William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle

With November 5th just around the corner, and early fireworks already being heard across the UK, I wanted to go back to the beginning of the 17th century and take a look at one of the central figures in the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

To summarise for those not familiar with this infamous event in British history, Lord Monteagle was an English peer and member of the House of Lords at the beginning of King James I’s reign. At a time when Catholicism was outlawed and Catholics persecuted for their faith, a plot was raised by a group of men to blow up the House and everyone in it, including the King. However, shortly before the gunpowder was due to be lit in the undercroft beneath, Lord Monteagle received an anonymous letter warning him of the threat, the plot was quickly unravelled and the conspirators hunted down and killed.

Monteagle

The question of who sent the letter has been debated ever since, with some suggesting he sent it himself in order to win favour with James, while others believe it came from his own brother in law, Francis Tresham, who was himself one of the conspirators.

Whoever sent the letter, for his actions in protecting the crown, Parker received rewards of money and land from the King. He continued to hold influence, despite his own lifelong Catholic connections, and became Baron Monteagle in 1618.  He died in 1622.

This portrait of Parker was painted in around 1615 by John de Critz.

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5 Comments

  1. I am going to ignore the hideous politics and focus on that glorious jerkin. Look at the detail in that embroidery! Imagine the work in painting that, and more, imagine the work in making the real garment. My eyes and fingers ache thinking about the countless hours it took to produce such a beautiful thing.

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    • It’s one of de Critz’s best works, imo.

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      • I just did a quick Google of de Critz to remind myself of his other works, and saw he painted the famous portrait of Southampton in the Tower with his cat. Quite a rarity to see a painting of a cat from this era that looks fairly convincing!

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      • Yes! You see plenty of dogs, birds and horses, but very rarely cats!

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      • Yes, the prejudice against them was horrifying, so seeing one celebrated in a portrait is vanishingly rare. Mostly they’re badly-painted symbols of evil.

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