Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parker, William (1575-1622)
PARKER, WILLIAM, fourth Baron Monteagle and eleventh Baron Morley of the first creation (1575–1622), born in 1575, great-grandson of Henry Parker, eighth baron Morley [q. v.], was eldest son of Edward Parker, tenth baron Morley (1555–1618). A younger brother, Charles, volunteered for service in Sir Walter Raleigh's unfortunate expedition to Guiana in 1617 (Edwards, Raleigh, i. 567). The father, after spending some time abroad as a recusant, seems to have conformed. He resigned the office of lord marshal in Ireland, which had long been hereditary in his family, and received in exchange the sole right to print and publish a book called ‘God and the King,’ a manual for the instruction of children in the oath of allegiance (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 122). He was a commissioner for the trials of Queen Mary Stuart in 1586 and of Philip, earl of Arundel, in 1589. Many of his letters are at Hatfield. Parker's mother was Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of William Stanley, third lord Monteagle (d. 1581). The latter was grandson of Edward Stanley, who had been created Lord Monteagle in 1514, and was second surviving son of Thomas Stanley, first earl of Derby. Parker's maternal grandmother, Anne, lady Monteagle, was a warm supporter of the English jesuits (Life of Philip, Earl of Arundel), and both his parents, despite their outward conformity, had strong catholic sympathies.
Parker, who was known by courtesy as Lord Monteagle in right of his mother, married, before he was eighteen years old, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Tresham, by Muriel, daughter of Sir Robert Throgmorton of Coughton, Warwickshire. His eldest sister, Mary, married, about the same time, Thomas Habington [q. v.] of Hindlip, Worcestershire. His relations with the chief Roman catholic families in the country thus became very close, and for some years he displayed great enthusiasm for the Roman catholic cause. He joined the Earl of Essex in Ireland in 1599, and was knighted there on 12 July. In June 1600 it was announced that he intended to join the English soldiers in the Low Countries (Chamberlain, p. 82). Subsequently, with Catesby, Tresham, and others, he involved himself in Essex's rebellion in London in January 1601. He was committed to the Tower, and remained there until August, 1601, when he was discharged on paying a fine of 8,000l. (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1601–3, pp. 88 sq.; Spedding, Bacon, ii. 268, 311, 365, where, in the official accounts of the rebellion, his christian name is wrongly given as Henry; Letters of Cecil to Carew, p. 74; Chamberlain, Letters, temp. Eliz. p. 109). Subsequently Catesby, the leader of the aggressive party among English catholics, took him much into his confidence. Monteagle was as desirous as any of his catholic friends and kinsmen that a catholic should succeed Elizabeth on the throne, and with that object he aided in the despatch in 1602 of Thomas Winter and Father Greenway to Spain; these envoys carried an invitation from English Roman catholics to Philip III to invade England.
But, on the accession of James I, Monteagle abjured such perilous courses. Withdrawing from the extreme party among his co-religionists, he was content to rely on James's alleged readiness to grant the catholics full rights and toleration. With the Earl of Southampton, he assisted in securing the Tower of London for the new king. In January 1605 his name appears as one of the witnesses in the charter creating Prince Charles Duke of York. Thenceforth he enjoyed the full favour of the court. His influence sufficed to induce James to ask the French king to release his brother, who had been imprisoned at Calais for a violent outrage committed there. Before 1605 he wrote privately to the king informing him that he desired to become a protestant (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 19402, f. 143). He was rewarded for his complacence by receiving, in the autumn of 1605, a writ of summons to the House of Lords as Lord Monteagle. Parliament was to meet on 5 Nov.
