Sunday, May 25, 2014

Book Review
"Elizabeth the Queen"
by Alison Weir
"Elizabeth the Queen" is a lengthy biography meticulously written by Alison Weir. It is a detailed portrayal of a remarkable queen whose reign spanned nearly 45 years (1558 to 1603). The author succeeds in conveying the uniqueness of the monarch, the dangers -- foreign and domestic -- that she consistently confronted, the grandeur and extravagance of the royal court, the connivances of courtiers, the jealousies of competing counselors, Elizabeth’s unwavering affection for her subjects, and her people’s reciprocal devotion.

Elizabeth was remarkably strong-willed. She had to be. Men of noble birth believed that queens, being women, were inferior decision-makers. Her advisors thought initially that they knew better how the country should be administered and protected. Exceedingly knowledgeable about her foreign adversaries (and just about everything scientific, cultural, religious, and historical), Elizabeth rarely acquiesced. She would delay taking any action she had misgivings about. Much of this biography chronicles how her equivocation about marrying foreign princes postponed King Philip II of Spain’s attempt to dethrone her with a Catholic monarch. Two tenets guided Elizabeth’s decision-making: her trust that God directed her and her desire to benefit her people.

I was amazed at how forgiving Elizabeth was of certain individuals she favored. Although she could be very abusive verbally -- her displays of temper were legendary – her nature was not to be cruel. Virile courtiers took advantage of her. She loved masculine attention and flattery and reveled in the rituals of courtship. Two men stand out: Robert Dudley (eventually the Earl of Leicester) and Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex. Dudley had known Elizabeth before she became queen and was closer than any male to have been a lover. Well into the 1580s his ambition had been to marry her and become king. This motivation led him to take policy positions in the Privy Council more favorable to himself than to the welfare of the realm. Essex was much more dangerous. He was an egomaniac. Placed in government and, later, military positions of authority, obdurate and paranoid, he disobeyed repeatedly Elizabeth’s orders; yet, after her fits of rage, she succumbed always to his exhibitions of counterfeit remorse and devotion. Ultimately, she recognized the serious danger he posed to her sovereignty and stripped him of his powers. Determined to have his way, he staged a coup, failed, was convicted of treason, and was executed.

Elizabeth’s tolerance of Mary Stuart’s machinations to become Queen of England impressed me. For years the former Scottish queen had been complicit in Spain’s, the Pope’s, and Catholic subjects’ plans to elevate her. Elizabeth knew about Mary’s participation, but resisted repeatedly her councilors’ admonitions to have Mary tried, convicted, and executed. Elizabeth believed absolutely that legitimately ascended monarchs should not be interfered with. Mary had been deposed. Executing such a monarch, however treacherous thereafter she had become, violated her sensibilities. Only when her life was seriously threatened and King Philip’s anticipated invasion of England seemed imminent did Elizabeth authorize Mary’s trial and execution.

I was touched by Elizabeth’s emotional responses to her declining health during the last year of her reign. Most all of her friends and all of her old councilors had died. She felt alone amongst a younger generation of self-seekers that were weary and dismissive of her and eager for a male successor. She had struggled mightily to ward off the encroachments of old age and had failed. The onset of what was probably tonsillitis became either bronchitis or pneumonia. During her last hours she took comfort in the prayers delivered over her, she unable to speak, with each reference to God raising her eyes skyward.             

