A history of the gunpowder plot/Chapter 21


Sir William Waad, Lieutenant of the Tower at the period of the Gunpowder Plot, has left on record[1] a list of names[2] which he considers to have included all the persons concerned in hatching the famous conspiracy. This list mentions not only the thirteen conspirators universally allowed to have been engaged in the plot, but the following persons in addition, viz. Henry Morgan, Sir Edward Baynham, Hugh Owen, Sir William Stanley, Thomas Abington, Henry Garnet, John Gerard, Oswald Tesond,[3] Hammond,[4] John Winter, and Baldwin.[5] From this list we can erase the names of Sir William Stanley and Thomas Abington, for, I think, the good and sufficient reason that their innocence has been satisfactorily established. Of the rest, I have already dealt with Hugh Owen, Garnet, and Baynham. We are, therefore, left with Gerard, Baldwin, Morgan, Greenway, John Winter, and Hammond, into whose cases (as regards their complicity in the Gunpowder Plot) I shall now inquire; whilst I propose also to consider the question of the innocence, or guilt, of Anne Vaux, and Nicholas Owen, nicknamed 'Little John.' Yielding precedence to the fair sex, I will first take the case of

Anne Vaux.—This lady was the third daughter of William, Lord Vaux of Harrowden, by his first wife, Elizabeth Beaumont. The date of her birth has not come down to us, but for several years prior to 1605, she had been living entirely under the direction of the Jesuits, for whom she ever expressed the warmest admiration. She put herself under a vow of blind obedience[6] to Father Garnet and his society, and followed him about like a pet dog whenever she could safely do so, going often, in these adventures, under the alias of 'Mrs. Perkins.' This close intimacy with Garnet caused considerable scandal. At Garnet's execution, some one in the crowd having taunted him with this, he protested in reply that 'this honourable gentlewoman hath great wrong by such false reports. And for my own part, as I have always been free from such crimes, so I may protest for her upon my conscience that I think her to be a perfect pure virgin, if any other in England or otherwise alive. She is a virtuous good gentlewoman, and, therefore, to impute any such thing unto her cannot proceed but of malice' (Gerard'sNarrative).

Anne Vaux, with her sister, Mrs. Brooksby, frequently entertained Garnet, as we have seen, at White Webbs,[7] a, resort of several of the conspirators, such as (her relative) Tresham, Catesby, and Thomas Winter. She was, during the twelve months preceding the plot, on terms of great friendship with these persons, as well as being intimately acquainted with Digby, Gerard, Oldcorne, Greenway, Grant, Robert Winter, and Ambrose Rookewood. When Tresham, on his death-bed, had perjured himself by swearing that he had not met Garnet for sixteen years, Anne Vaux's subsequent confession (in the Tower), to the effect that from 1602 to 1605 she had constantly been in the company of Tresham and Garnet, met together at her own house, was produced at Garnet's trial in refutation.

According to her own account, Anne Vaux had often questioned Garnet concerning the preparations being made by certain of the conspirators for military service. She was, for instance, surprised at the large number of horses kept ready in some of their stables. Garnet, however, told her that these preparations had no connection with any plot in England, but were destined to help the Spanish forces in the Netherlands.

Liberated from the Tower early in August, 1606, Anne Vaux, although little is known of her subsequent career,[8] maintained all her old devotion to her religion, and as late as the year 1635 we find her keeping a Jesuitical school in Derbyshire for Roman Catholic children, which was broken up by order of the Privy Council.

That Anne Vaux was a willing accessory before the fact to the Gunpowder Plot I refuse to believe. She was so much under the influence of the Jesuits that she may have been desirous of aiding in any mild scheme for helping her co-religionists, but she was too honest to have joined in so sanguinary a business as the Gunpowder Treason. According to her evidence in the Tower (where nothing material was proved against her), she professed to have been much shocked at Garnet's connection with the plotters. Most of her letters to Garnet in the Tower were intercepted by the gaoler, and her handwriting is, as I have hinted, by no means unlike that of the Lord Mounteagle's anonymous correspondent. She seems also to have known that 'a plot was hatching' some weeks before the 'Powder' Plot was discovered.

