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CHAPTER XV
THE FATE OF FATHER GARNET

I

ALTHOUGH Father Garnet reached the metropolis early in February (on, apparently, the 8th, or even the 7th of that month), he was not brought to trial until March 28. During this interval, he was frequently examined before the Privy Council, the results of which examinations, or rather the most important of them, may be set down briefly as below.

On February 13, he admitted that he had for a period of nearly twenty years been the Superior of the Jesuits in England. He denied, however, all knowledge of the Powder Plot, and that he had tried to help the conspirators when they were marching to Holbeach. He confessed that he had corrected the book on equivocation, found in Tresham's desk, but had refused to have it printed. As to its doctrines, he could see no harm in them, although they had never been formally approved by the Holy See, in spite of their having been countenanced by certain divines.

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On March 5, he denied that he had held any secret conversations with his fellow-captive, Father Oldcorne, in the Tower. This denial was, as his interrogators well knew, a falsehood, for the conversations had been overheard.

On March 6, he stated that he went to Hendlip on December 4. As to White Webbs, he said that the expenses of keeping up an establishment there had been borne conjointly by himself, Anne Vaux,[1] and Mrs. Brooksby. He confessed that he had met Guy Faukes in London, at Eastertide, 1605, and that he had met Catesby twice in the same year.

On March 12, he mentioned that the Plot had been revealed to him in July, 1605, by Father Greenway, who had heard it from Catesby or Thomas Winter[2] in confession, but that the penitent had wished Greenway to report the information to Garnet. As to the correspondence which passed between him and Father Robert Parsons, he said that he kept no copies of the letters he wrote to Parsons, whose letters, in return, he burned after reading them. Although Greenway had repeated his penitent's confession, it was understood that Garnet was only to know it under the seal of confession, and was not to be allowed to pass on the information to anybody else.

On March 13 and 14, he confessed that before the late Queen died, he had received two breves from Rome, one addressed to the Romanist laity, the other to the Romanist clergy. These breves commanded all English Catholics not to acknowledge any Protestant as Elizabeth's successor. These breves he showed to Tresham, Catesby, Thomas Winter, and Percy.[3] As to the information regarding the Plot given him by Greenway, the latter had only revealed the bare outlines of the scheme, and had not gone into details.

On March 24, he subscribed as correct a statement by Anne Vaux to the effect that Francis Tresham had often visited Garnet and herself at White Webbs.[4] Garnet, said Anne Vaux, had always on these occasions advised Tresham not to do more than lead a quiet life, without taking part in politics.

On March 26, Garnet stated that the Pope was to be informed at once, so soon as 'that miserable woman [5] died.'

On April 1, Garnet (now under sentence of death) denounced the penal laws against Catholics, which he said could not be obeyed. As to equivocation, he maintained that it was both useful and lawful under certain conditions.

On April 25, he was bold enough to swear 'on his priesthood' that he had not seen, or communicated with Greenway since November 6.[6]

On April 28, he was told that his last statement was known to be false, and was asked how he could reconcile it with his conscience to tell such a lie? He answered that such perjury was permissible when 'just necessity so required' and actually blamed the Council for blaming him.

Garnet's colleague, Oldcorne, was also submitted to frequent examinations, and to torture. He was eventually sent down to Worcester, and there executed on April 7. The treatment received by him in the Tower was, I think, most unjust; for it is difficult to see why he should have been so harshly dealt with, when his fellow-prisoner, Garnet, was lodged in comparative comfort, and was not put to the torture. Moreover, Oldcorne did not stoop to such reckless perjury as his friend; and he, at least, deserves credit for having had the courage to offer Garnet an asylum at Hendlip. He probably lost his life entirely owing to this self-sacrificing and generous attempt to shelter his friend.[7]

