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§Caribbean Sea

§Dominican Republic

St. Augustine, Florida, and Santo Domingo in the modern day Dominican Republic are plundered and burned by English sea captain Sir Francis Drake.

§Eastern Asia


January 18 - Ise Bay tsunami struck. The waves rose to a height of 6 m, damaging a number of towns. The town of Nagahama experienced an outbreak of fire as the earthquake first occurred, destroying half the city. It is reported that the nearby Lake Biwa surged over the town, leaving no trace except for the castle. The Ise Bay tsunamis caused more than 8000 deaths and a large amount damage. It probably originated from a 9.0 earthquake in the Aleutian Islands according to debris found in a cave on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

December 17 - The reign of Emperor Ogimachi of Japan ends and Emperor Go-Yozei ascends to the throne of Japan.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi becomes grand minister of Japan.



Babington Plot In January 1586,Queen of Scots, found herself in the strictest confinement she had experienced in the eighteen years she had been imprisoned by the English as a result of an increasing number of plots surrounding her. She was confined to Chartley Hall in Staffordshire, placed under strict observation, under the control of Sir Amyas Paulet. Paulet was a Puritan, and therefore was rather biased against Mary. He made her life even more miserable. Having been instructed to watch the comings and goings of servants and visitors to Mary, he stopped all open correspondence.

Because of increasing concern surrounding Queen Elizabeth's safety, Parliament passed an act which provided for the execution of anyone who would benefit from the death of the Queen if a plot against her was discovered. Whilst Mary had escaped formal reprimand as she had not actively participated in a plot, now she could be executed if a plot was initiated that would lead to her acceeding the throne of England.

Although Elizabeth was reluctant to act against Mary, some within the English government feared her status as a figurehead for English Catholics. Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I's Secretary of State and a strict Protestant, realised that if she could be implicated in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth, then Mary could be executed and the Catholic threat diminished. He infiltrated much of Mary's correspondence network. Taking advantage of Mary's lack of communication, he instituted a system for secret messages to be passed to the Queen.

The Plot

It is named after the chief conspirator Anthony Babington (1561–1586), a young Catholic nobleman from Derbyshire. John Ballard, a Jesuit priest and Catholic agent, persuaded Babington to become involved in a plot to overthrow and/or murder Queen Elizabeth I of England, replacing her on the throne with the Roman Catholic Queen of Scotland.

Walsingham ensured that a line of communication was opened up between him and double agent Gilbert Gifford, who had been trained as a Catholic priest, to act as an intermediary between him and the English Queen.

In July 1586, Gifford delivered his first message from Mary to Anthony Babington. The letter from the imprisoned queen said that there were reported supporters of her in Paris. The reply to Mary from Babington said that Babington had a hundred followers to assist in delivering Mary from Elizabeth, and the conspiracy had six personal friends of Babington who were carrying out Mary's release. In the message, Babington, a Catholic, betrayed his feelings about Elizabeth and described her as an usurper, claiming that he was free from obedience to Elizabeth as a result of her excommunication. Elizabeth had been excommunicated by Pope Pius V in 1570, and many Catholics in England believed they were released from duty to the excommunicated queen of England as a result.

The messages between Mary and Babington were encoded using symbols for some words and phrases and letter substitutions (23 symbols for letter substitutions and 36 characters for words and phrases). The messages were smuggled in and out through beer barrel stoppers where a nearby brewer delivered and picked up the barrels. Queen Mary's servants would retrieve the messages from the beer barrels and place messages back into the hollow of the beer barrel stopper.

Walsingham already had the conspiracy identified and was attempting to find out the identities of all six conspirators who formed the inner circle of the plot. Gilbert Gifford, who delivered the messages to and from Queen Mary, was a double agent, actually working for Walsingham since 1585. Each message between Mary and Babington was first read by Walsingham, copied by Walsingham's spy school, and sent to its destination intact. Walsingham's spy school decoded each message by trial and error by starting with letter substitutions and using the frequency of common characters (see frequency analysis) until a readable text was found, and then the rest was guessed at by the message context from what was decoded until the entire cipher was understood. After the cipher was found the messages were read the same day they were copied. Each message was returned in good enough condition that it was not evident that it had been read and copied.

The correspondence between Mary and Babington was about the conspiracy. Without the endorsement of Queen Mary the plot would fail, since the supporters would have no future crown to support. In July 1586, Babington proposed to Mary that Elizabeth be assassinated, and he referred to an invasion by Spain — King Philip II had promised to send a military expedition to England when Queen Elizabeth was no longer in power, and had a plan for Mary's release from her imprisonment. The July 1586 letter also described plots to kill Walsingham and Lord Burghley, Elizabeth's chief minister. Sir Francis Walsingham thus had the evidence he needed, but he needed the identities of the six conspirators.