Nicholas Owen, S.J.—This Jesuit lay-brother, famous as the constructor of hiding-places, must not be confused with Captain Hugh Owen, the friend of the Jesuits, employed by the Spaniards in the Low Countries. Particulars of his death in the Tower of London are terrible in the extreme. Captured at Hendlip, he was conveyed to the Tower, and there, after being severely tortured, died on March 2, 1606. His enemies gave out that he had committed suicide. Owen, they have recorded, 'murthered himself in the Tower.' With this theory Dr. Gardiner agrees,[9] when he declares that 'his (Owen's) fear lest the torture should be repeated worked upon his mind to such an extent that, on the following day, he committed suicide.'

In justice, however, to Owen's memory, it should be emphatically stated that there is nothing whatever to lead us to suppose that he destroyed himself. The evidence, indeed, is all the other way. He died, it appears, of internal injuries received during the tortures to which he was submitted.[10]

Before being put to the torture, Owen denied all knowledge of the Plot, and refused to say a word that would injure, or could be construed to injure, either Oldcorne or Garnet.[11] It is probable, however, that he knew something about the Plot; for a man who was (more than any other in England) au fait with secrets affecting the Roman Catholic cause, and who was personally acquainted with all the conspirators, must have known pretty well what was going on. He was implicitly trusted by the Jesuit faction among the English Romanists, and it is quite likely that Catesby went to him for advice as to the best means of concealing the powder at Westminster, and arranging the train for the explosion. The operations of the conspirators beneath the Parliament House would have been thoroughly in keeping with the proceedings of one who had been for years past burrowing like a mole in scores of houses for the purpose of contriving hiding-places and secret passages. If, at any rate, Owen did not sympathize with the aims of the plotters, we may, nevertheless, reasonably suspect that he was acquainted with the details of the conspiracy.

Henry Morgan and John Winter. These gentlemen joined the 'hunting-party' at Dunchurch, but were not connected with the Westminster part of the Plot. Morgan is described in one of the State papers, relating to his arrest and examination, as 'Harry Morgan, gentleman, of Norbrook,[12] Warwickshire.' He was a well-known Recusant, and had for some time been suspected of treasonable proceedings by the Government. He was instrumental, whilst with the conspirators marching to Holbeach, in breaking into Warwick Castle and stealing horses, on which occasion he was attired 'in coloured satin done with gold lace' He was one of those 'grievously burnt with powder' by the explosion at Holbeach. Frequently examined, when in the Tower, he succeeded in showing[13] that he was not privy to the Gunpowder Treason, but only joined the 'hunting-party' in order to strike a blow, if necessary, for the good of the cause.

John Winter, half-brother to Thomas and Robert, 'knew nothing of the treason intended, left the party at Holbeach, and surrendered at his brother's house' (Huddington). He was executed, with Oldcorne,[14] at Redhill, outside Worcester, April 7, 1606.

Neither of these gentlemen, therefore, was proved guilty of being an accessory to the Gunpowder Plot, of which they knew nothing when they joined Digby's 'hunting-party.' They merely thought there had been, under Catesby, an attempt made at an armed rising in London, which had failed, and to which the march to Holbeach was a sequel. Catesby, beyond doubt, grossly deceived them as to what had really taken place in London, and they foolishly believed what he said.

Father Baldwin, S.J.—The career of this Jesuit[15] was peculiarly romantic, and he was more than once imprisoned in the Tower of London. Born in Cornwall (1563), he was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, and was then presumably a Protestant. Like his Superior, Parsons, he seems to have become a Roman Catholic on leaving the University. Studying next at Douai, he eventually entered the Society of Jesus in 1590. Five years later he was captured by an English ship off Dunkirk, when sailing for Spain, and taken to London, where he was thrown into the Tower. Nothing, however, being proved against him, he was released, and went in the course of a few months to reside at the English College at Rome. From 1599 to 1609 he was at Brussels, when he met Faukes and Winter, and his intimacy with them caused the British Government to accuse him of complicity in the Gunpowder Plot. His extradition was demanded by Salisbury, but refused. In 1610, however, whilst travelling through the Palatinate, he was arrested by the Elector, and sent a prisoner to England. He was submitted to great indignities and hardships, en route, and is said to have been bound with a chaine more than long enough to secure 'an African lion.' Arrived in London, nothing again could he proved definitely against him, yet he was kept in the Tower till 1618. On his release, he proceeded to Louvain. He died, as Rector of St. Omer's, in September, 1632.

