Note: William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle and 11th Baron Morley by John de Critz // Catesby and percy slain // Warwick Castle -mist 23o2007
Although the State Opening of Parliament was planned for February 1605, concern over the plague delayed it until 3 October. A contemporaneous government account has the plotters engaged in digging a tunnel beneath Parliament by December 1604, but no other evidence exists to prove this, and no trace of a tunnel has since been found. If the story is true, the plotters ceased their efforts when the tenancy to the undercroft beneath the House of Lords became available. Several months later, early in June 1605, Catesby met the principal Jesuit in England, Father Henry Garnet, on Thames Street in London. While discussing the war in Flanders, Catesby asked about the morality of "killing innocents". Garnet said that such actions could often be excused, but according to his own account during a second meeting in July he showed Catesby a letter from the pope which forbade rebellion. Catesby replied, "Whatever I mean to do, if the Pope knew, he would not hinder for the general good of our country." Father Garnet's protestations prompted Catesby's next reply, "I am not bound to take knowledge by you of the Pope's will." Soon after, Father Tesimond told Father Garnet that while taking Catesby's confession he had learned of the plot. Father Garnet met with Catesby a third time on 24 July at White Webbs in Enfield Chase, the home of Catesby's wealthy relative Anne Vaux, and a house long suspected by the government of harbouring Jesuit priests. Without acknowledging that he was aware of the precise nature of the plot, the priest tried in vain to dissuade Catesby from his course.
By 20 July 1605, 36 barrels of gunpowder had been stored in the undercroft, but the ever-present threat of the plague yet again prorogued the opening of Parliament, this time until 5 November 1605. Catesby had borne much of the scheme's financial cost thus far, and was running out of money. As their plans moved closer to fruition, during a secret meeting at Bath in August at which he, Percy and Thomas Wintour were present, the plotters decided that "the company being yet but few" he was to be allowed to "call in whom he thought best". Catesby soon added Ambrose Rookwood, a staunch Catholic who was both young and wealthy, but who most importantly owned a stable of fine horses at Coldham. For the plan to work Rookwood and his horses needed to be close to the other conspirators, and so Catesby persuaded him to rent Clopton House at Stratford-upon-Avon. Francis Tresham was brought into the plot on 14 October. Also descended from William Catesby, Tresham was Robert's cousin, and as young children the two had often visited White Webbs. Although his account of the meeting is weighted with hindsight (when captured he sought to distance himself from the affair), he asked Catesby what support for the Catholics would be forthcoming once the king had been killed. Catesby's answer, "The necessity of the Catholics [was such that] it must needs be done", in Fraser's opinion demonstrates his unwavering view on the matter, held at least since his first meeting with Thomas Wintour early in 1604. The final conspirator to be brought in was Everard Digby, on 21 October, at Harrowden. Catesby confided in Digby during a delayed Feast of Saint Luke. Like Rookwood, Digby was young and wealthy, and possessed a stable of horses. Catesby told him to rent Coughton Court near Alcester, so that he would "the better to be able to do good to the cause [kidnap Princess Elizabeth]".
The day after Tresham's recruitment, Catesby exchanged greetings in London with Fawkes's former employer, Lord Montague, and asked him "The Parliament, I think, brings your lordship up now?" Montague told him that he was visiting a relative, and that he would be at Parliament in a few weeks time. Catesby replied "I think your Lordship takes no pleasure to be there". Montague, who had already been imprisoned for speaking out in the House of Lords against anti-Papist legislation, and who had no inclination to be present while more laws were introduced, agreed. Following the plot's failure he became a suspect and was arrested, but after intense lobbying he was released some months later.
The recruitment of Rookwood, Tresham and Digby coincided with a series of meetings in various taverns across London, during which the last remaining details were worked out. Fawkes would light the fuse, and escape by boat across the Thames. An uprising would start in the Midlands, during which Princess Elizabeth was to be captured. Fawkes would escape to the continent and explain to the Catholic powers what had happened in England.
Several of the conspirators expressed worries about fellow Catholics who would be caught up in the planned explosion; Percy was concerned for his patron, Northumberland, and when the young Earl of Arundel's name was mentioned Catesby suggested that a minor wound might keep him from the chamber on that day. Keyes's suggestion to warn the Earl of Peterborough was, however, derided. On 26 October William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle (Tresham's brother-in-law) received an anonymous letter while at his house in Hoxton, warning him not to attend Parliament, and forecasting that "they shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament; and yet they shall not see who hurts them". Uncertain of its meaning he delivered it to Secretary of State Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. In an extraordinary act of bravado Catesby had planned to go hunting with James, but was warned of the betrayal by Monteagle's servant. He immediately suspected that Tresham was responsible for the letter, a view which was shared by Thomas Wintour. Together the two confronted the recently recruited conspirator, and threatened to "hang him", but Tresham managed to convince the pair that he had not written the letter, and the next day urged them to abandon the plot.
