Gunpowder Plot

Orfeas Katsoulis | Jan 31, 2023

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The Gunpowder Conspiracy (now called the Gunpowder Plot, formerly the Gunpowder Treason Plot) was a failed attempt on the life of King James I of England and the English Parliament by a group of English provincial Catholics led by Sir Robert Catesby.

The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the opening ceremony of Parliament on November 5, 1605 (Julian calendar). The attack was to be a prelude to a popular revolt in the Midlands in which the king's daughter, Princess Elizabeth, then nine years old, would be installed on the throne of a Catholic state. Catesby seems to have embarked on this plot after his hopes for greater religious tolerance under James I had evaporated, a disappointment shared by many English Catholics. The other members of the plot were John Wright, Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, Robert Wintour, Christopher Wright, John Grant, Ambrose Rookwood, Everard Digby and Francis Tresham. Fawkes, with ten years of military experience in the suppression of the Beggars' Revolt in the Spanish Netherlands, was in charge of the explosives.

The plot was revealed to the authorities in an anonymous letter to Baron Monteagle on 26 October 1605. During a search of the House of Lords on November 4, 1605, around midnight, Fawkes was found standing guard over 36 barrels of gunpowder (enough to burn the House of Lords to the ground) and was arrested. Upon learning that the plot had been uncovered, most of the conspirators fled London and tried to rally support for their escape. Several of them waited at Holbeche House to fight against the provost marshal of Worcester and his men who were in pursuit; Catesby was killed in the scuffle. At their trial on January 27, 1606, eight of the survivors, including Fawkes, were convicted and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

The details of the assassination attempt would have been known to Jesuit Father Henry Garnet. Although convicted and sentenced to death, he does not appear to have had exact knowledge of the plan. Because its existence had been revealed during a confession, Garnet was bound to secrecy and could not inform the authorities. Although anti-Catholic legislation was put in place immediately after the discovery of the plot, many high-ranking and loyal Catholics remained in office during the reign of King James I. The failure of the conspiracy was commemorated for many years by sermons and the ringing of church bells, celebrations which gave rise to the present Bonfire Night.

Religion in England

Between 1533 and 1540, King Henry VIII withdrew the supervision of the English Church from Rome, marking the beginning of several decades of religious tension in England. English Catholics were now faced with a society dominated by the new, increasingly powerful Protestant Church of England. Edward VI, son of Henry VIII, succeeded him and died at the age of 16 having followed his father's policies. He appointed his niece to succeed him in order to avoid the arrival of his Catholic half-sister, Mary Tudor, but the latter succeeded in ousting her and had her executed before taking the throne and imposing a strongly pro-Catholic policy. She died in 1558 and was succeeded by her half-sister.

This other daughter of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, was Protestant and responded to the growing religious divide by introducing the Elizabethan Rule, which required anyone appointed to a public or ecclesiastical office to swear allegiance to the monarch as head of church and state. Refusals were severely punished, with fines imposed on those who refused, and repeat offenders faced imprisonment and even death. Catholicism was marginalized, but despite the risk of torture or execution, Catholic priests continued to practice their faith in secret.

Elizabeth I

Before her death, Queen Elizabeth, unmarried and childless, refused to name an heir from among several possible ones. Many Catholics hoped that her cousin Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, would be the legitimate heir to the English throne, but she was executed for treason in 1587. English Secretary of State Robert Cecil secretly negotiated with her son, James VI of Scotland, who could claim the English throne as the queen's first cousin and great-great-grandson of King Henry VII. In the months leading up to Elizabeth's death on March 24, 1603, Cecil laid the groundwork for James to succeed her.

Some exiled Catholics favoured the daughter of King Philip II of Spain, who had been married to Mary Tudor, the Infanta Isabella, as Elizabeth's heir, but most moderates favoured Arbella Stuart, cousin of James and Elizabeth, who apparently had Catholic sympathies. When Elizabeth's health deteriorated, the government imprisoned what it considered to be the "leading papists" and the Privy Council was so concerned that it moved Arbella Stuart to a place near London to keep an eye on her, lest she be abducted by Catholics.

Despite the many contenders for the English throne, the transfer of power after Elizabeth's death went smoothly. The choice of James I as the new king, announced by a proclamation of the Earl of Salisbury on March 24, was well received. The most prominent Catholics, rather than causing unrest as expected, reacted to the news by offering their enthusiastic support to the new monarch. The Jesuits, whose presence in England was punishable by death, also supported the new king, who was widely seen as embodying the "natural order of things. James I announced a cease-fire in the conflict with Spain and, although the two countries were still nominally at war, King Philip III sent an emissary, Juan de Tassis y Peralta, to congratulate James I on his accession.

The English, who had lived for decades with queens who had no heirs, are relieved: James I has children. His wife, Anne of Denmark, was the daughter of a king. Their eldest son, Henry, then nine years old, was considered a handsome and agreeable boy, and their other two children, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Charles, proved that the new ruler was able to have heirs to perpetuate the Protestant monarchy.

Beginning of the reign of James I

At first, James' attitude toward Catholics was more moderate than Elizabeth's, perhaps even tolerant. He promised that he would not "persecute anyone who shows quiet obedience to the law" and considered exile a better solution than capital punishment: "I shall be glad to have both their heads and their bodies separated from this whole island and carried across the seas. Some Catholics believed that the execution of his mother, the Catholic Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, would encourage him to convert to Catholicism, and the Catholic royal houses of Europe also shared this hope. James I received an emissary from the Catholic Archduke Albert of the Southern Netherlands, ruler of the territories still in Catholic hands after more than thirty years of war with the revolt of the Dutch, Protestants and supported by the English. He signed the Treaty of London with him on August 18, 1604.

For expatriate English Catholics who refused to accept this king, the restoration by force of a Catholic monarchy was an interesting possibility, but they knew that after the failed attempt to invade England by the Spanish in 1588, the Papacy could only envisage the return of a Catholic monarch to the English throne in the long term. For the opponents, there remains the possibility of an attack.

In the late sixteenth century, there were several assassination attempts by Catholics against Protestant leaders in Europe and even in England, including plans to poison Elizabeth I. In his book On Kings and the Education of Kings (1598), the Jesuit Juan de Mariana explicitly justified the assassination of King Henry III of France, who was stabbed by a Dominican monk in 1589; as late as the 1620s, some English Catholics believed that regicide was justified to remove "tyrants in power. Much of James I's political writing focuses on his "concern about being murdered by Catholics and the refutation of the argument that 'faith need not be respected with heretics'.

