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The Reign of James I page 10


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These arguments prevailed, but they changed their plan of operations. Fawkes was still to keep guard in the cellar, Percy and Winter to superintend the necessary operations in London; but Catesby and John Wright were to hasten to Dunchurch, and put Sir Everard Digby and the party on their guard.

On the evening of Monday the 4th of November, the earl of Suffolk, in prosecution of his duty as lord chamberlain, to see all necessary preparations made for the opening of parliament, went down to the house, accompanied by lord Mounteagle.

After they had been some time in the parliament chamber, on pretence that some necessary articles were missing, they went down to the cellars to make a search, They entered the vault where the mine was prepared, and where Fawkes was at his post. The chamberlain, casting his eyes round the place, inquired by whom it was occupied, and who Fawkes was. The stanch traitor replied that it was occupied by Mr. Percy, whose servant he was; on which Suffolk observed in a careless manner, "Your master has laid in a good stock of fuel;" and he and Mounteagle left the cellar. No sooner were they off the ground, than Fawkes hastened to inform Percy of what had occurred, but the warning was lost upon him. He persuaded himself that all was yet undiscovered, and Fawkes returned to the cellar to await the fatal hour.

A little after midnight, being now actually the 5th of November, Guy Fawkes had occasion to open the door of the vault, and he was immediately seized by Sir Thomas Knevett, a magistrate of Westminster, who, with a party of soldiers, had silently invested the place. Fawkes was found to be booted and spurred, ready for a precipitate flight after lighting the train; three matches were found in his pocket, and a dark lantern containing a light was placed behind the door. The least delay in seizing the desperado, and he would have blown himself and the guard all into the air together. But he was instantly pinioned, bound hand and foot, and conveyed to Whitehall, where the council had assembled in the king's bed-chamber by four o'clock to interrogate him. Fast fettered as he was, the determined look of the undaunted traitor instilled terror into the spectators. He appeared quite self-possessed, calm in aspect, and bold, though respectful in speech. Nothing could be drawn from him regarding the conspiracy. He said his name was Johnson, and that Percy was his master. He avowed that his object was to annihilate king and parliament, as the only possible means of ridding the catholics of their persecutions,. When asked who were his accomplices, he replied that should never be known from him.

The king demanded of him how he could have the heart to destroy his children, and so many innocent souls with them, "Dangerous diseases," replied Fawkes, "require desperate remedies." To the courtiers who surrounded him with inquisitive looks and pressed him with questions, he returned a defiant stare, and retorted their remarks with unscrupulous sarcasm. One Scotch nobleman asked him the needless question of what he meant to do with so many barrels of gunpowder. "To blow the beggarly Scots back to their native mountains," replied Fawkes.

Finding that nothing could be extracted from the conspirator, on the morning of the 6th of November he was sent to the Tower, accompanied by orders that the secret was to be extorted from him by torture. The instructions of James in the State Paper Office direct that the gentle tortures were to be tried first, et sic per gradus ad ima tendatur. For three or four days this man of iron nerve and will endured the utmost agony they could put him to, without divulging a syllable, nor did he relax till he learned for certain that the conspirators had proclaimed themselves by appearing in arms.

Catesby and John Wright had left on the evening of the 4th for Dunchurch as agreed; Percy and Christopher Wright maintained their watch in London till they heard of the arrest of Fawkes, when they mounted and rode after Catesby and John Wright. Keyes and Rookwood still waited till morning, when finding the whole known, and all London in a state of terror, Keyes got away after the rest. Rookwood lingered in town till near noon, as he had a relay of vigorous horses ready, and when mounted, he rode furiously, overtook Keyes on Finchley Common, whence they rode to Turvey, in Bedfordshire. Rookwood still pursued his gallop till he overtook first Percy and Christopher Wright, and then Catesby and John Wright, and the whole troop rode on together till they came to lady Catesby's, at Ashby St. Legers, in Northamptonshire. They arrived there at six o'clock in the evening, Rookwood having ridden the whole eighty miles from London in little more than six hours. A party of conspirators, with whom was Winter, were just sitting down to supper when the fugitives came in, covered with mud and sinking with fatigue. Yet no time was to be lost. After a hasty refreshment, the whole company got to horse, and rode with all speed to Dunchurch.

The strange, haggard, and dejected appearance of the conspirators, and their eager closeting with Sir Everard Digby, awoke the suspicions of the hunting party. Before midnight a whisper of treason and its failure flew amongst them, and they quickly got to horse and rode off each his own way. In the morning there remained only Catesby, Digby, Percy, the Wrights, Winter, and a few servants.

