Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 15.djvu/58

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

the middle of the night and helped themselves to fresh horses for the distance that lay before them. On Thursday night, the 7th, they had reached Holbeach House in Staffordshire, and then it was determined to make a stand and sell their lives as dearly as they could. Next morning Digby deserted his companions; he says his object was to make a diversion elsewhere, and to attempt to bring up some assistance to prop, if possible, the falling cause. Shortly after he had gone the terrible explosion of gunpowder occurred, and the fight which ended in the death or apprehension of the whole band. Meanwhile Digby soon found that it was impossible to escape the notice of his pursuers, who were speedily upon his track, and thinking it best to dismiss his attendants, he told his servants they might keep the horses they were riding, and distributed among them the money they were carrying—let each man shift for himself. Two of them refused to leave him, one being his page, William Ellis by name, who eventually became a lay brother of the Society of Jesus. The three struck into a wood where there was a dry pit, in which they hoped to conceal themselves and their horses. They were soon discovered, and a cry was raised, ‘Here he is! here he is!’ Digby, altogether undaunted, answered, ‘Here he is indeed, what then?’ and advanced his horse in the manner of curvetting, which he was expert in, and thought to have borne them over, and so to break from them. Seeing, however, that resistance was useless, he gave himself up, and before many days found himself a prisoner in the Tower. Two miserable months passed before the prisoners were brought to trial. At last, on 27 Jan. 1606, Digby, with eight others who had been caught red-handed, was brought to Westminster Hall. He behaved with some dignity during the trial, but there could be no doubt about the verdict, and on Thursday, the 30th, he was drawn upon a hurdle, with three of his accomplices, to St. Paul's Churchyard, and there hanged and slaughtered with the usual ghastly barbarities. On the scaffold he had confessed his guilt with a manly shame for his infatuation, and a solemn protest that Father Gerard had never known of the plot, adding, ‘I never durst tell him of it, for fear he would have drawn me out of it.’ It is impossible for any candid reader of all the evidence that has come down to us to doubt the truth of this protest. Garnett's complicity cannot be questioned, and his subsequent equivocation was as impolitic as it was discreditable. Father Gerard was a very different man. If the plot had been revealed to him, it would never have been permitted to go as far as it did.

Digby left two sons behind him; the younger, Sir John Digby, was knighted in 1635 and became a major-general on the king's side during the civil war. He is said to have been slain 9 July 1645. The elder son was the much more famous Sir Kenelm Digby, of whom an account will be found sub nomine. Digby's wife survived him many years, as did his mother, and neither appears to have married again.

[Chancery Inquisitiones post mortem, 34th Eliz. pt. i. No. 64 (Rutland), in the Record Office; Books of the Court of Wards and Liveries, No. 158, u. s.; Harl. MS. 1364; Cal. State Papers, Domestic, 1603–10; Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. 434; Foley's Records of the English Province S. J., vol. ii.; John Morris's Condition of Catholics under James I., 1872, vol. ii., and the same writer's Life of Father John Gerard, 3rd edit. 1881; Bishop Robert Abbot's Antilogia, 1613; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. ii. 146; Jardine's Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot, 1857; Gardiner's Hist. of England, vol. i. Digby's mother is called Maria in the usual pedigrees of the family, but in the Inq. post mort. she is called Mary Ann, probably by a clerical error.]

A. J.

DIGBY, GEORGE, second Earl of Bristol (1612–1677), was the eldest son of John Digby, first earl of Bristol [q. v.], by his wife Beatrix, daughter of Charles Walcot of Walcot, Shropshire, and widow of Sir John Dyve of Bromham, Bedfordshire. He was born at Madrid in October 1612, during his father's first embassy to Spain. When only twelve years old he appeared at the bar of the House of Commons with a petition on behalf of his father, who, through the instrumentality of the Duke of Buckingham, had been committed to the Tower. His self-possession and fluency of speech on that occasion attracted the attention of the members, and gave great promise of a brilliant career in the future. He was admitted to Magdalen College, Oxford, on 15 Aug. 1626, where he distinguished himself by his remarkable abilities, and became intimately acquainted with Peter Heylin, the well-known historian and divine, who was a fellow of that college. After travelling in France, at the conclusion of his university career, he lived for some years with his father at Sherborne Castle, where he applied himself to the study of philosophy and literature. On 31 Aug. 1636 he was created a master of arts. It was during this period of retirement in the country that the ‘Letters between the Lord George Digby and Sir Kenelm Digby, Knt., concerning Religion’ were written. The first letter is dated from ‘Sherburn, November 2, 1638,’ and the last from ‘Sherborn, March 30, 1639.’ These letters, in which the Roman catholic church is attacked by Lord