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"Mother, Protect Us!"
Pages 310-312
     Mother Batherick was digging dandelions in her yard when she heard the report of musketry. Something to do with the redcoat soldiers that had passed close by her house, she supposed. Stragglers, probably, the Old Men playing soldier. She resumed her digging but stopped when she heard running feet.
     Some thirty rods from where she knelt six or seven British soldiers hurried past. Reaching the shoreline of the Pond, they stopped. For perhaps thirty seconds they scanned the water’s shoreline. With quick head turns they looked backward and about. One of them raised his musket, hurled it into the water. A second soldier flung his farther out. Mother Batherick watched two others yield their weapons. The remaining two, turned upon by the defenseless majority, dropped theirs close beyond the water’s edge.
     Nobody had pursued them.
     One of the soldiers pointed at her.
     They hurried to her. With some difficulty, she stood.
     “Mother, protect us!” the same soldier pleaded.
     Amazed, she stared at them.
     “We naught be intendin’ you harm.”
     “If’n we be needin’ to, we be surrenderin’ t’you!”
     “We be defenseless!”
     “As am I.” She laughed.
     They were young. Almost boys. They had a healthy redness in their cheeks.
     “They fired at the supply train! They’ll be after us! We naught be wantin’ this!”
     “Then surrender to someone who isn't so old she has to grunt to kneel in her garden,” she quipped.
     “Who? Who else?”
     “The street's empty. They be just you!”
     “They be comin’ t’kill us!”
     “I don't like it here,” said another, fingering his coat.
     “By yer leave, mother. Protect us!”
     Looking at them, Mother Batherick shook her head. When they took this to mean refusal, they repeated their entreaties. No, she had only meant she was dismayed, she answered, nay, surprised, yet again, at life’s absurdities.
     Hobbling, she brought them to the home of the old militia captain, Ephraim Frost. Standing in the doorway, she bade them farewell, her final words, delivered in good humor. “Tell your King George that an old woman with a garden tool took six of his grenadiers prisoners.”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

by Hillary Jordan
I give Hillary Jordan high marks for her well-crafted novel Mudbound, about marital relationships and the evil of racism set in rural Mississippi immediately after the end of World War II.
  I was especially impressed with Part I of her novel. The first scene, the digging of Pappy’s grave by his sons Henry and Jamie McAllan, intimating individual differences and events yet to be narrated, was exceptional.

“Every shovelful was an agony [Jamie narrates] – the old man, getting in his last licks. Still, I was glad of the pain. It shoved away thought and memory.”

“’We can’t bury our father in a nigger’s grave,’ Henry said. ‘There’s nothing he’d have hated more.’”

“He [Henry] looked up, searching for [his wife] Laura. When his eyes found her they lit with emotions so private I was embarrassed to see them: longing, hope, a tinge of worry.”

Hillary Jordan’s insightful characterization of husband and wife Henry and Laura made very believable their marital difficulties and Laura’s eventual infidelity. Throughout the novel Laura has ambivalent feelings about her husband. Ten years older than Laura, Henry lacked younger brother Jamie’s “brightness” and charm. Girls “sparkle for him,” Henry tells Laura at a dance the three attended in 1939. A spinster at 31 Laura tells us that she was well on her “way to petrification” and that a man like Jamie “could never desire a woman like me. It was marvel enough that Henry desired me. … I was so grateful to him that it dwarfed everything else. He was my rescuer from life in the margins, from the pity, scorn and crabbed kindness that are the portion of old maids.” Inexorably, “everything else” surpasses gratitude. 

Laura harbors resentment, at times suppresses rage. This is especially so when and especially after Henry buys a cotton farm forty miles from Greenville, where he and Laura had been living. Owning and operating a farm has been his lifelong aspiration. “Just like that, my life was overturned. Henry didn’t ask me how I felt about leaving my home of thirty-seven years and moving with his cantankerous father in tow to a hick town in the middle of Mississippi and I didn’t tell him.”
    She bears initially the hard, monotonous, unrewarding rural existence without complaint. But, finally, she explodes. She defies Henry’s husbandly authority by refusing to get rid of her piano -- her sole connection to civilized life. Henry and Pappy wanted its space in the cramped, ramshackle farm house for Pappy to sleep, the farm’s dirt-floor lean-to deemed by Pappy unacceptable. “‘… you go back in there and tell your father he can sleep in the lean-to. Either that or he can sleep in the bed with you, because I am not staying here without my piano.’” Henry agrees to put a floor in the lean-to, but he is angry. We readers anticipate consequences.

Part II brings Ronsel Jackson and Jamie McAllan prominently into the story. Each has returned from the war. Each is damaged psychologically. Ronsel is the son of Florence Jackson, Laura’s black housekeeper, and Hap Jackson, local black preacher and Henry’s tenant farmer. Ronsel is intelligent and proud. He has experienced racial equality in Europe, has had a love affair with a white German woman, and has returned to visit his parents. Circumstances will force him to stay longer than he has planned. Early on he infuriates local racists by leaving the nearby town’s general store by the front door. We sense future trouble. Jamie arrives after Laura has had a miscarriage. It has emotionally destroyed her. He had been wandering about Europe after his discharge seeking to heal himself. Laura is moved. “I would heal him, I thought. I would cook food to strengthen him, play music to soothe him, tell stories to make him smile.” We sense trouble here as well. When we learn that Ronsel and Jamie enjoy each other’s company, that their war experiences provide a commonality, we anticipate racial repercussions. Part II enthralled me. 

