Henry Garnet (or Garnett) was born some time around July 1555 at Heanor in Derbyshire, the son of Brian Garnet (or Garnett) and Alice (née Jay). He had at least five siblings: two brothers, Richard and John, and three sisters, Margaret, Eleanor, and Anne, all of whom became nuns at Louvain. Henry studied at the grammar school in Nottingham and later at Winchester College before moving to London in 1571 where he worked for a publisher. Professing an interest in legal studies in 1575, he traveled to the continent and joined the Society of Jesus. He was ordained in Rome around 1582.

After returning to England in 1586 as part of the Jesuit mission, Henry succeeded Father William Weston as Jesuit superior. He then established a secret press that lasted for nine years.

in 1594 he interceded in the Wisbech Stirs, a dispute between secular and regular clergy. When dealing with problems the Catholic church in England was facing Henry preferred the more passive approach. Which would prove to be his undoing. Because in 1605 he met with religious zealot Robert Catesby, who, unknown to him, conspired to kill King James I a protestant. On 24 July 1605 Catesby’s Gunpowder Plot was revealed to Henry by Father Oswald Tesimond, but since this information was received under the seal of the confessional, Henry believed the Canon law prevented him from revealing it. Instead, telling no one of Catesby’s plans, he wrote his superiors in Rome, urging them to warn English Catholics against the use of force.

When the plot failed Henry went into hiding, but on 27 January 1606 he was arrested; as a result of intensified persecution of Catholics, caused by the Babington Plot. Then confiscated to London where he was interrogated by the Privy Council, whose members included John PophamEdward Coke, and Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, Henry’s conversations with fellow prisoner Edward Oldcorne were monitored by eavesdroppers, and his letters to friends were intercepted. His guilt, announced at the end of his trial on 28 March 1606, was a foregone conclusion. The jury took fifteen minutes to decide that Garnet was guilty of treason. Criticized for his use of equivocation, which Coke called “open and broad lying and forswearing”, and condemned for not warning the authorities of Catesby’s plan, Henry was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. He was executed on 3 May 1606.

References

  1. Weston’s capture came as a result of intensified persecution of Catholics, caused by the Babington Plot.
  2. See Jesuits, etc. Act 1584.
  3. McCoog, Thomas (January 2008) [2004]. “Garnett, Henry (1555–1606)”Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/10389. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

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Accessed ChristianHistoryInstitute.org and Rhemalogy.com 27 March2022.

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