‘Garnett’s Straw’

What was ‘Garnett’s Straw’?

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Henry Garnett was an English Jesuit priest who was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot, tried for treason and executed on 3 May 1606. After the executioner threw his severed head into a straw-lined basket, a Catholic in the crowd took one of the straw husks, covered in the priest’s blood, as a memento. Later, it was reported, he noticed that the blood stain on the straw had taken the shape of the “perfect face” of Henry Garnett. To believers, the straw became a miraculous and much-treasured relic of a holy man who had laid down his life for his faith.

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Smuggled out of the country, it ended up in the possession of French Jesuits and disappeared, nearly two centuries later, in the chaos of the French Revolution.

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Answered by: Nick Rennison