Father Henry GARNET
Born: 1555, Heanor, East Derbyshire, England
Died: 3 May 1606, Saint Paul's Churchyard, London, England
Father: Brian GARNET
Mother: Alice JAY
Born in the second half of the year 1555, probably at Heanor, a small market town in east Derbyshire. His early childhood was spent, however, in Nottingham, where his father, Brian Garnet had become the head master of the Free Grammar School in 1565.
Brian Garnet descended from a family that traces its origins back to Ralph De Gernet, a learned gentleman who came to England from Norman France in the time of William the Conqueror. The Gernets had settled mostly in the north-western part of England, became landholders in Westmorland and Lancashire and gained the right to bear arms. One branch of this early Gernet family had distinguished itself as sergeants of the King's Forest throughout Lancaster and by the thirteenth century held vast estates at Halton, Heysham, Lydiate and Coton.
Although holding land and positions of power during the Middle Ages, the later Gernets made their mark more in learning than in politics. Throughout the sixteenth century, the family's surname, by then written most commonly as Garnet, occurs frequently in the registers of the colleges at Oxford. When a grammar school in Westmorland was granted a charter in 1591, two Garnets were recorded among its Governors.
Brian Garnet, Henry's father, remained for the rest of his life a devoted classical scholar and outwardly a religious conformist. But secretly he was a Catholic by conviction. Apart from young Henry, Brian Garnet had at least two other sons who followed academic careers, and four daughters, three of whom, for their own safety and solitude, became Catholic nuns and entered the English convents at Louvain.
Not much is known of Henry Garnet's mother, Alice Jay, except that she was apparently a lady of less rigorous academic and theological conviction than her husband or her sons. She outlived her husband, and in later life was received back into the Catholic faith. It is very likely that she was related to the Jays of Nottingham, and may have been the sister of a Master Jay of Selston, Nottingham, burgess of the city and a Member of Parliament.
On the 24th of Aug 1568, having passed the age of twelve years at his last birthday, Henry Garnet was admitted as a scholar to Winchester college, an institution known for its Catholic sympathies and one of the last schools in England to accept the change to Protestantism. At Winchester, Henry Garnet attained the rank of Captain, and "by his modesty, urbanity, musical taste and quickness and solidity of parts, so recommended himself to his superiors" that he seemed destined to pursue his studies at New College Oxford. But while at Winchester he was persuaded to profess the Catholic religion. It was probably at the close of 1571 that Garnet left Winchester, and breaking with accepted tradition of his school and his family, he decided not to continue on to Oxford.
While Henry was completing his last year at school in 1570, his brother Richard Garnet was expelled from Balliol College, Oxford for practising forbidden Catholic rites and harbouring a statue of the Virgin Mary in his rooms. Richard stood steadfast in his Catholic faith and was consequently forced to abandon any hope of an academic career.
On the recommendation of his former headmaster at Winchester, Henry Garnet took an apprenticeship in the London print shop of Richard Tottel, the foremost printer of legal texts in England. At Tottel's offices or at his dinner table, Garnet encountered many of the luminaries in law and letters of that era, including John Popham who, thirty-five years later as the Lord Chief Justice, was to pronounce the sentence of treason on him.
It was during his stay in London, and perhaps also in witnessing the daily legal proceedings of the Parliament and the Inner Temple, that set Garnet firmly in his resolve to leave England and to become a priest. As Sir Simonds D'Ewes, the Parliamentary journalist, observed: "Most of the Papists of England did come to our Church and heard the divine service until the eleventh year of the Queen, when the Bull of Pius Quintus enforced not only their wilful obstinate separation, but drew in and necessitated many of these laws that were afterwards made against them".
Henry Garnet stayed with Tottel for three years, and by early 1575 had decided to seek admission into the Society of Jesus. He left England with Giles Gallop, an old school mate from Winchester, sailing first to Portugal and then making their way overland on foot through Compostella to Rome where they arrived in the late summer of 1575.