On February 19, 1604, shortly after discovering through one of his spies, Sir Anthony Standen, that Queen Anne had received a rosary from the Pope, James I changed his ways and declared the Catholic Church outlawed. Three days later, he ordered all Jesuits and other Catholic priests to leave the country, and reimposed fines on those who refused to comply. The king's behavior changed because of English Catholics' concern about an Anglo-Scottish union. He appointed Scottish Presbyterian nobles to his court, such as George Home, which was not welcomed by Catholics or the English Parliament. Some members of Parliament made it clear that they thought the "flow of people from the north" was unwelcome and compared the Scots to "plants being carried from the tundra to a more fertile region. Discontent grew when the king allowed Scottish nobles to collect fines from draft dodgers. In 1605, 5,560 defaulters were convicted, including 112 landowners. The few wealthy Catholics who refused to attend their parish church services were fined 20 pounds sterling per month. Those of more modest means had to pay two-thirds of their annual rental income. Middle-class refusers were fined one shilling a week, although the collection of all these fines was "haphazard and unhelpful. By the time James came to power, nearly £5,000 a year was generated from these fines.

The first plots

On March 19, 1604, the king made his first speech to open the session of Parliament. In it, he affirmed his desire to obtain peace, but only by "professing the true religion. He also spoke of a Christian union and reiterated his desire to avoid religious persecution. For Catholics, the king's speech made it clear that they "would not increase in number and strength in this kingdom," but that "they might hope to practice their religion again. For Father John Gerard, these words were almost certainly responsible for the increase in persecution of Catholics, and for Father Oswald Tesimond, they were a reversal of the king's early promises on which Catholics had built their hopes. A week after this speech, Lord Sheffield informed the king that more than 900 refractory Catholics had been brought before the Assizes at Normanby and, on April 24, a bill was introduced into Parliament threatening to outlaw all practicing English Catholics.

In the absence of any move by the king to end the persecution of Catholics, as some had hoped, several members of the clergy (including two anti-Jesuit priests) decided to take matters into their own hands. The "accessory conspiracy" of priests William Watson (en) and William Clark (en) planned to kidnap the king and lock him in the Tower of London until he agreed to be more tolerant of Catholics. Salisbury was informed of the plot by several sources, including Archpriest George Blackwell (en), who ordered the Catholic clergy not to participate in any such plot. The two priests and another member of the plot, Sir George Brooke (en), were arrested and tortured. The latter revealed under torture that at the same time, his brother, Lord Cobham, Lord Grey of Wilton, Lord Markham (en) and Walter Raleigh were planning the main conspiracy, which consisted in kidnapping the king and his family to replace him with Arbella Stuart. They had, among other things, approached King Henry IV of France for funding, but to no avail. All those involved in the two plots were arrested in July and tried in the fall of 1604. Sir George Brooke was executed, but the sovereign, anxious not to spill too much blood at the beginning of his reign, pardoned Cobham, Grey and Markham on the scaffold. Raleigh, who was to be executed a few days later, was also pardoned, while Arbella Stuart denied any knowledge of the plot. The two priests, condemned by the pope, are executed.

The discovery of these plots was greeted with shock by the Catholic community. The fact that the "accessory conspiracy" had been disclosed by Catholics spared them further persecution, and the king was generous enough to pardon those who regretted their actions and allow the payment of their fines to be postponed for a year.

The Powder Conspiracy was the most famous attempt to assassinate the king. The idea came from Robert Catesby. He came from an "ancient, historic and remarkable lineage" and was the soul of the plot. His contemporaries described him as "a good-looking man, about six feet high, athletic and a good fencer". Like other conspirators, he participated in the revolt of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, in 1601, during which he was wounded and taken prisoner. Queen Elizabeth let him live after fining him 4,000 marcs, as a result of which he was forced to sell his property at Chastleton (en). In 1603, Catesby helped send a mission to the new Spanish king, Philip III, urging him to launch an invasion of England and assuring him that he would be well supported, especially by English Catholics. His cousin, Thomas Wintour, a polyglot scholar, was chosen as his emissary, but the Spanish king, although sympathetic to the plight of Catholics in England, wanted to make peace with James I. Wintour also had to convince the Spanish ambassador Don Juan de Tassis y Peralta that "3,000 English Catholics" were willing to support such an invasion, but he failed, and even Pope Clement VIII was concerned at the time that the use of violence to achieve a restoration of Catholic power in England would only result in the destruction of the last English Catholics.

The main objective of the conspirators was to kill the king by blowing up Parliament. However, there were many others, mostly Protestants, who were to be present at the Opening Ceremony of Parliament, including the King's immediate family and members of the Privy Council. As members of the House of Lords, the country's leading judges, most of the Protestant aristocracy and the bishops of the Church of England were all expected to attend, as were members of the House of Commons. Another important objective was the abduction of Princess Elizabeth, the king's daughter, third in line of succession. Based at Coombe Abbey, near Coventry, the princess lived only about 15 kilometers north of Warwick, making it easy for the conspirators, most of whom resided in the Midlands. The plotters planned to install Elizabeth on the English throne after the death of the king and the destruction of Parliament. There were no plans for the fate of Princes Henry and Charles, whose presence at the official ceremonies was still uncertain. The conspirators planned to install Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, as Elizabeth's regent, but he himself was probably never told of this plan.

Initial recruitment

According to accounts of the time, Catesby invited Thomas Wintour to his house in Lambeth in February 1604. There they discussed Catesby's plan to blow up the House of Lords during the Opening Ceremony of Parliament to restore Catholicism to England. Wintour had a reputation as a scholar; he spoke several languages and had fought in the Netherlands with the English army. In 1586, his uncle, Catholic priest Francis Ingleby, was executed, and Wintour subsequently converted to Catholicism. John Wright was also present at the meeting. This devout Catholic, reputedly one of the best fencers of his time, had taken part with Catesby in the Earl of Essex's rebellion three years earlier. Despite her reservations about the consequences of failure, Wintour agreed to join the plot, perhaps persuaded by Catesby's rhetoric: "Let's try it and if we fail, let's not think about what comes next.

Wintour travels to Flanders to learn more about Spanish support. There he met Guy Fawkes (1570-1606), a committed Catholic who had served as a soldier in the Southern Netherlands under William Stanley (en) and was nominated for the rank of captain in 1603. Accompanied by Christopher Wright, John's brother, Fawkes had also been part of the 1603 mission to the King of Spain. Wintour explained to Fawkes that "some of his good friends desired his presence in England," and that some gentlemen "were about to undertake something in England if Spain did not help us. The two men returned to England in late April 1604 and told Catesby that Spanish support was unlikely.