Catesby now advised that they should strike across Worcestershire for Wales, where he flattered himself they might assemble the catholic gentry, and make a formidable Btand. In pursuance of this romantic plan, they mounted and rode to Warwick, whence, after exchanging fresh horses for their jaded ones, they made for Grant's house at Norbrook, and thence rode on through Warwickshire and Worcestershire to Holbeach House, on the borders of Staffordshire. All the way they had called on the catholics to arm and join them for the rescue of their faith, but not a man would listen to the appeal. On this decided failure, instead of pushing for the mountains of Wales, they resolved to make a stand at Holbeach.

Meantime Sir Richard Walsh, the sheriff of Worcestershire, with the whole posse comitatis and a number of volunteer gentlemen, was in chase of them. They had diverged from their original route in the hope of being joined by the gentry, who only drove them from their doors; and now, no sooner did Stephen Littleton, the owner of Holbeach, learn the real facts, than, horrified at the certain destruction impending over these desperate men, he escaped at the earliest opportunity from the house. He was soon followed by Sir Everard Digby, on the plea of endeavouring to muster assistance. The remaining conspirators, who, with servants, did not amount to more than forty men, set about to put the house in a state of defence; but as they were drying some powder before the fire it exploded, horribly scorching Catesby and some others of the bystanders.

This accident so appalled them, impressing them with the idea that their enterprise was displeasing to God, that Robert Winter, Bates, the servant of Catesby, and others got away. About noon Sir Richard Walsh came up with his troop and surrounded the house, and summoned them to surrender. But preferring death in arms to the gallows, they defied their assailants, and resolved to fight to the last. On this the sheriff ordered one part of his followers to set fire to the house, and the other to batter in the gates. Catesby, blackened and nearly blinded by the powder, called on the rest to make a rush and die hand to hand with their assailants. In the courtyard, Catesby, the two Wrights, and Percy were mortally wounded. Catesby crawled on hands and knees into the house to a crucifix, which he seized in his hands and expired. Rookwood, dreadfully burnt and wounded, was seized as well as Winter, whose arm was broken. Percy died the next day. The rest of them were soon taken. Robert Winter had overtaken Stephen Littleton in a wood, and together they made their way to the house of a Mrs, Littleton, near Hagley, where they were secreted, without her knowledge, by her cousin, Humphrey Littleton, but were betrayed by a servant of Mrs. Littleton. Sir Everard Digby was pursued and taken in a wood near. Dudley. They were all captured, with Keyes and Bates, Catesby's servant, who was taken in Staffordshire. Four days after the seizure of the captives at Holbeach, Tresham was arrested in London, notwithstanding his affected innocence, and his offers of assistance to the council; and thus were the authors of this insane and diabolical conspiracy destroyed, or safe in the hands of government.

Whilst these events had been taking place, Guido Fawkes had been undergoing repeated examinations before commissioners appointed by the king, and also by the chief justice Popham, Sir Edward Coke, attorney-general, and Sir William Wood, lieutenant of the Tower. He made free confessions of his own participation in the conspiracy, but as he had said that nothing should be learned from him as to his accomplices, so no tortures could force a word of betrayal from him. It was not till the conspirators were taken or killed that he would admit a word about them, and then only what was become well known by other means. When told his concealment of the names of his associates was useless, because they had betrayed themselves, "Then," rejoined the undaunted man, "it is superfluous to ask me." On the 8th of November, the very day on which the conspirators were overcome at Holbeach, he signed a deposition with a clear firm hand; but two days after, when called on to sign another, he had become so shattered in nerve and muscle, that ho could only trace his Christian name, Guido, in a tremulous scrawl, and attempted the surname in vain.

Bates, the servant of Catesby, was made of far meaner stuff. Under the operation of the rack he confessed anything that they pleased. Tresham was racked also, to obtain a confession of the guilt of the priests, and though he denied that they had any share in the plot, he admitted that Garnet and Greenway were privy to it. In his prison he was attacked by a violent complaint, and died on the 23rd of December, as it was strongly suspected, of poison. On the approach of death he signed a solemn recantation of the truth of his confession implicating Garnet and Greenway. He declared that he had made the confession only under the terror of fresh torture; and this declaration he gave to his wife, charging her to deliver it into the hands of Cecil herself.

Notwithstanding, a royal proclamation was issued on the 15th of January, 1606, for the seizure of the three Jesuits, Garnet, Greenway, and Gerard. The trials of the conspirators were delayed in order to be able to arraign the Jesuits with them, as well as Baldwin, another Jesuit, and Sir William Stanley and Captain Owen, who were still serving in the Netherlands. But as the Spaniards refused to give up the accused, and the capture of the three Jesuits appeared uncertain, the trials of the prisoners were ordered to take place on the 27th of January.

