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Reign of Queen Elizabeth. (Continued) page 14


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A fourth agent in the cause of Mary appeared - an officer named Fortescue, who, on his way to different parts of England, was soon observed by Walsingham's spies particularly to visit the families of eminent Roman Catholic recusants. Walsingham directed one of his most consummately able spies, one Maude, to pay attention to Captain Fortescue; and he soon discovered, in the garb of Fortescue, the person of John Ballard, a priest, who was engaged in collecting information of the real state and strength of Mary's party, for the use of the exiles abroad. Maude so thoroughly won the confidence of Ballard, that he became his companion through the north and west of England, in Scotland, and thence through Flanders to Paris. -At different points of the journey, Ballard had laid his plans and statistics before Allen of Douay, Morgan and Paget, and Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador. Mendoza promised to recommend the plan of invasion to Philip, but did not appear warm in the cause; and therefore Morgan and Paget resolved to attempt a party in England alone, to assassinate Elizabeth and liberate Mary. All this was duly forwarded to Walsingham by Maude.

Mary had now been removed, in the early part of this year, to Chartley Castle, in Staffordshire, under the care of Sir Amy as Paulet; and the gentlemen in England whom Morgan and Paget had pitched upon to carry out their plan, were a young enthusiastic Papist - Anthony Babington, of Dethick, near Matlock, in Derbyshire - and his friends and companions, all men of fortune, family, and education. Babington had long been an ardent admirer of the Queen of Scots, had corresponded with her whilst she was at Sheffield Park, and was ready to devote himself to the death in her cause. At the same time he had such an idea of the peril of meddling with the government of Elizabeth, that he despaired of accomplishing Mary's enfranchisement during Elizabeth's life. Ballard assured him that Elizabeth would be taken off that Savage, an officer who had served in Flanders, and was exasperated at the death of Throckmorton, had determined to do it; and that the Prince of Parma would land simultaneously with that event, and set Mary at liberty. The fact was, that Walsingham, to whom all these movements and projects were as well known through Maude, Pooley, and others, had instantly, on learning the fact that Babington and his friends were to be instigated to this enterprise, conceived the scheme of bringing Mary into the plot through Babington, and thus effecting her and their destruction at once. Pooley was therefore put into communication with Babington, as a person earnestly favouring the design; and Babington, declaring that the death of Elizabeth was a matter of too imminent moment to be entrusted to foreigners, recommended Ballard and Savage to engage six trusty accomplices to pledge themselves to the death of Elizabeth, whilst he and his friends laboured for the liberation of Mary. The scheme was resolved upon, and Babington was the link of communication betwixt these two knots of conspirators. At first he found his companions averse to embark in an enterprise of so much risk, but by degrees his enthusiasm, triumphed over their scruples, and they entered into it heart and soul.

Walsingham, thus successful, seeing these young gentlemen fall into his snare, took the necessary steps to intercept and possess himself of the whole correspondence betwixt them and Mary. For a long time he had had full command of the correspondence betwixt Mary and her party at large, through the means of Thomas Throckmorton and Gilbert Gifford, already mentioned, both of whom had been recommended to Mary by Morgan. Gifford, as we have shown, was an unscrupulous traitor, who resided near Burton, received Mary's letters, and transmitted them to Throckmorton at London; Throckmorton receiving those from abroad and forwarding them to Gifford, who sent them on to Chartley by a man of Burton styled "the honest man." This honest man was in communication with the brewer who supplied the castle of Chartley with beer, and who had agreed to carry letters to and from Mary, as it is said, by enclosing them in a water-tight little cask, or bottle, which floated inside the cask of beer intended for Mary, whilst the answers, were deposited in a hole in the castle wall, which had outside a loose stone to cover it, whence the brewer took them. The brewer and probably "the honest man" were all the time in the pay of Walsingham, and in full understanding with Amyas Paulet, Mary's gaoler. The letters were all broken open, deciphered by Thomas Philips, the celebrated decipherer, and re-sealed by Arthur Gregory, a man pre-eminently skilled in counterfeiting seals, or restoring broken impressions.

With all this machinery in his hands, Walsingham patiently awaited the progress of the correspondence, till it should have ripened into sufficient flagrancy to become fatal to his dupes. That it might speed the faster, he seems to have applied a strong stimulus through his agent Pooley. About Midsummer he had obtained a letter from Babington to Mary, proposing in plain terms the murder of Elizabeth, and the liberation of herself, on receiving her unequivocal sanction to those two measures. The impression of this imprudent letter bears all the evidence of having been suggested by Walsingham himself through his agent Pooley, and this impression is rendered almost certain by the fact that, whilst Babington was transcribing this letter, "an unknown boy" begged an interview with him, and put into his hand a note in, cipher, purporting to be from the Queen of Scots herself, complaining of not hearing from him, and requesting him to forward by the bearer a packet for her from foreign parts. The cipher, the knowledge of this packet just received, left not a suspicion on the mind of Babington. He forwarded his letter by the bearer, which, of course, was immediately conveyed to Walsingham.

