Friday, June 3, 2016

The Markhams: A study in betrayal, treachery and infidelity - Part Two: The Lady Anne Markham

by Linda Root

(Part One: The Knight was published May 24, 2016.)

PART TWO: Lady Spy

From the time of her husband's banishment, Lady Markham had embarked upon a campaign to have him returned from exile. When the Gunpowder Treason was uncovered, she had something valuable to trade.  Even before the plot was discovered, the whereabouts of the Catholic clergy had become an issue for the king, who by an edict issued in February of 1604 ordered all ''Jesuits, Seminaries, and other Priests" to leave the kingdom by the 19th of March. Presumably, Lady Markham knew where many of them were and where they had been hiding. While there is no evidence that she sought relief directly from the king when he visited Harrowden in August of 1605, by the following autumn, she had established a remarkably personal correspondence with Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury.

There is much historical evidence suggesting Salisbury was the prime mover when it came to pinning the Gunpowder Treason on the Jesuits. He had compiled a list of the three 'most wanted.'  John Gerard's name was on the list, in spite of the fact he had been one of the priests who had exposed the Bye Plot. The only evidence against him was the fact he had conducted a mass which five of the conspirators attended after their initial meeting at the Duck and Drake, and that it may have been held in an adjacent set of rooms Gerard either owned or leased. There is no evidence he was aware of the oath the others had taken or the nature of the plot except in a confession under torture from one of the late comers to the conspiracy who sought to save his skin and later recanted his allegations against Gerard. He was not present at the oath taking. 

Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury
Correspondence flowed between Salisbury and Lady Markham, with assurances from the lady that she could deliver Gerard. On his part, Salisbury promised her efforts would be rewarded, and her husband's situation improved. Neither of them was entirely forthcoming with the other. After the principals in the treason had been killed or apprehended, Salisbury focused his efforts on the Jesuits. Lady Markham was quick to offer help. There were possibly two searches of Great Harrowden Hall in November with Lady Markham present. Anne had arrived with a large posse and a Sheriff's warrant in her clutches and hunkered back while the search party did their work. She later told Cecil they would have had Gerard had they continued their stake-out for a few more days. Then,  they returned for a second search. After a fruitless search lasting several days, they carried Eliza Roper to London Town for interrogation but did not find Gerard.

When Lady Markham failed to deliver results, her relationship with Salisbury cooled. The lady did not give up easily and continued to throw scraps Cecil's way. She told Salisbury that Gerard had left the area, and may have taken two of her servants along, young men who sought his sponsorship into the English Jesuit College in Rome. When they left her employ, she had extracted a promise from the men that they would send word of their arrival and whereabouts. She assured Cecil that disclosure of Gerard's hiding place was just a matter of time. She wrote to Cecil describing the men as follows:

'The painter is a black man, and taller than the embroiderer, whose hair is yellowish, and was called Christopher Parker by his true name. The painter was called Brian Hunston. I am bold to inform you thus largely of them because I verily suppose they attend their wandering friend and master, but where, till I either see them or hear some directions, I cannot imagine'. 

A few weeks later, she predicted they soon would deliver Gerard into her net. She wrote to Cecil as follows:

Now I find either necessity of their part or my two servants' credits hath given me so much power as I shall shortly see Mr. Gerard, but for the day or certain time they are too crafty to appoint, but whensoever I will do my best to keep him within my kenning till I hear from your lordship.

But Eliza Roper, the Dowager Lady Vaux, was a step ahead of her. She had been held in London under house arrest for a time, and when she was released, she did not return to Harrowden until Gerard was beyond the reach of Cecil and his watchers. He escaped from England in the entourage of the Spanish ambassador, who had come from the Hapsburg Netherlands to congratulate the King on his narrow escape from the Gunpowder conspirators. Eliza had financed the Jesuit's flight to the tune of five thousand florins and given him an extra thousand florins for spending money. He left England on May 3, 1606, the same day his mentor Father Henry Garnet was executed. References suggest Lady Anne remained active in attempts to end her husband's exile and that he made the channel crossing with little if any interference and whenever it suited him, a nice romantic twist that was either wishful thinking or did not last long.

