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Conspiring Against The Queen: The interrogation

Updated Thursday, 1st September 2005

Shown the torture possibilities of the Tower Of London, Lopez confessed. But was that genuine, or self-preservation?

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Interrogation, trial and execution

The Judge In 1594 Lopez was arrested by the Earl of Essex and charged with treason. The Queen believed his protestations of innocence.

But he confessed when taken to the Tower of London and shown instruments of torture.

He stood trial at London's Guildhall, was convicted within a few hours and sentenced to death.

After several stays of execution, Lopez and the double agents were retried on the orders of Burghley and immediately hung, drawn and quartered. Historian John Guy believes that Burghley wanted them disposed of before Essex made the connection between himself and Andrada.

Letters from Cecil and Burghley reveal their changing opinion of Lopez. They initially believed him to be innocent.

But two days later they declared that there was something in the case against Lopez. They didn't believe that he had spied for the Spanish but did think that he'd taken money and involved himself with the wrong people. It took six months of interrogation before they were entirely convinced of Lopez's guilt. Cecil then described him as a traitor and a "vile Jew". This was the only reference to Lopez's religion.

Lopez made a speech on the scaffold declaring that "he loved the Queen as well as he loved Jesus Christ; which coming from a man of the Jewish Profession moved no small Laughter in the Standers-by."


Leg shackles The Solicitor General's notes on the trial, confessions, notes of the interrogations were all used by David Katz to piece together the story.

Essex, in a letter to Anthony Bacon, detailed the damning evidence against Lopez that had emerged during five days interrogation of Andrada's gang.

Francis Bacon's brother, Anthony, was in league with Essex and it was his accounts that Anthony Birch recorded in his memoirs. He wrote that on 21 January the Queen declared Lopez innocent and Essex "a rash youth".

Evidence of the retrial is new information that was discovered for this series by John Guy.

In the trial records in the Bag of Secrets he discovered a writ for the retrial issued by a supporter of Burghley. Also, a Privy Council letter dated 5.6.1594 stated that all questions about the execution, even from privy councillors, had to be referred only to Burghley or his son. All this indicates that Burghley was instrumental in the execution of Lopez.

Thinking History

Q. Did Lopez actually intend to kill the Queen?

How can we tell? There are certain questions the historian must ask of any evidence in order to test its significance, the 'w' questions: what, who, when, why and where.

What kind of evidence is this? Was it intended for private or public consumption? Who wrote or produced the evidence in question, when and why did they do so? Were they trying to manipulate the situation? Where were they - were they on the spot and in a position to know what was going on, or were they working at a distance?

We would need to check each of the many references to Lopez in the surviving documents against all of these questions.

There is certainly enough to show Lopez was involved in conspiracy; just how much has that involvement been dressed up by those who reported it?

For John Guy, it has been dressed up very considerably, particularly by the Earl of Essex. And what about the evidence that isn't there?

For example does the fact that in the records of the trial we do not have testimony from Lopez himself mean that this evidence is hopelessly biased? Cross questioning evidence is one of the fundamental skills of the historian.





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