Thomas Percy, a friend of Catesby and brother-in-law of John Wright, was associated with the plot a few weeks later. Employed by his distant relative the Earl of Northumberland, Percy became in 1596 the steward of his family's property in the North of England. Around 1600-1601, he fought with his employer in the Netherlands and became his liaison with the king. Percy, a convert to the Catholic faith, had a reputation for being a "serious" person. According to a Catholic source, his youth was marked by a tendency to rely on "his sword and personal courage." Although he himself was not a Catholic, Northumberland wanted to establish a strong relationship with the king in order to improve conditions for English Catholics and to alleviate the family disgrace caused by his separation from his wife Martha Wright, a favourite of Elizabeth. He commissioned Thomas Percy to act as an intermediary between him and the King. Discussions between Percy and the King seemed to go well, and Percy returned to Northumberland with promises of support for the Catholics; the Earl believed that the King would go so far as to allow mass in private homes to avoid public scandal. Anxious to improve his position, Percy went further and claimed that the future king would guarantee the safety of English Catholics, but Percy quickly realized that the king would not soften his position and he would become very resentful.

Initial planning

The five conspirators held their first meeting on May 20, 1604, probably at the Duck and Drake Inn, just off the Strand where Wintour usually resided during her visits to London. Present were Catesby, Thomas Wintour and John Wright, soon joined by Guy Fawkes and Thomas Percy. Isolated in a private room, the five conspirators swore on a prayer book to keep the secret. Coincidentally, Father John Gerard, a friend of Catesby's who was unaware of the plot, was celebrating mass in another room at the time; the five men then joined him and received communion.

Recruitment of new members

After their oath, the plotters left London and returned home. They believed that the adjournment of Parliament gave them until February 1605 to finalize their plan. On June 9, the Earl of Northumberland made Percy a member of the British King's Bodyguard, a company of 50 soldiers responsible for the King's security. This new position allowed Percy to look for a place to live in London and he chose a small property near the Prince's Chamber in the Palace of Westminster. Percy arranged to use the house at the same time as Dudley Carleton and John Hippesley, other employees of the Earl of Northumberland. Fawkes, under the pseudonym of "John Johnson," took over the maintenance of the building, posing as an employee of Percy. The rest of the building was occupied by Scottish commissioners appointed by the king to study his plans for the unification of England and Scotland. The plotters used Catesby's house at Lambeth, on the opposite bank of the Thames, to store gunpowder and other accessories, which they then easily transported by night to the other bank of the river. Meanwhile, the king continued his anti-Catholic policies and Parliament passed anti-Catholic laws until it adjourned on July 7.

The conspirators returned to London in October 1604. It was then that Robert Keyes, "a desperate man, ruined and in debt", was admitted to the group. He was given the task of maintaining Catesby's house in Lambeth. Keyes has particularly interesting connections: his wife is in the service of Lord Mordaunt, he is a trustworthy Catholic and, like Fawkes, capable of self-reliance. In December, Catesby brings his servant Thomas Bates into the plot, after Bates accidentally discovers its existence.

On December 24, the reopening of Parliament was delayed: the risk of plague meant that the members of Parliament would not sit until October 3, 1605, rather than February, as the conspirators had hoped. According to contemporary accounts of the trial, the conspirators took advantage of the delay to dig a tunnel under the Parliament. This may have been a government invention: the prosecution presented no evidence of a tunnel, and no trace of one was ever discovered. The tunnel story came directly from Thomas Wintour's confession, and Guy Fawkes did not admit to its existence until his fifth interrogation. Logistically, it would have been extremely difficult to dig such a tunnel, especially since none of the conspirators had any knowledge of mine construction. According to the tunnel's version, when the Scottish commissioners finished their work on December 6, they left their place of work for good and the conspirators were free to begin their work. They would have stopped when they heard a noise coming from above them, caused by the widow of the manager of the place who was busy cleaning a cellar located directly under the House of Lords, the very room where the conspirators ended up storing their barrels of powder.

When the conspirators met again on March 25, they had three new members in their ranks: Robert Wintour, John Grant and Christopher Wright. The choice of Wintour and Wright is obvious. The first enjoys a certain wealth and has inherited Huddington Court (he is a generous and appreciated man. A devout Catholic, he married Gertrude Talbot, from a family of refractory people. Christopher Wright (1568-1605), John's brother, also took part in the Earl of Essex's revolt and settled his family at Twigmore in Lincolnshire, a refuge for priests. John Grant is married to Wintour's sister, Dorothy, and is the lord of Norbrook Manor near Stratford-upon-Avon. Reputed to be intelligent and thoughtful, he shelters Catholics in his Snitterfield home. He too was involved in the 1601 revolt.

The underground

March 25 is also the day when the plotters must renew the lease on John Whynniard's house from which their tunnel is supposed to depart. In the early 17th century, the old royal palace of Westminster was a maze of buildings clustered around the medieval halls housing the Parliament and the various royal courts. The old palace is easily accessible: merchants, lawyers and others lived and worked in the lodgings, taverns and shops within its walls. Whynniard House is located perpendicular to the House of Lords, along a passage called "Parliament Square" which leads to both the Parliament Stairs and the Thames. Cellars were common in buildings of the period and were used to store food, wood and other items. The cellar of Whynniard House, on the first floor, is directly below the second floor of the House of Lords and may have been part of the palace kitchen in medieval times. Abandoned and filthy, it is ideally suited to the conspirators' plans.

In the second week of June, Catesby met in London with the Father Superior of the Jesuits in England, Father Henry Garnet, and asked him about the moral consequences of participating in an enterprise that might result in the death of innocent people as well as guilty ones. Garnet reportedly replied that such actions could often be forgiven, but he later claimed to have warned Catesby during a second meeting in Essex in July by showing him a letter from the pope forbidding rebellion. Shortly thereafter, the Jesuit Father Oswald Tesimond tells Garnet that he has received Catesby's confession, during which he learned of the plot. Garnet and Catesby met a third time on July 24, 1605, at Anne Vaux's house in Enfield Chase. Garnet believes that Tesimond's revelations were made under the seal of confession, and that canon law forbids him to repeat what he has heard. Without revealing that he is aware of the precise nature of the plot, Garnet tries to dissuade Catesby from pursuing his plan, but to no avail. Garnet wrote to the Jesuit Superior General in Rome, Claudio Acquaviva, expressing his fears of an open rebellion in England. He also told Acquaviva that "there is a danger that some individuals will endeavor to betray the king or use force against him," and that it was becoming urgent for the pope to speak out publicly against the use of force.

