Peck's lengthy tales
and betrayal in the time of Queen Elizabeth I
2. THE CONTINENT (1583-1587)
XIX. SUMMER FRUIT
tale was heard and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fallen and yet my leaves
My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
I saw the world and
yet I was not seen;
My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,
And now I
live, and now my life is done."
-- Chidiock Tichbourne
took up a tomato, absently, and squeezed it; its juice spurted forth and ran down
his leg like blood.
his horse to a post near at hand and ran out of the markets to a stand of trees
in the middle of St. Anthonys Great Street. In the distance, seven dark
towers of the Bastille blocked the highway to the east. Ahead, in the square near
the top of the rue du Peau Diable, the men were dining upon fruit in the open
air, standing by their horses. Since leaving the Bastille, they had walked casually
to this spot, as if aiming for no place in particular, with no program at all
in view, as if marking time to some appointed hour.
the early morning, these men had sat together in Pagets chambers. There
they had been met quite accidentally by Fitzherbert and Arundell, who had come
to inquire for news of Lord Paget. Charles Paget had replied with the same cold
civility that had marked his attitude throughout the spring. Reluctantly, hed
had to introduce his visitors, all newly out of England: Gilbert Gifford, whom
they knew, another priest named John Ballard, and a third man named Bernard Maude.
Paget had said, had just been released from the English prisons; hed left
the cause of imprisonment to be inferred--doubtless another heroic soldier in
the war against the heretics persecution. But the knowledge of his crime
had preceded him: he had slipped an innkeepers wife naked into the archbishop
of Yorks bed at the inn, and then with the innkeeper had proceeded to blackmail
the old prelate for two full years, until in 1583 he had drawn a term in the northern
prisons for the deed.
had congratulated Gifford on his success in the queen of Scotss business
the reopening of her correspondence had been the great news since March,
when her first letters in eighteen months time had reached Paris. The man
had acknowledged the comment with little grace and seemed indisposed to discuss
the matter. All four of them had made outrageously inconsequential small talk
until Arundell and Fitzherbert had frowned at each other, shrugged, and departed.
Arundells sense, growing upon him throughout the spring, that some desperate
evil was in progress seemed almost to be confirmed by their behavior. He had discussed
his doubts with Fitzherbert in the street, and then had asked Sharrock to dog
the mens steps.
had seen the four men mount and ride for the island at a comfortable pace. He
had followed them all the way out to the Bastille, where assuredly they were conferring
with Morgan in his cell, and had picked them up again when they descended. Now
he stood behind the trees and watched them resume their westerly progress.
left his horse behind and followed them. The four men strolled across the square,
then turned up the lane and knocked at the house of Don Bernardino de Mendoza.
They were shown in at once; while they remained there, Jamie sauntered up to their
tethered horses and went quickly through their saddlebags, finding nothing of
He took the opportunity
to run back to the market carts and retrieve his horse. By the time the party
left the ambassadors house, he was ready for them, hidden at the head of
an alley that ran out from the rear of the Hôtel de Ville. He followed them again
across the bridges and further south along the rue St. Jacques. There they stopped
before a brothel that peeked half concealed from behind a row of houses; here
had been Father Giffords home when hed lived in Paris, here he returned
now for the night, and here Maude joined him. Paget parted from them and conducted
Father Ballard back to his own house, where Sharrock, watching them putting up
their horses for the night, concluded that his mission was completed.
Berden, and Fitzherbert, receiving these reports in their own rooms, found themselves
perplexed, distressed by the secrecy with which the thing was being handled. No
doubt, the four men had been holding something back. They scarcely expected the
confidence of Paget or Morgan or any of their friends--including young Throgmorton,
who increasingly showed himself a party to their counsels and had moved out of
Fitzherberts rooms--for with every month the rifts between the factions
grew still wider. Nevertheless, this present reticence was excessive. Here was
the man who after a years work by all had succeeded in getting through to
the queen of Scots, whose happiness was their common goal; here was that man himself
arrived in Paris, and Arundell had learned of it by chance.
they spoke, the woman from downstairs, Madame Lacour, came in with dinner for
all three of them. Formerly it had been Sharrocks task to bring in their
meals. The womans husband, however, had fallen ill, and they gave her the
work as a form of aid. She was a frowzy woman of something more than thirty, worn
out with too much work, too many children, her dark eyes once bright now obtunded
by penury to a lifeless stare. She came in two trips up the stairs, carrying in
each hand a slab of board with a few pans of stew from the inn across the road,
with bread, wine, and cheese, bowing mechanically without meeting the eyes of
When she had descended
again, they resumed their conversation. All three had come to the same conclusion,
that something unsavory was afoot about which they were being deliberately kept
in the dark. Arundell remembered that Stafford had inquired after Ballard by name
and linked the priest to the name of Babington in England. Sir Edward had heard
some whisper of a plot or enterprise of some kind, but had said no more about
it. That bare mention, and hints heard elsewhere about the readiness for action
of some gentlemen at court, had prompted Arundell to make inquiries of his own
and figuratively to hold his breath throughout the spring, half expecting any
day to have word of some maniacs raid upon Chartley or another shot taken
at the queen of England. His inquiries had turned up nothing. No raid had been
launched. The queen of England carried on as durably as ever.
the next morning, Arundell went round to see Mendoza. The ambassador greeted him
politely and led him into the study, where he inquired immediately what urgent
news brought Charles out at such an hour. Arundell replied that he had no news
on this occasion; a shadow of discomfiture passed across Don Bernardinos
face, for he hastened to the conclusion that his agent was in want again and had
appeared to press for payment of his pension. Arundells allowance, unlike
those of most of the refugees, was not paid out of the armys fund but directly
from Mendozas embassy accounts; these accounts were seldom kept up, however,
so the pensions were seldom paid out either. For most of the men whom Mendoza
carried, this tardiness was a minor inconvenience to him, however great a hardship
to the pensioners. His inability to keep Arundell paid up, however, caused him
some embarrassment. His only remedy was to keep granting bonuses for special merit,
which the king of Spain was disposed to approve, though to pay out no more promptly;
at least, if it cured no hunger, the method prevented questions of ingratitude.
Arundell guessed the problem
and assured the ambassador that gold was not in present question. Mendoza revived
markedly at the news. But he wondered the more at Charless urgency and begged
politely to know how he might serve.
told him straight out that he was troubled about the sudden appearance of Gifford,
Ballard, and Maude and desired to know what their business had been with the ambassador.
Mendoza expressed himself as mildly surprised at Arundells importunity,
for their interview had been nothing at all out of the way. Mr. Paget, he said,
had introduced the others as men bearing a message from the Catholic nobility
of England. These noblemen and gentlemen for whom they spoke (especially Ballard,
who had visited in England from house to house throughout the country), these
men wished to carry out an uprising against the heretical regime, and they wished
for the ambassadors promise of an invasion force in aid of their godly enterprise.
