Throckmorton Plot

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The Throckmorton Plot was an attempt, in 1583, by English Roman Catholics to organise an invasion of England by the Duke of Guise in order to depose Queen Elizabeth I of England and replace her with her first cousin once removed, Mary, Queen of Scots.[1] The plot is named after the key conspirator, Sir Francis Throckmorton (a cousin of Elizabeth "Bess" Throckmorton, Elizabeth's first lady in waiting); Francis confessed to the plot under torture.


The plot aimed to free Mary, Queen of Scots, who had been held under house arrest in England since 1568, to make Mary England's queen, and to legally restore Roman Catholicism. The plan envisaged coordinating 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. Because of his arrest, the plot was never put into action.[2]


The plot failed. The brothers 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’ plight and the Spanish King’s desire to return England to Catholicism. In Paris, the two brothers met up with Thomas Morgan (of Llantarnam), who put them in contact with Bernardino de Mendoza, Philip II of Spain's ambassador in London.

When Francis 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 was discovered. Thomas managed to flee the country, but other co-conspirators were imprisoned in the Tower of London.

In January 1584, Mendoza, as an ambassador, was only thrown out of the country; 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.[2][3]


In 1584, the plot resulted in the creation of the Bond of Association, 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 1584.[2]

There were no more resident Spanish ambassadors for the remainder of Elizabeth's reign.[2]

After discovery of the plot, Mary, Queen of Scots was placed under strict confinement at Chartley Hall in Staffordshire.


  1. ^ 'The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I: Stephen Alford
  2. ^ a b c d 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.
  3. ^ 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.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • 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.