According to Fawkes, twenty barrels of gunpowder were brought in initially, followed by sixteen more on July 20. The sale of gunpowder was theoretically controlled by the government, but it was easy to obtain fraudulently. On July 28, the continuing threat of plague delayed the opening of Parliament again, this time until Tuesday, November 5. Fawkes left the country for a few days. The King spent much of the summer away from London, hunting. He stayed wherever he could, including the occasional house of a Catholic nobleman. Garnet, convinced that the threat of an uprising had receded, travelled the country to carry out his mission as a clergyman.

The date of Fawkes' return to England is unknown, but it is certain that he was there at the end of August when he and Wintour discovered that the gunpowder stored in the basement had gone bad. New barrels are brought into the basement, along with firewood to hide them. The last three conspirators were recruited at the end of 1605. On September 29, Michaelmas Day, Catesby persuaded Ambrose Rookwood to rent him Clopton House near Stratford-upon-Avon. Rookwood is a young man known for his Catholic loyalty, with contacts in the refractory milieu; the stable he owns at Coldham Hall, near Stanningfield (en) in Suffolk is an important element in his recruitment. His parents, Robert and Dorothea Rookwood Drury, were wealthy landowners who sent their son to a Jesuit school near Calais. Everard Digby is a young man of good character living at Gayhurst House in Buckinghamshire. The king knighted him in April 1603, and he was converted to Catholicism by Father Gerard. Digby and his wife, Mary Mulshaw, accompanied the priest on his recent trip, and the two became close friends. Catesby asked him to rent Coughton Court, near Alcester. Digby also promised him £1,500 so that Percy could pay the rent on the house he had rented in Westminster. Finally, on October 14, Catesby brings Francis Tresham into the conspiracy. Tresham is the son of Catholic Thomas Tresham and a cousin of Robert Catesby, both of whom were raised together. He is also the heir to a large fortune from his father, reduced by fines paid as a draft dodger, his expensive tastes, and Francis and Catesby's participation in the Essex revolt.

Catesby and Tresham meet at the home of Tresham's brother-in-law and cousin, Lord Stourton. In his confession, Tresham claims to have asked Catesby if the plot would bring them Hell, to which Catesby allegedly replied that it would not and that the fate of English Catholics demanded it. Catesby also apparently asked him for £2,000 and the use of Rushton Hall in Northamptonshire. Tresham refused both (although he did give £100 to Thomas Wintour), and told his interrogators that he had moved his family out of Rushton and into London before he knew of the conspiracy: hardly the behaviour one would expect from a guilty man, in his view.

The letter to Monteagle

The details of the attack were finalized in October in various taverns in London and Daventry. Fawkes was to light the fuse and then escape across the Thames in a boat before leaving the country, while a revolt in the Midlands would capture Princess Elizabeth. Fawkes is scheduled to travel to the continent to explain events in England to the European Catholic powers.

The wives of the conspirators and Anne Vaux suspect what is being planned, which does not leave them unconcerned. Among the conspirators themselves, many are concerned about the safety of the Catholics who are to be present in Parliament on the day of the explosion. Percy is concerned about his employer, and the case of the young Earl of Arundel is raised. Catesby suggests that a minor injury might prevent him from attending Parliament that day. The cases of Lords Vaux, Montague, Monteagle and Stourton were also raised. Keyes proposed to warn Lord Mordaunt, his wife's employer, a proposal ironically rejected by Catesby.

On Saturday, October 26, Lord Monteagle, Tresham's brother-in-law, received an anonymous letter at his home in Hoxton. After breaking the seal, he had it read aloud to him by a servant:

Not knowing how to take this letter, Monteagle went quickly to Whitehall and gave it to Salisbury. The latter informed the Earl of Worcester, who was considered to have refractory sympathies, and the Earl of Northampton, who was suspected of being a papist; he said nothing to the King, who was then busy hunting in Cambridgeshire and was not expected to return for several days. Before reading this letter, Salisbury was already aware of some unrest, though he did not know the exact nature of the plot or the people involved. He decided to wait and see what happened. However, a Monteagle servant, Thomas Ward, was related to the Wright brothers and met with Catesby to inform him of the treason. This one suspects Tresham, and goes to his house with Thomas Wintour to question him. Tresham manages to convince them that he is not the author of the letter, but exhorts them to abandon the project.

The discovery of the plot

The letter was shown to the King on Friday, November 1. The King was under the impression that it involved "some stratagem of fire and powder", perhaps an explosion even more violent than the one that had killed his father, Lord Darnley, at Kirk o' Field in 1567. Not wanting to appear too curious, Salisbury feigned ignorance. The next day, members of the Privy Council visited the King at the Palace of Whitehall and informed him that, in view of the information Salisbury had given them a week earlier, the Lord Chamberlain Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk, would have a search of Parliament, "above and below" conducted. On Sunday, November 3, Percy, Catesby and Wintour held a final meeting. Percy told his colleagues that they must "prepare for the final test", and reminded them that the boat for Fawkes' escape was at anchor on the Thames. On the 4th, Digby participates with a group of conspirators in a hunting party at Dunchurch, which serves as a cover for being ready to kidnap Princess Elizabeth. The same day, Percy visits the Earl of Northumberland to find out what is said about the letter received by Monteagle. Percy returns to London and assures Wintour, John Wright and Robert Keyes that they have nothing to fear, then returns to his home in Gray's Inn Road. That evening, Catesby, probably accompanied by John Wright and Bates, left for the Midlands. Fawkes visits Keyes and is given a pocket watch left by Percy so that he can set off the fire at the precise moment he wants. An hour later, Rookwood receives several swords engraved by a local gunsmith.

There are two divergent versions concerning the number and duration of the searches of the buildings. According to the King's version, the first search was carried out by Suffolk, Monteagle and John Whynniard on Monday, November 4, both inside and around the Parliament building, while the conspirators were busy making their final preparations. They discovered a large pile of wood in the cellar beneath the House of Lords, and an individual (Fawkes) whom they assumed to be a servant, who explained that the wood belonged to his master, Thomas Percy. They leave to report their findings, at the same time as Fawkes leaves the premises. The king demanded further research. Late at night, the same group, led by Thomas Knyvet, returned to the cellars. There they found Fawkes, now dressed in a cloak, wearing a hat, boots and spurs. Fawkes was arrested; he claimed to be "John Johnson" and to be in the service of Thomas Percy. He carried a lantern (now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), a pocket watch, matches, and tinder. The barrels of gunpowder were then discovered, hidden under piles of faggots and coal. Fawkes was brought before the king first thing the next morning.