Two things that the author did in Part III did bother me. We know that chance occurrences can affect the courses of people’s lives. A fierce storm, the rotten rung of a ladder, a suicide, somebody being absent at an inopportune time, etc.: too much of these trigger events happen in this novel. Resulting outcomes seemed a bit contrived. Secondly, authors don’t want their plot outcomes to be too predictable. Plot twists, used judiciously, can be a remedy. I felt that Hillary Jordan used too many twists. We are lead to believe one thing will happen or a certain character is responsible for a particular outcome only to discover that we are wrong; we believe then something else; we are again surprised. I felt I was being manipulated. 

These criticisms aside, Part III is high caliber. Especially compelling is the message Hillary Jordan communicates about blatant American racial supremacy, injustice, ignorance, and cruelty of that era -- beliefs and practices that persisted well into the Twentieth Century and that exist less overtly today. Her message reminds us that we are a flawed species capable of horrific crimes against any human being who is different, less advantaged, or deemed a threat to our sense of importance or self-worth. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Price Change on E-Book
I have changed the price of my e-book edition of "Crossing the River" to $4.99.
The prices of my paperback and hardback editions are controlled by my publisher.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Decisive Blow
Forced by King George III and his cabinet officers to take decisive action to put down rebellion in Massachusetts, Thomas Gage had to select his target.
He had received a letter dated March 4, 1775, from his spy in the Provincial Congress – Dr. Benjamin Church.  The letter stated that the Congress had appointed a committee to “watch” the Army.”  If Gage decided to send armed soldiers into the country, minutemen would be summoned to oppose them. “The Minutemen amount to 7,500 and are the picked men of the whole body of the militia and are properly armed.”  Nearly their entire magazine of powder, some 90 to 100 barrels, lies hidden at Concord. 
On March 9 Gage had received a note in French from John Hall of Concord.  Food supplies as well as armament were being stockpiled in that Middlesex County town.  Hall had identified the exact location of the dumps, the main magazine being at the farm of James Barrett, the recently appointed colonel of the town militia.  Responding, Gage had sent two spies, Captain John Browne and Ensign Henry de Berniere, to Concord to investigate.  They had returned with corroboration: a detailed map and Tory resident Daniel Bliss.
Gage had received another letter, dated April 13, from Church.  The spy was an important member of the Congress's Committee of Safety.  Take action within the next several days! Church advised.  When it serves your purpose!  Sam Adams and his cronies wanted confrontation. They wanted a replication of the Boston Massacre.  Defeat their designs when they least expect it.  Congress had agreed to raise an army of 18,000 men.  8,000 were to come from Massachusetts. Important Committee of Correspondence leaders from New Hampshire and Rhode Island were taking part in Congress's discussions.  But amongst the members there was much irresolution.  A sizeable number had opposed the raising of the army.  The Congress was about to recess.  During that recess Gage should strike suddenly, remove their powder, scuttle their idea of a provincial army, and dissuade Connecticut and New Hampshire interference.