On 11 Sep 1575, Garnet entered the noviciate of the Jesuits at Sant' Andrea in Rome, located just across the street from the summer palace of the Popes on the Quirinal Hill. Another English lad, William Weston, arrived at Sant' Andrea less than two months after Garnet, and they became fast friends. Weston later took on leadership of the Jesuit mission in England and was Garnet's Superior for a few weeks in England before being apprehended and imprisoned.
After two years at Sant' Andrea, Garnet was received into the Society of Jesus on Sep 12 1577 and immediately began studying for priesthood at the famous Roman College of St. Ignacio, recognised then as the most celebrated educational establishment on the Continent. Its professors, many selected by the Pope himself, were the best in Europe. There, after studying metaphysics, theology, logic, mathematics, astronomy, physics and geography under eminent international scholars such as Robert Bellarmine, Francesco Saurez, and Christopher Clavius, Henry Garnet joined the teaching staff of the College as a professor of philosophy and Hebrew. When Clavius, a resident professor at the college became incapacitated by ill-health, Garnet replaced him in lecturing upon mathematics.
Having passed eleven years in Rome, Henry Garnet resolved to return to England as a Jesuit missionary. Although his departure from scholarly life was ardently opposed by Christopher Clavius and others at the Roman College, Garnet's zeal for a missionary life weighted heavier with the young Jesuit than the fame for learning, and he left Rome with his fellow priest Father Robert Southwell on 8 May 1856. He landed again on English shores in 1586, as a provincial operative of his order, to practice the forbidden calling of the Catholic priesthood. The year before it had been legislated as a treasonous act for any Romish priest to come into the Queen's dominions and the ever present dangers of pursuit, persecution and martyrdom faced the priests at every juncture of their journey.
Garnet's old friend from Sant' Andrea, Father William Weston was at that time the only Jesuit in all of England, having landed from Dieppe on the Norfolk coast in Sep 1584. Upon the arrival of Garnet and Southwell, Weston travelled all the way to London to give the two newcomers a hearty welcome greeting.
Only a few months later, Weston was captured and imprisoned at Wisbeach Castle. With Weston no longer able to lead the Jesuit mission, the position of Superiorship of the Jesuits passed by merit and seniority to Father Henry Garnet.
Despite the sudden raids, the arrest of his brethren, the constant possibility of betrayal, and the recurring points of crisis in his life, Father Garnet followed faithfully the liturgical scheme of the year, moving prayerfully from feast to feast even as he relocated from one hiding place to yet another secret lair. For his own religious devotions as well as for his Catholic parishioners Garnet advocated the recital of the Rosary and catechisms as a regularised substitution for the more dangerous and more conspicuous celebrations of the Mass and the Catholic liturgy.
In a letter to his sister Margaret Garnet, who entered the convent at Louvain in Oct 1593, Henry Garnet reveals something of his own daily pattern of prayer: "In religion you shall continually live and converse with Christ and, as it were, be always brought up with Him: sometimes accompanying Him in the crib, sometimes flying with Him into Egypt, sometimes watching, praying and fasting with him...Finally you shall die with Him, be buried with Him, rise again with Him and ascend with Him into heaven, where your heart, conversation and comfort must be".
The closing years of Queen Elizabeth's reign were troubled times for all Catholics and their spiritual leaders throughout the realm. Two of Garnet's Jesuits, Southwell and Walpole, were captured, interrogated, put to torture and eventually executed. Even with occasional lulls in the persecution of Catholics, more laymen and priests were seized, tortured and conveyed to their deaths. In Mar of 1597, a bold young priest, Christopher Robinson was hung at Carlisle in a particularly gruesome execution during which the rope broke twice and little humanity was shown in the torment of this hapless victim. On Jul 4 1597, three Catholic laymen and another priest met their deaths at York on the same day.
