Guy Fox, who is associated with the Powder Conspiracy in the first place, was not really its creator and inspirer. The development of the plan was a nobleman Robert Catesby, convicted 6 years earlier in participation in another conspiracy, the purpose of which was to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I. Catesby then managed to avoid execution, he got off relatively easily - the loss of a family estate. An ardent Catholic, lighted as a potential traitor, Catesby was under the scrutiny of the authorities, along with other religious dissidents. For the immediate implementation of the plan, a figure was not so noticeable, and Catesby began to look for a suitable person for a role in the 1604th year.
The candidate was soon found - he turned out to be an experienced military and staunch Catholic Guy Fox, also known as Guido. Ironically, Fox was born into a Protestant family, however, he became famous as the most sworn enemy of the Protestants of his time. He converted to Catholicism shortly before leaving for war (Fox fought on the side of the Spanish Empire in the Eighty Years War). Guido has earned an excellent reputation among Catholics, he was considered a man of firm convictions, a prudent intellectual, whose loyalty was beyond doubt. Fox became one of the five main conspirators, who in May 1604 took an oath to keep the plan secret and remain loyal to the idea and to each other. The total number of conspiracy participants was believed to be 13, but there could have been much more, given the number of people indirectly involved and knowledgeable.
Catesby developed a plan of action for several months, and ultimately chose the Parliament building as a target. It was the most logical option - firstly, that was how it was possible in one fell swoop to get rid of the royal family in almost complete composition, including Jacob I himself, the queen and his 11-year-old heir Heinrich, and, at the same time, the main high-ranking supporters of the monarch (5 November, he was to make a throne speech at the opening of a new session of Parliament). In addition, according to Catesby, the punishment of God was to be accomplished in the same place where the crime against the Lord had previously taken place. Under the crime meant the adoption of laws still during the reign of Elizabeth, infringe upon the rights of Catholics.
Thomas Percy, one of the main conspirators, settled in a house near the Parliament building, and Fox, who took the pseudonym John Johnson, played the role of his servant. The security level at the beginning of the 17th century was far from modern, and it was not at all difficult to penetrate the territory of the Palace of Westminster. The building was a huge number of disparate premises, some of which were leased. The Westminster of those years was not at all a sacred place - for example, during the reign of Henry VIII, right next to the palace, there was a popular brothel.
The conspirators rented a room that was located in the basement of Westminster, right under the House of Lords. The barrels of gunpowder were delivered there - if the plan were put into action, the whole building would have taken off the air, and the neighboring buildings would also be covered with a blast wave. Barrels disguised, having filled up with firewood. The wick was to be ignited by Fox, who volunteered to perform the mission, after which he proposed to hide on the Thames. The conspirators were confident in the success of the upcoming event until almost the very last moment. Perhaps the story would have been very different if not for one circumstance.
Shortly before Jacob I’s planned remarks, one of the Lords, William Montigl, received an anonymous letter, the author of which warned him against attending the King’s throne speech in Parliament. The identity of the originator of the message is still not known, but it is possible that this could be one of the conspirators or those who were reliably aware of the planned act. Montigle handed the letter to Robert Cecil, the secretary, who immediately reported to Jacob. The king at first doubted the reality of the threat, but ordered to inspect the territory of the Palace of Westminster.
On the evening of November 4, Sir Thomas Nywette, who went around the premises, found that one of the rooms in the basement was filled with wood to the top, and a man was guarding her door, dressed not as a watchman, but rather as a horseman - a cloak, boots with spurs, and a hat. Nivette called for help: the guards pushed aside the firewood, behind which 36 barrels of gunpowder were hidden. A suspicious man who introduced himself as John Johnson was detained and a wick was found in his pocket.
The situation was immediately reported to the king, and Johnson was sent in for questioning. When he refused to give out any information, torture was used at the direction of Yakov. Soon, Mr. John Johnson admitted that his real name is Guy Fox, and also named the rest of the plot and the main organizer, Robert Catesby. Fox revealed details of the plan of attack and further actions: the kidnapping of the young princess Elizabeth, daughter of Jacob, and her quick wedding with a Catholic, who would be completely in the hands of Catesby and company.
The royal troops were immediately expelled to trap and arrest the traitors - some of them were killed in a shootout, including Catesby himself. This, in this case, was of great mercy - otherwise a terrible punishment for treason (hanging, drowning and quartering) would await criminals.
The conspirators, whom they managed to take alive, were executed in January 1606. When applying this kind of execution, the convict was removed from the scaffold still alive, drowned also not fully - the point was that the victim still remained conscious by the time of quartering. Guy Fox, however, died in the first stage - his neck broke while jumping from the scaffold. His body was still quartered after death, and his limbs were sent “to the four corners of the kingdom.”
Powder plot further aggravated the situation of Catholics, and its failure was used by state propaganda. In 1606, Parliament passed an act ordering to celebrate November 5 as Thanksgiving Day, and all the parishes received orders to serve each year on this date, praising the grace of God for getting rid of the evil intent of Catholics. Officially, the prescription existed until 1859, but the tradition of celebrating November 5 with bonfires, burning of stuffed Guy and fireworks still exists today.
- Who was Guy Fawkes, the man behind the mask? www.nationalgeographic.com
- Guy Fawkes www.historic-uk.com
- Why the gunpowder plot went up in smoke www.historyextra.com
- What if the gunpowder plot had succeeded? www.historyextra.com
- Announcement image: www.tudorsandstuarts.com
- Lead image: cdn.britannica.com