Had the Government depended solely on what they could elicit in cross-examination from Garnet as evidence to be used against him at his trial, they would hardly have been able to secure a conviction. They, however, invented a far more subtle plan for incriminating him than this method of continued personal examination. Garnet and Oldcorne were incarcerated in adjoining chambers, and were told by a janitor that by pulling open a kind of secret panel in a wall they could converse (provided they did so quietly) together, and without fear of detection. It seems extraordinary that astute men like these hunted Jesuits, who had for many years had to defend themselves against innumerable tricks and strategems laid for them by their enemies, should have fallen into so simple a trap. But they did, and relying on their janitor's word and fidelity, opened up a series of conversations by removing the stone in the wall, utterly unsuspecting that this same hollow wall concealed the persons of two agents of the Privy Council, who wrote down every word they heard of these conversations.[8] What was overheard of the conversations by the Government's agents proved fatal to Garnet, although some allowance must be made for the probability that the listeners did not always hear quite so plainly as they pretended. So unsuspicious were the two Jesuits of the open trap into which they had walked, that they both subsequently swore that these conversations had never taken place. After having denied them, Garnet was shown the copies of the reports written by the men concealed in the wall. Oldcorne, under torture, eventually confessed to them, but Garnet persisted in his denial until he found the game was up. In (an intercepted) letter,[9] written on Palm Sunday, he says with reference to his perjury, 'When the Lords inquired of me concerning my conference with Hall, I denied it. They drove me to many protestations, which I made with equivocation. They then said that Hall had confessed the conference. ... As soon as I found they had sufficient proofs, I held my peace: the Lords were scandalized at this.'

For the reader's convenience, I subjoin the most important items reported to the Privy Council as overheard by their agents hidden in wall, Lockerson and Forset.

Garnet. 'I had forgot to tell you I had a note from Rookewood,[10] and he telleth me that Greenway is gone over;[11] I am very glad of that. And I had another from Mr. Gerard, that he meaneth to go over to Father Parsons, and therefore I hope he is escaped; but it seemeth he hath been put to great plunges.

'I think Mrs. Anne[12] is in the town. . . . I gave him (the keeper) an angel yesterday; . . . and now and then at meals, I make very much of him, and give him a cup of sack, and send his wife another. . . . You should do well now and then to give him a shilling, and sometimes send his wife somewhat. He did see me write to Mr. Rookewood. . . .

'I must needs confess White Webbs, that we met there; but I will answer it thus, that I was there, but knew nothing of the matter. . . .

'Perhaps, they will press me with certain prayers that I made, against the time of the Parliament, for the good success of that business, which is indeed true.[13] But I may answer that well, for I will say, it is true that I doubt that at this next Parliament there would be more severe laws made against the Catholics; and, therefore, I made those prayers; and that will answer it well enough. . . .

'For my sending into Spain before the Queen's death, I need not deny it; but I care not for those things; he knoweth I have my pardon for that time, and therefore he will not urge them to do me hurt.

'If I can satisfy the King well in this matter, it will be well; but I think it not convenient to deny we were at White Webbs, they do so much insist upon that place. Since I came out of Essex, I was there two times; and so I may say I was there. . . .'

The above conversation is reported to have been overheard on February 23, 1606; the following, on February 25.

Garnet. 'They pressed me with a question, what Noblemen I knew that have written any letters to Rome, 'and by whom? Well, I see they will justify my Lord Mounteagle of all this matter.[14] I said nothing of him, neither will I ever confess him. . . .

'There is one special thing of which I doubted they would have taken an exact account of me; to wit, of the causes of my coming to Coughton, which indeed would have bred a great suspicion of the matter. . . .

'They mentioned the letters sent into Spain; but I answered that those letters were of no other matter but to have pensions.'

On February 27, the priests were again overheard talking.

'It seemed to us,' wrote the agents, 'that Hall told Garnet how he answered the matters of White Webbs, which Garnet said it was well; but, said he, of the other matter, of our meeting on the way, it were better to leave it in a contradiction, as it was, lest perhaps the poor fellow shall be tortured for the clearing of that point. . . .

'Garnet said he was asked again about the prayer which he was charged to have made,[15] and then did name the prayer by a special name to Hall, thereby putting Hall in remembrance thereof; but, said he, I shall avoid that well enough. . . .'

On March 2, another report follows:—

'"Hark you, is all well?" said Garnet. "Let us go to confession first if you will."

'Then began Hall to make his confession, who we could not hear well; but Garnet did often interrupt him, and said, " Well, well."

'And then Garnet confessed himself to Hall, which was uttered very much softer than he used to whisper in their interlocutions, and but short; and confessed that because he had drunk extraordinarily he was fain to go, two nights, to bed betimes.'

The Government agents seem to have heard little that was said by Oldcorne, as (according to their reports) Father Garnet had done most of the talking. In any event, they overheard nothing very damaging against Oldcorne, whose treatment after his capture was both brutal and unjust, and his execution little short of murder.