Arundell was scowling as he
heard the report, and he muttered darkly that he had feared as much. The ambassador
spread his hands in deprecation. It was nothing, he said, that he had not heard
a thousand times before; such schemes were as common as fruit flies in summer
and invariably ended nowhere. They had made all of the venerable arguments to
him, how the invasion of England would resolve King Philips differences
with his own Dutch rebels, how the time was never more propitious, the earl of
Leicester being out of England with all the chief captains and the discontentment
of the Catholics at home no longer restrainable. Only two proposals (if that were
the best word) were fresh and new, the one that the Lord Claude Hamilton, now
in Scotland, would seize the king of Scots and deliver him to the king of Spains
hands, and the other, that Charles Paget had said that the whole designment would
not prevail as long as the queen of England lived. Arundell groaned aloud, which
caused Mendoza to chuckle a bit uncomfortably.
Charless next question the ambassador replied that he had been, as always,
politely noncommittal, mildly receptive but hardly encouraging in any way. He
was only too aware of the harm to be sustained by any premature actions, and he
had advised Ballard to continue his preparations and to come to him again when
he had irrefragable evidence of a Catholic force in England, sufficiently strong,
reliably prepared to make its move. Then he would call upon his king for such
a promise of assistance. This was his wonted strategy, he said; it had never failed
to keep the isolated braggart, who claimed tens of thousands at his back, from
troubling him again. The plot, he insisted, was an empty one, "like the thousands
that had gone before". Arundell made no comment in reply.
in the day he talked over the business with Berden and Fitzherbert. They shared
feelingly the premonition that the present intrigue was not quite like the thousands
that had gone before.
Whitsunday, the 22nd of May 1586, the seminary priest John Ballard and his colleague
Bernard Maude arrived in London. Ballard sought out some of the young gentlemen
of the court who were devoted to Queen Marys cause. With the help of Mr.
Edward Windsor, he arranged a meeting for a few days hence at the London house
of Anthony Babington.
Babington, who was but twenty-five years old, was a handsome boy more than a little
blessed by fortune. His young wife resided very comfortably on his wide lands
in Derbyshire, joined by her husband on those rare occasions when he was not following
the court. As an adolescent he had been placed as a page in the household of the
earl of Shrewsbury; he had at that time been won wholly to the service of the
earls great prisoner, the queen of Scots, and had become a Catholic, too,
in consequence. Since that time, through his social position, his fortune, his
good looks, his familiarity with the captive queen, not least his romantic fervor,
he had become informally the head of her partisans at court, almost none of whom
were much older than himself.
of the gentlemen were anxious for the opportunity to do their patron lady some
great good. When told by Mr. Windsor that Ballard had returned from France with
news of moment, they gathered eagerly in Babingtons rooms in Westminster
to hear what the priest could say. The brothers Habington arrived first, Edward
and Thomas, sons of the queen of Englands cofferer. Edward Windsor, whose
brother Henry was the new Lord Windsor of Stanwell, came in with Henry Donne and
Mr. Salusbury. Maude came, too, and John Savage came, and young Chidiock Tichbourne
came up later, bringing with him the mysterious Captain Jacques. Robert Poley
was already present, for in recent months he had become quite friendly with Babington
and often stayed in his rooms; since he was in the employment of Sir Philip Sidneys
wife while that knight served in the Low Countries with the earl of Leicester,
Poley was forced to dwell in the house of her father, Secretary Walsingham, and
he was very grateful for the opportunity to stay with men of his own persuasion
when his services were not required by her ladyship.
a full year the gentlemen had been tormenting themselves to devise a gallant and
worthy enterprise for the faith. They had courage in abundance but so far no ideas.
They listened receptively as Fr. Ballard, who bore letters to the same effect
from Morgan and Paget, recounted the substance of his conference with Don Bernardino
de Mendoza. The ambassador, he said, had promised sixty thousand soldiers by the
end of summer, but had charged them also to accomplish heroic deeds of their own.
To assure that the invaders might land unimpeded, the gentlemen must arouse that
great nobility so ripe for rebellion; they must draw up lists of the best ports
for landing in, and appoint that armed bands should meet the invading parties
there. And they must free the queen of Scots from Chartley, neither so soon as
to raise an alarm nor too late after the invasion to have her out of reach before
the government made her away to a surer prison. Good planning and sufficient resolution,
said Father Ballard, were all that were required. After long awaiting, the moment
for action had arrived.
Babington, seconded by several others, including Maude and Poley, wondered whether
the whole enterprise were not doomed to failure as long as the queen of England
lived. Some others in the room stiffened at the suggestion. Ballard said not to
worry, for his friend John Savage had taken an oath in Rheims, before coming over
the previous year, to kill the heretical queen mercilessly as soon as the occasion
was offered to do so. Savage nodded in grim affirmation. From young Tichbourne,
in the back of the chamber, came the reflection that the murder of anointed monarchs
was not universally held to be a worthy act for religious men to undertake. Some
discussion of the point ensued, with acknowledgement of the fact that dry philosophers
still debated the issue in their books, but the general view was that heretical
monarchs who had been lawfully excommunicated and deposed ruled only as tyrants,
to be rid of whom was a meritorious deed in the Lords eyes, not to mention
in the king of Spains. But it was also the general view that Mr. Savage,
however celebrated for his military prowess, was insufficient to the task himself,
for in a properly timed enterprise, nothing so crucial as bringing in chaos to
the seat of government could be suffered to go awry. Accordingly, it was decided
that he should have help.
remained then was only for the details to be supplied. The men present, and their
friends absent, must construct a likely plan and then swear a solemn oath before
God to carry it out faithfully. Then the whole device had to be communicated to
Mendoza and, of course, to the queen of Scots herself, for their approvals. The
end seemed almost to be in sight.
few weeks earlier, roundabout the first of May, Mendoza had learned from his contacts
in the French court that the king of France was secretly seeking a separate peace
with the Huguenot enemy. Marshal Biron had been instructed to strike a truce with
the king of Navarre, the rebel leader. Such a truce might very well unite those
two great forces against the duke of Guise and his Spanish friends. Mendoza naturally
sought the counsel of his own king, but the duke of Guise also wished to have
a trusted man of his own to go to Spain, in order to learn reliably whether King
Philip would support him against the Protestants even if his own king would not.