The leak

When news of "John Johnson's" arrest reached the conspirators still in London, most fled northwest along Watling Street. Christopher Wright and Thomas Percy left together. Rookwood left shortly afterwards and managed to cover more than 50 kilometers in two hours on the same horse. He caught up with Keyes, who had left earlier, and Wright and Percy at Little Brickhill, before joining Catesby, John Wright and Bates on the same route. The group continued northwest to Dunchurch, using horses provided by Digby. Keyes travels to Lord Mordaunt's house in Drayton. Meanwhile, Thomas Wintour remains in London and even goes to the news at Westminster. When he realizes that the plot has been foiled, he takes his horse and rides to his sister's house in Norbrook before continuing to Huddington Court.

The group of six conspirators arrived at Ashby St. Ledgers around 6:00 pm. There they met up with Robert Wintour and briefed him on the situation. They then continued on to Dunchurch, where Digby was staying. Catesby convinced him that, despite the failure of the attack, an armed struggle was still possible. He tells the hunters accompanying Digby that the King and Salisbury are dead, and then the group of fugitives heads back west to Warwick.

In London, the news of the plot spread and the authorities reinforced the surveillance at the city gates, closed the ports and organized the protection of the house of the Spanish ambassador, surrounded by an angry crowd. A warrant was issued for Thomas Percy's arrest and his employer, the Earl of Northumberland, was placed under house arrest. During his first interrogation, "John Johnson" revealed only his mother's name and his Yorkshire origins. A letter to Guy Fawkes was found on his person and he claimed it was one of his nicknames. Far from denying his intentions, "Johnson" claims that his goal was to destroy the King and Parliament. Nevertheless, he remained calm and maintained that he had acted alone. His refusal to yield so impressed the king that he described him as possessing "a resolution worthy of the Romans.

The survey

On November 6, the deeply anti-Catholic Sir John Popham, president of the High Court of Justice, proceeded to interrogate Rookwood's employees. By evening, he had learned the names of several conspirators: Catesby, Rookwood, Keyes, Wynter, John and Christopher Wright, and Grant. Meanwhile, "Johnson", who persisted in his version of events, was transferred to the Tower of London with the gunpowder found with him, to be tortured at the request of the king. At the time, the use of torture was forbidden except by royal permission or by a body such as the Privy Council or the Star Chamber. In a letter dated November 6, the king wrote: "Gentle torture will be used with him at first, and sic per gradus ad ima tenditur [and then by stages we will go to harsher methods], and God bless your work." "Johnson" may have been handcuffed and hung by the wrists, and he was almost certainly subjected to the rack. On the evening of November 7, broken, he confessed and continued his confession over the next two days.

The last cartridges

On November 6, when Fawkes had not yet spoken, the fugitives went to Warwick Castle to obtain various supplies and then continued to Norbrook in search of weapons. From there, they continued on to Huddington. Bates leaves the group and goes to Coughton Court to deliver a letter from Catesby to Father Garnet and the other priests there, in which he tells them what has happened and asks them to help raise an army. Garnet asks Catesby and his followers to stop their "evil deeds" before he too flees. Several other priests left for Warwick, worried about the fate of their colleagues; they were taken prisoner and imprisoned in London. Catesby and his accomplices arrived in Huddington in the early afternoon and were greeted by Thomas Wintour. They received virtually no support or sympathy from those they met, including family members terrified of being suspected of complicity. The fugitives continued on to Holbeche House (on the Staffordshire border), the home of Stephen Littleton, a member of their dwindling group of supporters. Tired and desperate, they spread wet gunpowder by the fire to dry. Although the powder does not explode (unless it is contained in a container), a spark lands in the powder, which ignites and burns Catesby, Rookwood, Grant and a man named Morgan (one of the hunters accompanying Digby).

On their way from Huddington to Holbeche House, Thomas Wintour and Littleton are informed by a messenger that Catesby is dead. Littleton turned back, but Thomas continued on his way and found Catesby alive, albeit with slight burns. John Grant, less fortunate, was blinded by the flames. Digby, Robert Wintour, John Wintour and Thomas Bates were all gone: only Catesby, Grant, the Wright brothers, Rookwood and Percy remained. The last fugitives decided to stay behind to await the arrival of the king's men.

On the morning of November 8, Richard Walsh, Provost of Worcestershire, attacked Holbeche House with a company of two hundred men. Thomas Wintour was wounded in the shoulder while crossing the yard. John Wright was shot, followed by his brother, then Rookwood. Catesby and Percy were killed by the same bullet. The assailants rushed into the estate and tore off the clothes of the dead and dying defenders. Grant, Morgan, Rookwood and Wintour were arrested.

Bates and Keyes are arrested shortly after the Holbeche House case. Digby, who intended to surrender, was captured by a small group of pursuers. Tresham was arrested on November 12 and imprisoned in the Tower of London three days later. Montague, Mordaunt and Stourton (Tresham's brother-in-law) were also imprisoned in the Tower. The Earl of Northumberland joined them on November 27. Meanwhile, the government took advantage of the revelation of the plot to intensify the persecution of Catholics. Anne Vaux's house in Enfield Chase is searched, revealing trap doors and secret passages, and a frightened servant reveals that Father Garnet, who has often stayed there, has recently given a mass. Elisabeth Vaux, who is hiding Father John Gerard in her home in Harrowden, is questioned in London. There, she stated that she had never known that Gerard was a priest, that she thought he was only a "Catholic gentleman", and that she did not know where he was. The homes of the conspirators were searched and looted; Marie Digby's home was ransacked and her landlord was left destitute. Towards the end of November, Garnet moved to Hindlip Hall, the Habington home near Worcester, from where he wrote a letter to the Privy Council protesting his innocence.