II

The trial of Father Henry Garnet took place on March 28, 1606, at the Guildhall. [16] The Commissioners who sat as his judges were the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Leonard Holyday, the Lord Chief Justice, Sir John Popham, the Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, Sir Thomas Fleming, Sir Christopher Yelverton, a Judge of the Court of King's Bench, and the Earls of Nottingham, Salisbury, Suffolk, Worcester, and Northampton.[17]

The proceedings commenced soon after eight o'clock in the morning, and were not concluded till close on seven in the evening. Among those present in court, as spectators, were the King,[18] some of the Ambassadors, Lady Arabella Stuart, and a large number of the nobility.

The indictment charged 'this Garnet, otherwise Wally, otherwise Darcy, otherwise Roberts, otherwise Farmer, otherwise Philips,' with traitorously conspiring and compassing, with the assistance of Catesby and Greenway:

'1. To depose the King and to deprive him of his Government;

'2. To destroy and kill the King, and the noble Prince, Henry, his eldest son: such a King, and such a Prince, such a son of such a father, whose virtues are rather with amazed silence to be wondered at, than able by any speech to be expressed;

'3. To stir sedition and slaughter throughout the kingdom;

'4. To subvert the true religion of God, and whole Government of the kingdom;

'5. To overthrow the whole state of the Commonwealth.

'The manner how to perform these horrible treasons, the serjeant said "Horreo dicere," his lips did tremble to speak it, but his heart praised God for His mighty deliverance. The practice so inhuman, so barbarous, so damnable, so detestable, as the like was never read nor heard of, or ever entered into the heart of the most wicked man to imagine. And here he said, he could not but mention that religious observation so religiously observed by his religious Majesty, wishing it were engraven in letters of gold, in the hearts of all his people; the more hellish the imagination, the more divine the preservation.

'This Garnet, together with Catesby and Tesmond, had speech and conference together of these treasons, and concluded most traitorously and devilishly: That Catesby, Winter, Faukes, with many other traitors lately arraigned of high treason, would blow up with gunpowder in the Parliament-House, the King, the Prince, the lords spiritual and temporal, the judges of the realm, the knights, citizens, and burgesses, and many other subjects and servants of the King assembled in parliament, at one blow, traitorously and devilishly to destroy them all, and piecemeal to tear them in asunder, without respect of majesty, dignity, and degree, age, or place. And for that purpose, a great quantity of gunpowder was traitorously and secretly placed and hid by these Conspirators under the Parliament-House.'


To this indictment, 'Garnet did plead Not Guilty,' and the trial proceeded.

That Garnet was not likely to receive a fair trial was evident even from the absurd terms of the indictment, in which he was actually treated as an open conspirator, whose active complicity in the plot was as pronounced as that of Guy Faukes. Notwithstanding the nature of the odds against him, the prisoner defended himself with skill, so far as his connection with the plot was concerned; but the chief difficulty he experienced in clearing himself resulted from the effects of the perjury committed by him in the Tower. He had, indeed, lied through thick and thin to such an extent that at last he found himself caught in the meshes of his own nets. It was impossible to place the least reliance on anything he said, or had said. Romanists were disgusted as much as Protestants with his perjury. That he had known of the plot outside the Confessional admitted of no doubt, and that, although he disapproved tacitly of the whole business, he had done nothing to prevent its being brought to maturity also admitted of no doubt. The man who was so horrified at Father Watson's proceedings that he betrayed him and them to the Government, never made any attempt to avert the greater treason concocted by his own friends. To cut a long story short, that he was guilty of high treason need not be doubted. Nevertheless, he received anything but a fair trial, and it would have been a gracious, merciful, and good act to have commuted the death sentence, which was not carried out until five weeks had elapsed after the trial.

Although Garnet was only charged in the indictment with complicity in the Gunpowder Plot, Sir Edward Coke opened the trial with copious references to the prisoner's former treasons in connection with his communications with Spain. That Garnet was guilty of having invited the Spaniards to invade England, and that on more than one occasion, was indisputable. Coke also accused him of being mainly responsible for sending Sir Edward Baynham, 'the Prince of the Damned Crew,'[19] to Rome, and there can be no doubt that Coke was correct in stating that Baynham carried letters of introduction written in Garnet's own hand to the Pope's Nuncio in Flanders.