The man he wished to send was Charles Arundell.
was amenable to the idea, and he thought he might well put the journey to an ancillary
use of his own. Impatient with the men who increasingly spoke for the English
exiles, Morgan and Paget and men of their stripe, the ambassador wished to have
Arundell report personally on the condition of English affairs to Idiaquez, the
Spanish Secretary of State, as a balance to the representations continually being
made by briefs and brochures from the others. Thomas Lord Paget, who had intended
to leave Rome anyway, was asked by Fr. Parsons to go to Spain as well, where he
should meet Arundell and offer together with him a proper assessment of the English
situation, to aid the kings deliberations on the question of invasion.
quickly the word got round in Paris that Arundell was soon to depart. Promptly
Don Bernardino began receiving unsigned messages advising him that Arundell was
a spy for the English government, that he made the journey with money provided
for the purpose by the English queen, and that his real intention was to scout
the Spanish coast and cities in his way for signs of naval preparations. It was
still widely suspected that with secret festination some great armada, scrambled
together all hugger-mugger, might be got under way before the summer ended. Arundell,
they wrote, was to report any evidence of this intention to the queen of England
These wild charges,
coming whence they came, rather served to confirm Mendozas trust in Arundell
than to derogate from it. Coincidentally, they were true. Stafford too had approved
the journey and had given Arundell just such an errand to perform, though with
none of the money the informants had claimed went with it. The English queen herself,
of course, if she remembered Arundell at all, knew him as that kinsman of hers
who had so awkwardly got himself into hot water and had gone away somewhere.
was exceedingly reluctant to go anywhere. He knew that some monstrous evil was
on foot, but had been unable to discover what it was. Ballard had disappeared
from Paris; he may have gone to Rheims, to Rome, with his crackbrained plots,
but Arundell feared hed gone back into England. Once there what mischief
he might work bore no contemplation. Gifford, so far, remained in Paris; Arundell
and Berden spent fruitless hours following the man everywhere, and following Charles
Paget too and as many of his visitors as they could, but they had learned nothing
at all for their pains. Nor could Arundell ask Sir Edward Staffords help,
for the ambassador would be bound to report his suspicions as news and might unwittingly
precipitate precisely the catastrophe Charles feared, if Walsingham should be
put on the scent of some crazy plot involving the queen of Scots.
was nothing to be done but to persist in trying to find out what was going on
and who principally was behind it, and then to invent some way of undermining
the business before it came to light. In no other way could Queen Mary be saved
from these busy schemers, some mad, some foolish, some downright pernicious, who
if they went the whole way might bring her to the block. He could hardly persist
from the highway towards Madrid. He had to go the journey, however, for to refuse
now would arouse suspicion indeed. If matters would hold off for the present,
he should be back in Paris by September. Perhaps, if necessary, he might try a
journey into England at that time. For the moment there was nothing he could do.
Almost his only alternative was to trust in providence to bring everything to
the best issue. His experience with providence did not conduce to peace of mind.
One possibility presented
itself just before his departure, when he had returned to Paris from the duke
of Guise with his instructions. Nicholas Berden, who had meant to accompany Arundell
into Spain, offered instead to return to England, at considerable danger to himself,
in order to track this Babington down and learn the depth of the intrigue. Arundell
was hesitant to expose his friend to that peril, but at the last he acquiesced
and hastened to arrange for the mans crossing and safe reception in London.
That done, Arundell met secretly
once more with Sir Edward and took his leave of Lady Douglass. He met again with
Mendoza, then made his farewells with Berden and Fitzherbert, charging both of
them to have care of themselves and keep an eye open for any sign of change.
he and Jamie Sharrock purchased two extra horses and a new brace of pistols, supplied
themselves with the necessary provisions, and set out on the very long road to
Gifford closed his pouchy lids and listened carefully. He sat in Anthony Babingtons
rooms, within sight of Whitehall Palace, and his host was reading over for him
and his other guests the letter they had just written. Robert Poley, pale and
thin, sat by the window near young Mr. Tichbourne, both likewise listening. Mr.
Savage paced nervously behind them.
the past month these men and more than a dozen others, lately joined by Gifford,
had argued, cajoled, threatened the renitent among them, restrained the over eager,
thought as hard as any of them was able to do, to conclude this plan for their
enterprise. What was required now was the guidance of the queen of Scots herself.
Only she could tell them what would be the best and safest method of effecting
her escape. Only she could approve their designs and give them the authority to
proceed. In any case, the general plans had been drawn up. The assignments had
been made. It remained but to finish drafting the letter in Babingtons name,
for the queen already had Babington in her confidence, and then to deliver it
to one Barnaby, the man whom Gifford had appointed in his place to carry packets
from Châteauneuf to the brewer of Burton and back again.
read aloud the draft as they had jointly written it.
mighty, most excellent, my dread sovereign lady and queen, unto whom only I owe
all fidelity and obedience. It may please your gracious majesty: I held the hope
of our countrys weal to be desperate, and thereupon had resolved to depart
the land, determining to spend the remainder of my life in such solitary sort
as the wretched and miserable state of my country did require, daily expecting
(according to the just judgment of God) the deserved confusion thereof. The which
my purpose being in execution, and standing upon my departure, there was addressed
unto me from the parts beyond the seas one Ballard, a man of virtue and learning
and of singular zeal to the Catholic cause and your majestys service.
man informed me of great preparation by the Christian princes for the deliverance
of our country from the extreme and miserable state wherein it hath too long remained,
which when I understood, my especial desire was to advise by what means with the
hazard of my life I might do your sacred majesty one good days service.
Whereupon, most dear sovereign, according to the great care which those princes
have of the safe delivering of your majestys sacred person, I advised of
means according to the weight of the affair, and after long consideration and
conference with so many of the wisest and most trusty as with secrecy I might
recommend the safety thereof unto, I do find (by the assistance of the Lord Jesus)
assurance of good effect and desired fruit of our travails.
things are first to be advised, in this great and honorable action, upon the issue
of which depends not only the life of your excellent majesty but also the honor
and weal of our country, and the last hope ever to recover the faith of our forefathers
and to redeem ourselves from the servitude and bondage which heresy has imposed
upon us, with the loss of thousands of souls. First, assuring of invasion of sufficient
strength in the invader; then, ports to arrive at, appointed with a strong party
at every place to join with them and warrant their landing; the deliverance of
your majesty; and the dispatch of the usurping competitor; for the effecting of
all which (if it may please your excellency to rely upon my service) I vow and
protest before the face of Almighty God that what I have said shall be performed,
or all our lives happily lost in the execution thereof, which same vow all the
chief actors herein have taken solemnly and are, upon assurance by your majestys
letters unto me, to receive the blessed sacrament thereupon, either to prevail
in your majestys behalf or to die for that cause.
for as much as delay is extreme dangerous, it may please your most excellent majesty
by your wisdom to direct us, and by your princely authority to authorize those
of us who may advance the affair to be leaders therein; for which necessary regard
I would recommend some persons unto your majesty as fittest in my knowledge to
be your lieutenants in the west parts, in the north parts, South Wales, North
Wales, the counties of Lancaster, Derby, and Stafford, all which countries I hold
as most assured and of undoubted fidelity to your majesty.
with ten gentlemen and a hundred of our fellows will undertake the delivery of
your royal person from the hands of your enemies. For the dispatch of the usurper,
that English Jezebel, from the obedience of whom (by the excommunication of her)
we are made free, there be six noble gentlemen, all my private friends, who for
the zeal they bear to the Catholic cause and your majestys service will
undertake that tragical execution. It resteth that according to their infinite
good deserts and your majestys bounty, their heroical attempt may be honorably
rewarded in them (if they escape with life) or in their posterity, and that so
much I may be able to assure them. Now it remaineth only that by your majestys
wisdom it be reduced into method, that your happy deliverance come first, for
thereupon dependeth our only good, and that all the other circumstances so concur
that the untimely beginning of one do not overthrow the rest. All which your majestys
wonderful experience and wisdom will dispose of in so good manner that I doubt
not through Gods good assistance all shall come to desired effect, for the
obtaining of which every one of us shall think his life most happily spent.
this present, I will be expecting your majestys answer and letters, in readiness
to execute what by them shall be commanded. From London, this six of July 1586,
your majestys most faithful subject and sworn servant,
the others had approved the thing, nodded solemnly to one another, and departed,
Poley also having returned to Lady Sidneys apartments in Walsinghams
house, Babington penned another note to accompany the first. This shorter one
was intended only for the eyes of M. Claude Nau, the queen of Scotss secretary,
and would go with Barnabys whole packet down to Chartley.