The failure of the Powder Conspiracy was a relief to the whole country and led to a climate of loyalty and goodwill towards the King in Parliament. The Earl of Salisbury shrewdly exploited this feeling to obtain more subsidies for the King than ever (with one exception) during Elizabeth's reign. Walter Raleigh, imprisoned for his involvement in the Main Plot, and whose wife is a first cousin of Lady Catesby Tour, claims to have had no knowledge of the conspiracy. The Bishop of Rochester delivered a sermon at St. Paul's Cross in which he condemned the conspiracy. In his speech to both Houses on November 9, the king explained the two emerging concerns of the monarchy: the divine right of kings and the question of the Catholic Church. He insisted that the plot was the work of a few Catholics, not all English Catholics, and asked parliamentarians to rejoice in his survival, since kings were appointed by God and he owed his salvation to a miracle. Salisbury wrote to English ambassadors abroad to inform them of the event and remind them that the king had no grudge against his Catholic neighbors. The foreign powers largely distanced themselves from the conspirators, calling them atheists and Protestant heretics.


The interrogations were conducted by Sir Edward Coke. For about ten weeks, in the lieutenants' quarters in the Tower of London (now called the Queen's chamber), he interrogated those involved in the plot. For the first round of interrogations, there was no evidence that he used torture, despite Salisbury's suggestions. Subsequently, Coke revealed that the threat of torture was sufficient, in most cases, to obtain confessions from those arrested shortly after the plot was exposed.

Only two confessions were fully written: those of Fawkes, on November 8, and those of Wintour, on November 23. Involved in the conspiracy from the start (unlike Fawkes), Wintour's testimony proved extremely valuable to the Privy Council. It is almost certain that he wrote his own confession, but his signature is in a significantly different handwriting. Until then, Wintour always signed his full name, but his confession is signed "Winter"; since he had been shot in the shoulder, the neat handwriting of the signature perhaps implies government intervention, unless he simply found this shorter form less painful to write. Wintour's testimony makes no mention of her brother Robert. Both confessions were published in the so-called "king's book," a hastily written official account published in late November 1605.

The Earl of Northumberland is in a delicate situation. His meal with Thomas Percy on November 4 is a damning fact against him, and with Percy's death, there is no one left to accuse or exonerate him. The Privy Council believed that Northumberland would have become the protector of Princess Elizabeth if the plot had succeeded, but there was not enough evidence to convict him. Northumberland remained imprisoned and, on June 27, 1606, convicted of contempt of court. He was dismissed from all public offices, fined £30,000 (about £4,300,000 in 2010), and remained imprisoned in the Tower of London until June 1621. The Lords Mordaunt and Stourton were tried by the Star Chamber. They were sentenced to be imprisoned in the Tower, where they remained until 1608, when they were transferred to the Fleet Prison. They too had to pay considerable fines.

Several other people who were not involved in the conspiracy, but knew or were related to the conspirators, were also questioned. The Northumberland brothers, Sir Allen and Sir Josceline, were arrested. Anthony-Maria Browne, the second Viscount Montagu, who had employed Fawkes in his youth and had met Catesby on October 29, remained in prison for almost a year before being released. Agnes Wenman, from a Catholic family, is related to Elizabeth Vaux. She was interrogated twice, but the charges against her were finally dropped. Percy's secretary, who later became steward of the House of Northumberland's property, Dudley Carleton, who had rented the cellar where the powder was stored, was imprisoned. Salisbury believed his explanations and authorized his release.

The Jesuits

Thomas Bates confessed on December 4. He provided Salisbury with much of the information Salisbury needed to link the Catholic clergy to the plot. Bates attended most of the conspirators' meetings, and during his interrogation, he implicated Father Tesimond in the affair. On January 13, 1606, he tells of visiting Garnet and Tesimond on November 7 to tell Garnet that the plot had failed. He also describes fleeing with Tesimond to Huddington, before the priest left him to take refuge with the Habingtons at Hindlip Hall; he also mentions a meeting between Garnet, Gerard and Tesimond in October 1605. Around the same time, in December 1606, Tresham's health began to deteriorate. He regularly receives the visit of his wife, a nurse and his servant, William Vavasour, who will describe his stranguria. Before he died, Tresham also confessed to Garnet's participation in the 1603 mission to Spain, but he retracted some of his statements in his final hours, and nowhere in his confession did he mention being the author of the letter to Monteagle. He died in the early hours of December 23 and was buried in the tower. However, because of his participation in the plot, his property was confiscated and his head was put on a pike and displayed either in Northampton or on London Bridge.

On January 15, a search warrant was issued for Fathers Garnet, Gerard and Greenway (Tesimond). The last two managed to flee the country and remained free until their death, but Garnet was not so lucky. A few days earlier, on January 9, Robert Wintour and Stephen Littleton were arrested. Their hiding place at Hagley, the home of Humphrey Littleton (the brother of John Littleton, MP, imprisoned for treason in 1601 for his role in the Essex revolt), was discovered by a cook, whose suspicions were aroused by the large quantity of food sent to his master. Humphrey denied the presence of the two fugitives, but another servant led the authorities to their hiding place. On January 20, judges and local police went to Thomas Habington's house at Hindlip Hall to arrest the Jesuits. Despite Habington's protests, the police spent the next four days searching and occupying the house. On January 24, two hungry priests left their hiding place and were discovered. Humphrey Littleton, who had managed to escape from the authorities in Hagley, managed to flee to Prestwood in Staffordshire before being arrested. He was taken prisoner and sentenced to death at Worcester. On January 26, in exchange for his life, he revealed to the authorities the whereabouts of Father Garnet. Exhausted by his long stay in hiding, Garnet, accompanied by another priest, came out of hiding the day after the police arrived on the scene.

The trial

Coincidentally, Garnet is discovered on the same day that the surviving conspirators are read the indictment at Westminster Hall. Seven of the prisoners were taken from the Tower of London to the Star Chamber by barge. Bates, Catesby's servant, considered of lesser rank, was brought from Gatehouse prison. Some of the prisoners appear despondent, but others seem indifferent, even smoking. The King and his family, hidden from view, were among the many people attending the trial. The Lord Commissioners present are the Earls of Suffolk, Worcester, Northampton, Devonshire and Salisbury. Sir John Popham is Lord Chief Justice, Sir Thomas Fleming is Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and two judges, Sir Thomas Walmsley and Sir Peter Warburton, sit as judges of current affairs. The list of names of the conspirators is read aloud, beginning with the priests: Garnet, Tesimond and Gerard.