The trials, of course, excited intense interest, and the king, queen, and prince were said to be present, where they could see and hear without attracting public notice. The prisoners were eight, Sir Everard Digby, Robert and Thomas Winter, Rookwood, Grant, Guido Fawkes, Keyes, and Bates. Sir Everard Digby pleaded guilty, all the rest not guilty, on the ground that many things were included in the indictments which were not true. There were no witnesses called, but the written depositions of the prisoners and of a servant of Sir Everard's were taken as sufficient proof. The accused, for the most part, denied that the three Jesuits had any part in the plot, though they might more or less be aware of it; nor was there any proof brought forward or admission made which implicated the catholic body generally. On the contrary, it was too notorious that the catholics had everywhere shrunk from the conspirators with horror; and Sir Everard Digby, in his letters to -his wife, written from the Tower, pathetically laments that the catholics everywhere, so far from supporting the conspiracy, shunned and condemned them, and adds that he would never have engaged in the design if he had not thought it lawful. The prisoners who pleaded, excused their conduct by the cruelty of the persecutions which they were enduring, the ruin and sufferings of their families, the violated promises of the king, and their consequent despair of any other termination of their oppressions, as well as their natural desire to effect the restoration of what they deemed the only true church. The earls of Salisbury and Northampton denied, on the part of the king, the breach of any promises; and the whole of the prisoners were condemned to the death of traitors, which they endured, in all its revolting severity, at the west end of St. Paul's Churchyard. Digby, Robert Winter, Grant, and Bates, on the 30th of January, and Thomas Winter, Fawkes, Rookwood, and Keyes, next day.

Whilst these things had been in progress, the quest after the three Jesuits, Garnet, Greenway, and Gerard, had been unintermitted. After many adventures and narrow escapes, the two latter got clear off to the Continent, and the interest centred itself in the apprehension of Garnet. Pie had managed to conceal himself at Hendlip, near Worcester, in the house of Thomas Abingdon, whose wife was the sister of lord Mounteagle. Here his hiding-place might have been effectual, for it was furnished with all those contrivances so common in catholic houses at that time, and which yet remain in these old residences. But his retreat was known to that Humphrey Littleton who had concealed his cousin Stephen Littleton and Robert Winter at Hagley, and who, himself now in prison, betrayed the secret to win favour for himself. Sir Henry Bromley, a neighbouring magistrate, received an order to take an armed force, surround the house, and secure the hidden Jesuit. On his arrival Mrs. Abingdon put the keys of her house into his hands with the utmost frankness, and bade him satisfy himself. A rigorous search was instituted: every room, closet, and visible recess was minutely explored, whilst sentinels were placed on the constant watch in every passage and at every outlet. Three days passed without any discovery, and the magistrate began to suspect that the Jesuit had anticipated his arrival, and was gone; but on the fourth day two strange men suddenly appeared in a gallery. They were instantly seized, and proved to be Owen, the servant of Garnet, and Chambers, the servant of Oldcorne, another Jesuit. The vigilance of the guards had prevented the necessary supplies, and hunger had driven them from their retreat. The search now became most active: more secret chambers were discovered, and on the eighth day a trap-door, in a boarded floor, was detected, which led behind the fire-place up into the hole in the wall where Garnet and Oldcorne lay. They and their two servants were at once conducted to London and committed to the Tower.

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Pictures for The Reign of James I page 10

King James I.
King James I. >>>>
Coronation of King James I.
Coronation of King James I. >>>>
Dog of James I. with a petition
Dog of James I. with a petition >>>>
Great Seal of King James I.
Great Seal of King James I. >>>>
George Buchanan
George Buchanan >>>>
Chamber in which Sir Walter Raleigh was Imprisoned
Chamber in which Sir Walter Raleigh was Imprisoned >>>>
Sir Walter Raleigh in prison
Sir Walter Raleigh in prison >>>>
Old House at Lambeth
Old House at Lambeth >>>>
King James and his Courtiers setting out for the Hunt
King James and his Courtiers setting out for the Hunt >>>>
The Gunpowder Conspirators at work in the Vault
The Gunpowder Conspirators at work in the Vault >>>>
Cellars under the Parliament House
Cellars under the Parliament House >>>>
Arresr of Guy Fawkes
Arresr of Guy Fawkes >>>>
Hendlip House
Hendlip House >>>>
Arabella Stuart
Arabella Stuart >>>>
Great Hall at Theobalds
Great Hall at Theobalds >>>>
Arabella Stuart in male attire
Arabella Stuart in male attire >>>>
The Fifth of November, 1611.
The Fifth of November, 1611. >>>>
Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson >>>>

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