That wily and unsentimental minister was, at this* grand success, a little excited and thrown off his guard. Hitherto he had watched his game as a tiger watches his, without a motion or a moment's divergence of his whole attention from his intended prey; but now he could not forbear hastening with this letter in his hand to the queen. Elizabeth, on whom it came with a startling: suddenness, was so alarmed at the danger which she saw herself in, that it was all that Walsingham could do to prevent her ordering the instant arrest of Babington., Ballard, and all their accomplices. With much ado he succeeded, however, in convincing the queen that the main portion of the game was not yet in their hands; that Mary had not yet committed herself, and prevailed on her to keep her patience and the secret till they had obtained that. For this purpose he at once dispatched Philips, the decipherer, and Gregory, the forger of seals, to Chartley; for Babington, naturally anxious for the important answer of the Queen of Scots, had fixed to be at Lichfield on the 12th of July to receive it.

There was some delay, owing to the want of punctuality both in Babington and "the honest man," during-which Mary, to her great alarm., recognised Philips as a person who had been strongly recommended to her, and yet here he was visiting Paulet, and received with much hospitality. Notwithstanding this, Mary wrote her reply, both in English and French, which was put into cipher by her secretary, and conveyed to Babington, having, of course, passed through the hands of Philips. Mary does not appear to have entered at all into the question of Elizabeth's murder in her letter; there is not a word on the subject; but in the deciphered copy she is made to ask " how the six gentlemen mean to proceed," and to appoint the time when they should accomplish their design. So far as the evidence goes, it would appear that Walsingham was disappointed in her answer in this chief point of all, and that he had the necessary damning paragraph inserted; and that this was the fact was sufficiently proved on her trial, for her own letter was in the hands of the ministers, but they took care not to produce it, but only the deciphered copy.

Walsingham was now in possession of all the evidence that he was likely to get, for Babington soon discovered that he had been betrayed by somebody, whom he could not tell; and though he remained in London as though, there were no danger, he made preparations for the escape of Ballard to the Continent, by procuring him a passport under a feigned name. Every moment might throw fresh light on the deception, and allow the escape of the victims. On the 4th of August, therefore, Babington found his house entered by the pursuivants of Walsingham, and Ballard, who had not got off, was there seized. Babington escaped for the moment, but was arrested on the 7th, and was taken to the country house of Walsingham, but escaped from the servants into whose charge he was given. With his friends and accomplices, Gage, Charnock, Barnewell, and Donne, he concealed himself in St. John's Wood, till they were compelled by hunger to make their way to the house of their common friend Bellamy, at Harrow, who concealed them in his outhouses and gardens. But the cunning Walsingham had his agents on their trail the whole time, and on the loth they walked into the premises of Bellamy, secured the concealed conspirators, together with their host, his wife and brother, and conveyed them, amid the shouts and execrations of the populace, and the universal ringing of bells, to the Tower, whither also were soon brought Abingdon, Tichbourne, Tilney, Travers; the only one of the friends of Babington that escaped being Edward Windsor, the brother of Lord Windsor.

On the 13th of September, Babington, Ballard, Savage, Donne, Barnewell, and Tichbourne were put upon their trial, charged with a conspiracy to murder Elizabeth, and raise a rebellion in favour of the Queen of Scots. They pleaded guilty to one or other of the charges, and seven others pleaded not guilty; but all were alike convicted, and condemned to the death of traitors. The greater part of them appear to have taken no part in the blacker part of the conspiracy, the design to murder Elizabeth; and some of them, as Tichbourne and Jones, declared that they had taken no part whatever, but merely kept the secret for the sake of their friends. Bellamy was condemned for merely affording them an asylum; his wife escaped through a flaw in the indictment. Pooley, the decoy, was imprisoned as a mere blind, and then liberated; and Gifford was already in prison in Paris, where, three years later, ho died.

On the 20th and 21st they were executed in Lincoln's Inn Fields, because they used there to hold their meetings. Elizabeth betrayed a singular and most unworthy and unwomanly vindictiveness in their deaths. She desired that they might be executed, if possible, in some manner more lingering and excruciating than the usual death of traitors; though that was horrible enough, in all reason. But, besides that this was illegal, there was much sympathy excited on behalf of the sufferers, who were young men of a superior class, and led on by the chivalrous generosity of youth. Those who suffered the first day were put to death with the customary barbarity, being cut down alive; the seven who died the second day were merely hanged till they were dead.