An Irishman by the name of Patrick Collins was arrested and executed at Tyburn for "intending the Queen's death". At his trial, Collins was alleged to have been sent to kill the Queen by the Jesuit Father Holt who was safely stationed offshore in the Low Countries. The English Jesuits were maliciously slandered and maligned as subterranean players in Collins' crazy plot.
This Irish incident was followed by a second intrigue, an even more madcap invention contrived to accuse the Queen's Portuguese physician, Rodrigo Lopez, of taking bribes to murder the Queen. And once again, motive for the Lopez plot was unjustly laid upon the Catholic community.
After the trials and executions of Collins and Lopez, Richard Topcliffe the relentless prosecutor of Catholics, found it easier to persuade Elizabeth that the Jesuits lay behind these nefarious plots. Amid this atmosphere of attempted assassinations and fabricated plots, Topcliffe cunningly selected his moment to strike against the supposed Catholic menace. On the night of Mar 15th, as Catholic gentlemen were preparing to leave London to spend Easter at their country homes, Topcliffe organised a roundup of all known or suspected Catholics in the city and in the surrounding counties.
Garnet himself, who until recently had been lodging in Holborn, narrowly escaped capture in the Easter raids. The search for Garnet and his band of Jesuit followers was not relaxed. If anything, it intensified. After all, Garnet was one priest whose arrest could award the government a nominal victory.
The capture of Father John Gerard was an event of even greater risk for Garnet. For, if under intense torture in the Tower Gerard broke his resolve, he could place Garnet in jeopardy of exposure and imprisonment. The main aim of Gerard's torturers was to discover Garnet's London lodgings that they might arrest him there. Gerard did not break in body or in spirit.
Garnet, hidden in London, gathered every smuggled report of Gerard's agony in the torture chamber. Garnet wrote with great admiration to Rome about Gerard's heroic obstinence and silence:
"Twice he has been hung up by the hands with great cruelty on the part of others and no less patience on his own. The examiners say he is exceedingly obstinate and a great friend either of God or of the devil, for they say they cannot extract a word from his lips, save that, amidst his torments, he speaks the word, 'Jesus'. Recently they took him to the rack, where the torturers and examiners stood ready for work. But when he entered the place, he at once threw himself on his knees and with a loud voice prayed to God that as he had given strength to some of his saints to be torn asunder by horses for the sake of Christ, so he would give him strength and courage to be rent to pieces before he might speak a word that would be injurious to any person or to the divine glory. And seeing him so resolved, they did not torture him".
Sir Edward Coke, later the Prosecutor at Henry Garnet's trial, was the chief examiner during Gerard's interrogation. It is clear from Gerard's account of the episode that Coke's real objective was to locate Father Garnet and to implicate him in some treasonous act against the Crown. Gerard replied:
"He isn't an enemy of the State, on the contrary, I am certain that if he were given the opportunity to lay down his life for his Queen and country, he would be glad of it. But I don't know where he lives and if I did I would not tell you"
Gerard, along with another fellow prisoner, John Arden, contrived his escape from the Tower. With the help of friends from the outside and of the warder, the two prisoners fastened a rope from one tower across the moat and by it managed to cross into safety. Weak from torture, Gerard barely made it, but once in the hands of his friends he fled by boat across the Thames and then taking to horse he sought refuge at Robert Catesby's manor house called Morecrofts in Uxbridge. There Gerard met up with Father Garnet and spent some days in recuperation from his ordeal.
At the accession of James I, Catholics across England had grounds to hope for some amelioration to the persecution they had suffered under Elizabeth. In his first appearance at Parliament the new King appeared to endorse this easing of the anti-Catholic laws. But clearly James had little idea of the strong Protestant and Puritan feelings that lay beneath the surface of his new realm, nor did he realise the ascending power of Parliament. Only a few months later revealed he change his attitude.
