The GunPowder Plot And Guy Fawkes
The history and story of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot is a very complex one and is basically the culmination of fifty years or more of religious strife between the English Protestant Church and the old Roman Catholic Church under Pope Paul IV and Pope Paul V.
The history that follows is as basic as I can get it if records are to be believed, the whole truth and nothing but the truth of the Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes will never be known.
The position of Roman Catholics in England at the start of the seventeenth century was an unenviable one, the enormous upheavals of the Reformation, pioneered by King Henry VIII for his own marital purposes, and the burning of the Protestant Martyrs had exposed them not simply to persecution, but to charges that through their loyalty to the Pope in Rome they were in fact potential traitors.
No wonder a plan of sorts was conceived and like any other story, the truth gets mixed up through the years and also as it filters through the crowd, and remember, back then the public were very scared of the authorities and the church and were also very gullible, what follows is probably the most accurate account of what has been written of the planned events for the 5th November 1605.
When King James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603, there seemed to be some hope of religious toleration, the penal laws against the Catholics were relaxed in the first year of James’s reign, but as more Catholics emerged the king took fright and the laws were reimposed. And within only two years, their hopes had faded and a desperate plot involving wholesale murder was hatched : The Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
The conspirators who hatched the Gunpowder Plot, or Powder Treason : Robert Catesby, their leader, Thomas Winter, brothers John and Christopher Wright, their brother-in-law Thomas Percy, Francis Gresham, Guy Fawkes and about eight others, were all said to be devout Roman Catholics, but even more important, they were desperate (For What?).
Guy Fawkes, one of the conspirators of the gunpowder plot, was according to many history books caught red-handed guarding several barrels of gunpowder, the leader of the conspiracy however, was not Guy Fawkes but Robert Catesby. Although Guy Fawkes endured hours of torture on the rack he refused to incriminate anyone else, the rest of the conspirators confessed under torture and were tried for treason.
Catholic anger and frustration was immense and, in 1605, it led to an extremely ambitious, though possible, conspiracy to blow up parliament at the Palace of Westminster on 5th November, when the king, his queen, his heir, his ministers and MPs were all gathered inside. At one stroke, therefore, the government would be wiped out and the resulting confusion would enable the Catholics to take over England.
Below : King James I And His Wife (Queen) Anne Of Denmark
The actual plan was quite simple, in the spring of 1605, the conspirators rented a cellar that, very conveniently, featured an extension leading right under the Palace of Westminster. There they stored around 20/36 barrels of gunpowder, for use when parliament met, and went their separate ways.
The Cellars by the way in those days were at ground level , 1st floor was what we now call the upstairs ! . . Ground level was space with stilts supporting the main floor, if there was in fact all those barrels of black powder in there, it would have made one hell of a big bang had it gone off!
Eight of the plotters involved in what has become perhaps the most famous attack on the Church and parliament in history: The ambitious, but ill-fated, Gunpowder Plot. Their leader, Robert Catesby is shown here (2nd from right) next to Guy Fawkes (3rd from right).
The Gunpowder plot had important flaws, however. Firstly, some of the conspirators were already known to the authorities as trouble makers, as nine years earlier in 1596, Catesby, together with John and Christopher Wright, had been arrested as a precaution when the childless Queen Elizabeth I fell ill. If she died, problems over the succession to the throne might easily have led to violence and upheaval, Elizabeth recovered and the three men were released, but suspicions that they meant potential trouble, were not easy to dismiss.
The cardinal weakness in the conspiracy lay, however, with Francis Gresham, his brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle, was an MP and was likely to die in the Gunpowder Plot explosion. Family loyalties won out over Catholic convictions and Gresham effectively revealed all when he told Monteagle not to attend parliament on 5th November. . Click On Image Below To Enlarge.
“My Lord, out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation. Therefore I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift your attendance at this parliament; for God and man hath concurred to punish the wickedness of this time.
And think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country where you may expect the event in safety. For though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament; and yet they shall not see who hurts them.
This counsel is not to be condemned because it may do you good and can do you no harm; for the danger is passed as soon as you have burnt the letter. And I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you.”
Monteagle alerted the authorities and the basement of the Palace of Westminster was searched on the night of 4th November, unfortunately for the plotters, Guy Fawkes was discovered with the gunpowder in the cellar. He was tortured, a routine form of information-gathering at the time, but refused to reveal the names of his co-conspirators.
THE GUY FAWKES GUNPOWDER PLOT CONFESSION ?
Click On Image For Enlargement
Guy Fawkes signed two confessions ???… One after torture and another 8 days later, the contrast between them is remarkable, the first document shown here is a page from his confession under torture. His weak and shaky signature ‘Guido’ can faintly be made out, the second document is from a confession signed later in a steadier hand ‘Guido Fawkes’.