Mr. Nau, I would gladly understand what
opinion you hold of one Robert Poley, whom I find to have intelligence with her
majestys occasions, recommended to me long ago by Mr. Morgan. I am private
with the man and by means thereof doubt somewhat, but fear more. I pray you deliver
your opinion of him.
another man, perhaps to the same man in different circumstances, less riven by
doubts, less preoccupied by his fears, less ashamed secretly of the achievements
he was honored for publicly, in short, to another man, the experience would have
been exhilarating. To some men, it might have seemed the happy fruition of a lifes
work. To Charles Arundell, it was a terrible ordeal.
days and weeks preceding it, the great event itself, passed timelessly in a phantasmagoria
of absurdly petty concerns of propriety and formality, of niceties of dress and
phrase, passed also in a bewildering round of interrogations and conferences of
state, of state dinners and conducted tours of cathedrals and colleges, great
libraries, palaces and markets. Arundell, though he moved and spoke automatically
just as he was expected to do, passed them all as if in a daze.
accompanied a merchants party which (to avoid the Huguenots) had descended
the Loire to sail from Nantes and land at Santander, Arundell, Sharrock, and Pierre
Blanchet, Mendozas courier, had crossed the northern mountains just as the
first fruits of summer had been coming in. Across the steppes of the Castilian
interior they proceeded at more than a comfortable pace, leaving the merchants
behind them in pursuing the couriers reflexive haste. In Valladolid, the
Englishmen passed two days with the English students of the university, leaving
Blanchet to finish his journey alone. Then on they travelled to Segovia, over
the Penalara, and finally down into Madrid, the new capital city, a fortnight
and a day after having left Paris.
had been made welcome by the Englishmen who dwelt there, principally by old, blind
Sir Francis Englefield, who knew Arundell very well, he said, from Fr. Parsonss
good reports. The aged knight, who had been the Principal Secretary in the days
of Queen Mary I, served now thirty years later as a spokesman for the English
petitioners to the Spanish court; about him had gathered the few men of his nation,
besides the handful of students and religious, who were able to support themselves
in this alien land. In conversation with Sir Francis, Arundell returned persistently
to the subject that occupied his thoughts, dropping one hint after another in
the attempt to learn whether the man, with his vast reticulum of correspondence
across the continent, had caught wind of a new project in aid of the queen of
Scots. Englefield, however, responded to none of those suggestions.
the palace, too, Arundell received a more formal welcome from King Philips
under-officers of state. The king himself and the entire court had already removed
to the Escorial, whither it was proposed that Arundell should follow as soon as
the Lord Paget arrived. In the meantime, the Spanish officials kept him altogether
occupied with a proud display of the citys sights. A few days later, happily,
Lord Paget did arrive.
had begun what for Arundell seemed an ascent into some magical realm of dreams
and allegory. He and Paget set out upon a days ride back to the northwest,
up into the Guadarrama, to the kings new edifice, the Escorial. Already
distracted by his conviction that events of the greatest moment were unfolding
elsewhere, he found himself disoriented by the incredible Spanish court. From
the plains below the great building, ascending the plateau, they were dazzled
by the dome of San Lorenzo, which caught the afternoon sun upon the mountains
to the west. When they emerged from the hills above the western front, they paused
astonished before the vision that confronted them.
Philips new establishment was as different from the Italianate châteaux
of France as the windy steppes upon which he had built it were different from
the valley of the Loire. At the center of a bustling town of sheds and shops,
markets and corrals, rose a monstrous quadrangle of gray granite, square towers
with peaked tegular roofs ascending from each corner, twin belfries in the center
flanking the enormous dome of the church of San Lorenzo el Real. The entire complex
might have been laid out in the figure of St. Lawrences gridiron, the emblem
of his martyrdom; the after-end of the church itself protruded out behind for
its handle, and the long buildings within were broken up by square yards of various
sizes interspersed with geometric regularity. El Escorial resembled no church
Arundell had ever seen, nor any palace, nor any monastery, nor college, nor city,
yet it was all of these, a great stark block, unrelieved by a single curve, squatting
ponderously atop the plateau, as if prepared against the last assault of the demons
in the final battle for the world.
great western façade, in the center of which opened the main doors, flanked by
eight immense Doric half-columns and surmounted by the kings heraldic arms
and by a high niche, soon to be occupied by some statue, was fronted by a wide
paved plain bustling with traffic now that the court was in residence. Troops
of schoolboys marched smartly by almost in formation. From beneath tents and umbrellas,
steatopygous matrons offered food stuffs and ornaments for sale. Soldiers strolled
idly together, or singly made love to admiring maidens. Long files of Hieronymite
monks passed solemnly out of one small door and in at another as if on some sacred
patrol. Prelates, in brilliant orphrey, bent their ears to suppliant clerks and
artists requiring patronage. Having come up only moments earlier from the silent,
vacant steppes, Arundell found this frightful concourse of people almost daunting.
through the west gate and dismounting just within the portico, the travellers
were accosted by keepers who received their messages and bid them wait. In moments
one of the clerks of Secretary Idiaquez ran out to bring them into the palace.
In a group they traversed the Patio of the Kings, a rectangular courtyard some
seventy meters long, closed in entirely by flat white walls rising four stories
high on either side. At the farther end, up a low flight of steps running the
width of the court, stood the face of the great church, five deep, black arches
capped by a row of pedestals, four of which still stood empty, but two of which
bore gilt and marble statues of Solomon and Jehoshaphat, two of the kings who
had built the temple of Jerusalem. Courtiers and soldiers, monks with breviaries
and clerks with ledgers, hurried back and forth across the pavement quickly enough
to suggest some emergency befallen when there was none.
been brought into the northeastern quadrant, the offices of the government when
the king dwelt there, Arundell scarcely left it for ten days time. When
he did, it was only for a recreational ride in the orchards, following which he
was back immediately to the palace. Part of each day he spent idly in the chambers
given him, waiting to be called out, but once each morning and again each afternoon
he was summoned to appear in some other part of the palace. Often enough it was
merely to the presence of some English- or French-speaking clerk, usually an elderly
monk in white robes and brown hood, who put to him an open question and then without
another word took down his reply at length.
of these dictations Charles made concerning the duke of Guises message and
questions for the king, several more he made, as Lord Paget did, on the state
of English preparedness for defense, the terrain and port facilities, the number
and disposition of the Catholics of account. In these matters, Charles replied
in very general terms, and he was surprised to observe that, when sometimes in
the afternoons he was called before the eristic noblemen of the Council of War,
amid their quarrelling among themselves and their disinterest in the matter itself,
he was never pursued any more particularly about the imprecision of his depositions.