The disappointment and feeling of betrayal that many Catholics now saw in their new King, found expression in a slowly growing desperation and restlessness. The more restless and ruthless of the Catholic hotheads resorted to the hatching of schemes designed to rectify their lot in life. The foolish Bye Plot of 1604, designed apparently to kidnap the King, was devised by an unstable priest named William Watson, the same man who had been helped to escape from the Bridewell in 1588 by Margaret Ward. He had already caused trouble among his fellow- priests and it is charitable to regard him as addle- pated. Watson's pathetic but dangerous scheme came to the knowledge of Father Garnet and other priests. Fearing increased retribution from such a criminal act against the Crown, the priests warned the government. Watson and two others involved in the planned kidnapping were arrested, tried and hanged.
The failed Bye Plot gave Parliament a reason to pass a new Act of repression "for the due execution of statutes against Catholics". All priests were ordered to leave the country. After 1604, the physical danger faced by Garnet and his Jesuits became even more fearful.
Unhappily this first crack-brained Bye Plot was followed by a far more serious affair that was to inflame anti-Catholic feeling and cast additional suspicion on the Cathlic clergy.
Some conjecture has been raised by pro-Catholic historians that the government--especially in the person of the conniving Sir Robert Cecil, actually knew early on that some kind of plot was in the making, and perhaps even took steps to provoke some act of violence and desperation by the Catholic agitators to force things into the open. There's little doubt that Cecil, like his cunning and ambitious father Lord Burghley, had a wicked and paranoid streak in his character. He established a widespread and efficient network of spies, informers and local officials to track down and persecute suspected Catholic agitators, sympathisers and priests.
It was in Jun 1605 that Father Garnet had a first vague hint from his parishioner and host, Robert Catesby, that there was something in the wind. Garnet, knowing his friend, suspected some desperate enterprise; and he immediately wrote to Rome for advice and an injunction against any kind of violent movement. But this opposition put forward by Garnet on theological and moral grounds did nothing to dissuade Catesby from proceeding with his plans.
In an attempt to unburden the conscience, Catesby and probably also his servant Thomas Bates, revealed to their confessor Father Oswald Tesimond (alias Greenway or Greenwell) the secret plan to bring about some harm. How much about the plot was told to Tesimond in the confessional is not exactly known, but it was apparently enough that Tesimond attempted to dissuade them from carrying out their plan. Tesimond in turn passed on what he had heard under seal of the confessional to his superior, Father Garnet. Garnet was horror-struck at the proposal, and since he was bound by confidence not to disclose it, he laboured at least to prevent its execution.
On Tuesday 5 Nov, the day appointed for the opening of the new parliament, all of London was astir with talk of the diabolical attempt that had been discovered that morning to destroy the seat of government with thirty barrels of gunpowder secreted in a cellar below the building. On that very day, Father Garnet was staying at Coughton where he had preached to a gathering of Catholics on the preceding Friday for the observance of All Saints Day. The next day, 6 Nov, while still at Coughton, Garnet learned of the failed plot from Catesby's servant.
Bates was leaving Coughton to return to his master, Robert Catesby then in flight due to the discovery of the plot. Garnet directed him to give a message to Catesby: Garnet "marvelled that they would enter into such wicked actions and not be ruled by the advice of friends and the order of his Holiness given to all". Garnet refused to "meddle but wished them to give over".
Garnet's worst fears had come true. Not only had a wicked action been undertaken despite his own advice to Catesby and the further warnings given by Father Tesimond, but now with discovery of the Plot retribution was sure to fall on the heads of all Catholics and most surely on those surrounding the main conspirators. Garnet must have realised that in the aftermath of the failed Plot, he and his fellow Jesuits were now at the very heart of grievous danger.
There is no record of Garnet's movements between the time he learned of the plot's unravelling from Bates on 6 Nov and 24 Nov when he set off for Hindlip Hall in the company of Nicholas Owen and the Vaux sisters.
On the way towards Hindlip, Garnet's party met up with Father Oldcorne and his servant Ralph Ashley near Evesham, and they all rode together to within four or five miles of Hindlip then proceeded the rest of the way on foot.
