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The Throckmorton plot of 1584

The Throckmorton plot was so named because its main proponent was Francis Throckmorton who was born sometime in the year 1554. The plot was hatched with the goal of overthrowing the then Queen of England, Elizabeth I. This scheme would later end in failure and the death of Throckmorton, as history would bear out.

Francis Throckmorton was born to a family with close ties to the Queen. His father was Sir John Throckmorton and one of his uncles was Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, who served as one of Elizabeth's diplomats. Sir John had previously enjoyed the well-respected position of Chief Justice of Chester, but he was relieved of this position in the year 1579, only a year before his death. There has been quite a bit of confusion surrounding the details of Sir John’s removal from this post; many feel that he was the victim of his own harsh and abusive actions in the performance of his duties as a legal authority. He was also a known supporter of the Catholic faith and some feel that this alone may have greatly contributed to his ouster from the position of Chief Justice of Chester.

The younger Throckmorton himself received his education from Oxford and would later enter the Inner Temple in the city of London in 1576, as a pupil.

The year 1580 would find Francis Throckmorton journeying to the European mainland where he would have the chance to meet and confer with some of the leading English Roman Catholic dissenters, both in Spain as well as in France. It would take three years before he would go back to England, and upon his return he served in the capacity of intermediary for communications between the ardent supporters of the Catholic faith on the European mainland, Mary Queen of Scots, who was then still imprisoned, and the ambassador of Spain, Bernardino de Mendoza.

With all his activities during this period, it was only a matter of time before he was detected. A short time later, Sir Francis Walsingham, who was designated unofficial spymaster to Queen Elizabeth I, began to be suspicious of Francis Throckmorton and his numerous activities. Walsingham ordered a thorough search of Throckmorton’s house to be carried out and subsequently various bits of highly incriminating evidence against Throckmorton was found.

Francis Throckmorton remained firm in his resolve to not admit to any wrong doing on his part and he was successful for a time. The interrogation methods of his captors however, particularly the long and painful hours that he spent on the rack (a medieval torture device of excruciating effectiveness), soon weakened what little resolve he had left. He had no choice but to confess to his complicity in the plot to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I and his greater goal of allowing the Roman Catholic Church to regain its previous power and influence in England. Details of his complicity with Henry I, Duke of Guise also transpired during this interrogation. Throckmorton would later recant his testimony but to no avail, he was tried and executed in July of 1584.

Original Authors:Doods Pangburn
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 16/05/2008

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