It would be Concord, then, that he would target.  The difficulties?  Many.  Getting to Concord (some thirty miles away) swiftly was paramount.  He would send approximately 700 soldiers across the Charles River to Cambridge by longboats sometime after 11 p.m.  They would march rapidly to arrive at Concord at dawn.  Surprise was essential.  He would place officers on horseback along the various country roads west of Boston to intercept express riders intent on broadcasting the news of his expedition’s departure.
He, indeed, had misgivings.  “Too much of his plan depended on probabilities, reasoned assumptions. If he had been accurate in his assessment of the major difficulties, if he had chosen effective measures to negate them, the expedition’s outcome would be determined by how well its commander executed the plan and how rapidly and aggressively the enemy responded. Intangibles all” (Titus 82)!
But the provincials knew his intention.  Doctor Joseph Warren, running rebel operations in Boston, had a source very close to the General.  “Doctor Warren’s confidential source was someone very near the heart of the British command, and so much at risk that he – or she -- could be approached only in a moment of dire necessity.  As evidence of British preparations began to mount, Warren decided that such a time had come.  One who knew him wrote later that he ‘applied to the person who had been retained, and got intelligence of their whole design.’  The informer reported that the plan was ‘to seize Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were known to be at Lexington, and burn the stores at Concord.  … Margaret Gage made no secret of her deep distress.  In 1775, she told a gentleman that ‘she hoped her husband would never be the instrument of sacrificing the lives of her countrymen’” (Fischer 95, 97).  Paul Revere rode to Concord a week before Gage’s forces were rowed across the Charles River near midnight April 18.  Concord militiamen had a head start moving and hiding their stores.  In the early hours of April 19 Revere was stopped by Gage’s officers between Lexington and Concord; but Dr. Samuel Prescott, riding with Revere, escaped arrest and alerted Concord’s militia.  Gage would not have the advantage of surprise.
Neither did he have a competent commander.  He had appointed his senior field commander, Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith.  Corpulent, slow to think and slow to act, Smith wasted two hours reconfiguring his light infantry and grenadier companies first by category and then by seniority after they had been ferried across the river.  More time was wasted as he waited for the arrival of food provisions.  He reached Lexington – not Concord – at dawn.
Smith’s soldiers found little to destroy at Concord.  They left, belatedly, that afternoon.  It wasn’t until they crossed a little bridge over Mill Creek just east of the town that they received sustained musket fire.  For that they had themselves to blame.  They had not been fired upon by militiamen on Lexington’s town common yet had attacked and killed eight.  They had fired at militiamen descending upon Concord Bridge, killing two, before they themselves had been briefly targeted.  They had been watched but not fired upon as they had crossed Mill Creek, but then their rear guard had volleyed at the watchers.  Beginning then and continuing until hours later when they reached the safety of Breeds and Bunker Hills near Charlestown, Smith’s forces were steadfastly attacked.
Gage’s attempt to strike a decisive blow against Massachusetts rebellion was a disaster.  It would be followed soon afterward by another disaster of which Gage was partially responsible. 
Sources cited:
Fischer, David Hackett.  Paul Revere’s Ride. New York, Oxford, Oxford University Press.  1994.  Print.
Titus, Harold.  Crossing the River., Inc.  2011.  Print. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Conducted by Helena Schrader

