary eventually married her cousin Lord Darnley, who was a complete fucktard. This dick had Mary’s best friend stabbed to death (accusing him of being her lover), he drank and beat her and was just in general a giant twat. Mary had also grown very close the handsome young chap, The Earl of Bothwell. This dude was Mary’s closest advisor and there was much speculation about the pair. They made matters worse for themselves when Lord Darnley was killed in suspicious circumstances, not long after Mary had given birth to hers and Darnley’s son, James. There was an explosion at their house and his body was found outside, though not burned or anything like that but strangled, indicating murder (Full on CSI, Tudor style).
Bothwell then abducted and allegedly raped Mary and forced her to marry him a mere 3 months after Darnley’s death, as she was on her return form visiting her infant son, (though it’s always possible that Mary was in on the whole business). By this point Mary and Bothwell were accused of Darnleys murder and the Queen now found herself in the deepest of all shit. Their marriage was ridiculously unpopular. They had been married under Protestant law which pissed off the Catholics no end. The pair were caught and Mary surrendered and abdicated in return for Bothwells safe exile. This prick just fucked off and was never seen again, he died 10 years later in a Danish prison like a massive chump.
Whilst in prison Mary gave birth to his stillborn twins and was branded a whore, adulteress and murder by her people. Shitting herself massively, she managed to escape and head to England seeking the protection of her Cousin, Queen Elizabeth, who wasn’t happy about the whole thing:
Elizabeth was a protestant Queen and Mary was her catholic heir. Having finally got rid of Mary Tudor, the most mentalist of Catholics, Elizabeth didn’t really want another Catholic Queen in the country compromising her throne and was worried about loyal Catholics revolting against her and giving Mary the crown. Nobody was happy and so bringing us up to speed on the background checks.
So back to the events of 1586 and the Babington plot. As I have mentioned there were a couple of plots to murder Elizabeth but all failed. This one however was to be Mary’s undoing. Mary had been imprisoned at Elizabeth leisure for the past 19 years. Her son James was now king of Scotland and had no contact with his mother. Mary had decided that she was going to hatch a plot with King Philip II of Spain: A strict Catholic and previous king of England (he was married to Mary Tudor, Elizabeth’s sister, when she was Queen, then did one back to Spain when Elizabeth inherited the throne and told him to cock off). The plan was to assassinate Liz and put Mary on the throne, thus restoring England back to its Catholic ways. Philip would provide the muscle for this to happen and my guess is at some point try and worm his way back in. He didn’t like Elizabeth: she had refused to marry him after her sister’s death, refused to convert to Catholicism and taken the country back to its new, more liberal protestant ways after her sister and his wife had gone on a killing spree of Protestants. The Spanish armada! That was him. He was a bell end. The messanger of this whole thing was a dude called Anthony Babington.
The plot started with a bloke called Gilbert Gifford who was a well sketchy character. He was British born but became a deacon in France in 1585 after being expelled from college in Rome. When in Rome he became pally with some dude who was involved in the plot to assassinate Elizabeth and agreed to help. After travelling back to England to do this he was caught and arrested by Walsingham and agreed to be a double agent for him. Gifford’s job was to take letters between Mary who was imprisoned (well, living the life of Riley in Stately homes around England and Wales), and her accomplice Anthony Babington. He did this by shoving the letters that the two wrote to each other in beer barrels and taking the correspondence between the pair. The letters were obviously then taken to Babington who had them all decrypted and basically knew everything. Babington has already managed to convince Elizabeth that he was a Protestant and worm his way into court but he was a massive secret Catholic working to overthrow the Queen.
Walsingham had enough evidence on Babington to convict him of treason but he wanted the bigger prize. He wanted Mary dead, buried and in the ground cold (and possibly a bit headless too for good measure). On 17th July 1856, Walsingham had his break. He intercepted a letter from Mary to Babington ordering the Queens execution and highlighting her plan to take the English throne. She has royally fucked herself (forgive the pun).
When Gifford heard about this he shat himself. His job was done and being the bell end he was, it became obvious that he was heading for a stint in the tower, so he did what any man would do and ran off. He was found the following year shagging a man servant and a woman in a brothel in France (remember this was a priest having a threeway) and arrested only to die in prison in 1590. I love Gifford, he was like a bisexual Tudor Russell Brand priest, the dirty shagger.
Walsingham, having the evidence to arrest Babington AND the Queen, now decided he was going for the hat trick and was going to go after the other 6 accomplices who were mentioned in the plot. He wrote a letter to Babington posing as the Queen Mary, asking that she might know the names of the gentlemen sent to set her free. Like a twonk of the highest magnitude he named them and the whole bunch were arrested (only after Babington had fled and been captured).
Babington wrote Elizabeth asking for forgiveness and offering her a shit tonne of cash, but that shit didn’t fly and Liz was having none of it. Suppose he thought it was worth a try though eh. The men involved were all hung drawn and quartered, a really shitty and gruesome way to die. Basically they were strapped to a horse and dragged through the streets, to the gallows, there they were hanged till near death, taken down, had their balls cut off (and often shoved into their mouths), disembowelled and then cut into quarters but kept alive till the very end. I don’t think many people took a picnic to these, even though they were basically treated like a family fun day. FACT
Mary didn’t get off lightly either, as you’d expect really. She was arrested and kept at Fothringhay Castle where she was executed under the order of Queen Elizabeth I, (well this is not strictly true, Elizabeth signed and retracted the death warrant several times, She didn’t really want to kill her cousin, particularly as she was a Queen in her own right but parliament had twisted her arm. She was mega mega mega distressed by the whole thing after and was reported to have regretted it tremendously).
Mary’s execution was one giant fuck up. she was told the night before to be ready for the execution the following day. At the execution Mary was forced to remove her black dress. under it she wore a bright red petticoat which symbolised Martyrdom. I’m not honestly certain if Mary truly believed she was a Catholic martyr or if it was a last ditch attempt at sympathy but one thing I do know is that if you try to kill the Queen you had better not fuck it up, and Mary REALLY fucked it up.
The executioner struck her neck and failed to part it from her body. Mary would’ve been suffocating, bleeding to death and possibly still alive at this point. He then proceeded to strike it twice more before her head fell off, he then picked it up, held it in the air and shouted some shit about God save Elizabeth the rightful Queen. As he did this, her hair came away in his hand and the head fell to the floor. She was bald and wore a wig to hide this fact. Oh the indignity. Then there was a ruffle in her dress: she had only smuggled her bloody dog in her clothes to her execution. Who does that shit? Mary that’s who. Elizabeth was saddened and outraged, and would always live with the regret. History does not record the dogs opinion on the whole situation though.
Mary’s body was taken away and embalmed. Her bloodstained clothes were either washed or burned. Years later her son James VI had her body moved Westminster Abbey where the true Queens are buried. James went onto then inherit the English throne after Elizabeth’s death so a Stuart found their way to the English crown after all.