Throckmorton Plot

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The Throckmorton Plot was an attempt by English Roman Catholics in 1583 to murder Queen Elizabeth I of England and replace her with her second cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. The plot is named after the key conspirator, Sir Francis Throckmorton (cousin to Elizabeth Throckmorton, Elizabeth's first lady in waiting), who confessed to the plot under torture.


The plot aimed to assassinate Elizabeth I, who had ruled England since 1558. The Roman Catholics wished to free Mary, Queen of Scots, held under house-arrest in England since 1568, and to place her on the throne of England with a view to legally restoring Roman Catholicism. The plan envisaged co-ordinating the assassination with an invasion of England led by Henry I, Duke of Guise, financed by Spain and by the Pope, and a simultaneous revolt of English Roman Catholics, involving both the Jesuits and the English Cardinal Allen.

Throckmorton acted as a Spanish agent, and, due to his arrest,[1] the plot was never put in motion.


The plot was unsuccessful. Francis and Thomas Throckmorton were the two main conspirators, with Francis being the more important one. While touring Europe they became sympathetic to the exiled English Catholics and Spanish plight to return England to Catholicism. In Paris, the two brothers met up with Thomas Morgan who put them in contact with Bernardino de Mendoza,the ambassador of King Philip II of Spain in London. When Francis Throckmorton returned to London in 1583 he became the go-between for Mary, Queen of Scots, Morgan and Mendoza. Queen Elizabeth's secretary of state, Francis Walsingham discovered what Throckmorton was doing and put him under surveillance. After six months Walsingham had him arrested. Throckmorton managed to "destroy or send to Mendoza" some of the incriminating documents, although not all, as a list of Catholic nobles and people willing to support a Spanish invasion were discovered. Thomas Throckmorton managed to flee the country, but other co-conspirators were put into the Tower of London. Mendoza, being an ambassador, was only thrown out of the country in January 1584. He was the last of the Spanish ambassadors in the London Court during the Elizabethan era. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth had Throckmorton tortured into a confession of the extent of the plot. He was later executed.[1][2]


The plot itself resulted in the creation of the Bond of Association in 1584; a document drafted by Francis Walsingham and William Cecil, Lord Burghley, which obliged all signatories to execute anyone who attempted to usurp the throne or to assassinate the Queen.

Throckmorton was convicted of high treason and executed in July of 1584[1]

There were no more resident Spanish ambassadors for the remainder of Elizabeth's reign.[1]

Mary, Queen of Scots was placed under strict confinement after the plot and was confined to Chartley Hall in Staffordshire.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Wagner, John A. (1999). Historical dictionary of the Elizabethan world : Britain, Ireland, Europe, and America. Chicago, Ill. [u.a.]: Fitzroy Dearborn Publ. pp. 302–3. ISBN 1-57958--269--9. 
  2. Wagner, John A.; Schmid, Susan Walters (2012). Encyclopedia of Tudor England. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-59884-299-9. 
  • O'Day, Rosemary (1995). The Tudor Age. England: Longman Group Limited. 
  • Warren, John (2002). Elizabeth I: Religion and Foreign Affairs. Singapore: Hodder Murray. 
  • Lotherington, John (ed.) (1994). The Tudor Years. Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-53794-9. 
  • Butler, Charles (1822). "The Treason of Francis Throckmorton". Historical Memoirs of the English, Irish, and Scottish Catholics, Since the Reformation. pp. 376–377. OCLC 588795283. 
  • Wagner and Schmid, John A and Susan Valters (2012). Encyclopedia of Tudor England, Volume 1. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC. 
  • Wagner, John A (1999). Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World: Britain, Ireland, Europe, and America. New York: The Onyx Press.