The Conspirators


Leader of the conspirators, Robert Catesby was the only surviving son of Sir William Catesby of Lapworth and Anne Throckmorton of Coughton Court, both families of prominent Catholic leanings. His father was a great supporter of the Jesuit mission, something later present in Robert. Robert was well educated, having attended Oxford though as a Catholic, he was unable to obtain a degree, and described as solidly built and charismatic. Despite possessing Catholic leanings throughout his life, Catesby’s fanaticism came alive in 1604 after King James put out a proclamation banning priests from England. Catesby had been on the fringes of the Spanish Treason, he was responsible for Wintour’s journey, and was also known to have participated in the Essex Rebellion of 1601. In 1594 Catesby had been arrested as a precaution when a plot against the Queen was uncovered. Catesby was never involved in any direct plot against Elizabeth.


Thomas was the second son of George Wintour of Huddington Court in Worcestershire and his wife, Jane Ingilby. A man of mean stature but great intellect and strength, Thomas fought for the English in the War of Religion before converting to the religion of his family, believing the war to be unjust. Wintour was a master of linguistics, speaking at least a dozen languages. Like Fawkes, Wintour was also involved in the failed Spanish Treason of 1601-1604 and later a founder member of the gunpowder plot.


Famed for his talent with a sword, Jack Wright was viewed as one of the finest warriors in England. Born in 1568, Jack was the eldest son of Robert Wright of Plowland in Holderness and his wife, Ursula Rudstone. Raised in York, Jack attended school with Guy Fawkes and his younger brother Kit and was susceptible to the same ideologies implanted on them by their tutors. Like many of his fellow conspirators, he was frequently hounded by authorities for his Catholicism and was on the fringes of the Essex Rebellion of 1601.


Percy was in his mid-forties by the time of the plot and the oldest of the conspirators. Like many of his conspirators, he converted to the religion of his ancestors in the 1590s, at the height of the Jesuit mission, and was frequently on the edge of trouble. He was related to the 9th Earl of Northumberland, as the great-grandson of the 4th Earl and was employed as constable of Alnwick Castle.


Described as a tall and red-bearded man, Keyes was forty at the time of the plot and a relation of the Wrights and Wintours. Despite a Protestant upbringing, as the son of a rector, Keyes was won over by the Jesuits, and later employed along with his wife by the Catholic Lord Mordaunt. Keyes was the sixth person to join the plot, initially to guard the gunpowder before it was moved to the cellar.


Younger brother of Jack, Kit Wright went to school with Guy Fawkes and was possibly Guy’s best friend. In 1601 he was one of several Catholics embroiled in the Essex Rebellion, and he was also present in Spain with Guy Fawkes, probably the enigmatic Anthony Dutton. Along with Catesby, Percy, and Jack, Wright was one of four conspirators to die in the last stand at Holbeche in Staffordshire rather than face trial.


The only conspirator of yeoman status. Bates was raised in Lapworth and employed as a servant of Robert Catesby.


Elder brother of Thomas, Robert was well respected for his piety and his kindly nature. As the eldest son of George Wintour, Robert inherited Huddington Court, including his father’s hop yards and salt-evaporating pans at Droitwich. Robert was brought into the plot for his financial clout. His home was one of four houses located in the Midlands to be used as a base in the planned rising after the explosion.


Along with Robert Wintour, Grant joined the plot in January of 1605, and became the eighth member of the conspiracy. Grant was descended of two ancient Catholic families, the Grants and the Ruddings, and at the time of his initiation was Lord of the Manor of Norbrook, near Stratford upon Avon. His fearless nature was well respected, and he was renowned for his zealous adherence to Catholicism and hatred of the Protestant authorities. As with Robert Wintour, he was recruited for his financial ability. Should the task have been completed Grant would also have been responsible for the abducting of Princess Elizabeth, earmarked as the next Queen by Catesby.


Aged just twenty-seven at the time of the plot, Rookwood was the eldest son of Robert Rookwood of Stanningfield, Suffolk and his wife, Dorothea. The family was of strong Catholic lineage. Due to his Jesuit connections, he had a Catholic education at St-Omers. In adulthood, he was frequently persecuted for his faith, particularly for sheltering priests on inheriting Coldham Hall. Ambrose was one of the latest additions to the plot and was brought in because of his horsemanship.


Famed for his gallantry and his charisma, Digby was raised Protestant by his guardians after the early death of his Catholic parents. Digby’s conversion was due to the heavy influence of the Jesuits, and he was a close friend of Father Garnet. During the reign of Elizabeth I, he had been a former favourite at court and a member of the Gentleman Pensioners. Digby was among the latest additions of the plot, joining on the assumption that the Jesuits approved of it. Digby was assigned the task of leading the uprising after the explosion.


Tresham was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Tresham of Rushton, Northamptonshire, and Muriel Throckmorton. Unlike the other conspirators, Tresham endured a wild youth and was frequently in conflict with authorities. Despite his Catholic upbringing, his involvement in the plot was criticized by his contemporaries as being for hatred of authority rather than his piety. Tresham was related to Catesby on his mother’s side.