Though no mention was made on the trial of any participation of the Queen of Scots in this conspiracy, nothing was farther from the intention of Elizabeth and her ministers than her escape. The deaths of these gallant but misguided young men were but the prelude to the tragedy. They had already prepared for her death by the bill passed empowering twenty-four or more of the Lords of the Council and other peers to sit in judgment on any one concerned in attempts to raise rebellion, or to injure the queen's person. To procure every possible evidence for this end, the following stratagem was used: - The Queen of Scots was kept in total ignorance of the seizure of the conspirators, and on the copy of her letter to Babington being laid before the Council, an order was sent down to Sir Amy as Paulet to seize all her papers, and keep her in more rigorous confinement. Accordingly, one morning, Mary took a drive in her carriage, accompanied, as was her custom, by Paulet, but with a larger attendance. When Mary desired to return, Paulet told her that he had orders to convey her to Tixall, a house belonging to Sir Walter Aston, about three miles distant. Astonished and alarmed, Mary refused to go, and declared that if they took her there it should be by force. She must have suspected the design of searching her cabinets during her absence; but, in spite of her protestations and her tears, she was compelled to proceed. There she was confined to two rooms only, was guarded in the strictest manner, and debarred the use of pen, ink, and paper. Meantime Sir William Wade arrived at Chartley, and proceeded to break open the cabinets and take possession of all her letters and papers, as well as those of her secretaries. A large chest was filled with these papers, amongst which were Mary's own minute of the answer to Babington, and the original letter to him composed by Nau. Wade then returned to London with these, and with Nau, Curie, and Pasquier.

On the 28th of August, Paulet conducted the outraged queen back to Chartley. As she proceeded from her house to her carriage, a crowd of poor people surrounded her path, hoping for her usual alms; but she seems to have been now quite aware of what had taken place, for she said, "Alas! poor people, I have nothing to give you: all has been taken from me, and I am a beggar as well as you." When she entered her rooms at Chartley, and saw her violated cabinets, she turned to Paulet, and, with much dignity, said, "There still remain two things, sir, which you cannot take from me: the royal blood in my veins which gives me the right to the succession, and the attachment which binds me to the faith of my fathers."

In London there was much deliberation on the mode in which Mary was to be got rid of. Elizabeth was now resolved that she should die. She declared that the Scottish queen had sought her life, and that one of them must quit the scene. No persuasions could move her, and yet she dreaded the public censure of so unexampled a deed. To obviate this, Leicester, who was an adept in poison, recommended that as the safest and least obtrusive; and even sent over a divine from Holland to prove its lawfulness. Walsingham and Burleigh, however, would have nothing but a public trial, the sentence of which should be ratified by Parliament, to lay the burden of responsibility upon the whole nation.

In preparation, her secretaries were called up and repeatedly examined. They were subjected to the terrors of menaced death, and were called on to confess all they knew; but as this did not include any proof of Mary's conspiracy to murder Elizabeth, they were called up again the morning after the execution of Babington and his accomplices, when fear of such punishment was likely to affect them, and an abstract of the principal points in the letter of Babington and the reply of Mary was laid before them, and they were desired to say whether they were correct. They are said to have admitted the fact; but this we have only on the faith of the Council bent on the death of Mary, and at the same time that the real letter of Mary drawn up by Nau, and her own minute for its preparation, were neither produced nor mentioned. These were the documents on which rested the whole charge against Mary - documents which, if they proved the charge, would have been triumphantly produced both there and at her trial, and which, not being so produced, is proof positive to the contrary. That this is the fact is clear from the record of the Council, which is as follows. Nau is made to enumerate the points in Babington's letter and Mary's reply as they were laid before them, and which they admitted to be correct: - "Yt is to say: first, yt Babington should examine deeplye what forces as well on foote as horseback they might rayse amt. 'em all; the second, what townes, portes, and havens they asseur emselves of, as well in ye N., W., and S., and so through, as it is before set down at large in the Sc. Q.'s ltre to Babn., and concludeth or signeth his examn. with theis wordes in Erench: Je certifie les choses dessus dictes estre vrayes et par moy deposes. XXI Sept., 1586. Nau." Curie follows in this manner: - "He sayeth the Itre directed by the Sc. Q. to Babn. Lad, amongst ors., theis points in it: The first, yt Babn. shold deeplye examine what forces on foote and horseb.; and so recieteth the cheif points of her letter in ye verie wordes as you have already read them heretofore, and concludeth: 'All theis things above rehearsed I doe well remember and confesse them to be true.' By me G. C., the xxith of September, 1586." Here is no mention of Mary's consent to the murder of Elizabeth, the greatest point of all, which we may therefore be assured had no existence. Mary was now removed to Fotheringay Castle, in Northamptonshire, in preparation for her trial. It was first proposed to convey her to the Tower, but they feared her friends in the City; then the castle of Hertford, but that, too, was thought too near the capital; and Grafton, Woodstock, Coventry, Northampton, and Huntingdon were all proposed and rejected, showing that they were well aware of the seriousness of the business they contemplated.

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