Sunday, 8 September 2013

A Poet's Mistake

The man with the peculiar name of Chidiock Tichborne was a poet and a closet-Catholic at the court of Elizabeth I when he gambled all on the wrong board. He had faith in the Babington Plot to overthrow Elizabeth and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots and as such was a dead man walking when Elizabeth I's spymaster Walsingham discovered the plot - and Chidiock's partaking in it.

Chidiock was not able to flee the country when the discovery was made due to a leg injury which meant that he was basically awaiting his doom in London - and of course it came. On 14th August he was arrested and taken to Westminster Hall where he was found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death. What made it all even worse was that Chidiock himself had been chosen as one of six men who were to kill Elizabeth I - this quite ruled out any possibility of mercy.
The manner of execution was to be the standard procedure for Tudor traitors: hanging, drawing and quartering. Thus on 20th September 1586 Chidiock Tichborne was one of seven conspirators who were taken to St. Giles field where he suffered the long and painful death of an Elizabethan traitor at the age of 28 years old. However, he did manage to write a final letter to his wife containing a poem written on the last eve before his execution (I will upload a post about it in the Poetry section).

An execution of this sort was bloody enough on its own so the result of having seven men joining the same fate on just one day made Elizabeth I demand that the remaining condemned should be hanged until they were completely dead and in such a way avoid another terrible spectacle.

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