Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 15.djvu/57

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Hist. of St. John's College (Mayor), pp. 167, 599, 600; Strype's Annals; Strype's Whitgift. i. 520; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Heywood and Wright's Camb. Univ. Transactions, i. 506-23; Rémusat's Philosophie Anglaise depuis Bacon jusqu'à Locke, i. 110-16, where Digby's philosophical position is fully expounded.]

S. L. L.

DIGBY, Sir EVERARD (1578–1606), conspirator, son of Everard Digby of Stoke Dry, Rutland, by Maria, daughter and coheiress of Francis Neale of Keythorpe, Leicestershire, was born on 16 May 1578, and was in his fourteenth year when his father died on 24 Jan. 1592. It is a common error to identify his father with Everard Digby, divine and author [q. v.] His wardship was purchased from the crown by Roger Manners, esq., of the family of the Earl of Rutland, and probably re-sold at an advanced price to young Digby's mother. The heir to large estates in Rutland, Leicestershire, and Lincolnshire, and connected with many of the most considerable families in England, it was only to be expected that he should present himself at the queen's court. While still a youth he was appointed to some office in the household, which John Gerard, the jesuit father [q. v.], probably erroneously, describes as ‘being one of the queen's gentlemen-pensioners.’ His great stature and bodily strength, however, made him an adept at all field sports, and he spent the greater part of his time in the country hunting and hawking. In 1596 he married Mary, only daughter and heiress of William Mulsho of Goathurst, Buckinghamshire, and obtained with her a large accession of fortune. About 1599 Digby fell under the influence of John Gerard, who soon acquired an extraordinary sway over him. They became close friends and companions, their friendship being strengthened by the conversion of Digby to the ‘catholic doctrine and practice,’ which was soon followed by the adhesion of Digby's wife and his mother. When James I came to England, Digby joined the crowd of those who welcomed the new king at Belvoir Castle, and received the honour of knighthood there on 23 April 1603. How bitterly the Romish party were disappointed by the attitude assumed by James in the following year; how their bitterness and anger made a small section of them furious and desperate; how the Gunpowder plot grew into more and more definite shape, and how the mad scheme exercised a kind of fascination over the imagination of the small band of frenzied gentlemen who were deeply implicated in it, may be read in the histories of the time, and best of all in Mr. Gardiner's first volume. Unlike Catesby, Rookwood, Tresham, and others more or less cognisant of the conspiracy, Digby had never had anything to complain of in the shape of persecution at the hands of the government. It is probable that both his parents were catholics, but they had never been disturbed for their convictions, and their son had evidently suffered no great inconvenience for conscience' sake. In the arrangements that were made by the conspirators Digby was assigned a part which kept him at a distance from London, and there are some indications that he was not trusted so implicitly as the rest. The plan agreed upon was that Faux should fire the train with a slow match, and at once make off to Flanders. Percy was to seize the person of Prince Henry or his brother Charles, with the co-operation of the others, who were all in London or the suburbs, and was to carry him off with all speed to Warwickshire. Meanwhile Digby was to co-operate by preparing for a rising in the midlands when the catastrophe should have been brought about; and it was settled that he should invite a large number of the disaffected gentry to meet him at Dunchurch in Warwickshire, and join in a hunting expedition on Dunsmoor Heath (near Rugby), where, it was whispered, strange news might be expected. This gathering was fixed for Tuesday, 5 Nov. 1605. On Monday the 4th, about midnight, Faux was apprehended by Sir Thomas Knyvett as he was closing the door of the cellar under the parliament house, where thirty-six barrels of gunpowder had been placed in readiness for the explosion intended on the morrow. The game was up; and before daybreak some of the conspirators had taken horse; and all were riding furiously to the place of meeting before the great secret had become common property. The meeting of the catholic gentry at Dunchurch had evidently not been a success, and when, late in the evening, Catesby, Rookwood, Percy, and the Wrights burst in, haggard, travel-soiled, and half dead with their astonishing ride [see Catesby, Robert], it became clear that there had been some desperate venture which had ended only in a crushing failure, the gentry who were not in the plot dispersed rapidly to their several homes, and the plotters were left to take their chance. The almost incredible strength and endurance of Catesby and his accomplices appears from the fact that on that very night (after a ride of eighty miles in seven or eight hours, for Rookwood had not left London till eleven o'clock in the morning) they started again before ten o'clock, and were at Huddington in Worcestershire by two o'clock the next afternoon, having broken into a cavalry stable at Warwick in