The questions put to him there were usually in the form of sweeping propositions
made by some councillors for the benefit of the others, then more by the latter
for the former, and he was merely required to assent or deny. Only when closeted
alone with Don Juan de Idiaquez was he cross-examined with embarrassing specificity
over his remarks.
In the evenings
there were less onerous duties, or at least so Lord Thomas found them, for he
regarded his introduction to the life of the Spanish court as a medieval explorer
might have done the anthropophagi of the far antipodes. The long festival of Saint
John had passed in June, but there were still a perplexing variety of religious
exercises in which the entire court participated. Beyond that there were almost
nightly balls, in which the great lords and ladies, in finery worth thousands
of acres, paced solemnly about to epicedian music and put themselves through such
a fantastic array of ceremonial niceties that, to a blunt Englishman at least,
this play seemed far more demanding than any form of work. Lord Paget threw himself
into the business with a hearty will and spent his spare hours bowing hispanically
to Twinyho, prancing a bit to indicate mirth, trying to reduce the infinitude
of forms of address to a mnemonic jingle. His health seemed never better. In the
evenings he exhibited his new skills so perfectly that the courtiers, who had
seemed disposed politely to ignore the foreigners among them, began to mark him
out as a figure of fun.
had no facility for the crazy ritual of the court. He had had little enough for
the ritual of the English court and there he had thought such things proper and
important. Here, among the bows and curtsies, the whole dictionary of meanings
to each attitude of the body, to every tilt of ones hat, he felt more useless
than a fletcher in a company of shot. But it was one of the more fixed expectations
that a guest of the king might not decently retire until a certain hour, quite
late. Consequently, nearly every evening, after a day spent with Idiaquez or the
Council, his thoughts still turned almost entirely to the queen of Scots, he stood
by the wall in the palace courtyard or the great hall, speaking polite inanities
to those gentlemen who knew sufficient French to try a compliment or two in passing
with the respected stranger, managing uncomfortable smiles for the ladies who
batted their eyes curiously and coyly in his direction.
it was true that Arundell was being treated, if not with the deference owed to
the great nobility, at least with noticeable respect. He was sure he was making
himself of absolutely no use to the Spanish statesmen, but notwithstanding that,
Idiaquez himself, many (though not all) of the councillors, and every one of the
servants behaved towards him as to a valuable and trusted friend of the monarch.
As a consequence, the courtiers and ladies, too, who missed very little, likewise
looked upon him almost as a social equal, which for the Spanish nobility was a
difficult thing to do. Arundell, in his lucid moments, when he was not thoroughly
bemused by it all beneath his mask of equanimity, noticed this treatment with
great surprise, for he came after all in very nearly the habit of the common courier.
And Lord Thomas remarked upon it also, somewhat resentfully. It seemed that, for
one reason or another, Idiaquez genuinely liked Arundell, and on several occasions
before the Council the Secretary spoke up for him to some of the more hostile
When the Englishmen
had lived at court for more than three weeks of depositions, examinations, tours
of the public walks of church and college, library and galleries, balls, and masses
said daily, Idiaquez came to Arundells chamber very early in the morning.
Charles, who to distract his busy brain had stayed late before the candle with
a book, was still abed, and with Sharrocks help he dressed himself from
cap to boots in fewer than five minutes. The Secretary led him out and walked
with him across the church porch and through the empty cloisters. After thanking
Arundell for the time he had spent in making his advices to the Council, he presented
him with a purse, which he hoped would make a partial token of King Philips
gratitude for his loyal service. Then Idiaquez said that at the end of the week,
Charles should meet the king directly. Arundell stared stupidly at the news. Thrice
in as many weeks he had seen the king, each time from a great distance, kneeling
in his stall far back in the high-choir during the church services; at no other
time, so far as he knew, had his Catholic majesty left the royal apartments behind
If he was speechless
upon hearing this, the next news rendered him insensible. Arundell, along with
a few captains from the army, two civic officials from Aragon, and one impecunious
poet, was going to be knighted.
rest of the week passed feverishly. The ritual involved in an investiture of Spanish
knighthood was so intricate and extensive as to make learning it seem a lifetimes
profession in itself. Arundell spent each day from morning to night with a herald
specifically trained in the art, engaged in an elaborate propaedeutic in order
to fit himself for the task of being honored. He got himself knighted countless
times by the herald, trying to remember when to stand and when to kneel, what
to say for his parts of the responsio, each time by not adverting to the Latin
cues or by transposing elements of the service making some oafish blunder which,
if committed on the big day, would scandalize the Spanish empire spread around
At last the big
day arrived. To Arundell, the thing was perfectly lunatic. To have devoted the
great part of his life to trying to win honors from Elizabeth, and then to be
raised to an order of knighthood by her worst enemy; it was almost more preposterous
than he could bear. He suspected a joke. Perhaps because hed already worried
himself half to madness over the queen of Scotss situation, he found himself
now, as he dressed, breaking into short fits of laughter at this jumbled heap
of ironies. Wherever he had tried to give good service he had brought ignominy
to his name and trouble to his house; when deliberately he gave bad service, dukes
and kings vied who should reward him the more liberally. He sat alone in his chamber,
very close to tears.
finally he was fully dressed, with all that that implies, considering the quantity
of black and silver regalia hed been required to buy, he pressed Sharrocks
hand and left the room. Sharrocks eyes were glistening, as if he could have
wished for nothing more devoutly than to have lived to see this day. In the church
porch, Arundell met his herald-mentor, who led him across the nave up into the
high altar, backed by a beautiful retable, with three tiers of paintings and gilded
statuary, rising ninety feet nearly into the dome. Gathered on the dais they met
the other candidates, all looking as abashed as Arundell must have looked, each
with his own herald, and Idiaquez standing among a number of noble lords and brown-hooded
To the right of the
altar, along a gleaming rail above red marble, a small door opened, and King Philip
came out of his bedchamber with several attendants. He looked extremely old. In
telling contrast to all of his subjects nearby, he wore a stark black doublet,
relieved only by his emblem of the Golden Fleece depending from a chain, with
an unadorned black cape, hose, and boots; even his sword hilts were black. The
kings white beard had thinned to a few wisps over his protruding jaw, and
his eyes were red-rimmed, as if from insomnia or overwork. He ascended the steps
tiredly, like an old peasant home from the fields, his thin frame slightly bent
and his hands shaking as he held them out for his noblemen to kiss.
Philip acknowledged the presence first of a few grandees who knelt near the altar.