After being sentenced to death, Garnet was again examined many times by the Privy Council, especially in regard to his notorious opinions on equivocation, with the view probably towards discrediting him in the eyes of his co-religionists. The continued postponements of the execution, together with the intercession in his favour by the Spanish Ambassador, induced Garnet to think that his life would be spared, and he seemed to have cherished this hope until within a few minutes of his death; but the only grace granted to him was that he should be allowed to hang until dead, i.e. that his body should not be taken down and submitted to the executioner's knife until life was extinct. By this concession he escaped the butchery undergone by his friends, Winter, Digby, Keyes, and Grant.

III.

'On the 3rd of May,' says the official account, 'Garnet, according to his judgment, was executed upon a scaffold, set up for that purpose at the West-end of St. Paul's Church.[20] At his arise up the scaffold, he stood much amazed, fear and guiltiness appearing in his face. The Deans of St. Paul's and Winchester being present, very gravely and christianly exhorted him to a true and lively faith to God-ward, a free and plain acknowledgment to the world of his offence; and if any further treason lay in his knowledge, to unburden his conscience, and show a sorrow and detestation of it: but Garnet, impatient of persuasions, and ill-pleased to be exhorted by them, desired them not to trouble him, he came prepared and was resolved.

'Then, the Recorder of London, who was by his Majesty appointed to be there, asked Garnet if he had any thing to say unto the people before he died : it was no time to dissemble, and now his treasons were too manifest to be dissembled; therefore, if he would, the world should witness what at last he censured of himself, and of his fact; it should be free to him to speak what he listed. But, Garnet, unwilling to take the offer, said, His voice was low, his strength gone, the people could not hear him, though he spake to them; but to those about him on the scaffold he said, The intention was wicked, and the fact would have been cruel, and from his soul he should have abhorred it had it been effected; but he said he had only a general knowledge of it by Mr. Catesby, which in that he disclosed not, nor used means to prevent it, herein he had offended; what he knew in particulars was in Confession, as he said.

'But the Recorder wished him to be remembered, that the King's Majesty had under his hand-writing these four points amongst others:

'1. That Greenway told him of this, not as a fault, but as a thing which he had intelligence of, and told it him by way of consultation.

'2. That Catesby and Greenway came together to be resolved.

'3. That Mr. Tesmond and he had conference of the particulars of the Powder-Treason in Essex long after.

'4. Greenway had asked him who should be the Protector?[21]

'But Garnet said, That was to be referred till the blow was past. These prove your privity besides Confession, and these are extant under your hand. Garnet answered, Whatsoever was under was true. And for that he disclosed not to his Majesty the things he knew, he confessed himself justly condemned; and for this did ask forgiveness of his Majesty. Hereupon the Recorder led him to the scaffold to make his confession publick.

'Then Garnet said, "Good countrymen, I am come hither this blessed day of the Invention of the Holy Cross, to end all my crosses in this life: the cause of my suffering is not unknown to you; I confess I have offended the King, and am sorry for it, so far as I was guilty, which was in concealing it; and for that I ask pardon of his Majesty. The treason intended against the King and State was bloody, myself should have detested it, had it taken effect. And I am heartily sorry that any Catholicks ever had so cruel a design."

'Then turning himself from the people to them about him, he made an apology for Mistress Anne Vaux, saying, "There is an honourable gentlewoman who hath been much wronged in report: for it is suspected and said, that I should be married to her, or worse. But I protest the contrary: she is a virtuous gentlewoman, and for me a perfect pure virgin."

'For the Pope's breves, Sir Edward Baynham's going over seas, and the matter of the Powder-treason, he referred himself to his Arraignment and his Confessions: "for whatsoever is under my hand in any of my confessions," said he, "is true."

'Then addressing himself to execution, he kneeled at the ladder-foot, and asked if he might have time to pray, and how long. It was answered, He should limit himself, none should interrupt him. It appeared he could not constantly or devoutly pray; fear of death, or hope of pardon, even then so distracted him: for oft in those prayers he would break off, turn and look about him, and answered to what he over-heard, while he seemed to be praying. When he stood up, the Recorder finding in his behaviour as it were an expectation of a Pardon, wished him not to deceive himself, nor beguile his own soul; he was come to die, and must die; requiring him not to equivocate with his last breath; if he knew anything that might be danger to the King or State, he should now utter it.

