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conspiracy for assassinating the usurper, by six noble gentlemen, as he termed them, all of them his private friends, who, from the zeal which they bore to the catholic cause and her majesty's service, would undertake the tragical execution. To these Mary replied, that she approved highly of the design; that the gentlemen might expect all the rewards which it should ever be in her power to confer; and that the death of Elizabeth was a necessary circumstance, previous to any farther attempts either for her deliverance or the intended insurrection. Such was the scheme laid by the conspirators; and nothing seemed so certain as its secrecy and its success. But they were all miserably deceived; the active and sagacious ministers of Elizabeth were privy to it in every stage of its growth, and only retarded their discovery till the meditated guilt was ripe for punishment and conviction. Ballard was actually attended by one Maude, a catholic priest, who was a spy in pay with Walsingham, secretary of state. One Polly, another of his spies, had found means to insinuate himself among the conspirators, and to give an exact account of their proceedings. Soon after, one Giffard, a priest, came over, and, discovering the whole conspiracy to the bottom, made a tender of his service to Walsingham. It was he that procured the letters to be conveyed through the wall to the queen, and received her answers; but he had always taken care to show them to the secretary of state, who had them deciphered, and took copies of them all. The plot being thus ripe for execution, and the evidence against the conspirators incontestable, Walsingham resolved to suspend their punishment no longer. A warrant was accordingly issued out for the apprehending of Ballard; and this giving the alarm to Babington,
and the rest of the conspirators, they covered themselves with various disguises, and endeavoured to keep themselves concealed. But they were soon discovered, thrown into prison, and brought to trial. In their examination, they contradicted each other; and the leaders were obliged to make a full confession of the truth. I'ourteen were condemned and executed, seven of whom died acknowledging their crime. The execution of these wretched men only prepared the way for one of still greater importance, in which a captive queen was to submit to the unjust decisions of those who had no right, but that of power, to condemn her. Though all England was acquainted with the detection of Babington’s conspiracy, every avenue to the unfortunate Mary was so strictly guarded, that she remained in utter ignorance of the whole matter. But her astonishment was equal to her anguish, when sir Thomas Gorges, by Elizabeth’s order, came to inform her of the fate of her unhappy confederates. She was at that time mounted on horseback, going to hunt; and was not permitted to return to her former place of abode, but conducted from one gentleman's house to another, till she was lodged in Fotheringay castle, in Northamptonshire, where the last scene of her miserable tragedy was to be performed. The council of England was divided in opinion about the measures to be taken against the queen of Scots. Some members proposed, that, as her health was very infirm, her life might be shortened by close confinement; and the earl of Leicester advised that she should be dispatched by poison; but the majority insisted on her being put to death by legal process. Accordingly a commission was issued for forty-one peers, with five judges, or the major part of them, to try and pass sentence upon Mary, daughter and heir of James the Fifth, king of Scotland, commonly called queen of Scots, and dowager of France. Thirty-six of these commissioners, arriving at the castle of Fotheringay, presented her with a letter from Elizabeth, commanding her to submit to a trial for her late conspiracy. Mary perused the letter with great composure, and, as she had long foreseen the danger that hung over her, received the intelligence without emotion or astonishment. She said, however, that she wondered the queen of England should command her as a subject, who was an independent sovereign, and a queen like herself. She would never, she said, stoop to any condescension which would lessen her dignity, or prejudice the claims of her posterity. The laws of England, she observed, were unknown to her; she was destitute of counsel; nor could she conceive who were to be her peers, as she had but one equal in the kingdom. She added, that, instead of enjoying the protection of the laws of England, which she had hoped to obtain, she had been confined in prison ever since her arrival in the kingdom; so that she derived neither benefit nor security from them. When the commissioners pressed her to submit to the queen's pleasure, otherwise they would proceed against her as contumacious, she declared she would rather suffer a thousand deaths than own herself a subject to any prince on earth: that, however, she was ready to vindicate herself in a full and free parliament; as, for aught she knew, this meeting was devised against her life, on purpose to take it away with a pretext of justice. She exhorted them to consult their own consciences, and to remember that the theatre of the world was much more extensive than that of the kingdom of England. At length the vice-chamberlain Hatton vanquished her objections, by representing that she injured her reputation by avoiding a trial, in which her
innocence might be proved to the satisfaction of all mankind. This observation made such an impression upon her, that she agreed to plead, if they would admit and allow her protest, of disallowing all subjection. This, however, they refused ; but they satisfied her, by entering it upon record; and thus they proceeded to a trial. The principal charge against her was urged Oct. 14,
by serjeant Gaudy, who accused her of know- 1586.
ing, approving, and consenting to, Babington’s conspiracy. This charge was supported by Babington's confession; by the copies which were taken of their correspondence, in which her approbation of the queen's murder was expressly declared; by the evidence of her own secretaries, Nau a Frenchman, and Curle a Scotchman, who swore that she received the letters of that conspirator, and that they had answered them by her orders. These allegations were corroborated by the testimony of Ballard and Savage, to whom Babington had shown some letters, declaring them to have come from the captive queen. To these charges Mary made a sensible and resolute defence; she said, Babington's confession was produced by his fears of the torture; which , was really the case; she alleged that the letters were forgeries; and she defied her secretaries to persist in their evidence, if brought into her presence. She owned, indeed, that she had used her best endeavours to recover her liberty, which was only pursuing the dictates of nature; but as for harbouring a thought against the life of the queen, she treated the idea with horror. In a letter which was read during the trial, mention was made of the earl of Arundel and his brothers. On hearing their names, she shed a flood of tears, exclaiming, “Alas! what hath the noble house of Howard endured for my sake!” She took occasion also to observe,
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that this letter might have been a base contrivance of Walsingham, who had frequently practised both against her life and that of her son. Walsingham, thus accused, rose up, and protested that his heart was free from malice; that he had never done any thing unbecoming an honest man in his private capacity, nor aught unworthy •of the place he occupied in the state. Mary declared herself satisfied of his innocence, and begged he would give as little credit to the malicious accusations of her enemies, as she now gave to the reports which she had heard to his prejudice. Whatever might have been this queen's offences, it is certain that her treatment was very severe. She desired to be put in possession of such notes as she had taken preparative to her trial; but this was refused her. She demanded a copy of her protest; but her request was not complied with : she even required an advocate to plead her cause against so many learned lawyers as had undertaken to urge her accusations; but all her demands were rejected; and, after an adjournment of some days, sentence of death was pronounced against her in the Star-chamber in Westminster, all the commissioners except two being present. At the same time a declaration was published by the commissioners, implying, that the sentence against her did in no wise derogate from the title and honour of James, king of Scotland, son to the attainted queen. Though the condemnation of a sovereign princess at a tribunal to which she owed no subjection, was an injustice that must strike the most inattentive, yet the Oct. 29, parliament of England did not fail to approve 1586. the sentence, and to go still farther, in presenting an address to the queen, desiring that it might speedily be put into execution. But Elizabeth still felt, or pretended to feel, a horror for such precipitate seve