The Tudor Society

10 July – The Throckmorton Plot against Elizabeth I

On this day in Tudor history, 10th July 1584, Catholic conspirator, Francis Throckmorton, was executed at Tyburn for high treason after the Throckmorton Plot had been discovered.

The Throckmorton Plot was a plot to depose Elizabeth I and to replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots, but why did Francis Throckmorton plot against his queen? Who did he plot with and how was the plot discovered?

Find out more about Francis Throckmorton and his plot in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 10th July 1553, Lady Jane Grey was officially proclaimed “Queen Jane” at the Tower of London, in Cheapside and Fleet Street. However, one young man could not keep quiet about his views regarding Mary being the rightful queen and he suffered a nasty punishment as a result. Find out more in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1528 - Death of Henry Redman, Master Mason of Westminster Abbey, chief mason of Windsor Castle and the King's chief mason. He was buried in the chapel of St Lawrence, Brentford, Middlesex.
  • 1559 – Death of Henry II of France. He had been injured in a joust on 30th June when he was hit in the face by a lance. It is thought that a splinter entered his eye and went into his brain. He was buried in the Saint Denis Basilica.
  • 1559 – Accession of Francis II and Mary, Queen of Scots as King and Queen of France.
  • 1561 – Elizabeth I visited the Tower of London mint to check on the progress of her new coins. Her recoinage, which restored the silver content of coins following the debasements in her father and half-brother's reigns, restored the reputation of English coins.
  • 1584 – Assassination of William of Orange, also known as William the Silent or William I, Prince of Orange. He was shot in the chest at his home in Delft by Balthasar Gérard, a Catholic Frenchman. A reward of 25,000 crowns had been offered by Philip II of Spain for the assassination of William, who was the main leader of the Dutch Protestant revolt against Spanish forces in the Netherlands. William was buried in the New Church in Delft. Gérard was captured and was tortured for days before being executed on 14th July 1584.
  • 1588 – Death of Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York. He was buried in Southwell Minster.


On this day in Tudor history, 10th July 1584, Catholic conspirator, Francis Throckmorton, was executed at Tyburn for high treason after the Throckmorton Plot had been discovered.

Let me tell you a bit more about Throckmorton and his plot…

Francis Throckmorton, or Throgmorton, was born in 1554 and was the son of Sir John Throckmorton of Feckenham, Worcestershire, a staunch Catholic, and his wife, Margaret Puttenham. Sir John had served Queen Mary I as vice-president of the council in the marches of Wales and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I and made chief justice of Chester.

Francis was educated at Hart Hall, Oxford, and then at the Inner Temple, one of London’s inns of the court. In the 1570s, he married Anne or Agnes Sutton, daughter of Edward Sutton, 4th Baron Dudley, and the couple had a son, John. In 1578, the Throckmorton family got into trouble when Francis’s mother, Lady Throckmorton, was reported for celebrating the mass in the household of her brother-in-law and Francis was accused of “being present at exercises of religion contrary to present practices”. As a result, he was placed in the custody of the dean of St Paul’s, but this was only for a month as his Protestant cousins interceded on his behalf. Then, a year later, Francis’s father was removed from his office of chief justice of Chester for allegedly showing undue partiality in a case. He died a year later.

Perhaps his family’s treatment combined with his faith led to Francis’s subsequent actions. He’d gone into exile in the Low Countries following his release and it’s there that he began talking with other discontented Catholics about “the altering of the state” in England and how a foreign invasion would help this. As soon as he was back in England in the early 1580s, he began plotting with other likeminded young Catholic men who supported the claim of Mary, Queen of Scots to the throne of England. His plotting soon came to the notice of Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I’s famous spymaster, whose agent reported that Francis had dined with the French ambassador, who had sent money to Mary, so Walsingham ensured that Francis was watched. In November 1583, Francis was in the middle of writing a letter to the Scottish queen when he was arrested. He managed to destroy the letter by burning it and to send other treasonous correspondence to the Spanish ambassador, Bernardino Mendoza, via his maid, but his remaining papers were evidence of him plotting a foreign invasion with other Catholics. He was tortured by racking but would not confess or give any incriminating evidence against his friends, claiming that the government had forged the papers that were evidence against him. His biographer, Alison Plowden, writes that he was able to smuggle a message out to Mendoza written in cipher on the back of a playing card, assuring the ambassador that he would not betray his friends. However, he confessed all after a second racking.

Francis told of how the Duke of Guise, supported by the King of Spain, was preparing to invade England, release Mary, depose Elizabeth and replace her with Mary. Francis’s role, along with his brother, Thomas, and the Spanish ambassador, was to organise a group of Catholic men to welcome the invasion at Guise’s landing at Arundel in Sussex. Thomas was able to flee into exile before Walsingham could arrest him, but the Spanish ambassador, who was protected by diplomatic immunity, was expelled from England in January 1584, and Francis was tried for high treason. At his trial on 21st May 1584, he tried to retract his confession blaming the torture he’d suffered, stating that he would have said anything to stop his pain, but he was convicted of treason and sentenced to death.

He was executed at Tyburn on this day in history, 10th July 1584, going to his death “very stubbornly” and refusing to ask the queen’s forgiveness for his actions.

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10 July – The Throckmorton Plot against Elizabeth I