On her Writing Process Blog Tour author Helena Schrader has asked me four questions about my writing.  Here are my answers.
1) What am I working on?
I am 49 pages into writing a historical novel about the interaction of Algonquian natives at and near Roanoke Island (North Carolina) with English explorers sent by Walter Raleigh in 1584 to locate a suitable place for settlement and mostly English soldiers in 1585 to establish a settlement/base to attack Spanish treasure ships returning to Spain from Mexico and Latin America.  The working title is "Alsoomse and Wanchese."  I hope to narrate how the native population and culture were disrupted and decimated by a willful superior power determined to achieve its selfish aims.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I haven't read other authors' novels about the Roanoke story because I don't want my ideas about what to write and how to write it colored.  I have, however, read glimpses of what several authors apparently have attempted by looking at excerpts that provides of their works with its "look inside" feature.  Each novel has a love relationship between an English subject and an Algonquian.  The English subject is a stowaway or somebody that has been hired by a person of authority.  He/She is a member of the 1587 "Lost Colony" settlement of John White.
My novel will be different in several respects.  I will focus on the interaction of the two cultures.  I will write about trust, understandings and misunderstandings, apprehensions, fear, greed, paranoia, kindness, and cruelty.  I will attempt to demonstrate the universal truth that a dominant culture does great damage invariably to a far less developed culture when the people of that culture have something valuable that the people of the dominant culture desire.
Love elements in my novel will be restricted to native inhabitants.  I hope to portray the Algonquian people truthfully; they will display universal character traits; they will be greatly influences by cultural habits and religious belief.  I will use third-person point of view narration that focuses on, perhaps, seven characters.
My novel will end in 1586, not begin in 1587.  I will decide after I have completed it if I want to attempt to write a sequel.
I will be as accurate at portraying historical figures and events as I am able, having conducted extensive research.  (This is not to say, of course, that other authors of the Roanoke story have not)  I hope to entertain and instruct.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I've always had a great interest in history, a curiosity about why and how important events of the past happened.  I graduated from UCLA many years ago with a bachelor's degree in history.  I also like to write.  My general secondary teaching credential minor was English.  I taught English mostly to eighth grade students for 32 years and American history for 6 of those years.  As a teacher of both subjects, I exposed my students to stories and factual accounts of individuals dealing with basic human conflicts: Jem and Scout Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird," Richard Wright in "Black Boy," Kino in "The Pearl," Dr. Martin Luther King during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Charlie Gordon in "Flowers for Algernon," to cite several examples.
After I retired from teaching, I felt the need to write fiction to express my own observations about people and life situations.  Because of my particular interest in history, I wanted to inform my readers of the intricacies of important events as well as tell human, hopefully compelling, individual stories.  These objectives led to my writing of "Crossing the River," a novel about the attempted seizure and destruction April 19, 1775, of stockpiled military stores at Concord, Massachusetts Colony, by a British army sent out of Boston by its military governor, Thomas Gage, a task that precipitated the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the beginning of the Revolutionary War.  The novel is a large tapestry of the experiences of the day's numerous participants.
I maintain a blog site ( that provides readers information about historical figures that appear in my Revolutionary War novel, excerpts from the novel, information relating to the Roanoke settlement attempts, my reviews of well-regarded American historical novels, several past interviews of me, and several interview that I have conducted of other authors.
4) How does my writing process work?
Before I begin to write, I spend at least a year researching the historical subject matter that I wish to utilize.  I take extensive notes in outline form and store them as computer files.  I also copy on my computer articles containing specific information too lengthy to condense as notes (example: Algonquian names, common expressions, etc.).
Next, I determine the direction I want to take in utilizing much of this information.  What should be my focus?  What should I include?  Exclude?  How much emphasis should I place on the telling of the historical events and how much on the experiences of the participants?
I determine my characters, both real people and imaginary.  I attribute to them specific character traits.  In portraying an actual historical person, I limit myself to what I discern in the person's writing or what is written about the person by contemporaries and by respected historians.  (Paul Revere wrote quite a bit about his April 18-19, 1775, experiences)  Imaginary characters must contribute to the overall accuracy of my portrayal of historical events.