As they rose, he turned to the candidates; the herald introduced each of them
by turn, and each, as his name was spoken, without looking up shifted from one
knee to the other. Philip bid them rise and welcomed them in a thin, hesitant
voice. Then he calmly bid them again to rise, and they all stood up together.
He inquired whether they found themselves comfortable in their apartments--they
did not reply--and then when he asked again, they all bowed and assured him they
were very comfortable. The king looked upon them all with a vague, benign smile.
His eyes fell upon each of the men in turn in such a way that he seemed to be
speaking directly and specially to him, but at the same time something in his
gaze seemed abstracted from the situation, as if part of him were elsewhere, praying
or reading or reflecting upon policy.
wished they might all stay long at El Escorial, though he would not presume, he
said, to interfere with their plans; he knew that they were busy men. Still, if
they might just stay a fortnight longer. . . . For the peaches had not come in
yet; they were already more than a week overdue. Spring had come late. He had
had some peaches served him only the night before, he said, but one would not
have known what they were if the gardener had not come along to identify them.
had not been able even to eat them, let alone enjoy them.
laughed gently at this, and they all smiled politely. Turning half round to look
up at the altar, his majesty remarked in a loud, thin voice that he was bold to
claim that his peaches were worth waiting a few days for.
majesty paused for several long seconds, staring at the altar, all of jasper and
red marble. The gentlemen and ladies of the palace were entering the nave behind
and taking seats. Philip turned slowly and with a subtle twinkle in his eye asked
the candidates to follow him; they walked behind him as he left the dais and entered
a corridor behind the retable, the noblemen and his attendants close to him and
the others farther back.
Idiaquez approached very near to Arundell as they waited to pass through the door.
He leant over and whispered in French, "His majesty is very pleased with
you. I told him that you were named in honor of his father."
smiled and whispered back that as a matter of fact he had been. For indeed, at
the time of his birth, his own father had been much taken with the great Holy
Roman Emperor, Charles V, the enemy of heresy, and had named his second son after
him. Idiaquez laughed quietly at the coincidence.
crowded into a tiny vault behind the altar. On gleaming ornamental tables all
about stood scores of precious boxes, reliquaries each of which was worth a small
kingdom, of chryselephantine, with intricate enamel work, some of delicately carved
fine wood or golden, encrusted with glyptic emeralds and lapis lazuli. The king
went to several set together in a corner, where evidently they had newly arrived
and not found permanent arrangement. Gently he took one up and placed it before
them. A small handle on the side was turned and the lid raised. Inside, in deep
blue velvet, lay a greenish yellow anklebone with a crimson ribbon tied about
Arundell looked up quickly
to the king. His majestys eyes swept slowly over them all; there was unmistakably
a lambent glow of pride in them.
Lorenzo," he said.
the king reclosed the box and replaced it on its table. He then tried to lift
another receptacle, but found it too heavy for him; besides its greater size,
it bore a massive base upon pedestal legs. Philip paused and tried again, decorously,
but with no more success. Then one of the noblemen standing near him moved to
lend his aid, but very gracefully, as if he had not noticed, his majesty glided
sideways and stepped in front of the man, who drew back sharply with the air of
having been caught playing out of turn.
Sigüenza," the king called out.
guardsman outside the chamber called the name again more loudly, and as they waited
they heard it repeated several times further and further off. Moments passed,
as the king gazed kindly upon them all one after another, without the slightest
hint of impatience. Everyone stood silently with not a muscle moving.
length, King Philip, as if it had occurred to him that to explain might be a pleasant
duty, smiled courteously again at the candidates and said in Spanish, "Keeper
of our relics."
a short while, footsteps were heard running down the gallery. They stopped suddenly
just outside the door, and then a monk, Fray Sigüenza, entered with the firmest
composure. He was a very handsome man, with steady, intelligent brown eyes over
strong cheekbones and a well-groomed goatee, his brown hood thrown back from a
circle of gray hair fringing his tonsured pate.
monk, finding his master with his hand upon the reliquary, saw instantly what
was the matter. He moved promptly, but with ceremonial dignity, to take up the
case and transfer it to the table before the visitors. Then he touched a spring
in its base and the lid lifted very slightly.
Philip took the keepers place over the box and looked from one man to the
next. Fray Sigüenza, taking his cue, stepped forward again and announced, "Hermenegildo
the Martyr"; and the king swept back the cover, and there in red cloth was
a dreadful ancient brown head, not much larger than a big apple, rugose leathery
skin stretched over features collapsed upon themselves, bleared soupy sockets
below long tufts of gray and dirty white hair, the lips drawn back in a hideous
Some of those in the
room gave a gasp of veneration. Nearly everyone gasped. Arundell, who had never
even heard of Hermenegildo, never mind the miraculous virtues of his earthly shell,
began to weave on his feet; his blood-drained face felt heavy and slack, as the
mahogany chaps danced before his eyes. King Philip beamed, as if by the performance
of a simple miracle he had converted a tribe of heathen.
the holy head had been carefully replaced, the candidates followed the king into
the corridor. There they parted and passed into the church.
filed into a row of benches among his fellows, feeling somewhat revived but not
much more at ease. At the proper place in the proceedings, he rose mechanically
and followed the others onto the dais. There he knelt before the king and a bishop,
with Idiaquez behind him as his sponsor, receiving the questions he had learned
so well and answering solemnly in each place that he swore upon everything nominable
to uphold to death the pope, the king, the blessed host, the cruciform gonfalon,
and a legion of other sacred knickknacks. He stood at the proper times and knelt
and stood again, knelt and received communion, individually professed his faith
in words prescribed and memorized, and at the last, after more than an hour of
it, his majesty the king of Spain laid a black-hilted sword upon each of his shoulders
and named him miles hispanicus, a knight of Spain. On a rolled
charter given him then were lettered precisely those words, with his own name,
subscribed with the quavering signature, "Yo, el Rey."
had his reward, the fruition of his labors.
Anthony Babingtons letter had gone to the queen of Scots, Secretary Walsingham,
through whose hands it had passed, dispatched Tom Phelippes to Chartley to await
her reply. On the 18th of July 1586, her answer, written a day earlier, came out
in the kegs.
