Chidiock Tichborne was born in Southampton, England, to Roman Catholic parents. Though Catholicism was tolerated in England during Tichborne’s early years, when Queen Elizabeth I was excommunicated by the pope in 1570, she reinstated a series of anti-Catholic measures in retaliation. In 1586 he joined the Babington conspirators who were plotting to kill the queen. He was apprehended and held in the Tower of London, where he composed a letter to his wife with the stanzas—known as “Tichborne’s Elegy”—concerning his impending death.
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