Catesby waited for Percy's return from the north, before making his decision. He thought the letter too vague to constitute any meaningful threat to the plan, and decided to forge ahead. As Fawkes made a final check on the gunpowder, other conspirators took up their positions in the Midlands. Salisbury, already aware of certain stirrings before he received the letter, did not yet know the exact nature of the plot or who exactly was involved. He elected to wait, to see how events unfolded. On 3 November, Catesby met with Wintour and Percy in London. Although the nature of their discussion is unknown, Fraser theorises that some adjustment of their plan to abduct Princess Elizabeth may have occurred, as later accounts told how Percy had been seen at the Duke of York's lodgings, enquiring as to the movements of the king's daughter. Nicholls mentions that a week earlier—on the same day that Monteagle received his letter—Catesby was at White Webbs with Fawkes, to discuss kidnapping Prince Henry rather than Princess Elizabeth.
Failure and death
Late on Monday 4 November, Catesby, John Wright and Bates left for the Midlands, ready for the planned uprising. That night Fawkes was discovered guarding the gunpowder in the undercroft beneath the House of Lords. As news of his arrest spread, the next day most of the conspirators still in London fled. Catesby's party, ignorant of what was happening in London, paused at Dunstable when his horse lost a shoe. When Rookwood caught them up and broke to them the news of Fawkes's arrest, the group, which now included Rookwood, Catesby, Bates, the Wright brothers and Percy, rode toward Dunchurch. At about 6:00 pm that evening they reached Catesby's family home at Ashby St Ledgers, where his mother and Robert Wintour were staying. To keep his mother ignorant of their situation, Catesby sent a message asking Wintour to meet him at the edge of the town. The group continued to Dunchurch, where they met Digby and his hunting party and informed them that the king and Salisbury were dead, thus persuading them to continue with the plan.
On 6 November they raided Warwick Castle for supplies, before continuing to Norbrook to collect stored weapons. From there they continued their journey to Huddington. Catesby gave Bates a letter to deliver to Father Garnet and the other priests at Coughton Court, informing them of what had transpired, and asking for their help in raising an army in Wales, where Catholic support was believed to be strong. The priest begged Catesby and his followers to stop their "wicked actions", and to listen to the pope's preachings. Father Garnet fled, and managed to evade capture for several weeks. Catesby and the others arrived at Huddington at about 2:00 pm, and were met by Thomas Wintour. Terrified of being associated with the fugitives, family members and former friends showed them no sympathy.
Back in London, under pain of torture Fawkes had started to reveal what he knew, and on 7 November the government named Catesby as a wanted man. Early that morning at Huddington, the remaining outlaws went to confession, before taking the sacrament — in Fraser's opinion, a sign that none of them thought they had long to live. The party of fugitives, which included those at the centre of the plot, their supporters and Digby's hunting party, by now had dwindled to only thirty-six in number. They continued through pouring rain to Hewell Grange, home of the young Lord Windsor. He was absent however, so they helped themselves to further arms, ammunition, and money. The locals were unsupportive; on hearing that Catesby's party stood for "God and Country", they replied that they were for "King James as well as God and Country". The party reached Holbeche House, on the border of Staffordshire, at about 10:00 pm. Tired and desperate, they spread in front of the fire some of the now-soaked gunpowder taken from Hewell Grange, to dry out. Although gunpowder does not explode (unless physically contained), a spark from the fire landed on the powder and the resultant flames engulfed Catesby, Rookwood, Grant, and another man.
Catesby survived, albeit scorched. Digby left, ostensibly to give himself up, as did John Wintour. Thomas Bates fled, along with Robert Wintour. Remaining were Catesby (described as "reasonably well"), Rookwood, the Wright brothers, Percy and John Grant, who had been so badly injured that his eyes were "burnt out". They resolved to stay in the house and wait for the arrival of the king's men. Catesby, believing his death to be near, kissed the gold crucifix he wore around his neck and said he had given everything for "the honour of the Cross". He refused to be taken prisoner, "against that only he would defend himself with his sword".
Richard Walsh, Sheriff of Worcester, and his company of 200 men besieged Holbeche House at about 11:00 am on 8 November. While crossing the courtyard Thomas Wintour was hit in the shoulder. John Wright was shot, followed by his brother, and then Rookwood. Catesby and Percy were reportedly both dropped by a single lucky shot, while standing near the door. Catesby managed to crawl inside the house, where his body was later found, clutching a picture of the Virgin Mary. This and his gold crucifix were sent to London, to demonstrate what "superstitious and Popish idols" had inspired the plotters. The survivors were taken into custody and the dead buried near Holbeche. On the orders of the Earl of Northampton however, the bodies of Catesby and Percy were exhumed and decapitated. John Harington, 2nd Baron Harington of Exton, made an opportune study of the heads while en route to London, and later reflected: "more terrible countenances were never looked upon". Placed on "the side of the Parliament House", Catesby's head became one of the "sightless spectators of their own failure."