Oldcorne had been chaplain at Hindlip for fifteen years and the Hall's owners, Thomas Habington and his wife, were well-known recusants. It had been constructed years before as a refuge for Catholic sympathisers and was interlaced with secret spaces and other cunning hiding-holes designed by Nicholas Owen. The Puritan authorities at Worcester had searched Hindlip Hall on previous occasions, hoping to find priests or Catholic agitators hiding there, but had never found any.
Garnet lay quietly at Hindlip for six weeks without any scent or sight of government pursuivants. He lived in a chamber hidden below the dining room. From Owen's subsequent confession taken on Mar 1, 1606 we know that during this period Garnet ordinarily dined with his hostess and Father Oldcorne. When any stranger was in the house, the priests dined apart. Oldcorne occasionally was absent from the Hall and Garnet remained alone in his secret chamber.
In Dec Garnet wrote a letter to the Lords of the King's Privy Council in which he set forth his abhorrence for "the late most horrible attempt" to which he openly admitted being an accessory by administering "the Most Holy Sacrament to six of the confederates at their very undertaking so bloody an enterprise". He asks the King's Council to give him a hearing, and concedes that even though he had ministered to the conspirators they never made him privy to the plot. He offers four arguments to prove that he had no part or sympathy with the conspiracy. Garnet concludes his letter with a protestation of "all fidelity and loyalty" both from himself and all those under his charge and with the assurance that in their "prayers, example, actions and labours" all of them would seek to "preserve and increase the King's temporal and everlasting felicity and that of his entire family".
Whether or not the Privy Council took any credence in Garnet's testimony, the government issued, on 15 Jan 1606 a proclamation for the arrest of Garnet, Greenway [Tesimond] and Gerard. The three priests were named as accessories to the Plot and denounced as traitors.
It is very likely that Cecil realised, after seeing the logic of Garnet's arguments set out in his testament to the Privy Council, that the only hope of bringing a case against him was to first eliminate the remaining conspirators so that no one knowledgeable about the actual events remained to vouch for Garnet's innocence.
The long-delayed search for Garnet wasn't put into motion until 20 Jan 1606, five days after the arrest warrant was issued. Seven days later, Cecil heard that Garnet had been arrested. The last surviving conspirators who could testify on Garnet's behalf were hastily despatched to eternity on Jan 30 and 31. So by the time Father Garnet was transmitted to the Tower, no one was still alive whose evidence could save him.
The posse commissioned to search Hindlip for the priests set out early on the morning of Monday 20 Jan under the leadership of Sir Henry Bromley, the sheriff of Worcestershire.
Hindlip was familiar to Bromley, he had searched it several times before. After some delay at the gates, Bromley's men forced down the doors and went about their search. For three days the search continued and although eleven ingenious hiding places were uncovered, no priests were present. On the fourth day, Bromley's patience was rewarded, two laymen, Owen and Ashley "being almost starved to death did come out of their own accord" looking for food. At first, Bromley thought that he had captured Oldcorne, but when he discovered his error the search resumed.
It is quite possible that Garnet and Oldcorne would have gone undetected had Bromley not pressed his renewed search beyond just two more days. But on the third day after Owen and Ashley's emergence from hiding, the two priests "looking like two ghosts" were finally uncovered in a low closet hidden behind a false chimney. The place was so low that neither of them could stretch their legs which become "much swollen" and they suffered continual pain.
Oldcorne was recognised almost immediately since he was well known for nearly seventeen years in Worcestershire to Protestants as well as to Catholics. But so unknown was Garnet that Bromley strove to identify him. Finally an Appellant priest, Anthony Sherlock by name, came forward and betrayed Garnet's true identity and the other aliases by which he had been known.
Now realising who he had in custody, Bromley first transported his prisoners to Worcester, where Garnet and Oldcorne were entertained at Bromley's own home. There began a friendship between Garnet and his captor that demonstrates the quiet fascination that this unpretentious priest exercised over others. Stricter orders were issued to the guards, but Garnet had already won over their goodwill.