Catesby, John and Christopher Wright and Thomas Percy, with ten other plotters, managed to get away from London, but were pursued for four days until they were cornered at Holbeach in Lincolnshire, in the ensuing skirmish, Catesby, Percy and the Wrights were fatally wounded.
The others were tried for treason and, in 1606, suffered the gruesome death, reserved for traitors: hanging, drawing and quartering. With Guy Fawkes Execution, he managed to cheat the executioner by jumping from the scaffold while his head was in the noose, breaking his neck but his lifeless body was still drawn and quartered, and his body parts displayed to the public.
Afterwards an Act of Parliament was passed on January 21st 1606 (3 James I, cap 1), to appoint 5th November in each year as a day of thanksgiving for ‘the joyful day of deliverance’, This was by bell ringing, a service, bonfires etc. The celebrations continue strongly to this day in Lewes.
GUY FAWKES LAST MOMENTS AND EXECUTION
These Are Large Pages, As There Are Copies Of An Original Newspaper Article So Be Patient While It Downloads . Just Click On An Image For Full Size Image
The effect of the Gunpowder Plot was the exact opposite to what the conspirators had intended. Fear and suspicion of Roman Catholics escalated, and the laws against them, especially the recusancy laws, which imposed fines for not attending Church of England services, were enforced more rigorously than ever before.
Then there was the Popish Plot, which was a fictitious conspiracy that gripped England in an Anti-Catholic hysteria from 1678 until 1681.
Then there was an Act in 1689 called the Bill of Rights declaring the rights and liberties of subjects and settling the succession of the Crown and stands to this day. It cannot be altered in any realm except by that realm’s own parliament, and then only by convention. The basic details are below.
Freedom of speech and debates.
Freedom to petition the monarch.
Freedom from taxation by Royal Prerogative.
Freedom from royal interference with the law.
Freedom from the standing army during a time of peace.
Freedom for Protestants to bear arms for their own defence.
Freedom to elect members of parliament without interference from the sovereign.
Click Image On Your Left To See The Bill Of Rights Act . . (Be Patient As It Is A Large File)
And finally in 1701 the act of settlement was passed by parliament that forbade any catholic subjects either direct or married to, any rights to the sucession to the throne and still stands to this day.
Click Above Image To See The Act . . (Be Patient As It Is A Large File)
In 1834, Fire all but destroyed the Palace Of Westminster, the original houses of parliament, and probably took the true story of the Gunpowder Plot with it.
Oh! in ye yeare sixteen nought five
On ye fifth day of Novembre,
Was planned a dark and desperate deed
Which we should all remembre.
Ye plotte it was to kill ye King,
With his Parliament around him;
Ye plotter tho’ was caught and foiled,
And with strong cords they bound him.
He met a well-deserved fate
‘Midst general execration,
For all good men such evil deeds
Do hold in detestation.
And now in Lewes town each year
Is held a celebration,
Of ye King’s escape, and ye plotte that failed,
And ye miscreant’s frustration.
And so we sing God Save ye King!
And give God thanks that we
Who dwell in Merrie England
From Popish bonds are free.
1605 and Since. Lewes, November 1911 W.C. From the East Sussex News, Friday 3rd November 1911.
Popery Is Not A Religion
In fact, Popery is not a religion at all; and it is a sad delusion to suppose, that a mere difference of creed is all that exists between Protestants and Papists. Popery is a political conspiracy to subjugate empires, kingdoms, thrones, and states, to one tyrant, "who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. ii. 4).
Remember, Remember: The Legacy
On The Night of 4th November 1605 a search party led by the Earl of Suffolk surprised a Catholic former mercenary, Guy Fawkes, guarding barrels of gunpowder in the basement of the House of Lords. Fawkes and his fellow plotters, mostly Midlands Catholic gentry, planned to blow up King James I, his court and MPs, during the opening of parliament the next day.
Damage Caused If Guy Fawkes Had Succeeded
Guy Fawkes could have made a very big noise in Whitehall, according to physicists, Had the Gunpowder Plot succeeded, the blast from more than two tons of explosive would have made a bonfire of the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and houses nearby, Severely damaged buildings in Whitehall and shattered windows more than half a mile away.
Devil, Pope and Pretender
The following article is an old newspaper report on the old ritual of parading the The Devil The Pope and The Pretender, elements of which still exist in todays Bonfire Celebrations.
17-20 November 1711 On Saturday morning, about 2 of the clock, were seiz'd, by three messengers, and some of the Guards, in Drury-lane, the effigies of the Pope, Devil, and Pretender, in a box, with a canopy over it, 4 Jesuits, 4 Cardinals, and 4 Fryars, and carried to the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Dartmouth's Office.
Gunpowder and Treason
Gunpowder treason plot!
I know no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.