In it the queen
thanked Mr. Babington for his labors and wrote that she could not but greatly
praise his heroism. She advised him before proceeding with his scheme to examine
what forces he and his friends could raise in England; what towns and ports he
could make safe for the landings; what foreign troops could be relied upon and
where they would land; how much money and armor would be required--what would
be the surest means to compass the death of the English queen. How best he might
free the queen of Scots herself and promptly make her secure. Lest she find herself
in worse case then she already was, she instructed Babington to set her liberating
party in place and to establish several routes of post, by which her deliverers
should infallibly be alerted the moment that Queen Elizabeth was dead, before
her keepers could learn of it by couriers; and she described three several methods
by which her guards might be diverted and overcome, and herself extricated from
the house. Finally, she warned him not to proceed in freeing her until all other
elements of the plan were assured, for if any part misfired and she herself were
retaken, "it were sufficient cause given to that queen, in catching me again,
to enclose me forever in some hole forth of the which I should never escape, if
she did use me no worse."
was a moment for which Phelippes had long waited. He sat in his chamber in the
far wing of Chartley, rereading his deciphered copy of the letter which had travelled
out of the house to the honest brewer of Burton and back in again to his own hands,
and would now travel straight on to Walsingham. He could imagine the Secretarys
feelings when he should see it. At last, after nearly two decades, the sure means
presented itself to be rid of the most dangerous enemy by which England and the
pure gospel had ever been menaced. For Walsingham and Leicester it would be the
fulfillment of a dream, a triumph over those of the Privy Council who were less
careful of their sovereigns happiness--the fruit of their long travail.
bundled the letter and copy into a pouch and set out at once for the court at
Greenwich. He arrived there the following evening and burst in upon the Secretary
with the news. A slow smile spread over Walsinghams face as he read the
missive. He finished it and sat back, speechless.
was quite ready to proceed to the arrest of all the plotters who were known, but
Walsingham disagreed. Instead, he directed his man to add a postscript to the
letter in the handwriting of the Scottish queens secretary, telling Babington
in the queens voice that she could advise him the better if she were informed
of the names of all the participants, especially those of the six gentlemen "which
are to accomplish the designment." As Phelippes pointed out at once, the
risk was great that so unsubtle a device might arouse suspicion, but Mr. Secretary
was adamant, for he would have more than enough evidence against everyone involved;
he would have the names in writing, he would have the very lives, of everyone
who had any part in it. Phelippes added the passage, artfully resealed the letter,
and passed it on to Barnaby for delivery to Mr. Babington.
few days later, Fr. Gilbert Gifford stopped at an inn in Holborn and retired to
one of the upper rooms. There came to him Mr. Francis Milles, Walsinghams
secretary, whom Gifford informed that the priest John Ballard had told him he
knew of all Tom Phelippess deceitfulness and that the queen of Scotss
letters had been tampered with. Ballard had acquired an open passport for all
ports, and he meant to use it; Gifford believed the man may already have flown.
Milles returned to Walsingham with the news. The Secretary sent word at once to
Gifford commanding him to find out Fr. Ballard and bring him to the hands of Francis
Milles who should arrest him immediately. Gifford observed to himself, in some
agitation, that the trap was beginning to spring shut.
having written his letter to the queen of Scots, Mr. Babington had been having
tepid second thoughts. Earlier, before Ballards first coming, he had been
trying through Robert Poleys good offices to obtain a passport from the
Secretary; in early June he had decided several times to try again. Twice Poley,
by virtue of his employment in the Secretarys house, had been able to arrange
interviews for Babington, who had offered in return for passage over the Channel
to do good service in sending intelligence of foreign matters. Walsingham, on
these occasions, had expressed himself as moderately interested in furthering
the suit, if he might know more particularly what service, what intelligence,
Babington could offer. Recently he had sent Mr. Secretary word that he might soon
send reports of the whereabouts of two priests who had just entered the realm,
as a token of his honest meaning. Walsingham had returned him some encouragement.
Mr. Babington was diffident.
deep within himself, he doubted whether when the moment came he would find the
resolution to make any raid upon Chartley, to signal the assassins when to perform
their deed. Sometimes he knew that he was made of the genuine stuff of heroes;
he could imagine himself with equally great pleasure standing by the queen of
Scots at her coronation in Whitehall or dying gloriously of a hundred wounds,
murmuring to the enemy who had been too many for him, "Jai les
mains nettes," as the assassins missed their aim, the invaders never
came, and he expired in a muddy field in Derbyshire. At other times, however,
he trembled violently even to recollect some of the words hed uttered in
other mens hearing. Recollecting to himself the public executions he had
seen, his bowels deliquesced and his perspiration spoiled his shirts. When he
read over the queen of Scotss letter to him, he felt a sensation of suction
whirling him down into some dark pool.
was two days before he even showed the queens missive to any of his friends.
The postscript did not put him on his guard, as Phelippes had feared it would;
rather, the whole import of the queens acceptance of his plan, her cold-blooded
expectations of him and her marked tone of urgency, brought every fear hed
harbored marching out in regiments to daunt him. Some of his friends seemed now
to be acting strangely; he wondered at the sudden absence of Bernard Maude, who
had gone away into Scotland; he remembered that he knew nothing of Captain Jacques,
who had become inseparable from Mr. Salusbury; it seemed odd to him that Robert
Poley found so little difficulty in arranging his interviews with Walsingham,
and he wondered why he had received no reply from Nau about Poleys acquaintance
with Queen Marys people. Everything, indeed, began to seem strange to him.
The very air of London began to seem thicker, harder to breathe somehow, and everyone,
merchants and seamen, courtiers and housewives, seemed to be staring at him when
he was turned away. For four days consecutively he went round to Gilbert Giffords
dwelling for consultation, but never found the man at home. He thought at last
that if he could find no comfort or assurance very soon, he would do best to get
clean out of it, before someones powderflask ignited and he went with the
rest of them into a billow of black smoke and a terrible boom.
Babington resolved, alone, with a crazy grin, to leave the realm if he could.
Ballard held a blank passport, he remembered, but he soon discovered that the
priest was nowhere to be found. Savage he had not seen in weeks. He communicated
to a few of the other gentlemen his fears of some mischance, but as the month
of July drew to a close, nothing changed; he seemed thoroughly cut off. He was
afraid to reply to the queen of Scots. He was afraid to try passing the ports
without a warrant. He sent another note to Secretary Walsingham, requesting a
safe passage, but he received in reply only a message from Phelippes inquiring
what particular service he might render. Anxiety told upon him. On Monday, the
31st of July, Babington met Robert Poley and instructed him to tell Walsingham
that he, Babington, knew of a horrible great plot to murder the queen of England,
that an unsavory priest named Ballard was the setter on of it, and that he meant
to do his duty to reveal it entirely.
his tiny room in Greenwich Palace, Thomas Phelippes remained of the opinion that
the business should be ended before the hour grew too late. Mr. Secretary delayed
still, bearing the young gentlemen in hand, persisting in the hope that any day
a reply might come from Babington to the queen, listing the names of all the conspirators
in his own handwriting, making confessions hard wrung or special eloquence of
the attorneys altogether superfluous. No reply came, however, Phelippes was growing
still more nervous, and Walsingham too had begun to lose patience. Mr. Milles
had sent Gifford after Ballard, but that had been almost a week ago; Ballards
whereabouts remained unknown, and Gifford himself seemed to have preferred caution
over the strictest loyalty--he had never come back. Ballards passport, however
he had obtained it, if once he reached the coast would see him safely to sea without
a second glance from the port-searchers. It was essential that he be found and
laid in custody at once.
and Milles descended into the forecourt to confer with one of the Secretarys
best agents, a man who had newly returned from assignment in France, the man most
able of any they could think of to track Ballard down and lay him by the heels.
Together they crossed to the guardroom of the western gatehouse, where they had
appointed to meet him.