Sir William Waad's charge against Baldwin as being an accessory before the fact to the Gunpowder Plot does not appear to have had any real foundation, or he would not have got off with only ten years' imprisonment. Although apparently innocent of actual complicity in the Gunpowder Treason, he was hand-in-glove with several of the conspirators in their attempts to induce Spain to invade England, and when living at Brussels, he maintained an active correspondence with men like Stanley, Hugh Owen, and Garnet, to such an extent that he and Owen were denounced by Cecil as having been accessories to the Gunpowder Plot from the beginning. Baldwin was a mere tool in the hands of the notorious Father Parsons, and was of a crafty and double-dealing character.

Father Hammmond, S.J. Although generally called Hammond, the real name of this Jesuit was Nicholas Hart. He seems to have used 'Hammond' as an alias. It was he who heard the confessions of the conspirators at Huddington, on November 7, 1605. Robert Winter (whose chaplain Hart had been) confessed (January 17, 1606) that Hart had absolved all those present at Huddington on November 7, and had given them the Sacrament at Low Mass. On the same day (January 17), Stephen Lyttleton also acknowledged that he had received the Sacrament from Hart at Huddington, but refused resolutely to reveal what had passed between him and this priest in confession. On January 21 (1606), Henry Morgan admitted that he also had confessed to Hart at Huddington,[16] and that Hart encouraged him to act under Catesby's orders.

Hart was born at Kennington, 1577, and was educated (as a Protestant) at Westminster School. When one and twenty years of age, he was received into the Roman Church by a Franciscan friar imprisoned in the Marshalsea. He entered the English College at Rome, 1599, and the Society of Jesus five years later. In 1611 he was arrested, at Harrowden, but released, and banished, after a year's imprisonment in the Gatehouse, Westminster. He had, however, the temerity to return, and in 1646 was again imprisoned for a short period. On his release he was employed by his Society in South Wales, where he died in 1650. The fact of his not having been imprisoned more than a year under James I. tends to show that he must have succeeded in proving that he had not been an accessory before the fact to the Gunpowder Plot. Considering, however, that he had absolved the conspirators at Huddington, when they were actually engaged in levying open war against the State, it must surely be allowed that the Government treated him very leniently. Certainly, he was far more guilty of misprision of treason than had been Father Oldcorne, who was tortured and hanged, and whose name is not even included in Sir William Waad's black-list.

Father Greenway, S.J. As Garnet confided to Oldcorne in the Tower, it was (for several reasons) a fortunate thing for the Roman Catholic cause that Greenway, or Tesimond, successfully escaped abroad. Had he been captured (and tortured), he would probably have been made to reveal information of a damning nature both as regards his own and his Superior's knowledge of the Plot. He would, moreover, if captured, most certainly have shared Father Garnet's fate.

Although generally known in history by the name of Greenway, this Jesuit's real name was Oswald Tesimond, and Greenway, like Beaumont, was only one of his aliases. Born in 1563, he entered the English College at Rome in 1580, and became a Jesuit four years later. He studied for some time at Madrid, and then entered England in the spring of 1598. In 1603 he became 'professed' of the four vows of his Society. The day after the fatal Fifth of November (1605), he was entertained, as we have seen, by the conspirators at Huddington, where he said Mass. After failing to get other Roman Catholics to join the insurgents, Tesimond had to flee to save his own life, and with considerable cleverness as well as audacity, proceeded to London, instead of shutting himself up like a rat in trap, as did Oldcorne and Garnet, in a country house. Whilst in London, he amused himself on one occasion by reading a printed proclamation for his own capture. A man in the street, however, struck by Tesimond's resemblance to the official description[17] openly accused of him being the fugitive priest, seized him, and led him away with the object of giving him up to justice. For a few yards Tesimond proceeded quietly with his captor, when he suddenly made a desperate attempt to get free, and being stronger and quicker than his antagonist, found safety in flight. He then hid himself at a Roman Catholic gentleman's house in Essex, whence he was eventually smuggled in safety to the coast, and there procured a passage in a cargo-boat to Calais. With the exception of a short time passed by him in the seminary of his Society at Valladolid, the remainder of his life was passed in Italy. Formally called upon by the Pope to prove his innocence of complicity in the 'Gunpowder Plot' he wrote, in Italian, a brief Autobiography, which is not to be trusted, so far as the account of his share in the Plot is to be concerned. It is not known that he ever ventured to return to England, and he died in 1635, at Naples.