The first to speak was the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Edward Phelips, who described the conspirators' plan in great detail. He was followed by the Attorney General, Sir Edward Coke, who began with a long speech with content strongly influenced by Salisbury, denying in particular that the King had promised anything to the Catholics. Monteagle's involvement in uncovering the plot is praised (he will receive land and a life annuity of £500 for his loyalty), and the denunciation of the 1603 mission to Spain figures prominently. Coke does not report Fawkes' claims that Gerard was unaware of the plot. When they are mentioned, the foreign powers are mentioned deferentially, but the priests are blamed and their actions criticized as much as possible. According to Coke, there is little doubt that the plot was hatched by the Jesuits. The meeting of Garnet and Catesby, in which the former is said to have absolved the latter of any wrongdoing in the plot, is proof enough that the Jesuits were at the center of the conspiracy. Coke poignantly paints a picture of the probable fate of the queen and the rest of the royal family, as well as that of the innocent people who would have perished in the explosion.

Each of the condemned, Coke says, will be dragged to death by a horse, from behind and with his head level with the ground. He will be "put to death halfway between heaven and earth, being unworthy of both. His genitals will be cut off and burned before his eyes, and then his entrails and heart will be removed. He will then be decapitated and his body dismembered and exposed to be "prey for the birds of the air. The confessions and statements of the accused are then read aloud, and finally the prisoners are allowed to speak. Rookwood claims to have been drawn into the affair by Catesby, whom he "loved more than any man in the world. Thomas Wintour asks to be hanged so that his brother may be spared. Fawkes pleads not guilty and claims ignorance of certain aspects of the indictment. Keyes seemed to accept his fate, Bates and Robert Wintour asked for mercy, and Grant summed up his involvement as "a plot planned but never carried out. Digby, tried on a separate indictment, was the only one to plead guilty, arguing in his defense that the king had reneged on his promises of tolerance for Catholics and that his friendship with Catesby and his love of the Catholic cause had clouded his judgment. He wished to die by the axe, and asked the king for a pardon for his young family. His defense was futile: his arguments were challenged by Coke and Northumberland, and the jury found him guilty of high treason, along with the seven other conspirators. Digby then exclaimed, "If I could hear one of your lordships tell me that you forgive me, I would go more cheerfully to the gallows." The answer was short: "God forgive you, we will too.

Garnet was questioned several times, perhaps as many as twenty-three times. His response to the threat of the rack was "Minare ista pueris," "these threats are good for children," and he denied encouraging Catholics to pray for the success of the "Catholic cause." His judges resorted to falsifying correspondence between Garnet and other Catholics, to no avail. His jailers allowed him to talk with another priest in a nearby cell, secretly listening to every word. Finally, Garnet lets slip a crucial piece of information: only one man can testify that he had knowledge of the plot. Under torture, Garnet confesses that he learned about the plot from his fellow Jesuit, Father Oswald Tesimond, who had learned about it from Catesby's confession. Garnet was charged with high treason and tried on March 28 in the banquet hall of the City of London in a trial that began at 8 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. According to Coke, Garnet was the instigator of the conspiracy: "Nature hath well endowed Garnet; he is learned, a good linguist, and by profession a Jesuit and superior father; indeed, superior to all his predecessors in his devilish treachery, doctor of dissimulation, deposition of princes, destruction of kingdoms, intimidation and deceit of subjects, and destruction." Garnet refutes all the charges against him and explains the position of the Catholic Church on these matters, but he is nevertheless convicted and sentenced to death.

The executions

Although they escaped the executioner, the bodies of Catesby and Percy were exhumed and beheaded, and their heads were put on spikes in front of the House of Lords. On January 30, Everard Digby, Robert Wintour, John Grant and Thomas Bates were tied to stretchers and dragged through the crowded streets of London to St. Paul's Cemetery. Digby was the first to go on the scaffold; he begged forgiveness from the audience and refused the services of a Protestant minister. He was stripped of his clothes and, wearing only a shirt, climbed the steps of the gallows to place his head in the noose. He was still conscious when he was castrated, disemboweled, and then quartered, a fate shared by the other three prisoners. The next day, Thomas Wintour, Ambroise Rookwood, Robert Keyes and Guy Fawkes were hanged and dismembered in front of the building they had planned to blow up, in the courtyard of the old Palace of Westminster. Keyes did not wait for the executioner and jumped from the gallows, but survived his fall and was taken away to be dismembered. Although exhausted from the torture, Fawkes managed to jump and break his neck with the rope, thus escaping the rest of his execution.

Stephen Littleton was executed at Stafford, and his cousin Humphrey, despite his cooperation with the authorities, ended his life at Red Hill, near Worcester. Henry Garnet was executed on May 3, 1606, but unlike the conspirators, he was not drawn and quartered. On the express instruction of the king, Garnet was only hanged until dead.

It seems unlikely that Catholics could have obtained greater religious freedom in 1604, but the discovery of such a major conspiracy, the capture of the conspirators and the trials that followed, all led Parliament to consider introducing new anti-Catholic legislation. In the summer of 1606, the laws against refractors were strengthened; the Popish Recusants Act 1605 saw England revert to the Elizabethan system of fines and restrictions, introduced a religious test and an oath of allegiance, requiring Catholics to recant as "heresy" the doctrine that "princes excommunicated by the pope could be deposed or murdered. The emancipation of Catholics would take another 200 years, but many important and loyal Catholics remained in high office during the reign of James I. Although there was no "golden age" of "tolerance" for Catholics, as Father Garnet had hoped, the reign of James I was nevertheless a period of relative leniency for Catholics, and few were prosecuted.

The playwright William Shakespeare had already used the history of the Northumberland family in his plays about Henry IV, and the events of the Powder Conspiracy seem to be evoked, along with the Gowrie conspiracy, in Macbeth, written between 1603 and 1607. The interest in demonology is accentuated by the conspiracy of the Powders. James I had participated in the great debate about otherworldly powers when he wrote his Daemonology in 1597, before becoming King of England and Scotland. Inversions such as "horrible is beautiful, beautiful is horrible" are frequently used, and another possible reference to the plot concerns the use of equivocation; a Treatise on Equivocation written by Garnet is found in one of the conspirators' homes.

The Powder Conspiracy was commemorated for years with dedicated sermons and other public celebrations, such as the ringing of church bells. It added to a growing calendar of Protestant ceremonies that contributed to the national and religious life of seventeenth-century England, and evolved into the current Bonfire Night. In his book What If the Gunpowder Conspiracy Had Succeeded? (historian Ronald Hutton examines what would have happened if the Gunpowder Plot had succeeded, if the House of Lords had been destroyed with all its occupants. He argues that a violent anti-Catholic backlash would have ensued, and that a rebellion would have had little chance of succeeding without the support of a foreign power; despite their diverse faiths, most Englishmen were loyal to the institution of the monarchy. England could have become a "puritanical absolute monarchy" like Sweden, Denmark, Saxony or Prussia, instead of following the path of parliamentary and civil society reform that it did.

