CHAPTER XXII. ELIZABETH (vii), 1583-87 - THE END OF QUEEN MARY
While Drake was thus congenially employed, Elizabeth was carrying on her system of inaction and double-dealing. She intrigued - behind the backs of her ministers - with Parma, for the surrender to him of the towns she held, on terms which from her point of view were quite good enough for the Provinces, namely the restitution of their old Constitutional Government without religious liberty; although in their own view, religious liberty was primarily essential. Leicester complicated matters for her by accepting, in flat contradiction to her orders, the formal Governorship of the United Provinces: finding in fact that if he was to stay in the Netherlands nothing short of that would prevail against the suspicions of the Queen's treachery. At home, Burghley himself threatened to resign if she would not take a straightforward course. Walsingham wrote to Leicester, with his usual bitterness, of the "peril to safety and honour" from her behaviour. If she had indeed contemplated the surrender of the cities to Parma, that plan was frustrated. Still she stormed at Burghley and Walsingham, flatly and with contumely refused to ratify Leicester's arrangement, and continued to keep back the pay of the troops. Parma, though he too was starved in men and money by Philip, continued inch by inch to absorb the revolted territory. All that Leicester succeeded in accomplishing by the month of September was the brilliant and entirely futile action of Zutphen where in one great hour Philip Sidney won death and immortality (September 22nd). Thereafter, inaction and short supplies continued to be the rule, on both sides. In November, Leicester was back in England, where a fresh situation was developing.
[Sidenote:1585-86 The trapping of Mary]
While the arrangements for armed intervention in the Netherlands were in progress, Walsingham had been busy preparing for the last act in the Tragedy of Mary Stewart. The Secretary was foremost among those who held not only that the captive Queen deserved death, but that her death was more necessary to the welfare of England than any other event. Yet it was quite certain that Elizabeth would not assent to her death, unless she thought she could convince herself and the world that Mary had been actively engaged in treasonous plots. Recently however at Tutbury under the charge of Sir Amyas Paulet, she had been guarded so strictly that no surreptitious correspondence had a chance of passing. Walsingham was confident that if the opportunity were given, a treasonous correspondence would be opened. It became his object therefore to give her the opportunity in appearance, while securing that the channel through which communications passed should be a treacherous one, and the whole of what was supposed to be secret should be betrayed to him. To this end, the Queen was removed in December 1585 to Chartley Manor, avowedly in response to her own demands for a less rigorously unpleasant residence than Tutbury. The instrument of the plot was a young man named Giffard, supposed to be in the inner counsels of the Jesuits, actually in Walsingham's service. Through Giffard, communications were opened between Mary and a devoted adherent of hers in France named Morgan: but every letter passing was deciphered and copied, and the copies placed in the Secretary's hands.
[1586 Babington's plot]
In the late spring, the great Babington conspiracy was set on foot; whereof the main features were, that Elizabeth was to be assassinated by a group of half a dozen young men who had places at court and occasional access to her person. The two leading spirits were Anthony Babington and a Jesuit named Ballard. Of course a Catholic rising and a foreign invasion were part of the plan, and Mendoza at Paris was playing his own part. Much of the plot was confided to Giffard, who reported to Walsingham. The Secretary and his Queen were satisfied to let the plot develop while they gathered all the threads in their own hands before striking. The correspondence, as copied for Walsingham at Chartley, conveyed not details but general intelligence of what was on foot to Mary, and approval from Mary to the conspirators. In August, Walsingham's moment came: the conspirators were seized; under torture or threat of torture they made complete confession. The Scottish Queen's rooms at Chartley were ransacked, and all her papers impounded. Again, as after the Throgmorton conspiracy, fleets were manned and musters called out. In September, the conspirators were tried and executed, and a Commission was appointed to try Mary herself in October.
[Trial of Mary]