Most of the characters in "Crossing the River" were actual people.  Some of them, about whom I knew very little, I developed extensively to add detail and interest to the story.  This compelled me to change their surnames.  Regarding the Roanoke settlement attempts, what little information historians know about individual Algonquians derives from what a handful of English leaders wrote about them.  Therefore, to portray the native  people and their culture I have had to create a number of imaginary characters: family members, friends, and enemies of the few Algonquians about whom historians have written.  Before I wrote my first chapter, I invented several families, listed the names, gender, and ages of the members, created several back stories, and determined the flaws, strengths, concerns, and aspirations of the main characters.  Only then did I begin to sketch a sequence of scenes to move the story forward toward accomplishment of my primary goals: to illustrate the historical accuracy of known events and portray two or three universal themes about people and life. 
As I complete each chapter I am discovering that my characters are demanding to take directions in the story that require that I lengthen the novel.  As I proceed, I get into scene situations that force me to do more research.  For instance, a major character, Wanchese, takes on the responsibility of instructing the village chief's twelve-year-old unruly son how to hunt.  First, the boy must learn how to build a bow.  This requires obtaining the wood.  I had to find out how this was done.  I could have avoided this problem by not having the boy a character.  The boy's existence is important, however, because of what it reveals about Wanchese.
I usually do minor editing of every two chapters that I complete before proceeding to write new chapters.  I try to sharpen the phrasing, add sensory detail, and eliminate awkward sentences, knowing well that much editing will remain after I have written the novel's first draft.  I believe that a well-written novel is the result of layers upon layers of revised writing.  I don't expect to have this novel ready for publication for at least three years.  I wish this were otherwise, but it isn't.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mary Stuart Beheaded
It is important to know how dire Queen Elizabeth’s circumstances were at home and abroad while Walter Raleigh pursued his intention to establish an English colony in North America.  We saw in last month’s blog that in 1584 he had sent Captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe to America to locate land suitable to establish a base for privateers to attack Spanish treasure ships.  The location had to be rich in natural resources and its native inhabitants needed to be cooperative.  Amadas and Barlowe returned to England in mid-September satisfied that they had found such a place.
They found Queen Elizabeth, England’s leaders, and the nation’s citizenry all greatly apprehensive about the safety of the country.  During the two captains’ absence, France’s Duke of Anjou (presumed by many to be Queen Elizabeth’s future husband) had died and William of Orange, leader of the Protestant provinces of the Netherlands, had been assassinated.  Philip II of Spain seemed poised to invade England.  Additionally, Mary Stuart’s existence continued to be a threat to Elizabeth’s life.
At the end of December 1584 Dr. William Parry was arrested for his aborted attempt to assassinate the Queen.  Parry, working as a spy for Lord Burghley, Elizabeth’s most senior advisor, had been assigned by Burghley to infiltrate papist circles.  To reward him for his services, Elizabeth had awarded Parry a pension.  He confronted her one day in her garden at Richmond palace while she was taking the air.  Overcome by “the majesty of her presence, in which he saw the image of her father,” Parry could not “suffer his hand to execute that which he had resolved” (Weir 354).  The Pope and Mary Stuart’s agent in Paris believed that Parry was acting on behalf of the deposed Queen of Scotland.  Mary was moved to the forbidding fortress of Tutbury in January 1585 to be placed under the strict supervision of Sir Amyas Paulet, a staunch Puritan.  In February 1585 Elizabeth authorized Parry’s hanging.
In 1585 Parliament passed a law that ordered all seminary priests to leave England within 40 days or suffer the penalty of high treason.  A bond of association was signed by thousands of Protestant gentlemen who swore to take up arms and destroy Mary if she became involved in a plot against the Queen.  Mary was showed the Bond.  She denied any knowledge of a conspiracy, signed the Bond herself, but wrote King Philip two days later to urge him to press ahead with his planned invasion.
Richard Grenville, seven ships, and 600 men left Plymouth Harbor April 9 to establish a military colony on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  Ralph Lane, a veteran of the Irish wars, was to be its governor.  In May King Philip ordered all English ships in his ports seized.  Trade with Spain and Portugal, vital to the English economy, ended.  Queen Elizabeth “authorized the issue of letters of marquee, turning piracy into privateering, and English ships were dispatched to seize as many Spanish vessels and their cargoes as they could” (Quinn 85).  Grenville returned to England October 18, having captured the Santa Maria de San Vicente, the value of its cargo exceeding the expense to investors of Grenville’s entire voyage.
