Thursday, May 21, 2009

Question from Hannah - Incident in Richmond Park after Babington Plot

Are there other sources that quote a specific instance in Richmond Park after the Babington Plot?

I'm a sophomore in high school and I'm doing a project for my history class and I need to know if this really happened:
A story tells that Elizabeth, walking through Richmond Park, encountered one of the Babington conspirators. She recognized him from a portrait shown to her by Walsingham. Elizabeth approached the man and said, “Am I not well guarded today, with no man near me who wears a sword at his side”. The man fled and nothing came of the incident. Nevertheless, it shows that Elizabeth was far from secure and perhaps, a more determined conspirator might have taken this opportunity to murder her.

I've only found a reference to this happening on that one site, and a mention on this site that quotes It's a really important aspect of my project, (I'm trying to disprove an event in history based on Elizabeth being killed in this situation) so I need to know if this information is accurate.


Lara said...

This site might be the original source of the information, and it looks like they got it from a book by Mary Luke:

Unfortunately the only book of hers that I have on Elizabeth only covers the time before Elizabeth is Queen, so I can't check if Luke has a source for the quote.

Lara said...

Me again! I have also tracked it down in Strickland's "Lives of the queens of England", which you can access on Google books: I searched on "not well guarded today" and it came up as the first result with the "Full view" option on. She lists "State Trials" in a footnote to the paragraph where she mentions that quote.

Hannah said...

Thanks so much for looking into this for me. It's a big help.

Unfortunately I couldn't find the reference on Google Books. I found
the Strickland book, but when I searched "not well guarded today" it didn't have any results. Is there a different way I should be looking for this? I've never really used Google Book Search before.

Lara said...

Try using this link:

Hannah said...

That link is beautiful. Thanks so much for your help. The sources you gave me go a long way in proving my project.

Diane said...

Hannah, there are more references about this incident at the end of the responses to Zoe's question on this site on May 9, 2009. Agnes Strickland's information came from Wiliam Camden's account of Elizabeth's life.

Marilyn R said...

As Diane says, there is another link to this subject going back a couple of weeks. I said I would ask Alison Weir about it and I am now going to reply to your question and to Zoe’s original posting.

I asked the Richmond Park question on your behalf, but unfortunately Alison said she knew nothing about it. I have come across it before and have always been rather wary; these were very dangerous times when Elizabeth must have been well guarded, one would think. So I can add nothing to what Lara & the others have already told you – but at least I tried.

Alison brought a hardback copy of her book on Katherine Swynford and amazingly I won it! When I went up to get it signed she wished you all the best with your studies. (I think it would not be a bad idea, if you can, to make sure your tutor/teacher knows you used your initiative by posting your question on this site. Good luck with your project.)

Marilyn R said...

How strange is this? I found the following while looking for something completely different.

“The Virgin Queen – the Personal History of Elizabeth I”
Christopher Hibbert
Viking, 1990

Page 205
“He was blithely confident of success. He had his portrait drawn with his friends – ‘the Pope’s white sons for divers pieces of services’ – and he wrote a long letter to the Queen of Scots...”
“All this became known to Elizabeth who – frightened though she was at the prospect of the six noble gentlemen shooting or stabbing her at any moment – agreed that Babington should not be arrested for the time being...”

p. 206
“Days passed and Elizabeth walked in constant danger. She had been shown by one of Walsingham’s spies a copy of the picture of Babington and his friends: and while strolling in Richmond Park, surrounded by her ladies and several gentlemen, she recognized one of the men in the portrait, Robert Barnewell, who stole quickly away when she stared at him.”

I find it hard to believe that the Queen was out-and-about in such a way as to enable her to come face-to-face with a would-be assassin, but Hibbert says this of her attitude to the previous Throckmorton Plot,

p. 204
“... the problems of the Queen’s security were constantly discussed by her Councillors. They suggested she should no longer ride or walk anywhere unattended, that she should be accompanied at all times by an armed bodyguard; yet the idea of cutting herself off from the sight and reassuring admiration of her people was appalling to her. She would rather be in her grave than in such restraint...”

