Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tichborne, Chidiock

TICHBORNE, CHIDIOCK (1558?–1586), conspirator, born at Southampton about 1558, was the son of Peter Tichborne by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Middleton. This branch of the family traced descent from Roger de Ticheburne, knight in Henry II's reign, through Henry, younger son of John Tichborne, sheriff of Hampshire in 1488, and great-grandfather of Sir Benjamin, the first baronet (d. 1629) (see the elaborate pedigree in Harl. MS. 5800 ad fin.) Both Chidiock and his father were ardent papists, and were in connection with the king of Spain and other enemies of the English government abroad. Walsingham seems to have had his eye upon him for some time, as in 1583 he was interrogated touching certain ‘popish relics’ that he brought from abroad, whither he had gone without leave; and in June 1586 a footboy named Edward Jones gave information as to the ‘popish practices’ observed by the family (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581–90, pp. 145, 336). In April 1586 Chidiock threw in his lot with the Babington conspirators at the instance of John Ballard [q. v.] In the following June he agreed at a meeting held in St. Giles's-in-the-Fields to be, together with John Savage [q. v.], Robert Barnewell, and three others, one of the six to whom the task of despatching the queen was specially allotted. Ballard was arrested on 4 Aug. 1586, Babington and others of the conspirators took refuge in St. John's Wood, but Tichborne, who was laid up with a bad leg, was compelled to remain in London. There he was seized on 14 Aug. along with Savage and Charles Tilney [see under Tilney, Edmund], and lodged in the Tower. He was tried with six of the other conspirators before Lords Cobham and Buckhurst, Sir Christopher Hatton, and the body of special commissioners, on 13 and 14 Sept., and after some hesitation pleaded guilty, as did also his companions. The pathetic letter which he wrote to his wife Agnes on 19 Sept. (the night before he suffered) is preserved along with three beautiful stanzas commencing ‘My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,’ which he is said to have written in the Tower on the same occasion. The poem has been with little justification assigned to others (Lansdowne MS. 777, art. 2; Harl. MS. 6910, f. 141 verso; Ashmol. MS. 781, f. 138; Malone MS. 19, f. 44; cf. Reliquiæ Wottonianæ, 1672, ii. 395–6). An ‘Answer to Mr. Tichborne, who was executed with Babington,’ was printed with Tichborne's poem in Hannah's ‘Poems of Raleigh,’ &c., from ‘a manuscript belonging to J. P. Collier;’ it is of no merit. Tichborne was the fifth of the conspirators to be hanged on 20 Sept. He was ‘a goodly young gentleman,’ and his speech as well as his demeanour moved many to compassion. He spoke feelingly of his good mother, his loving wife, his four brethren and six sisters, and of his house, ‘from two hundred years before the Conquest never stained till this my misfortune.’ He suffered the full penalty of the law, being disembowelled before life was extinct. The news of these barbarities reached the ears of Elizabeth, who forbade their recurrence.

[The Censure of a Loyall Subject, 1587 (by George Whetstone); Howell's State Trials, i. 1157; Bund's State Trials, 1879, i. 255; Morris's Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, 1875, ii. 293; Labanoff's Lettres de Marie Stuart, vi. 441; Camden's Annals, 1630, pp. 78 sq.; Holinshed's Chronicles, 1587, iii. 1573; Froude's History, xii. 171, 175; Disraeli's Curiosities of Literature; Poems of Raleigh, Wotton, &c., ed. Hannah, p. 114; Betham's Baronetage, vol. i.]

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