Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 2, April 1657 - February 1658. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.
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No. 1. (Vol. i. pp. 356, 368.)
A Brief Relation of the late Dangerous Plot for the Destruction of his Highness's person.
The common enemy having failed in all their former plots and conspiracies, for the ruin of his Highness (fn. 1) and the Government, resolved, (it seems) at last, to bring about their intended mischief, by a vigorous and bloody attempt upon his person. For this end and purpose, they sought out, and gained to themselves instruments in all points fitted for the execution of their inhuman cruelty. The principal man employed, was a notable desperate fellow, named Sindercomb, one who, heretofore, had been a quarter-master under Sir John Reynolds, (fn. 2) in the army, and was about two years ago cashiered by General Monk, among others in Scotland. As assistant to him in this wickedness, he associated to himself one Cecil; and many others were engaged in the business, whom, we hope, time will discover. In the mean time only these two persons are in custody.
For the carrying on their work, they held correspondence with some in Flanders, received directions thence from time to time, and for their encouragement, Don Alonzo, the late ambassador of Spain, in England, returned them over sums of money, with which they were enabled to proceed. The most likely way, (as they conceived) to accomplish the devilish purpose, was to contrive some means how to dispatch his Highness, as he should be going to Hampton Court; (fn. 3) and that they might do it with security to themselves, by having an opportunity to escape, after the fact committed, they took a house at Hammersmith, which house hath belonging to it a little banquetting-room, which stands upon the road, at the said town, in a narrow dirty place of passage, where coaches used to go but softly, and that room they meant to make use of, by planting an engine in it, which, being discharged, would have, upon occasion, torn away coach and person in it that should pass by, and they had such an engine preparing. And because it was necessary for them to have information of the times when his Highness should go abroad to take the air, and the places whither, Sindercomb cast about in his mind, which way to draw in some one person near his Highness, to be a partaker in the design, and acquaint them in what part of the coach his Highness should sit, going to Hampton Court, that so they might be sure not to miss him; and when the execrable deed should have been executed, they intended to have made an escape.
For this purpose they bought up divers of the fleetest horses about London, which they kept in that house at Hammersmith; and for conveuiency of escaping, the house they had hired stood down at some distance from that road, and had an outlet to another road. The person whom they made sure (as they thought) to be their informer, touching the out-goings of his Highness, was one of the life guard, who had formerly been an acquaintance of Sindercomb in the army, and they gave him ten pounds in money at first to engage him, adding thereto a promise of fifteen hundred pounds. This was one way that they resolved on, by making use of the place at Hammersmith.
But they were not negligent in seeking other opportunities besides, and therefore (as occasion offered many times) they were wont to thrust themselves in among those that rode abroad with his Highness. Once they thought to have done their work as his Highness was taking the air in Hyde-park; and, to make way for their escape, they had, in one place, filed off the hinges of the gates, and rode about with the train attending his Highness, with intent then to have given him a fatal charge, if he had chanced to have galloped out, at any distance from the company.
After several attendances of this nature, and pryings up and down, (having recourse also many times to Whitehall) and finding no occasion as yet to favour their purpose; thereupon they resolved to give their beyond sea correspondent a proof of their resolution, by firing of Whitehall. To this end they cut a hole in one of the doors of the chapel, and so unbolting it, they, on the eighth of this month, went in and placed the materials for firing, which were discovered about nine o'clock that night; for in one of the seats was found upon the floor, a basket filled with a strange composition of combustible stuff, and two lighted matches, aptly placed, which matches had been rubbed over with gunpowder, on purpose to keep them surely burning, and by the length of them, it was conceived they would have given fire to the basket about one o'clock in the morning. The basket being removed, and trial made of some part of the ingredients, it appeared to be most active flaming stuff.*
The next day the two persons being apprehended, they were found to have screwed pistols, which, upon trial, appear notable instruments to do execution at a distance more than ordinary; and they had also a strange sort of long bullets, in the nature of slugs, contrived on purpose to rend and tear.
These things are made manifest, not only by many particulars of discovery, but by the confession also of one of the parties, viz. Cecil, who hath cast himself upon the good grace and mercy of his Highness.
What other parties of men have been consenting in this treasonable conspiracy, and what other concurring design was to have been put in execution, in case they had fired the house, we hope that God will, in his good time, bring to light. In the mean space, it is to be observed from hence, how restless the enemies are on the other side of the water, to disturb the peace of the nation; and that, for the compassing of their ends, they count it the more expeditious way to ruin the good people, if they could first destroy his Highness's person, whom God preserve. (fn. 4)
"Sir John, I sent to you, to tell you, that I am guilty of the whole business of Sindercomb, as to the design of killing the Lord Protector, &c. and to that purpose, I furnished Sindercomb with money, and also with arms, and tied him to an engagement, that he should not reveal the design." And further, he said: "The letters they have of mine, they could not prove them to be mine but by my own confession, which I now confess and acknowledge that they are mine, and that I was with Charles Stuart, (fn. 5) and acquainted him that I was an enemy to the Lord Protector; and I also declare, that I received a large sum of money from the Spaniard, to carry on my said design, and to make what confusion I could in England, by endeavouring the killing of the Lord Protector, and by what other ways I had in design. And to the end, the better to effect it, I came into England in a disguised habit, and was the principal in putting on others in the said design."
Many other like passages were spoken by him, in presence of many credible witnesses; and within two days after, in the presence of Mr. Caryl, (fn. 6) minister, and others, he did acknowledge the former confession to be truth. And then he again confessed, that he was the only man that put on Sindercomb to kill the Lord Protector, and that the book called, "Killing No Murder," (fn. 7) he owned; and said, he was still of that judgment; yet said, it was both foolishly and knavishly done in that book, to charge the Lieutenant of the Tower, touching Sindercomb's death. (fn. 8)
The 13th of this instant, January, having said, "Lord have mercy upon me, I am very sick!" about five of the clock, he breathed out his last, and died. (fn. 9)