ELIZABETH I, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS and THE DUKE OF NORFOLK. Elizabethan Privy Council Letter signed by the Earl of Leicester ("R. Leycester"), Sir William Cecil ("W Cecill") and other Councillors, 1659
Lot 62
ELIZABETH I, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS and THE DUKE OF NORFOLK. Elizabethan Privy Council Letter signed by the Earl of Leicester ("R. Leycester"), Sir William Cecil ("W Cecill") and other Councillors, 1659
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Elizabethan Privy Council Letter signed by the Earl of Leicester ("R. Leycester"), Sir William Cecil ("W Cecill") and other Councillors, to the Sheriff and Justices of the Peace of Kent, informing them of the Duke of Norfolk's flight to Kenninghall after the Queen's discovery of the conspiracy to marry him to Mary Queen of Scots, and urging them to be on guard for seditious rumours or other disturbances; the letter also signed by the Earl of Bedford, Sir Edward Clinton, William Howard of Effingham and Sir Francis Knollys, one page, paper with little pot watermark, some small paper-losses and wear, nineteenth-century paper backing, dust-staining, however in still in sound presentable condition, folio, Windsor, 26 September 1569


  • QUEEN ELIZABETH DISCOVERS THE DUKE OF NORFOLK'S PLOT TO MARRY MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS. This Privy Council letter is of added interest in that it is signed by her favourite, the Earl of Leicester, who had in fact favoured the scheme, and by her chief minister, Sir William Cecil (later Lord Burghley), whose overthrow the scheme was designed to encompass: "Where it is likely that you may heare ho[w] the Duke of Norfolk is gon of late from London to Kenninghall, which by his letres to us is signified to be upon feare of the Quenes Majesties displeasure where he avoweth that he will remain a faithfull subject, and so we hartely wish and trust he will, considering there is none other cawse: yet becawse we are not ignorant, what disposition there is in evill disposed parsons to take occasions upon small matters to mov[e] seditious brutes, We have thought good to signify unto you that hir Maiestie hath not ment any wise toward the said Duke of Norffolk any manner of thing to him offensive, but only upon his coming to the Corte to understand the truth of a certen matter that hath ben moved to him for a mariadg with the Quene of Scots, which hir Majestie no wise doth allowe, and so to have lett him understand his resolute determination at this present, when hir wholle Counsel shuld have been assembled by hir order. Wher unto as we have good cawse to appear our selves the said Duke wold accor[d] so we know not of any manner of intent in him but that which belongeth to any honourable parson, and a iust and true servant of the Quenes Maiestie our Soveraigne. Wherupon her Maiestie being lothe to save such a nobleman to be abused with untrue reports hathsent for the said Duke to repaier to her, as it is most likely he will..."

    Mary Queen of Scots had arrived unexpectedly in England in May the year before. Among the various schemes to find a solution to the problem that her unexpected, and far from welcome, arrival caused (given her strong claims to the throne of England, allied to her Roman Catholicism) was a plan to marry her to the Duke of Norfolk, England's premier nobleman and only duke, and reinstall her in Scotland, on the understanding that she retain Protestantism as well as strong ties with England. This scheme gained wide approval, not least from Leicester, as well as from the Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland who were to take part in the Northern Uprising shortly after: 'By mid-July 1569 knowledge of the plot was widespread; almost certainly Cecil had more than an inkling of it; only the queen remained in the dark. In this same year there was what seems to have been an attempt to unseat Cecil or at least to clip his wings... The sources are too unreliable and disjointed to give a coherent account. What is known from Cecil's own pen is that he did have a quarrel with Norfolk in May/June 1569... Then, in September 1569, Norfolk himself was in deep trouble when the scheme for his marriage to Mary reached the queen's ears. Faced by the royal wrath, the duke took refuge in his Norfolk seat, Kenninghall. For a moment the prospect of open conflict loomed' (Wallace T. MacCaffrey, 'William Cecil, Lord Burghley', ODNB). It has in fact been a contrite Leicester who informed the Queen of Norfolk's plan: 'When, on 22 September, [Norfolk] learned from Leicester that he would probably be sent to the Tower, he panicked and fled to Kenninghall in Norfolk. From there he advised Cecil that he was incapacitated by a fit of the ague, but promised to journey to court within a few days. He also wrote to the queen, swearing that he had declared everything to her and 'some of your Counsell; nor ever had any Intencion otherwyse to deale, then as I might obtayne your Highnes's favour to doo'. Next day (25 September), however, she ordered his return without delay or excuse' (Michael A. R. Graves, 'Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk', ODNB). Two other signatories to this document played a major role in these events. Sir Francis Knollys had been Mary Queen of Scots's guardian on her arrival in England, until handing over this unwelcome post that February to Shrewsbury; while two months later Sir Edward Clinton was appointed Lieutenant-General, with the Earl of Warwick, of the forces sent to suppress the Rising of the North two months later. Norfolk, faced by the Queen's displeasure, made submission; but it was not long before the plan was revived, and this time with discovery of the Ridolfi Plot treason he was found guilty of high treason, and executed on 2 June 1572.
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