In August 1585 Elizabeth extended to the Dutch, her sole ally, her protection, promising an army of 6,000 men and 1,000 horse.  On September 17, she appointed Robert Dudley, the Duke of Leiscester, the army’s commander.  Obeying her orders, Raleigh sent an armed squadron to Newfoundland, where it captured seventeen Spanish fishing vessels.  The same month Elizabeth promoted Sir Francis Drake an admiral, “provided him with a fleet of twenty-two ships and 2000 men, and dispatched him on a voyage to capture several of Spain’s greatest naval bases in the Caribbean.”  Drake sacked Santo Domingo, Havana, and Cartagena.  “Her objectives … were to keep Philip fully occupied elsewhere, and at the same time demonstrate to him the might of England’s naval power” (Weir 357).  In October she sent Philip a twenty-page declaration justifying her actions.
On December 8, Leicester and his stepson, Robert Devereau, the second Earl of Essex, left England for the Netherlands.  (Essex would soon supplant Raleigh as Elizabeth’s Court favorite)  Leicester “took with him a household of 170 persons, many of noble birth, as well as his wife, who insisted upon being attended by a bevy of ladies and taking a vast quantity of luggage, including furniture, clothing, and carriages” (Weir 358).  The Dutch, disappointed that Elizabeth had declined to be their sovereign, treated Leicester as a visiting prince.  Leicester accepted from them, without Elizabeth’s approval, the title of Supreme Governor of the Netherlands.  Furious but upon her Privy Council’s advice, Elizabeth decided not to recall him.  Leicester would prove to be an incompetent general, his gift of command being his ability to antagonize both his allies and his own men, many of whom subsequently deserted.
On Christmas Eve Mary Stuart was moved to a moated house at Chartley.  She had complained to Elizabeth about her previous residence, at Tutbury.  This provided Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s principal Secretary of State, to set a trap once and for all to eliminate Mary.
Walsingham turned a trainee priest, Gilbert Griffith, sent to England by Mary’s friends in Paris, to work for him.  Walsingham instructed Griffith to pass on to Mary the many letters from abroad that were waiting for Mary at the French embassy.  Any reply that she gave Griffith he would deliver to Walsingham, who would have it deciphered, copied, and resealed and afterward sent to its destination.  Griffith informed Mary that he had organized a secret route whereby letters might be smuggled in and out of Chartley.  Letters would be smuggled in and out inside a large beer barrel provided by the local brewer in Buxton.  Gifford persuaded the brewer to convey Mary’s letters in a waterproof wooden box small enough to be slipped through the bung-hole of a barrel.
In March 1586 Philip wrote Pope Sixtus V to ask that he bless Philip’s planned invasion of England.  He received the Pope’s blessing.  “The planned invasion now assumed the nature of a crusade against the Infidel, a holy war that was to be fought on a grand scale” (Weir 363).
On May 20 Mary Stuart wrote to the Spanish ambassador to England Bernardino de Mendoza to inform him that she would cede her right to the succession of the English crown to Philip. The Spanish king told the Pope that he had no interest in receiving it but would transfer any claim to his daughter, the Infanta Isbella Clara Eugenia.
In late May, Gilbert Griffith gave Walsingham two other letters that Mary Stuart had smuggled out to him.  One of them assured Mendoza that she supported Philip’s planned invasion.  The second letter was sent to Charles Paget, an English nobleman, a staunch Roman Catholic, and a correspondent of Mary’s living in France.  The letter asked Paget to remind Philip of the need for urgency in invading England.  In a return letter Paget told Mary that a priest, John Ballard, had arrived in England from France to orchestrate a Catholic rebellion against Elizabeth.
Meanwhile, Walter Raleigh’s colony at Roanoke Island under Ralph Lane’s governorship was failing.  A drought, hostile relations with the local natives, the failure of supply ships to arrive from England, a dearth of food supply: all contributed to Lane’s desperation.  He was rescued from starvation unexpectedly by Francis Drake, sailing north from the Caribbean on the whim of adding to Lane’s fort armament that he had taken from the Spaniards.  A ferocious storm convinced Lane to load his entire colony onto Drake’s ships.  The fleet left June 19.  It reached England July 27.
While Lane and Drake were considering Lane’s options at Roanoke, John Ballard, watched closely by Walsingham’s agents, was seen visiting Anthony Babington, a rich twenty-five year old Catholic gentleman of Dethick.  Ballard and Babington were overheard discussing Philip’s projected invasion and Elizabeth’s murder.  The deed was to take place either in her Presence Chamber, while she walked in the park, or while she rode in her coach.  Babington would do the deed himself with the assistance of six of his friends, themselves idealistic young Catholics of gentle birth.  On June 25 Mary wrote to Babington, who replied July 6.  He outlined to her his conspiracy: his “six noble gentlemen” would dispatch the Queen; he would rescue Mary from Chartley; and with the help of the invading Spanish forces, she would become Queen.