Unfortunately there are no footnotes, but both Camden and Strickland appear in the bibliography.

Hope this helps.

Zoe said...

Marilyn, I've just seen your reply on my question thread. Thanks for asking Alison and congratulations on winning the book!
It's exciting that there was a portrait but very frustrating that it's lost.
I find it strange that Elizabeth could recognise Barnewell from a woodcut, or copy of the picture - they're not exactly true likenesses. I think someone in her party that day just saw him and pointed him out to her.

Diane said...

I found another site on the Babington Plot that uses documents from the Public Record Office. It's called Internet Archive. Type in: Mary Queen of Scots and the Babinton Plot. Edited from the original documents in the Public record office

This should give you a lot more sources on Elizabeth and the conspirators.

PhD Historian said...

I am coming in to this discussion rather late, and the Babington Plot is not within my area of expertise, but I will offer the following:

Mary Luke (cited by Lara in the first response) is an exceedingly poor and unreliable authority. She was a novelist, not a historian. Her few books that were sold as non-fiction were in fact historical fiction.

Agnes Strickland is likewise a less than reliable resource. Though her work is still often cited, it is packed full of errors and outright falsifications.

The only source for the Richmond Park incident that might be reliable would be a primary source ... one written by an eye-witness or by someone who was alive at the time the incident occurred.

William Camden's Annales Rerum Gestarum Angliae et Hiberniae Regnante Elizabetha for the year 1586 states:

"The conspirators conferre now and then ... being puffed up with hope of great honors, commending now and then the valour of the Scottish Gentlemen, which not long before had surprised the King at Sterlyn [Sterling], and of Gerard the Burgundian which had murdered the Prince of Aurange [Orange]. And to such fond vanitie also they proceeded, that they would have the men that were appointed to be the murderers pictured to the life [have their portrait painted], and Babington in the middest of them with this verse, HI MIHI SUNT COMITI, QUOS IPSA PERICULA DUCUNT (THESE MEN ARE MY COMPANIONS, WHOM VERY DANGERS DRAW). But forasmuch as this verse pleased them not, as being too open, the put instead of it, QUORUM HAEC, ALIIS PROPERANTIBUS?, that is, TO WHAT END ARE THESE THINGS TO MEN THAT HASTEN TO ANOTHER PURPOSE? These pictures (they say) were begunn, and shewed secretly to the Queene, who knewe none of them by their faces save onely Barnwell, who had often come unto her about causes of the Earle of Kildare’s, to whom he reteined; but being by other tokens put in mind of him, she remembered the man well. Certeinely when she walked on a time abroade, and saw Barnwell, she beheld him undauntedly, and turning herselfe to Hatton Captaine of the guard, and others, she said, Am not I fairely garded, that have not a man in my company with a sworde about him? For so Barnwell himselfe reported to the rest of the conspirators, and shewed them how easily she might have been made away at that time, if the conspirators had been there."

Strickland and others have apparently embellished the original account and made it into something that it never was. From Camden's original text quoted above, we find that Barnwell, one of the Babington conspirators, told his fellow conspirators a story that he had encountered the queen one day when she was out walking (where is not stated), that she had recognized him from her previous meetings with him regarding the business interests of Barnwell's master, the Earl of Kildare, and that Elizabeth reprimanded Hatton, her captain of the guard, for being without his sword.

Camden notes explicitly that Barnwell was trying to convince his friends that the queen was poorly guarded and that it would be easy to assassinate her. Elizabeth did not "approach" Barnwell in a show of bravery and defiance, but instead was fearful enough for her own safety to rebuke her guards for being unarmed and negligent in their duty.

Camden simply repeats Barnwell's version of the encounter, yet the original purpose of Barnwell's story was rhetorical, not historical accuracy. In other words, we cannot trust that Barnwell's story is true and reliable.

