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'Sir Francis Tresham 1804 Portrait'

Sir Francis Tresham (c. 1567 – December 1605), English Gunpowder Plot conspirator, was the last to join the conspiracy and was probably the means by which it became known to the authorities.

Contents

Early life and family

Francis Tresham was the first son, and oldest of eleven children of Sir Thomas Tresham II of Rushton, Northamptonshire and Muriel Throckmorton, daughter of Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton, Warwickshire. Francis was descended from a long line of respected ancestors. His great-grandfather, Sir Thomas Tresham, was appointed by Queen Elizabeth I as the Prior of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Francis was educated at either St John's College or Gloucester Hall, or both, but the religion of his father and himself prevented his graduation. As early as 1586 he is mentioned as frequenting the French Ambassador's house with Lady Elizabeth Strange, Lady Compton, and other Catholics.

Sir Thomas Tresham, his father, at this stage had begun to suffer extreme persecution for his stubborn adherence to the Catholic Faith. In August 1581, he was arrested for the first time, committed to the Fleet prison and tried in Star Chamber for the harbouring of Father Edmund Campion, along with his brothers-in-law William Vaux, 3rd Baron Vaux of Harrowden and Sir William Catesby of Lapworth.

The young Francis Tresham, deprived of parental control, grew up embittered by the treatment meted out to his father; a perpetual malcontent, with none of his father's constancy and forbearance, and so ready to join in any desperate scheme against the government. The consequences of his disaffection further impoverished the family.

In June 1591 Tresham was arrested and committed to the Fleet prison 'for the abusing of the authority of a warrant from their Lordships'. Apparently he had altered a Privy Council warrant for the summons of one Barnewell, clothier, and replaced his name with a tenant of the Tresham's who owed them a great sum of money. Francis, and a group of henchmen ransacked the tenant's property, and violently assaulted his pregnant daughter. Eventually on 4 Dec 1591, Francis was released, although no apparent reason for this is forthcoming.

In 1593, Tresham married Anne, daughter of Sir John Tufton of Hothfield, Kent, and by her had three children, Elizabeth, and twins Thomas and Lucy. Thomas died in infancy, Lucy became a nun, and Elizabeth married Sir George Heneage of Hainton, Lincolnshire.

Francis Tresham's reckless and unstable character must be reckoned a major cause of Sir Thomas's financial difficulties. He lived an extravagant and restless life in London; by 1593 he was already one of the circle at Essex House, young men of fashion, 'hunger-starved for innovations'. In this year his debts were such that he was in danger of great losses unless he could have 1000 pounds immediately.

He was, like his father, a Roman Catholic, and his family had already suffered for their religion and politics. He is described as "a wild and unstayed man," was connected intimately with many of those afterwards known as the Gunpowder Plot conspirators, being cousin to Catesby and to the two Wintours, Thomas and Robert, and was implicated in a series of seditious intrigues in Elizabeth's reign. In 1596 he was arrested on suspicion together with Catesby, and the two Wrights, John and Christopher, during an illness of Queen Elizabeth. In 1601 he took part in Essex's rebellion and was one of those who confined the Lord Keeper Egerton in Essex House on February 8. He was imprisoned and only suffered to go free on condition of a fine of 3000 marks paid by his father. He was one of the promoters of the mission of Thomas Wintour in 1602 to Madrid to persuade the king of Spain to invade England. On the death of Elizabeth, however, he, with several other Roman Catholics, joined Southampton in securing the Tower for James I.

Plot

Tresham was the last of the conspirators to be initiated into the Gunpowder Plot. According to his own account, which receives general support from Thomas Wintour's confession, it was revealed to him on 14 October 1605. Inferior in zeal and character to the rest of the conspirators, he had lately by the death of his father, 11 September 1605, inherited a large property and it was probably his financial support that was now sought.[1] But Tresham, as the possessor of an estate, was probably less inclined than before to embark on rash and hazardous schemes. Moreover, he had two brothers-in-law, Lords Edward Stourton, 10th Baron Stourton and Monteagle, among the peers destined for assassination.

Robert Catesby Guido Fawkes Thomas Winter Thomas Percy John Wright Christopher Wright Robert Winter Thomas Bates Use a cursor to explore or press button for larger image & copyright
The plotters who were betrayed by the person who sent the letter to Lord Monteagle. Use a cursor to identify

All the evidence now points to Tresham as the betrayer of the plot, and it is known that he was in London within 24 hours of the dispatch of the famous letter to Lord Monteagle which revealed the plot. In all probability he had betrayed the secret to Monteagle previously, and the method of discovery had been settled between them, for it bears the marks of a prearranged affair, and the whole plan was admirably conceived so as to save Monteagle's life and inform the government, at the same time allowing the conspirators, by timely warning, opportunity to escape.[2][3]

Tresham avoided meeting any of the conspirators as he had agreed to do at Barnet, on 20 October , but on the 31st he was visited by Wintour in London, and summoned to Barnet on the following day. There he met Catesby and Wintour, who were prepared to stab him for his betrayal, but were dissuaded by his protestations that he knew nothing. After the plot was discovered, Tresham was arrested and put in prison, where he died of a long-standing illness, although there is speculation to this day that he was poisoned by the authorities, or even secretly granted his freedom.[4]

Depictions in popular culture

Francis Tresham was the narrator of one chapter of Alan Moore's novel Voice of the Fire, set in and around Northampton over a period spanning from prehistory to the present day. His chapter was set on 5 November 1607, by which time Tresham had already died, and he narrates as a severed head set on a pike outside Northampton. During the chapter, he is joined on his pike by the recently removed head of John Reynolds, who led the Midlands food riots of that year, ironically against Tresham's own family.