Garnet and Oldcorne were confined at the Gatehouse prison. Cecil and the King's Council now sought ways to present Garnet to the country as an arch-traitor precisely because in the public mind he had already come to represent the arch-Catholic.
On 13 Feb, the day after arriving at the Gatehouse, Garnet was taken before the Council for his first examination. On the way from the prison to Whitehall, the streets were lined with spectators curious to catch a glimpse of the famous Jesuit.
Assembled around the council table for Garnet's initial interrogation were Sir Robert Cecil, Sir John Popham, Sir Edward Coke, Sir William Waad and the Earls of Nottingham, Worcester and Northampton. From Garnet's days at Tottle's print show, Chief Justice Popham was the only familiar face confronting Garnet.
At the first meeting the Councillors treated Garnet with a great show of respect, biding him not to kneel before them, removing their hats when speaking to him and addressing him as Mr. Garnet.
On Feb 14th, Garnet was moved from a cell in the Gatehouse to a relatively comfortable room in the Tower of London. His friends in London were permitted to provide him with a bed, chairs, bedding, coal, fruit and wine. These small comforts were freely permitted by Sir William Waad to make Garnet feel less threatened and so perhaps to entrap him in a convivial atmosphere. Oldcorne was moved into the adjacent cell with a hole between through which the two priests could converse, their words being overheard and recorded by government eavesdroppers. A friendly but duplicitous jailer named Carey carried letters for Garnet into and out of the Tower, making copies and forgeries of them along the way.
Meanwhile Garnet's interrogation continued on day after day for twenty-three separate sessions, from Feb 13th until Mar 28th. when he was finally arraigned for trial at the Guildhall.
The case against him was singularly weak. The multiplied examinations found nothing that linked him criminally with the gunpowder plot. During the course of the questioning, it was discovered that he had heard about the plot under the solemn seal of confession, and had used every effort left open to him to prevent it. But the government had no intention of recognising the confidentiality of the confessional or of endorsing any ritual or right of the Catholic Church. It made no difference in the eyes of the court whether knowledge of the Plot had been revealed to Father Garnet in or out of confessional, so on the strength of a technicality, the accusers pressed forward with the charge of misprision of treason against Father Garnet and on that basis sought to condemn him to death.
Garnet's trial and sentencing was a foregone conclusion. Coke, the prosecutor, used rhetoric instead of evidence to argue his case against Father Garnet. With the lack of any conclusive evidence against Garnet, Coke resorted to dishonest use of fact, deliberate distortions of the evidence and unwarranted insinuations drawn from it. By brilliant invective and consummate eloquence, Coke was able during the course of the day-long trial to play upon the prejudices and emotions of his listeners and to thus cloud the mind of jury long enough to secure a verdict of guilty.
The jury took less than fifteen minutes to decide their verdict. They found Father Garnet guilty of treason for not revealing the Powder Plot of which he certainly knew. Sir John Popham, the Chief Justice, pronounced the sentence against Garnet, that he should be hanged, drawn and quartered.
There was much speculation abroad in the city that the death sentence might not actually be carried out. It is likely that the Council itself delayed a final decision about this until the last few days of Apr. Only when the Council realised that they had failed to convince the public of Garnet's complicity in the Plot did they decide to proceed with his execution.
The first day set for the execution was 1 May. This was later decided to be a poor choice, since the annual May Day celebrations was a public holiday of good spirit in which the public revellers might be uproarious and perhaps sympathetic to Garnet's cause. Upon better advice, Garnet's execution was put off until 3 May, the feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross.
The place appointed for the execution was St. Paul's churchyard, at the west end, opposite the bishop's palace.
