Stanley, York and Elizabeth's Catholics
The beginning of 1587 was not a cheerful time for either Elizabeth I or her council. The previous August had seen the arrest of the conspirators involved in the Babington Plot. This had led to the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots. Following a petition from parliament, sentence was passed against Mary on December 4th, but Elizabeth's unwillingness to proceed further was obvious to all. The issue dragged on through January, until her hand was forced in what amounted to a council coup during the first days of February, and the warrant for the execution was dispatched. At the same time a major debate was taking place over policy towards the Netherlands. During the previous November the Queen's captain-general, the Earl of Leicester, had returned to England to join the rest of the councillors in pressing for a decision over the Queen of Scots. At the end of January he was followed by a Dutch embassy. Their request for an increase in English financial and military assistance in turn produced a bitter dispute over the costs of the war and Leicester's expenditure in the previous year.