The Further Adventures of Lady Markham:

Lady Markham's misadventures were not quite over when the Jesuit Mission to England went deeper underground. Her name appears on church roles and public records as being fined for refusing to take communion or for other offenses against the Chuch of England and she remained on lists of known recusants. In spite of her treachery and double-dealing, she continued to be a practicing Catholic.
Not long after the last of the hunted priests were apprehended, she ended up on the wrong side of the redoubtable Bess of Hardwick, by accusing her daughter Mary Talbot nee Cavendish (who had married Bess's stepson by her third marriage, Gilbert Talbot) of being implicated in the Gunpowder Treason.

Mary Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury
Bess of Hardwick, Dowager Countess

Mary Talbot, the Countess of Shrewsbury, sought a Writ against Lady Anne Markham and won a retraction and a public apology. It was not the last nor the most spectacular of her humiliations.

Lady Markham's Appearance at Saint Paul's Cross:

By 1618, Saint Paul's Cross in London had become a site of public penance in the most grievous cases of sexual misconduct, especially when it involved the aristocracy. When Lady Anne was called there, it was not as a recusant or a slanderer, but as a bigamist. After her husband's fourteen year exile, and knowing he was alive and well, she married another man and flaunted the relationship. His name was Gervais Sanford, and he was one of her household menservants, which added to the public outcry. Not long after that, Sir Griffin Markham died abroad; some said of shock over his wife's flagrant infidelity. In most cases, her bigamy would have carried a death sentence, but due to a legal technicality, the court extended leniency and settled for public humiliation and a fine. Had her hapless husband gone 'missing across the seas' for more than seven years, she could have had him declared legally dead and remarried with impunity. 

Due to the newness of the felony offense and the unsettled nature of the law, the court absolved her of the capital crime and settled for public penance, a fine and an apology. Her appearance at Paul's Cross in London, while draped in a white sheet, rather than letting her do penance in the diocese where she resided was meant to cause her increased scorn. Newsletters reached every corner of the kingdom outlining her misdeeds, and she and her 'husband' were displayed in several other settings. What happened to her after that is lost to history.

At the time of Lady Markham's last appearance on the Stuart stage, Eliza Roper, the Dowager Lady Vaux, was back at Great Harrowden, running a school for prospective Jesuits and Father Gerard was serving as the first Rector of a new religious school of theology and philosophy in Lieges.

Additional Reading and References 

Childs, Jessie, God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England, Oxford Press, N.Y. 2004.

deLisle, Leandra, After Elizabeth, The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England, Ballantyne Books, NewYork, 2005.

Fraser, Antonia, The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995. Also, see

Gerard, John, S.J. The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest, Ignatius Press, San Francisco. Translated and edited by P.Carman, S.J., 195

Hogge, Alice, God’s Secret Agents, Queen Elizabeth’s Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot, Harper Perrenial, New York *London *Toronto*Sydney, 2005.

Lovell, Mary, Bess of Hardwick, Emprire Builder, W.W.Norton & Company, 2007.

Morris, John, S.J., Editor. The condition of Catholics Under James I, Father John Gerard’s Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot and Biography, 1871, London, a public domain book.

Morrisey, Mary, Politics and the Paul’s Cross Sermons, 1558-1642.

Patterson, W.B., King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom, Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History, Cambridge University Press 1997.

Wormald, Jenny, Gunpowder, Treason and Scots, Journal of British Studies, Vol.24, issue 2 April 1985, pp141-168.

___________1603: The men of the Bye Plot, but not those of the Main Plot, December 9th, 2010, The Headsmen, from Executed Today,

Additional materials from Wikipedia.


About the Author: Linda Root is a historical fiction author writing in the 16th and 17th Century, whose books include The First Marie and the Queen of Scots, The Last Knight and the Queen of Scots, Unknown Princess, The Knight's Daughter, 1603: The Queen's Revenge; In the Shadow of the Gallows, with Deliverance of the Lamb to follow. She is a former major crimes prosecutor who lives in the California hi-desert Town of Yucca Valley. She has written a Scottish fantasy, the Green Woman, under the name J.D. Root and is currently writing a comedic mystery tentatively called The Hurricane and the Morongo Blonds.


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