Monday, September 11, 2017

Sir Thomas Tresham, RIP

In a paper about the Catholic recusants who were held in the Bishops Palace at Ely during the reign of Elizabeth I, Francis Young comments on Sir Thomas Tresham, who died on September 11, 1605, just about three months before the Gunpowder Plot was discovered:

Sir Thomas Tresham . . . is a remarkable figure, a true 'Renaissance man' and polymath who defended himself and others against persecution and stood at the forefront of English Catholic culture. He amassed a huge personal library, bringing at least some of his books with him to Ely, and even purchased new books during his imprisonment. Tresham used his imprisonment as an opportunity to explore a personal mystical theology of his own invention, based on numerology. In 1593 Tresham had a mystical experience in the Long Gallery, where he occupied the space at the west end,while a servant was reading aloud to him from a book by the English Jesuit Robert Parsons. At the moment when the Trinity was mentioned, Tresham heard 'three loud knocks, as it were with an iron hammer' on a wainscot table close to where they were sitting. Tresham interpreted this as a sign from God to honour the Holy Trinity, and accordingly he sent instructions to his wife at Rushton in Northamptonshire to be begin work on what is surely one of England's most remarkable buildings, Rushton Triangular Lodge. [Image Credit from Wikipedia Commons, published under a CC by SA 2.0 license]

Thomas Tresham, born in 1543, was the son of John and Eleanor (Catesby), but his father died young and his grandfather, also named Thomas, helped raise him. He was knighted by Elizabeth in 1575 but became a Catholic in 1580. As this site explains, that cost him:

Over the following years he was subjected to fines that drained much of his wealth and was even imprisoned in Wisbech Castle for his beliefs. Between 1561 and 1593 he spent approximately 15 years in prison or confined to his estate. Unable to express his faith in any conventional way he decided to construct a series of buildings based on the number three and its relationship to the holy trinity as proposed by the Roman Catholics. In addition, each building would have other mystical mathematical elements worked into their design. The enigmatic Triangular Lodge at Rushton was completed in 1597 but Sir Thomas died on the 11th September 1605 shortly before his son Francis was arrested for high treason on the 12th November 1605 and before Lyveden-New-Bield could be finished.

Francis Tresham--who might have been the one who sent the warning letter to Lord Mounteagle--died in the Tower of London on December 23, 1605. Thomas's second son Lewis inherited the estates and was named a Baronet by James I in 1611 and knighted in 1612. After Lewis's son William died without an heir, the baronetcy became extinct.

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