||October 1561 - Dethick, Derbyshire
||20 September 1586 - St. Giles, London
Anthony Babington was descended from a family of great antiquity who in successive
generations had acquired vast estates in and around Derbyshire. He was born the third
son of Henry Babington, and his second wife Mary, daughter of George, Lord Darcy, and
granddaughter of Thomas, Lord Darcy, who was executed in 1538 as a principal
conspirator in the "Pilgrimage of Grace". His father died in 1571 when he was nine,
and his mother remarried to Henry Foljambe. Under his three guardians (his mother,
Foljambe and Philip Draycot of Paynsley, Staffordshire), Babington was indebted for
Although all three outwardly conformed to Protestantism, it is certain they were
all church papists. Even Babington's father, while he was alive, was said to have
been "inclined to papistrie", and had a brother who was "a doctor of divinitie of the
same religious profession". The Foljambes were renowned papists in their own right,
and many suffered for their faith. Babington apparently remained in Dethick until
about 1577, when he was briefly a page to Mary Queen of Scots while she was under the
care of the Earl of Shrewsbury. It is during these brief few months that many claim
Babington became utterly devoted to Mary and her cause to sit on the throne of England.
In 1579 he married Margery Draycot, and by 1580 was in London studying law.
Soon after his admission to Lincoln's Inn, Babington abandoned the bar for
fashionable town life. His wealth, charm and good looks soon secured him a large
following around court, and it was inevitable that other Catholics, seduced by Jesuit
stirrings abroad, soon formed his inner circle of friends. Early in 1580, Babington
was one of a secret circle established for the protection of priests, most notably
Edmund Campion and Robert Parsons. With the fundamental basis of the protection and
maintenance of Jesuit missionaries, the group were soon being commended in private by
Pope Gregory XIII. Babington briefly visited the continent at this time, spending six
months in France where it is believed he may have first met some of Elizabeth's
Babington was thus drawn into the plot that generally bares his name - a plot hatched
by Mary's supporters in France to assassinate Elizabeth and place Mary on the throne.
Babington's correspondence with her eventually led to him revealing the details of the plot
sealing everyone's fate, including Mary's.
On 13-14 September,
Babington, Ballard and five others (the poet Chidiock Tichbourne, Thomas Salisbury,
Robert Barnewell, John Savage and Henry Donn) were placed on trial. Babington
confessed all, but placed all the blame on Ballard, who graciously admitted that he
wished the spilling of his blood could save his young friend. Two days later, seven
more conspirators (Edward Habington, Charles Tilney, Edward Jones, John Charnock, John
Travers, Jerome Bellamy, and Robert Gage) were similarly tried and sentenced to be
hung, drawn and quartered.
On 19 September, Babington wrote to Elizabeth begging her to employ mercy and spare
him. On the same day, he offered a friend 1000li if he could secure his release. The
following day, the first seven were drawn on hurdles from Tower Hill to St Giles.
Ballard suffered at the hands of the executioner first, undergoing terrible torture
before his life was extinguished. Babington followed and suffered a similarly barbaric
execution, being still alive as the executioners knife went to work on disemboweling
him. Elizabeth was horrified at the revolting cruelty of their death, and ordered that
those to be executed the following day were to be left hanging until dead before being
cut down. And so it was that on 21 September, the remaining seven conspirators were
put to death.
By his wife Margery, Anthony Babington had a daughter, who died at the age of
eight, probably before her father.