Father Henry Garnet said his farewells in the Tower very early on the morning of Saturday, 3 May. The Jesuit, who had by now spent nearly three months as a prisoner in the Tower, said a courteous good-bye to those who had served him. To one of the cooks who called out, "Farewell, good sir", he attempted a mild jest: "Farewell, good friend Tom, this day I will save thee a labour to provide my dinner".
In the final moments at the Tower, as Garnet was being strapped to the hurdle that was to take him to his death, there was a commotion in the courtyard. A woman rushed out of the crowd. It was Anne Vaux. Anne was however dragged away before she could exchange one last word with her friend and mentor, or even utter a prayer over the man who for twenty years had been at the very centre of her world.
The hurdle was drawn by three horses from the Tower toward the place of execution. Father Garnet lay on it with his hands held together and his eyes closed; he had the air of "a man in deep contemplation". All the way, the streets were crowded with citizens eager to catch a glimpse of the condemned man. A scaffold had been erected near St. Paul's for the prisoner, and all around it were wooden stands set up for spectators. The surrounding windows were also packed with onlookers.
The Sheriff of London was present, as were Sir Henry Montague, the Recorder of London, the Dean of Winchester, Dr. George Abott, and the Dean of St. Paul's Dr. John Overal. They were there not to honour Garnet, but determined to secure the last-minute repentance and even the conversion of this notorious Jesuit.
Then the Recorder asked Garnet if he had anything to say unto the people before he died. Then followed certain disputations between Garnet and the Recorder and the Dean of Winchester concerning the proof of his guiltiness; but at length he confessed himself justly condemned. Hereupon the Recorder led him to the scaffold to make his confession public. 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 the State was bloody, myself should have detested it had it taken effect. And I am heartily sorry that any Catholics ever had so cruel a design'
Then addressing himself to execution he kneeled to pray. When he stood up, the Recorder finding in his behaviour as it were an expectation of pardon, wished him not to deceive himself, nor beguile his own soul, he was come to die, and he must die. He required him not to equivocate with his last breath; if he knew anything that might be a danger to the King or State, he should now utter it. Garnet replied that he did not now equivocate, and more than he had confessed he did not know. Having ascended the ladder, 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 duties, and I am sorry that I did dissemble with them; but I did not think they had such proof against me, till it was showed me; but when that was proved, I held it more honour for me at that time to confess than before to have accused myself. ... 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 that he ended speaking and fell to praying. In the midst of these prayers the ladder was taken away. He hung till he was dead, before his body was quartered. (A Jacobean Journal, Harrison)
At that moment a strange change in mood gripped the crowd. Many of the spectators had deliberately made their way to St. Paul's in order to see a gruesome spectacle which culminated with the bloody axing and quartering of a still living human body. A great number of those present, they cannot all have been Catholics, surged forward. With a loud cry of "hold, hold", they stopped the hangman cutting down the body while Garnet was still alive. Others pulled on the priest's legs, something which was traditionally done by relatives in order to ensure a speedy death.
As a result Father Garnet was "perfectly dead" when he was finally cut down and taken to the block. In their compassion they refused to see him butchered alive; and when he was cut up, his bowels cast into the fire, and his heart held up aloft with the cry, it met with no applause, not even the usual response, "God save the King".
Thus this holy man passed to his eternal reward, 3 May 1606, aged 51.
The very hour that Garnet died, his friend Father John Gerard escaped to the Continent. Gerard saw in his safe passage a sign that his late Superior was already protecting him before God. "Twice on the 3 May, the day on which Father Garnet went to heaven, I received signal favours, which I believe were due to his intercession. The first was this: When I arrived by arrangement at the port from which I was to pass out of England with certain high officials, they took fright and said they could not stand by their promise. Right up to the time I was due to embark with them, they refused to let me come. Then, just at that moment, Father Garnet was received into heaven and did not forget me on earth. Suddenly they changed their mind. The Ambassador came to fetch me personally and himself helped me to dress in the livery of his attendants so that I could pass for one of them and escape. I did escape and in my own mind I have no doubt that I owed this to Father Garnet's prayers".
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