Anthony BABINGTON

Born: 24 Oct 1561, Dethick, Derbyshire, England

Died: 20 Sep 1586, London, Middlesex, England

Father: Henry BABINGTON

Mother: Mary DARCY

Married: Margery DRAYCOT

Children:

1. Dau. BABINGTON


The Babingtons are supposed to have taken their name from a place called Babington in Northumberland, where they had resided from the time of the Conquest. At what date they removed from their northern abode to Nottinghamshire we cannot say, but there was a John Babington residing at East Bridgeford in the time of Richard II. The family continued at Bridgeford until the death of Sir John Babington, 16th Hen. VII, when the manor passed to his sister, and through her daughter to Lord Sheffield. One of the sons of this Sir John was Sir William Babington, who presided for thirteen years as Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and on his death, in 1544, was buried at Lenton Priory. Descended from the first John Babington of Bridgeford, who had five sons, were the Babingtons of Dethick (Derby), and it was this branch of the family that acquired Kingston.

Perhaps the most remarkable, and certainly the best known, of those who lived at Kingston was Anthony Babington, the friend and supporter of Mary, Queen of Scots, who lost his life through his ardent devotion to her cause.

He was born the third son of Henry Babington, and his second wife Mary, daughter of George, Lord Darcy, and granddaughter of Thomas, Lord Darcy, who was executed in 1538 as a principal conspirator in the Pilgrimage of Grace. His father died in 1571 when he was nine, and his mother remarried to Henry Foljambe. Under his three guardians (his mother, Foljambe and Phillip Draycot of Paynsley, Staffordshire), Babington was indebted for his education.

Although all three outwardly conformed to Protestantism, it is certain they were all church papists. Even Babington's father, while he was alive, was said to have been 'inclined to papistrie', and had a brother who was 'a doctor of divinitie of the same religious profession'. The Foljambes were renowned papists in their own right, and many suffered for their faith. Babington apparently remained in Dethick until about 1577, when he was briefly a page to Mary Queen of Scots while she was under the care of the Earl of Shrewsbury. It is during these brief few months that many claim Babington became utterly devoted to Mary and her cause to sit on the throne of England. In 1579 he married Margery Draycot, and by 1580 was in London studying law.

Soon after his admission to Lincoln's Inn, Babington abandoned the bar for fashionable town life. His wealth, charm and good looks soon secured him a large following around court, and it was inevitable that other Catholics, seduced by Jesuit stirrings abroad, soon formed his inner circle of friends. Early in 1580, Babington was one of a secret circle established for the protection of priests, most notable Edmund Campion and Robert Parsons. With the fundamental basis of the protection and maintenance of Jesuit missionaries, the group were soon being commended in private by Pope Gregory XIII. Babington briefly visited the continent at this time, spending six months in France where it is believed he may have first met some of Elizabeth's enemies.

Lady Babington of Whitefriars, London, and Lady Foljambe of Walton, Derbyshire, did all they could to further the society, frequently hosting Campion and Parsons themselves as they toured the country. After the 1582 capture and execution of Campion, Babington withdrew once more to Dethick. In the same year, he came of age, and assumed the role of a gentleman. At this time, he and his wife appeared in a list of Derbyshire recusants.

In 1585 he traveled extensively overseas. In France, he made the acquaintance of Charles Paget and Thomas Morgan, Mary Stuart's emissaries in Paris, who were vigorously plotting the downfall of Elizabeth with the Spanish King. His journeys ended in Rome, where he and his followers from the secret society founded years earlier were granted an audience with the Pope. On his return to England, Paget and Morgan entrusted him with documents for Mary, which he dutifully delivered.

At the behest of Mary's French supporters, John Ballard, a Catholic priest of Rheims, had undertaken many journeys to England in the year Babington returned from Rome. Ballard had secured many promises of aid from the northern Catholic gentry who were now willing to accept a tumultuous change. Babington, who had been drawn into the clandestine circle by virtue of the help he had given them, looked upon Ballard as a guiding light, and willingly accepted the responsibility of helping to mastermind the plot that generally bears his name. Ballard told Babington that the plan in general had already been given the blessing of the Spanish government, and that upon its completion, a large invasion force would assist them in returning Mary to the monarchy.

Babington selected as his main group those who had formed the secret society and travelled with him to Rome. Being members of the court and having free access to the Queen, they were charged with the assassination of Elizabeth, while he charged himself with the rescue of Mary from the custody of Sir Amyas Paulet at Chartley.