References

  1. ^ Bengtsen, Fiona (2005). Sir William Waad, Lieutenant of the Tower, and the Gunpowder Plot. Oxford, England: Trafford. p. 50. ISBN 1412055415.  
  2. ^ Trevelyan, G. M. (1904). "Tresham mars the plot". England Under the Stuarts (2nd (2002) ed.). London: Routledge. pp. 89–91. ISBN 0-415-27785-X.  
  3. ^ Green, Mary, ed (1857). Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of James I. London: HM Public Record Office. pp. 254–274.  
  4. ^ Morrison, Richard (2 May 2005). "Remember, remember, the spin of November". The Times (London). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/richard_morrison/article386885.ece. Retrieved 23 January 2009.  
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

FRANCIS TRESHAM (c. 1567-1605), English Gunpowder Plot conspirator, eldest son of Sir Thomas Tresham of Rushton, Northamptonshire (a descendant of Sir Thomas Tresham, Speaker of the House of Commons, executed by Edward IV. in 1471), and of Muriel, daughter of Sir Thomas Throckmorton of Ccughton, was born about 1567, and educated at Oxford. He was, like his father, a Roman Catholic, and his family had already suffered for their religion and politics. He is described as "a wild and unstayed man," was connected intimately with many of those afterwards known as the Gunpowder Plot conspirators, being cousin to Catesby and to the two Winters, and was implicated in a series of seditious intrigues in Elizabeth's reign. In 1596 he was arrested on suspicion together with Catesby and the two Wrights during an illness of Queen Elizabeth. In r601 he took part in Essex's rebellion and was one of those who confined the Lord Keeper Egerton in Essex House on the 8th of February. He was imprisoned and only suffered to go free on condition of a fine of 3000 marks paid by his father. He was one of the promoters of the mission of Thomas Winter in 1602 to Madrid to persuade the king of Spain to invade England. On the death of Elizabeth, however, he, with several other Roman Catholics, joined Southampton in securing the Tower for James I.

Tresham was the last of the conspirators to be initiated into the Gunpowder Plot. According to his own account, which receives general support from Thomas Winter's confession, it was revealed to him on the 14th of October 1605. Inferior in zeal and character to the rest of the conspirators, he had lately by the death of his father, on the r rth of September 1605, inherited a large property and it was probably his financial support that was now sought. But Tresham, as the possessor of an estate, was probably less inclined than before to embark on rash and hazardous schemes. Moreover, he had two brot hersin-law, Lords Stourton and Monteagle, among the peers destined for assassination. He expressed his dislike of the plan from the first, and, according to his own account, he endeavoured to dissuade Catesby from the whole project, urging that the Romanist cause would derive no benefit, even in case of success, from the attempt. His representations were in vain and he consented to supply money, but afterwards discovered that no warning was to be given to the Roman Catholic peers. All the evidence now points to Tresham as the betrayer of the plot, and it is known that he was in London within 24 hours of the despatch of the famous letter to Lord Monteagle which revealed the plot (see Gunpowder Plot). In all probability he had betrayed the secret to Monteagle previously, and the method of discovery had been settled between them, for it bears the marks of a prearranged affair, and the whole plan was admirably conceived so as to save Monteagle's life and inform the government, at the same time allowing the conspirators, by timely warning, opportunity to escape (see Monteagle, William Parker, 4th baron). Tresham avoided meeting any of the conspirators as he had agreed to do at Barnet, on the 29th of October, but on the 31st he was visited by Winter in London, and summoned to Barnet on the following day. There he met Catesby and Winter, who were prepared to stab him for his betrayal, but were dissuaded by his protestations that he knew nothing of the letter. His entreaties that they would give up the whole project and escape to Flanders were unavailing. After the arrest of Fawkes on the night of the 4th Tresham did not fly with the rest of the conspirators, but; remained at court and offered his services for apprehending them. For some days he was not suspected, but he was arrested on the 12th. On the 13th he confessed his share in the plot, and on the 29th his participation and that of Father Garnet in the mission to Spain. Shortly afterwards he fell iil with a complaint from which he had long suffered. On the 5th of December a copy of the Treatise of Equivocation, in which the Jesuit doctrine on that subject was treated, was found amongst his papers by Sir Edward Coke (see Garnet, Henry). From the lessons learnt here he had evidently profited. On the 9th of December he declared he knew nothing about the book, and shortly before his death, with the desire of saving his friend, he withdrew his statement concerning Garnet's complicity in the Spanish negotiations, and denied that he had seen him or communicated with him for 16 years. His death took place on the 2 2nd. His last transparent falsehoods had removed any thoughts of leniency in the government. He was now classed with the other conspirators, and though he had never been convicted of any crime or received sentence, his corpse was decapitated and he was attainted by act of parliament. Tresham had married Anne, daughter of Sir John Tufton of Holtfield in Kent, by whom he had two daughters. His estates passed, notwithstanding the attainder, to his brother, afterwards Sir Lewis Tresham, Bart.


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