Bottom line: The story may have some vague basis in fact, but it is not reliable and cannot be trusted completely. It is almost certainly a fictional adaptation ... "based on actual events" but not itself true.

For Camden's original, see:
Click "Table of Contents" at the bottom, then "1586" under the "English" column, then scroll down to Paragraph 33.

Marilyn R said...

On Saturday Alison Weir said she has seven new books in the pipeline. I wonder how much time the prolific writers of popular history working to publishers' deadlines can allow themselves to spend on original research. Authors producing books on a whole range from, for example, Henry II to Charles II in just a few years probably have not had enough time to dig very deep. Many employ a number of research assistants, but is there really a substitute for doing the work oneself, when that special moment that you turn up a new or little-known piece of information is the real reward? My own area of interest is the Mowbray family, which could easily occupy me for the rest of my life; I’m sure the same could be said of PhD and Lady Jane Grey.

PhD Historian said...

It is true that any piece of original historical writing can take years to research and write. And when any writer becomes so prolific that they have more than one or two books "in the pipeline" within a two or three year span of time, I do become very suspicious about how extensive their research actually is.

In some cases (e.g., Alison Plowden), it can be shown that the writer did not, in fact, do any actual "research," but instead lifted material and footnotes from other works by previous authors on the same topic. That kind of "research" is actually very common, but only among what I call "writers of popular history." Legitimate professional historians do not do that. They do their own first-hand archival research, always.

My understanding is that Weir does conduct very limited archival research, but she apparently also relies heavily on the published work of others. But her archival research is so limited that it is unlikely every to uncover anything new or little-known. I consider her a "writer of popular history," not a professional historian.

David Loades, on the other hand, is a professional historian who definitely does conduct his own first-hand archival research. In fact, the "gossip" within the profession is that he is one of those rare birds who has done so much archival research that he has the State Papers essentially memorized. And he is remarkably prolific, with 6 new works and two edited collections due over the next 3 years. But he is a rarity.

I'd be happy just to get my one little book published. But so far, that has not happened.

George said...

There is a record in the Lancashire Archives, as recorded in the National Archives website, that seems to show Barnewell's confession included something of the Richmond story. As follows:


DDKE/acc. 7840 HMC/f.164


--By virtue of a commission of oyer and terminer, a precept was directed to the Lieutenant of the Tower, commanding him to have the bodies of "Anthonie Babingtone, esquire, Cheadyoke Tychburne, esquire, Thomas Salsburie, esquire, Robert Barnewell, gentleman, John Savage, gentleman, and John Ballard, clerke," before the commissioners. It was decided to arraign Savage first, "forasmoche as hee medled firste in these mattres."

The account of their trial is given as it appears in Howell's "State Trials." The account of their last confessions and executions is as follows:--

"The Confession of Barnewell.

"Firste, hee praied in Latine, and beinge willed of Dr. White to confesse his faulte, and aske forgivenes of the Quene, hee said, I aske the Quene and all others whom I have offended, forgivenes; and said hee would not dyssemble, for I was drawen into this action, as Mr. Babington before this time hathe declared, but I did it not for any worldlie comoditie, but for my conscience sake. Then Mr. Shereif Topclyff damaunded of him why hee concealed the matter so longe; and hee said hee thought it to bee an offence to bewraie a catholique, and said hee wished aswell to the Quene as to his owne soule, and praie she mighte be converted to be a catholique, and desired all catholiques to praie for him. Then the shereif asked him whether hee were att the Courte of Rychmonde, walkinge in the grene, and that there the Quene's Majestie espied you, so that yf others had had knowledge as well as her Majestie, your daies had bene shorter. But att that time I had no suche pretence, for I had matters att the Courte for to dispatche, and so praied that God woulde grante him patience in that agonie. And said other praiers in Latine, and so ended his lyffe. The rope did slippe so sone as hee was turned off the ladder.

Not necessarily definitive, but shows the story was current before the executions.