On 12 May 1586, Don Bernardino De Mendoza, the Spanish Ambassador in Paris, who had placed the utmost reliance on Babington and his close circle of friends, wrote to his government declaring that the death of Elizabeth might soon be expected. In the weeks that followed, Babington grew over-confident, although he still managed to exhibit some form of concern over possible treachery, he and his conspirators frequently dined and received mass together. Many historians have commented on the 'foolish vanity' of Anthony Babington, and his desire more for Mary's recognition and reward, than for the true cause behind what they were hoping to achieve.

Babington acted like a jealous child, and became more and more angered as Mary granted favours to others. From Paris, Morgan informed Mary of Babington's state of mind and that it would be wise to send him some token of gratitude, which she did in a note of 28 Jun. Babington replied in a long and provocative letter describing all the means to be taken for the murder of Elizabeth and the deliverance of Mary. Five days later, Mary returned his letter, favourably replying to the news of the plot, and seeking to know more. On 3 Aug, Babington informed her that one of Ballard's aides had turned traitor, but not to worry or falter in her desire to see Elizabeth dead.

Babington's constant fear of treachery was certainly well founded. Almost from the outset of the plot, Walsingham was aware of the activities thanks to his extensive network of spies. Gilbert Gifford, one of Ballard's most trusted friends had been won over to the government very early on, and all correspondence between Babington, Ballard, and Mary passed subsequently through Walsinghams hands. Although they were always either in cipher, or French, Walsingham, with the help of Thomas Phelippes, the master forger, knew exactly what was unfolding.

In Jul of 1586, warrants for the arrest of Ballard and Babington were prepared, but Walsingham, as shrewd as ever, was in no hurry to round them up, but rather wanted to wait and see what further revelations there would be. At the end of the month, detail in the letters began to escalate, and on 4 Aug, Ballard was siezed after a meeting between the conspirators in London. Babington, who had become almost paranoid by now, had earlier applied to Walsingham for a passport to travel overseas, where he had promised to act as a spy against Elizabeth's enemies. He had apparently told his friends that a journey to France was necessary to complete the final plans of the proposed invasion. Walsingham refused the request, and Babington immediately informed Walsingham that in return for granting the passport, he could reveal damning evidence against a plot to assassinate Elizabeth. Walsingham was still unrepentant in his refusal. Unwittingly, Babington continued to dine with Walsingham's spies, and on one of these occasions he caught sight of a memorandum in Walsingham's own hand regarding his fate. On trivial pretence he hurried from the premises, and made his way to St. John's Wood, where he was joined by some of his associates. He remained at large for almost three weeks, until finally captured and sent to the Tower. The tradition is still current at Kingston that he was securely hidden for awhile on the top of the sculptured canopy in the church. Sir Thomas Fitzherbert was accused of harbouring him at Derby, and of allowing Mass to be said at his house.

Within days, the remaining conspirators were captured and on 13-14 Sep, Babington, Ballard, the poet Chidiock Tichbourne, Thomas Salisbury, Robert Barnewell, John Savage and Henry Donn were placed on trial. Babington confessed all, but placed all the blame on Ballard, who graciously admitted that he wished the spilling of his blood could save his young friend. Two days later, seven more conspirators (Edward Habington, Charles Tilney, Edward Jones, John Charnock, John Travers, Jerome Bellamy, and Robert Gage, a cousin of Viscount Montagu) were similarly tried and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered.

On 19 Sep, Babington wrote to Elizabeth begging her to employ mercy and spare him. On the same day, he offered a friend 1000l if he could secure his release. The following day, the first seven were drawn on hurdles from Tower Hill to St Giles. Ballard suffered at the hands of the executioner first, undergoing terrible torture before his life was extinguished. Babington followed and suffered a similarly barbaric execution, being still alive as the executioners knife went to work on disemboweling him. Elizabeth was horrified at the revolting cruelty of their death, and ordered that those to be executed the following day were to be left hanging until dead before being cut down. And so it was that on 21 Sep, the remaining seven conspirators were put to death.

By his wife Margery, Anthony Babington had a daughter, who died at the age of eight, probably before her father.

The estates of Kingston and Dethick were permitted to pass to the brothers, Francis and George. Thoroton, speaking of Kingston, says, This manor, by the attainder of Anthony Babington, and the unthriftiness of Francis, his brother, afterwards came to the hands of Gilbert, Earl of Shrewsbury. Subsequently it was disposed of to Lady Hide.

The historical importance of the plot lies in the complicity of Mary Stuart. Because of her involvement, Walsingham and the Privy Council were able to eventually have Mary brought to the scaffold at Fotheringay Castle in Jul 1586. Many claim that the incriminating letters were forgeries, and that Mary was unjustly executed, but there is not doubt Babington believed in their authenticity, and was reputed to have fully translated the cipher used on the day of his execution.

Sources:

Dictionary of National Biography, 1895
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