Catholic plots

Four plots against Queen Elizabeth's reign

The 1570s and 1580s were dangerous decades for Elizabeth; she faced four big Catholic plots against her. All had the aim of getting the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne and returning England to Catholic rule. Mary, Queen of Scots had arrived in England in 1568 having fled Scotland. Due to her claim to the throne Elizabeth had no choice but to imprison her and keep her under strict surveillance. The two women never met in the 19 years Mary was in England.

DatePlotElizabeth's action
1569 - The Northern Earls’ RebellionThe Catholic Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland hatched a plan to get Mary, Queen of Scots out of imprisonment and on to the throne. They gathered an army of 6,000 soldiers in their attempt to return England to Catholicism. Elizabeth got wind of the plan and sent a huge army to crush the rebellion. Elizabeth put 800 rebels to death and the two Earls fled to Scotland.
1571 - The Ridolfi Plot Roberto Ridolfi, an Italian banker, planned to assassinate Elizabeth and make Mary Queen. He had the support of King Philip II of Spain, the Duke of Norfolk, and Mary, Queen of Scots herself.The plot was uncovered by Elizabeth’s advisor, Cecil. Ridolfi and the Spanish ambassador were arrested and expelled from the country and Norfolk was executed as a result.
1583 - The Throckmorton PlotA young Catholic man, Francis Throckmorton, organised a plan for a French army to invade England and replace Elizabeth with Mary, Queen of Scots, paid for by the Pope and King Philip II of Spain.Throckmorton was executed and Mary was moved to Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire, where she was held in isolation and allowed no visitors.
1586 - The Babington PlotSir Anthony Babington planned to rescue Mary, Queen of Scots from jail and murder Elizabeth. Secret letters between the plotters and Mary were discovered which gave the evidence needed to prove Mary’s guilt. This finally led to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, Babington and six other plotters.

Use the timeline to remember the dates of the Catholic plots against Elizabeth.

A timeline showing the key events in the Religious Settlement