In Mary's last letter to Babington, in which Mary acknowledged Babington's enterprise, Walsingham had Thomas Phelippes, a cipher and language expert in his employ, forge a postscript asking for the identity of the six conspirators. Babington received the forged postscript and message, but he never replied with the names of the conspirators, as he was arrested while seeking a passport in order to see King Philip of Spain. The identities of the six conspirators were nevertheless discovered, and they were taken prisoner by August 15, 1586.

The Babington plot was one of the four most important known plots against Elizabeth, the four being:

  • The Ridolfi Plot.
  • The Throckmorton Plot.
  • The Parry Plot.
  • The Babington Plot.

Arrests and Executions

The conspirators were sentenced to death for treason and conspiracy against the crown, and were sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. This first group included Babington, Ballard, Chidiock Tichborne, Thomas Salisbury, Robert Barnewell, John Savage and Henry Donn. A further seven men, Edward Habington, Charles Tilney, Edward Jones, John Charnock, John Travers, Jerome Bellamy, and Robert Gage, were tried and convicted shortly afterwards. Ballard and Babington were executed on September 20 along with the other men who had been tried with them. Such was the horror of their execution that the queen ordered the second group to be allowed to hang until dead before being disembowelled.

Queen Mary herself went to trial at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire and denied her part in the plot, but her correspondence was the evidence; therefore, Mary was sentenced to death. However, at no time had Mary given consent of the assassination or overthrow of her cousin. Elizabeth signed her cousin's death warrant, and on February 8 1587, in front of 300 witnesses, Mary, Queen of Scots, was executed. Sir Francis Walsingham, the Queen's spymaster, had saved England from invasion, and saved Queen Elizabeth I from supposed assassination. This may have ended the Babington Plot, but it set a dangerous precedent for the future. For years, Elizabeth had dragged her feet about ending Mary's life, much to the chagrin of her advisors; they were so busy worrying about her life that they could not see things logically as she did. Elizabeth's stubbornness to execute her cousin was well founded; she realized that once a sovereign became answerable for the common man's crimes, the belief that a king's or queen's actions were accountable only to God would be undercut and ultimately challenge the structure upon which her authority was founded.

William Harrison becomes canon of Windsor.

The first HMS Vanguard is launched in England.

William Shakespeare was experiencing a successful career during this period.

December - Grenville arrived back at Bideford.


September 22 - The battle of Zutphen occurs.

The Battle of Zutphen was a confrontation of the Eighty Years' War on September 22, 1586, in Zutphen, the Netherlands. It was fought between forces of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, aided by the English, against the Spanish, who sought to regain the northern Netherlands.

Important English soldiers included Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Peregrine Bertie, George Whetstone, Henry Unton, and Robert Sidney, whose brother, Philip, was mortally wounded during the battle and died in Arnhem at the age of 32. A story about Sir Philip Sidney (intended as an illustration of his noble character) is that he gave his water-bottle to another wounded soldier, saying, "Thy need is greater than mine". Dudley knighted Welsh mercenary Roger Williams for his performance during the battle. The battle was won by the Spanish. Month's later, officers Stanley and York gave Zutphen to the Spanish, along with the city of Deventer.

§Papal States

Pope Sixtus V, more concerned with rationalized urban planning than the preservation of antiquities, then destroyed what still remained of the ancient palace of the Lateran and erected the present much smaller edifice in its place.

§North America

§United States

A voyage, led by Sir Francis Drake, was primarily intended to capture Spanish treasure ships. It was part financed by Raleigh which may explain why it also visited Raleigh's colony.

June 10 - Drake arrives off the coast of Virginia

June 13 - 16 - Drake arranged for some initial supplies to be sent to the colonists. There was a storm and the bark landing the supplies was sunk.

June 19 - Lane wanted to accept Drake's offer of further supplies, including food and boats, and move north to Chesapeake bay. However, most of the colonists were now desperate to leave. The planned relief ship had been due at Easter, and was now considerably overdue. Drake did not know when it would arrive. When Drake offered to take them home with his fleet, they left the settlement. Due to continuing storms, they had to scramble aboard and abandon most of their possessions.

July 27 - Arrived back at Portsmouth. Ralph Lane published his account of "The Colony at Roanoke" later the same year.

August - Raleigh's relief ship arrived to find the colony deserted, and set off back to England.

Grenville left 15 men with plenty of provisions. After he had gone, the unsuspecting men were attacked by the Indians. Their fate is not known.

§South Pacific


The Kelut volcano erupted killing 10,000 people.


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