That Greenway knew of the Plot through the medium of the confessional was admitted by Garnet at the latter's trial [18] It is clear beyond doubt also that Greenway knew of the Plot outside the confessional, and made not the very slightest attempt to deter the conspirators from proceeding with their plans. He was also a party to sending Sir Edward Baynham to Rome. His visit to the conspirators at Huddington, when he was welcomed by their leader with the exclamation, 'Here is a gentleman who will live and die with us!' demonstrates by what close ties of intimacy he was connected with Catesby. Garnet in the Tower confided to Hall (Oldcorne) that, as regards his being proved guilty of complicity in the Plot, 'There was no man living who could touch him but one!' There is every reason to believe that that 'one' was Father Greenway.

'With respect to Greenway,' says Lingard, 'it is certain that he knew of the secret in confession; but of this the Ministers were unacquainted at the time of the proclamation. The grounds of the charge against him were the following:—(1) According to the Attorney-General at the Trial, Bates had acknowledged that he mentioned the matter to Greenway, and received from him instructions to do whatever his master should order. On the other side, Greenway, in a paper which lies before me, declares on his salvation that Bates never spoke one word to him on the subject, either in or out of confession; and Bates himself, in a letter written before he suffered, asserts that he merely said it was his suspicion that Greenway might have known something of the plot. (2) On the 6th of November, Greenway rode to the conspirators at Huddington, and administered to them the Sacrament. He replies that, having learned from a letter written by Sir Everard to Lady Digby, the danger in which they were, he deemed it a duty to offer to them the aids of religion before they suffered that death which threatened them; that for this purpose he rode to Huddington, and then after a few hours, left them for the house of Mr. Abington at Henlip.'

But Lingard is, here, not very veracious. He never mentions that Greenway went to Hendlip with the express object of getting the household to join Catesby; nor does he mention that he afterwards designed to raise the Catholics of Lancashire. As for his going to Huddington merely to offer the Sacrament to the conspirators, he omits to state that he went thither with Garnet's leave, and at Catesby's express invitation. As to Greenway's oath that Bates lied, I can only say that I would sooner believe a humble serving-man, who had been seduced by his master into treason, than I would a prevaricator like Greenway, who was, with his Superior Garnet, an adept in all the arts of equivocation employed by their Society. Greenway never seems to have spoken of the Plot in terms of detestation (before its discovery), but talked it over with Garnet in as calm a manner as if the scheme in hand was in no way cruel and wicked. Even if it were true that he only knew of the existence of the Plot from Catesby, sub sigillb, there still existed every facility for him to stop the proceedings without breaking the seal of the confessional. Moreover, it need not be disputed that Greenway knew of the Plot before July, 1605, when he passed on the secret to Garnet.[19]

There exists, therefore, I consider, no reason whatever why Father Oswald Tesimond's name should not be allowed to remain among Sir William Waad's Conjuratorum nomina, ad peretuam ipsorum infamiam et tantœ diritatis detestationem sempiternam! Moreover, if Garnet's statement is to be accepted as correct, to the effect that he only knew of the Plot from Greenway in confession, and that Greenway only knew it from Catesby in confession, what right had Greenway to mention the matter, at all, to Garnet? But, we may rest assured that both Greenway and Garnet eventually knew of the Plot from Catesby himself without being compromised by restrictions of the confessional-box.

Father John Gerad, S.J.—Although I have, earlier in this volume, practically acquitted this Jesuit of the charge of having been an accessory before the fact to the Gunpowder Plot, it must not be forgotten that he was privy to sending Sir Edward Baynham to Rome. But he evidently was not fully acquainted with all the details relating to the instructions given to Baynham. He probably had some general inkling of the fact that something was being done, sub rosâ, for the good of the Catholic cause, but he knew nothing about the intended explosion at Westminster. At the period of the Plot, he was not a 'Professed' Jesuit, as were his notorious colleagues, Fathers Greenway and Garnet, and was not so deeply in the secrets of his Society as they were.