'Garnet said, "It is no time now to equivocate; how it was lawful, and when, he had shewed his mind elsewhere;" but, saith he, "I do not now equivocate, and more than I have confessed I do not know." At his ascending up the ladder, he desired to have warning before he was turned off. But it was told him, he must look for no other turn than death. Being upon the gibbet, he used these words: "I commend me to all good Catholics, and I pray God preserve his Majesty, the Queen, and all their posterity, and my lords of the Privy Council, to whom I remember my humble duty, and I am sorry that I did dissemble with them. But I did not think they had such proof against me,[22] till it was shewed me; but when that was proved, I held it more honour for me at the time to confess, than before to have accused. And for my brother Greenway, I would the truth were known; for the false reports that are, making him more faulty than he is. I should not have charged him, but that I thought he had been safe. I pray God the Catholics may not fare the worse for my sake; and I exhort them all to take heed they enter not into any treasons, rebellions, or insurrections against the King." And with this ended speaking, and fell to praying; and crossing himself, said, "In nomine Patris et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti;' and prayed "Maria Mater Gratiæ, Maria Mater Misericordiæ, Tu me a malo protege, et hora mortis suscipe." Then "In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum;" then, "Per crucis hoc signum (crossing himself) fugiat procul omne malignum. Infige crucem tuam in corde meo, Domine: Let me always remember the Cross:" and so he turned again to "Maria Mater Gratiæ," and then was turned off, and hung till he was dead.' [23]

In closing this account of how Father Garnet met his fate, it is worth recording the official description of Garnet's personal appearance, as inserted in a Government proclamation, dated some five weeks only before he died:—

'Henry Garnet, alias Walley, alias Darcey, alias Farmer:

'Of a middling stature, full-faced, fat of body, of complexion fair: his forehead high on each side, with a little thin hair coming down upon the midst of the fore part of his head: the hair of his head and beard grizzled; of age between fifty and three score: his beard on his cheeks cut close, on his chin but thin and somewhat short: his gait upright and comely for a fat man.'


  1. Anne Vaux, examined on March 11, maintained that she alone had borne the expenses of the establishment.
  2. Probably from both.
  3. He might have added the name of Digby to the list. He mentioned, also, 'I do not remember that ever Lord Mounteagle saw the breves.'
  4. And yet Tresham swore on his death-bed that he had not seen Garnet for sixteen years!
  5. Queen Elizabeth.
  6. According to Bates, he and Greenway had talked about the Plot on November 7, when residing in the same house. Oldcorne also admitted this in examination.
  7. The principal charge in the indictment was based on Oldcorne's invitation to Garnet to come to Hendlip. He was not accused of complicity in the Plot, but of having expressed his approval of its purpose. He has not received justice at the hands of our historians.
  8. The same trick—though with less success—is said to have been previously played on Faukes and Robert Winter.
  9. Garnet's letters, generally written with orange-juice, were often intercepted, and several are now in the Record Office.
  10. A priest, and relative of the conspirator of that name.
  11. i.e. escaped to the Continent.
  12. Anne Vaux.
  13. On All Saints' Day (November i, 1605) Garnet's congregation sang—

     
    'Gentem auferte perfidam
    Credentium de finibus.
    Ut Christo laudes debitas
    Persolvimus alacriter.'

  14. This tends to confirm my opinion, stated above, of Mounteagle's treachery. Garnet, throughout, seems to have thought it hopeless to get Cecil to let the truth be known about Mounteagle.
  15. On All Saints' Day (1605).
  16. Not at Westminster Hall, as has often been erroneously stated.
  17. Of these Commissioners, all, except the Lord Mayor and Sir Christopher Yelverton, had presided at the trial of the gunpowder conspirators.
  18. The Venetian Ambassador, writing to the Doge, says: 'His Majesty was present incognito. The interrogation did not afford that satisfaction which Catholics expected, nay, he (Garnet) has scandalized the very heretics, and greatly disgusted his Majesty. For besides being, on his own confession—not wrung from him by torture, as he affirms, but compelled by irrefutable evidence—cognizant of the plot, he further endeavoured to excuse his previous perjury,' etc.
  19. Most writers seem to have laboured under the impression that the 'Crew' refers to the Gunpowder conspirators. But this is not so. Baynham was a leading member of a gang of men (similar to the 'Mohocks') called 'The Damned Crew,' and Coke more than once at the trial named Baynham as the leader of this band.
  20. Old St. Paul's Cathedral.
  21. After the explosion had taken place at Westminster.
  22. Referring to the overheard conversations with Oldcorne in the Tower.
  23. My statement above that he was allowed by the Government to die before being cut down is contradicted by a Roman Catholic account, which says that 'the people would not allow the executioner' to cut him down.