The Tudor Society

18 February – The Ridolfi Plot against Elizabeth I

On this day in history, 18th February 1612, Italian banker Roberto di Ridolfi died in Florence, Italy, aged 80.

Amazingly, he died a natural death even though he'd been the brains behind the Ridolfi Plot, a plot to depose Queen Elizabeth I and to replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots, thereby restoring Catholicism in England.

Find out more about Ridolfi and his famous plot in today's talk:

Also on this day in Tudor history, 18th February 1516, the birth of Queen Mary I. Find out more about her birth, baptism, and some of her achievements as queen in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1503 – Henry Tudor, the future Henry VIII, was created Prince of Wales.
  • 1558 – Death of Sir George Barne, former Alderman and Lord Mayor of London. He was buried at St Bartholomew by the Exchange, London.
  • 1561 – Death of Sir Thomas Denys, administrator. His offices included Comptroller to Princess Mary, Chancellor of Anne of Cleves' household, member of Parliament for Devon, Sheriff of Devon and Deputy Lieutenant of Devon and Cornwall.
  • 1563 – Francis, Duke of Guise, was wounded by a Huguenot assassin. He died six days later.


On this day in history, 18th February 1612, Italian banker Roberto di Ridolfi died in Florence, Italy, aged 80.

Why am I mentioning Ridolfi, when he was Italian and died in 1612, you might be wondering? Well because he was also a conspirator and is known for his Ridolfi Plot against Elizabeth I.

Let me tell you a bit more about this plot…

The Ridolfi Plot’s aim was to launch a Spanish invasion of England to depose Queen Elizabeth I, replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots and restore Catholicism in England. Ridolfi, who had been based in London since 1562 and who had worked for men like William Cecil, Lord Burghley, as a financial agent, had been involved in plans to remove Elizabeth before, arrested and interrogated by Sir Francis Walsingham, the queen’s spymaster, in 1568 after being implicated in the Northern Rebellion, after the pope had asked him to distribute money to the Northern lords opposing Elizabeth. The rebellion failed and Ridolfi was released as no firm evidence of financial support for the rebellion could be found against him.

Those who were involved in the plot which Ridolfi hatched, include King Philip II of Spain, Pope Pius V, the Duke of Alva, who was leader of the Spanish troops in the Netherlands, John Lesley, Bishop of Ross, who was Mary, Queen of Scots’ agent, the Spanish ambassador Guerau de Espés del Valle, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, who was to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, and Mary herself, who gave her consent to this plot against Elizabeth. Ridolfi was in the perfect position to hatch a plot because he had banking connections and could use his banking travels as a cover for conspiring with the Spanish king, pope and the Duke of Alva on the Continent.

Fortunately for Elizabeth, she had an amazing network of spies, and so she received advanced warning of the plot. Ridolfi had also bragged about the plot to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who passed the information on to Elizabeth. In April 1571, Ridolfi’s messenger, Charles Baillie, was apprehended while carrying letters at Dover. He was interrogated and tortured until he gave up information, including the cipher used for the correspondence. In August 1571, more correspondence, along with 600 pounds in gold, made its way into the Crown’s possession when draper Thomas Browne, who’d been employed by the Duke of Norfolk’s secretaries to take a bag to one of Norfolk’s agents in the North, became suspicious and reported the bag to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I’s chief advisor. Norfolk’s secretaries were interrogated and, when Howard House, Norfolk’s home, was searched for a cipher to help decipher the letters, a letter from Mary, Queen of Scots, in cipher was found. Further members of Norfolk’s household were interrogated and Norfolk was also arrested. He was executed for treason in June 1572. The Spanish ambassador was expelled from England, but Ridolfi, who hadn’t been in England when the plot was uncovered, escaped punishment and continued working for the pope as a special envoy. Mary, Queen of Scots, was kept under closer surveillance.

So, Roberto Ridolfi may have been involved in plots to depose Elizabeth I, but he died a natural death at the grand age of 80.

There are 5 comments Go To Comment

  1. R

    The Marvellous Chance: Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk and the Ridolfi Plot 1570 to 1572 by Father Francis Edwards highly recommended.

    1. C - Post Author

      Oooh, thank you, I’ll look that one up.

  2. R

    Happy Birthday Princess Mary, true heir to Henry Viii and Queen Katherine of Aragon and my very favourite historical person of all time. Courageous and impressive.


    1. C - Post Author

      A fascinating lady. Which is your favourite book on her?

      1. R

        Linda Porter is probably my favourite modern biography but the first book I read in my teens was Lady Mary by Milton Waldman is my very favourite because it was the first introduction to Mary. It was written in 1972 and its a beautiful balanced work. I loved it.

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18 February – The Ridolfi Plot against Elizabeth I