Berden rose as Walsinghams men entered the little room. Quietly he received
his instructions and made to leave. He refused their offer of a description of
the priest, for he knew the man already. By late the following morning, though
hed not yet found Ballard himself, Berden had learned where the man was
expected in a few days time and had settled down to wait.
Babington received, by Poleys means, a note from Walsingham inviting him
to visit him on Thursday, the third of August, and tell him all he knew of any
plot. He was surprised by the Secretarys apparently casual attitude towards
the thing, but supposed that the press of state business prevented greater promptness;
there had been rumors of French and Spanish fleets off the coast, and all the
militia were being got out, all the coastal beacons being put back into order.
On the morning of the third, however, he received another note, requiring him
to put off his interview until Saturday the fifth. It dawned upon him suddenly
that he was being strung along. Something told him inwardly that everything had
come out and that he was being held in hand while the bushes were beat for others.
His first thought fell upon Maude, who had disappeared into Scotland; he drew
out a sheet of paper and penned a hasty note to the queen of Scots, apologizing
for his silence and warning her that through the treachery of Bernard Maude the
complot was broken off, but only for the moment: for "dismay not," he
conjured her, "neither doubt of happy issue. We have vowed and we will perform
He spent a sleepless
night and felt himself becoming ill. The next morning he hurried round again to
Ballards rooms. This time he found the priest returned, but accompanied
by a man who was introduced as Mr. Berden. He felt quite relieved to be in Ballards
presence once again, for the priest seemed always to know just where he was going,
but he became alarmed at the insistence with which Berden pressed him to remain
for companionships sake. In consequence of that, he took his leave as soon
as with civility he could. As he left the house and started away, he saw Francis
Milles and two other men enter at the main doors and run bounding up the stairs.
Moments later they reappeared with Ballard, his arms bound, fair-haired Berden
following behind, smoothing his doublet down.
dashed the whole distance home and with furious haste wrote a letter of complaint
to the Secretary, remonstrating with him for having arrested Ballard before he,
Babington, had had a chance to lay the whole situation before him. He demanded
to know the meaning of it. Two hours later his boy brought back a reply. Walsingham
informed him that Ballard had been arrested without his knowledge, but because
he was a seminary priest, rather than as any plotter. The Secretarys great
fear now was that Babington too should be arrested as a harborer of priests unless
he took refuge instantly in Walsinghams own house, where the common pursuivants
could not touch him.
without troubling to put on his hat, ran down into the street. There he met Robert
Poley coming up, and he shouted as he passed, "Nay, it is all out. We must
flee for our lives!"
instead of fleeing, overtook his friend and tried to stop him. Babington tried
to explain that he had a safe place to run to, not to fear for him. But little
Poley was not listening; he was simply trying to hold Babington down, almost as
if trying to capture him. Babington shrieked when he realized that Poley was arresting
him, and he shrieked again as he threw the man into a cart standing near and dashed
away in terror.
servants admitted him and informed him that the master was expected shortly. Sitting
with his legs bouncing in the Secretarys sideroom, Babington tried to calm
himself, and belatedly he took thought. It occurred to him that he had arrested
himself. He slapped his forehead. Quickly, he darted to the door and saw that
two of the servingmen were sitting by the front entrance, obviously stationed
there to guard him.
thought for a long moment. Then he adjusted his clothing and forced onto his face,
rather painfully, an expression of nonchalance. He re-entered the hall and stretched
himself before the servingmen, then swore that he was damnably hungry and wondered
whether they, while awaiting the Secretary, would like to join him for an early
supper at his expense. The servants looked at each other, shrugged, and agreed.
They called a third man forward from the rear of the house, and together they
strolled across to the tavern three doors down the way.
men, in kindly regard for their new friends generosity, dined simply, and
Babington, laughing at their amiable stories, almost forgot the circumstances
he was in. At length, however, they finished their meal, and all three of his
guests began trying to persuade him to let them contribute to the paying. He refused
in the grand manner; pulling out his purse he walked back to settle with the host.
Quickly he counted the coins into the mans hand, then stepped into the stores
chamber in the back. There were no other doors, but a window stood open. Babington
bounded through it.
a horse that stood at the farther end of the garden, the fugitive dashed away
from town up Hampstead Road to the northwest, collecting Windsor and Donne as
he progressed. They hid themselves in St. Johns Wood and there remained
for a considerable time, looked for but unfound. Finally, almost overcome by hunger,
they emerged from the forest at the western edge and made for Mr. Bellamys
house in Harrow, where they found the pursuivants waiting to take them to the
The brothers Habington
were taken in a haymow on their fathers estate in Worcestershire. Captain
Jacques brought in Mr. Salusbury and Mr. Tichbourne and then disappeared. Robert
Poley and Nicholas Berden ran down the elusive Mr. Savage, and Mr. Milles had
the man attached. Bernard Maude returned to hunt up two more gentlemen whod
fled southward, turned them over to the sheriff of the county, then he too disappeared
discreetly. Barnaby Macgeogan, the courier between London and Chartley, simply
disappeared. Gilbert Gifford was discovered to have slipped away to France in
disguise, bearing a license obtained from the French ambassador. His friends among
the exiles there congratulated him for having escaped out of Walsinghams
Mr. William Waad, Clerk
of the Privy Council, had gone to Chartley to consult with Sir Amias Paulet. They
met in the open fields to preclude being noticed by anyone in the queen of Scotss
household. Paulet made some pertinent suggestions, and Waad bore them hurriedly
back to Walsingham. When Ballard was arrested, the Secretary believed he had sufficient
matter in hand to convince even Queen Elizabeth of the gravity of the moment,
and he sought and won her permission. On the ninth of August, Mary, queen of Scots,
was invited to chase deer on Sir Walter Astons grounds at Tixall. To her
delight, Sir Amias let himself be persuaded to allow her to attend. She rode with
her party and guards to Tixall and hunted quite enjoyably till she tired of it.
Then she decided to return to Chartley, but was forbidden from doing so. She realized
at once what the meaning of it was, and she screamed.
her absence, Mr. Waad, some other agents of the court, and a few of the local
officials, had entered her apartments at Chartley, arrested her secretaries, and
seized all of her papers from their cunning hiding-places. Her papers, along with
the letters intercepted and the gentlemens copious confessions, would prove
finally to be capital.
cell in Beauchamp Tower, Anthony Babington was still troubled by waking nightmares.
He saw his friends being disembowelled on Tower Hill. He saw himself, hanging
from a gibbet before a mob howling execrations and hurling filth. He saw the executioner
swinging his bright axe down to sever the queen of Scotss head, which rolled
away and bounced along the scaffolding like a giant piece of fruit.
back to the Preface and Table of Contents|
ahead to Chapter XX. Julio and the Third Party (1587)|
do not reproduce this text in any form for commercial purposes. Historical references
for events recreated in this story can be found in D. C. Peck, Leicester's
Commonwealth: The Copy of a Letter Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge (1584)
and Related Documents (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985). Feedback and
suggestions are welcome, .
Written 1973-1989, posted on this site 10 June 2001.