Francis Throckmorton - Encyclopedia

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THROCKMORTON (or THROGMORTON), Francis (1554-1584), English conspirator, was the son of Sir John Throckmorton of Feckenham in Warwickshire, and his wife Margery Puttenham. Sir John had been concerned in Wyat's rebellion against Queen Mary Tudor, but was afterwards known as a sympathizer with the Roman Catholic party in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and in 1580 was removed from his office of chief justice of Chester for irregularities in his office, but probably because he was suspected of disloyalty by the government. Francis was educated at Hart Hall, Oxford, which he entered in 1572. In 1576 he was enrolled in the Inner Temple. At Oxford he had come under the influence of the Roman Catholics, whose power was still great in the university, and must have heard of Edmund Campian (q.v.) who had left shortly before he himself entered the university. When Campian and Parsons came to England in 1580 to conduct the Jesuit propaganda against Queen Elizabeth, Francis Throckmorton was one of a society of members of the Inner Temple who united to hide and help them. In that year he went abroad, first to join his brother Thomas, who was engaged with the exiled Roman Catholics in Paris, and then to travel in Italy and Spain. While abroad he consorted with exiled papists, and was undoubtedly engaged in treasonable intrigues. In 1583 he returned to act as the confidential agent of an elaborate conspiracy which had for its object the invasion of England by a French force under command of the duke of Guise, or by Spaniards and Italians sent by Philip II. for the purpose of releasing the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots and restoring the authority of the pope. Throckmorton possessed, or occupied, a house on Paul's wharf, London, which served as a meeting-place for the conspirators. Many plots were being carried on alongside of the chief one, and the suspicions of the government were aroused. Throckmorton's constant visits to the Spanish ambassador, Bernardino de Mendoza, attracted attention, and he was arrested in October 1583. He was ciphering a letter to Queen Mary when the constables came upon him suddenly, but he found time to send a casket of compromising papers by a trustworthy maidservant to Mendoza, and a card in cipher in which he promised to reveal nothing. As he refused to confess when brought before the council, he was put on the rack in the Tower. He resisted a first application of the torture, but his strength and courage failed when he was threatened with a second, and he made a full confession. At a later period he retracted and asserted that his avowals were false and had been extorted from him by pain, or had been put in his mouth by the examiners. His confession agreed, however, fully with what is known from other sources of the plot, and there can be no doubt that when his house was searched the constables found lists of his confederates, plans of harbours meant for use by foreign invaders, treatises in defence of the title of the Queen of Scots to the throne of England, and "infamous libels on Queen Elizabeth printed beyond seas." His trial, which in the circumstances was a mere formality, took place on the 21st of May 1584, and he was executed at Tyburn on the 10th of July. The arrest and confession of Throckmorton were events of great importance. They terrified the conspirators, who fled abroad in large numbers, and led to the expulsion of the Spanish ambassador and so to war with Spain.

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