Born in 1564, Gerard was the son of a Lancashire knight, of ancient race, and a cousin of Sir William Stanley. He was a gentleman both by birth and behaviour, which his colleagues, Oldcorne, Garnet, and Greenway, certainly were not. He entered the Society of Jesus at Rome, in 1588, and was then sent upon the English Mission. Between the time of his arrival and the period of the Plot, he passed a most romantic existence. He was imprisoned and tortured in the Tower, whence he escaped (1597) by climbing down a rope swinging over the moat. On several occasions he had to take refuge in one of the priest-holes in some old country house,[20] and was often within an inch of recapture. In 1603 he (with Garnet) betrayed Father Watson to the Government, but reaped no personal benefit by this action. After the failure of the Plot, he baffled all the efforts of the Government to discover his whereabouts,[21] and eventually, disguised as a footman in the service of the Spanish Ambassador, succeeded in crossing the channel on the very day of Father Garnet's execution. He never returned to England, and died at Rome, 1637.

The most pleasant feature in Gerard's English career was his friendship with Sir Everard Digby. Had Gerard known of the Plot, he might have prevented Digby from joining it. Digby, on the other hand, seems to have thought that Gerard both knew and approved of the Plot. Although an innocent man, had Gerard been captured he would, almost certainly, have shared the fate of Garnet, for the Government was determined to stop at nothing in order to implicate him in the conspiracy. The circumstance of his having given the Sacrament to some of the conspirators at the house behind Clement's Inn was magnified into a story that he had given them the Sacrament after they had just taken the formal oath of the plotters in his presence, and with his approval. As a matter of fact, they had taken the oath privately by themselves, and had then entered another room to hear a priest (who happened to be Gerard) say Mass. Again, it was absurdly said that he had worked with the conspirators when they were digging their mine beneath the Parliament House.

Father John Gerard has been held by some to have been the author of the Treatise on Equivocation, found in Francis Tresham's desk and produced at Garnet's trial. Absolute proof in favour of this theory is, however, wanting.

  1. In an inscription preserved in the Council Chamber of the King's House, Tower of London.
  2. Conjuratorum nomina, ad perpetuam ipsorum infamiam et tantœ diritatis detestationem sempiternam.
  3. Father Tesimond, S.J., alias ' Greenway.'
  4. Father Nicholas Hart, S.J.
  5. Father William Bawden, SJ.
  6. Vide Gunpowder Plot Book, ii., p. 245, at the Record Office.
  7. And at Stoke Poges, Bucks (the scene of Gray's Elegy).
  8. Garnet formally released her from her vow of obedience before his death. She probably renewed it, however, to his successor.
  9. As do David Jardine, and other notable writers.
  10. Or, as another account states, whilst in the very act of being racked.
  11. He even denied, at first, that he was acquainted with either Oldcorne or Garnet.
  12. This was Grant's residence.
  13. Dom. S.P., vol. xvi., November 12, 1605.
  14. H. Lyttleton, R. Ashley, and two malefactors were also executed with Winter.
  15. His real name seems to have been 'Bawden,' but he has been generally called Baldwin.
  16. 'On the following morning (Nov. 7), the whole company, now reduced to thirty-six persons, were present at Mass. After its conclusion, they all confessed to the priest, who was a Father Hammond. He was aware of their late proceedings, but does not seem to have considered that there was anything in them which needed absolution. At least, Bates naively stated that when he confessed on this occasion it was only for his sins, and not for any other particular cause' (Dr. S. R. Gardiner).
  17. 'Of mean stature, somewhat gross: his hair black; his beard bushy and brown, something long: a broad forehead, and about 40 years of age.'
  18. 'Greenway both knew of the plot and favoured its execution; whilst Garnet had been acquainted with it at least as early as in July by Greenway in confession' (Dr. Gardiner).
  19. Hume, the historian, rashly asserts that 'Tesmond, a Jesuit, and Garnet, Superior of that Order in England, removed these scruples (of the wavering conspirators), and showed them how the interests of religion required that the innocent should here be sacrificed with the guilty.'
  20. He had a wonderful escape when hidden (1594) at Braddocks, Essex, the seat of the Wiseman family.
  21. He was hidden, for some time, at Great Harrowden, the seat of the Vaux family.