On July 17 Walsingham was given Mary’s return letter to Babington.  Written by her two secretaries from her notes, which she subsequently burned, the letter indicated that Mary endorsed Babington’s plan and Elizabeth’s murder.  Walsingham had his forger had a postscript that asked for the names of Babington’s six gentlemen.
Much to Walter Raleigh’s surprise, Drake and the entire Roanoke colony arrived in Plymouth July 27.  He had sent Grenville and a relief squadron off to Roanoke in April, the squadron arriving off the Outer Banks approximately two weeks after Drake and Lane’s departure.
While London was celebrating Drake’s boastful return – “In half a year … he has destroyed what Philip cannot rebuild in twenty, even with all his millions in gold” (Miller 160) – Walsingham pounced.  John Ballard was arrested August 4 and put in the Tower of London.  August 9 -- Mary Stuart’s jailor, Sir Aymas Paulet, confiscated Mary’s letters, jewelry, and money while she was hunting before arresting her on the moors.  August 14 – Babington was located and taken to the Tower.  Fearing torture and believing that being cooperative would earn him a pardon, four days later he confessed.  September 20 -- Babington, Ballard, and five other conspirators were executed.  They were hanged briefly, had their privates cut off and bowels taken out while alive and seeing, and then beheaded and quartered.
On October 11 a special court of 36 commissioners assembled to hear evidence against Mary Stuart, who refused to acknowledge its jurisdiction.  During her trial, Mary denied all knowledge of the Babington Plot, declared that her crucial letter to Babington was a forgery, insisted that she had never sanctioned the murder of Elizabeth, and that all she had ever done was seek help to gain her freedom wherever she could find it.  Parliament assembled October 29 to ratify the special court’s guilty verdict.  It petitioned Elizabeth November 12 to authorize Mary’s execution.
Elizabeth could not act.  “If she signed the death warrant, she would be setting a precedent for condemning an anointed queen to death, and would also be spilling the blood of her kinswoman.  To do this would court the opprobrium of the whole world, and might provoke the Catholic powers to vengeful retribution.  Yet if she showed mercy, Mary would remain the focus of Catholic plotting for the rest of her life to the great peril of Elizabeth and the kingdom.  Elizabeth knew where her duty lay, but she did not want to be responsible for Mary’s death.  For weeks she existed under the most profound stress which affected her judgment and brought her close to a breakdown” (Weir 375).
On February 1, 1587, Sir William Davison presented Elizabeth the death warrant to sign.  She did so, but, according to what she insisted days later, she then commanded Davison not to disclose the fact.  As Davison was about to leave the room, Elizabeth suggested that he might ask Mary’s jailor, Sir Amyas Paulet, to quietly do away with Mary.  Elizabeth could claim that Mary had died of natural causes.  Although horrified, Davison agreed to write to Paulet, who answered back that he could not in good conscience.
Acting apparently against her wishes, Davison took the death warrant to the acting Lord Chancellor, who attached to the warrant the Great Seal of England.  When Elizabeth discovered that this had happened, she made Davison swear on his life not to let the warrant out of his hands until she had expressly authorized him to do so.
In an emergency meeting, Elizabeth’s ten councilors agreed to take the responsibility for Mary’s execution.  Lord Burghley drafted an order to have the sentence carried out.  Mary Stuart was decapitated February 8.
Elizabeth “erupted, not only in a torrent of weeping, but also in rage against those who had acted on her behalf and driven her to this.  Her councilors and courtiers …  quaked in fear at the terrible accusations that were hurled at them” (Weir 380).  Walsingham fled to his country home and feigned illness.  Leicester and Burghley were banished from the royal presence.  Davison was arrested Feb. 14, tried in the Star Chamber, sentenced to a heavy fine, and imprisoned in the Tower.
By May, Elizabeth had begun to forgive.  Burghley was allowed back to Court.  Leicester was forgiven.  Sir Christopher Hatton was sworn in as Lord Chancillor, and Walter Raleigh replaced him as Captain of the Guard.  Paulet was appointed Chancillor of the Order of the Garter.  Davison would remain in the Tower until after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
King Philip of Spain was poised to strike.  He had ordered General Parma to subjugate as much of the Dutch Provinces as was possible to create a springboard for the invasion.  Acting on Elizabeth’s orders, Francis Drake and 24 ships left Plymouth Harbor April 16, 1587, to attempt to cripple Philip’s armada of ships. When John White, authorized by Walter Raleigh to found a colony somewhere on the south shore of Chesapeake Bay, left Plymouth May 8 with 117 men, women, and children, nobody in England knew what Drake had accomplished, and nobody but the perpetrator and his agent knew that White’s venture would be sabotaged. 
Sources cited:
Miller, Lee. Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony.  New York: Arcade Publishing, 2001.  Print.
Quinn, David Beers.  Set Fair for Roanoke.  Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1985.  Print.
Weir, Alison.  Elizabeth the Queen.  London: Vintage Books, 1998.  Print.