Ten days before, on Saturday, 26 Oct. 1605, Monteagle suddenly directed supper to be prepared at his house at Hoxton. He had not visited the place for a month before. While he was at table with his household a page brought in a letter, which he said he had received the same evening in the immediate neighbourhood from a stranger. The mysterious messenger, who had concealed his face, had asked to speak to Monteagle; but when told that Monteagle was at supper, he enjoined the page to deliver the note ‘into his master's own hands, as it contained matters of importance.’ Monteagle opened the note, perceived that it had neither date nor signature, and handed it to a gentleman in his service named Ward, whom he bade read it aloud. The letter warned Monteagle, ‘out of the love I bear to some of your friends … to devise some excuse to shift off your attendance at this parliament.’ ‘A terrible blow’ was foretold for those who should be present. Monteagle at once took the letter, which is now preserved in the Public Record Office, to Whitehall. Lord Salisbury, the lord treasurer, was at supper there, with Lords Nottingham, Suffolk, Worcester, and Northampton. Salisbury expressed a suspicion that the catholics were plotting some mischief. On 3 Nov. orders were given for a careful search of the cellars under the parliament-house. This was made next day by Suffolk, lord chamberlain, who was accompanied by Monteagle. The arrest of Guy Fawkes and his fellow-conspirators followed; the gunpowder plot was brought to light, and a fearful disaster was averted. Monteagle was regarded at court as the saviour of parliament, and was rewarded with a grant of 200l. a year in land and a yearly pension of 500l.
Monteagle's earlier intimacy with Catesby, Winter, Tresham, and other leaders of the conspiracy has led to the theory that he was privy to the whole plot, and deliberately betrayed it to the government. The extant evidence gives this theory little support. The fact seems to have been that the mysterious letter was written by Francis Tresham, Lady Monteagle's brother. Tresham had already begged Catesby to warn Monteagle of his danger in attending parliament on 5 Nov., but Catesby had proved obdurate. Tresham therefore felt it incumbent on him to take Monteagle into his confidence, and he not only revealed the plot to him, but arranged, in concert with him, both the delivery of the vaguely worded letter at Hoxton and its disclosure to the household. The gentleman Ward who was directed by Monteagle to read the letter aloud was known to be on friendly terms with Winter, a principal contriver of the plot. And Tresham and Monteagle seem to have assumed that Ward or his companions would have at once apprised the chief conspirators, in time for them to make their escape, of Monteagle's negotiations with the authorities at Whitehall.
Monteagle interested himself in colonial enterprise. He subscribed 50l. to the second Virginia Company, and was elected a member of its council on 23 May 1609. He also had shares in the East India and North-west Passage companies (Brown, Genesis of the United States).
Monteagle regularly attended parliament till his death. In 1618, on his father's death, he succeeded to the barony of Morley. In 1621 he was summoned to the House of Lords as Lord Morley and Monteagle.
He died at his residence at Great Hallingbury or Hallingbury Morley, Essex, on 1 July 1622, and was buried in the church there. His executors declared that his pension was in arrears to the extent of 1,750l. (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 70). A portrait by Van Somer belonged to Mr. John Webb in 1866. A few of his letters are at Hatfield.
By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Tresham, he had three sons (Henry, William (1607–1637), and Charles) and three daughters (Frances, a nun, Katherine, and Elizabeth). The eldest son, Henry, who succeeded his father as Baron Morley and Monteagle, had been made K.B. at the creation of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1616; was vice-admiral of the fleet which brought Prince Charles from Spain in 1623; was implicated with Captain Lewis Kirke and one Johnson in the murder of Captain Peter Clarke in 1640 (ib. pp. 45, 51, 70, 76, 96), and died in 1655. He married Philippa, daughter and coheiress of Sir Thomas Carryl of Shipley, Surrey, leaving a son Thomas, who died without issue in 1686. Thereupon the titles fell into abeyance between the issue of the last lord's aunts Katherine, wife of John Savage, earl Rivers, and Elizabeth, wife of Edward Cranfield (Brydges, ed. Collins, vii. 319–95). The house at Great Hallingbury passed, on the death of the last Baron Morley and Monteagle, into the hands first of Lord-chief-baron Sir Edward Turner and afterwards of James Houblon.[Jardine's Gunpowder Plot, 1857, p. 78 et seq.; Archæologia, xxix. 80, 110; Gardiner's History, i. 247, &c.; Brydges's Peers of the Reign of James I, pp. 287–90; Muilman's History of Essex, iv. 137; Correspondence of Jane, lady Cornwallis; Dugdale's Baronage, ii. 307; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, vii. 345 sq.]