Your cheeky guide to the dynasty

Ye Olde Smoking Gun

Thomas Phelippes' forged cipher postscript to ...

Thomas Phelippes’ forged cipher postscript to Mary, Queen of Scots’ letter to Anthony Babington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aren’t historical documents fascinating? I always find myself starstruck at these aged pieces of paper with the signatures of monarchs, governors, co-conspirators, future headless people, and the like.

To mark the 424th anniversary of Mary Queen of Scots’ execution, I give you the smoking gun in the Babington Plot. Once Walsingham had this signed piece of paper in his hot little hands, she was as good as in the ground.

The translation of the above, courtesy of the National Archive, is “”I w be glad to know the names and quelityes of the sixe gentlemen which are to accomplish the essignement, for that it may be I shall be able uppon knowledge of the parties to give you some further advise necessarye to be followed therein…… as also from time to time articularlye how you proceede and as son as you may for the same purpose who bee alredye and how farr every one privye hereunto.”

After she’d been imprisoned, Mary communicated with her allies in code, which can be seen here.  Not that it mattered: Her letters were routinely intercepted by a double agent. Several months later, Elizabeth I grudgingly signed her death warrant and off to the block at Fotheringhay Castle went the Queen of Scots.



  Anne Barnhill wrote @

I’m with you about loving that actual documents–or any object that is that old–I also love the idea of codes and spies way back then. Poor Mary–she just wasnt’ very smart; or else, she didn’t believe Elizabeth would ever have her killed because she was a queen. What a sad life she had–exciting at points but sad.

  A Different Lara wrote @

You know, that’s not such a bad idea. We have “The Smoking Gun,” today, wouldn’t it be fun to have “Ye Olde Smoking Gun” with actual documents from the past like this? It would be a hit! Well, with historians and history lovers, anyway! 😉

  barbalexander wrote @

V. cool idea, Lara — take it and run with it!

  Lois wrote @

Great idea, Lara!

  Lois wrote @

I’ve recently been reading ‘The Watchers’ – fascinating stuff. Thomas Phelippes is such an intriguing character.

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