The Gunpowder Plot — Ken Bell — 18th August 2014.

A tale of treason, reli­gious con­flict, oppres­sion,  treach­ery, revenge, tor­ture and brutal killings. The plot failed to assas­sin­ate James 1st of  England ( V1 of Scotland ).  The ruling Protestant elite would taint  all English Catholics with treason for cen­tur­ies to come. Why were the Catholics so bitter and what did they hope the Gunpowder Plot would achieve?

On the acces­sion of James  he was sym­path­etic towards the Catholics but he became con­cerned at their grow­ing strength and finally expressed hos­til­ity towards them. To sat­isfy the Puritans.  priests and Jesuits were expelled and fines levied on Catholics.    Not every­body was pre­pared to bow to the Protestant demands.

Guy Fawkes 1605

A small band of con­spir­at­ors led by Robert Catesby had their first meet­ing on 20th May 1604.   One of the ori­ginal band was a Guy Fawkes, ori­gin­ally from York and  recruited in Flanders where he was an explos­ives expert with the Spanish Army. The plot was hatched with the aims of killing James 1st , to kill all his family, to kill the Protestant aris­to­cracy and incite a revolu­tion by Catholics.

In March 1605 the group took out a lease on a ground-floor cellar which lay dir­ectly under the House of Lords.  Over a period of months, 1800 lbs of gun­powder was stored in the cellar enough to blow up the Houses of Parliament and much of the sur­round­ing city.  More Catholic peers and sym­path­isers were recruited and the plot was final­ised.   Guy Fawkes was to light the fuse and escape to the con­tin­ent. Simultaneously, Sir Everard Digby would lead an upris­ing in the Midlands and kidnap  James’s daugh­ter, Elizabeth, and install her as a puppet Queen.

On the night of 26th October an anonym­ous letter was delivered to Lord Monteagle, a Catholic peer, warn­ing him not to attend the open­ing of par­lia­ment on 5th November 1605.   Lord Monteagle sent the letter to the Earl of Salisbury, James’s first min­is­ter. The plot­ters were tipped off regard­ing the letter and the plot was start­ing to become  public.   Undaunted, the plot­ters returned to London on 4th November in read­i­ness. The Earl of Salisbury ordered Westminster to be searched and a large amount of fire­wood was found .   Later around mid­night, Guy Fawkes was arres­ted.

The plot­ters fled to Midlands by horse but over  sev­eral days the major­ity were arres­ted or killed.   Jesuit priests were implic­ated with the ‘Powder Treason’ and over 2000 were killed.   James 1st gave per­mis­sion to use tor­ture and serve the tra­di­tional pun­ish­ment for trait­ors of being hanged, drawn and quartered.  Guy Fawkes met his fate on 31st January 1606.

The reper­cus­sions rumbled on as a result of the Gunpowder Plot. British Catholics were stig­mat­ised for cen­tur­ies and it was not until 1829 that they were allowed to vote again.

An inter­est­ing topic but the present­a­tion could have been better  if sup­por­ted by slides and the deliv­ery not so rushed.