The Gunpowder Plot: Parliament & Treason 1605
 
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Women and the Plot

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Mary Ward

Shows a black and white engraving of a woman wearing a white headscarf and high collared tunic.
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Mary Ward, Unknown artist, 1621, English Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Augsburg. National Portrait Gallery, London
Mary Ward was born at Mulwith Manor near Ripon in Yorkshire in 1585. Her father was a bailiff for the Earl of Northumberland and her family were all Catholics. She was related to several of those involved in the Plot. Her mother, Ursula Wright, was the sister of John and Christopher Wright and sister-in-law of Thomas Percy. Her father was arrested for a while on suspicion of involvement in the Plot.

Brought up in a highly religious household under the spiritual guidance of a Jesuit priest, she set her heart on becoming a nun and in 1606 she crossed over to Flanders to enter into a religious order. From 1609, prompted by a series of intense religious experiences, she began to develop more ambitious plans to set up a new community to give religious instruction to young girls from England and also to provide similar guidance within England itself.

Between 1616 and 1628 Ward's 'institute' flourished, opening new schools across Europe, but her desire to make it formally part of the Jesuit order was frustrated. Her battle to achieve her ends against strong opposition resulted in an accusation of heresy, a brief period of imprisonment by the Papal inquisition, and a direct appeal to the Pope, which secured some formal status for her institute in 1632.

Ward returned to England in 1639 and died in 1645. The institute she founded eventually became The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and still exists.

Anne Vaux

Anne Vaux was born in 1562, the daughter of a Catholic nobleman, Lord Vaux of Harrowden. She was a cousin of Francis Tresham. Unmarried, she seems to have devoted her life to supporting the cause of Catholicism in England and for many years she helped the Jesuit priest Henry Garnett to carry out his secret missionary work.

Working often with her widowed sister, Eleanor Brooksby, she created safe houses for Garnett and other clerics. One of them was Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire, now belonging to the National Trust; another was White Webbs in Enfield Chase, near London. Both houses were fitted up with priest holes or hiding places for the priests.

Several of the conspirators met at White Webbs in the summer and autumn of 1605, and although she did not know about the Plot, Anne Vaux did have some suspicions. After the discovery of the Plot she was arrested but soon released, and following her release tried to protect Garnett, posing as his sister, a Mrs Perkins. By the beginning of December Garnett was in hiding at Hindlip House, where he was eventually found on 27 January.

After his arrest, Anne Vaux followed Garnett to London and tried to pass secret messages to him, which were intercepted by the authorities. She was herself arrested again in March and interrogated. Distraught at Garnett's death, she was released in August and lived first in Leicestershire and then in Derbyshire, where she ran a Catholic school. She died some time after 1637.

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