The accusations of state conspiracy

At the time, many believed that the Earl of Salisbury was involved in the plot: he would have wanted to gain the king's favor, and have the opportunity to enact harsher legislation against Catholics. Various conspiracy theories claim that Salisbury was behind the plot, or that he knew about it early on, but allowed it to proceed almost to completion for propaganda purposes. The Papist conspiracy of 1678 sparked renewed interest in the Powder Conspiracy, leading to the publication of a book by Thomas Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln, which refuted "the unfounded idea that the whole affair was engineered by Secretary of State Cecil.

In 1897, Father John Gerard of Stonyhurst College, the namesake of the John Gerard who, after the discovery of the plot, had managed to leave the country, gave his version of events in the book What was the Gunpowder Plot? making Salisbury the culprit. This version of events provoked an immediate reaction from Samuel Gardiner, an English historian who accused Gerard of going too far in trying to "clear" the generations of English Catholics who had suffered as a result of the conspiracy. For Gardiner, Salisbury could not be accused of anything but opportunism. Subsequent attempts to prove Salisbury's involvement, such as Francis Edwards' 1969 book Guy Fawkes: the real story of the gunpowder plot?

The cellars beneath the Houses of Parliament continued to be rented out to individuals until 1678, at the time of the Papist plot. It was then deemed more prudent to search the cellars on the eve of each opening of Parliament, a ritual still observed today, though more as a quaint custom than a genuine anti-terrorism precaution.

The night of the bonfires

In January 1606, during the first session of Parliament after the failure of the attack, the Observance of 5th November Act 1605 was passed. The services and sermons commemorating the event made this day an annual celebration of English life; this law remained in force until 1859. Soon after the discovery of the plot, the tradition of ringing bells and lighting bonfires to mark the day emerged; fireworks were also used in the early celebrations. In Britain, the night of November 5-6 is known as Bonfire Night, Fireworks Night or Guy Fawkes Night.

In Great Britain, it is still traditional to set off fireworks around November 5. In the weeks leading up to the fireworks, children make a "guy", a puppet that is supposed to look like Fawkes, usually from old clothes stuffed with newspaper and wearing a grotesque mask. This puppet was then burned at the stake on Bonfire Night. Children would display the puppet in the street to raise money to buy firecrackers, but this tradition was lost. In the 19th century, the word "guy" came into common usage to refer to a person dressed oddly; later it came to refer to any male person.

November 5 is a traditional day for fireworks in Britain, both at large public events and in private gardens. In some areas, particularly in Sussex, local societies organize processions, large bonfires or fireworks displays, the most famous being in Lewes.

According to biographer Esther Forbes, the celebration of Guy Fawkes Day was also a popular holiday in the pre-revolutionary American colonies. In Boston, the festivities quickly took on an anti-authority connotation and often became so dangerous that many did not dare venture out of their homes on that day.

In 2005, as part of the ITV program The Gunpowder Plot: Exploding the Legend, a life-size replica of the House of Lords was built and then destroyed with barrels of gunpowder. The experiment, conducted at the Advantica Spadeadam test site, demonstrated that if the powder had been in good condition, the explosion would have killed everyone in the building. The power of the explosion was such that the 2 m thick concrete walls (replicating the walls of the old House of Lords according to period records) were reduced to rubble. The measuring devices placed in the pseudo House of Lords to calculate the force of the explosion were themselves destroyed, and the head of the mannequin representing the king, which had been placed on a throne in the room amidst courtiers, peers and bishops, was found a long way from the site. According to the results of the experiment, no one could have survived the explosion within a radius of 100 m, all the stained glass windows of Westminster Abbey were shattered, as well as all the windows in the vicinity of the palace. The explosion would have been seen for miles around, and heard from even further away. Even if only half the powder had exploded, everyone in the House of Lords and surrounding area would have been killed instantly.

The program also refuted claims that some deterioration in the quality of the powder prevented the explosion. A small amount of gunpowder was deliberately deteriorated, to make it unusable with firearms, then placed in a container and lit: it still managed to cause a large explosion. Even deteriorated, the power of the powder would have been amplified by its compression in wooden barrels, thus compensating for its poor quality. The compression would have created a cannon effect, with the powder shooting out of the barrel a millisecond before exploding. Calculations showed that Fawkes, who was a gunpowder specialist, had collected twice the amount needed.

It is possible that some of the powder collected by Fawkes has come down to us. In March 2002, archivists working on the texts of memoirist John Evelyn at the British Library found a box containing several samples of gunpowder, including one with a note in Evelyn's hand indicating that it had belonged to Guy Fawkes. Another note, written in the nineteenth century, confirms this provenance, but by 1952 the document had received a new comment: "but there was nothing left of it.


In 1626, the 17-year-old John Milton wrote what one commentator called a "strongly partisan poem," In Quintum Novembris. This work shows a public desire to make November 5 a national holiday. In the 1645 and 1673 editions, the poem is preceded by five epigrams on the theme of the Powder Conspiracy, apparently written by Milton in preparation for an upcoming work. The Powder Conspiracy continued to "haunt" Milton's imagination throughout his life, and critics have argued that it strongly influenced his best-known poem, Paradise Lost.

William Harrison Ainsworth's 1841 novella Guy Fawkes; or, The Gunpowder Treason, portrays Fawkes with generally sympathetic features, but he also embellishes known facts for dramatic effect in his work. Ainsworth transformed Fawkes into an "acceptable fictional character" and Fawkes subsequently appears in children's books and horror novels. An example of this development is The Boyhood Days of Guy Fawkes; or, The Conspirators of Old London, published around 1905, which portrays Fawkes as "essentially a man of heroic behavior."

In the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore, the principal of the school has a phoenix named Fawkes after Guy Fawkes.

The comic book V for Vendetta evokes a fascist United Kingdom in which the adventures of an anarchist calling himself V and wearing a mask representing the face of Guy Fawkes take place.

Ken Follet's novel A Column of Fire incorporates this event into its narrative.


In the nineteenth century, Fawkes and the Powder Conspiracy began to be used as subjects for children's shows. One of the earliest examples was Harlequin and Guy Fawkes: or, the 5th of November, performed at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden on November 16, 1835. After the discovery of the plot, Fawkes changes into Harlequin and Robert Catesby into Trousers, before the "real show begins". Fawkes also appeared in the play Guy Fawkes, or a Match for a King, written by Albert Smith and William Hale and first performed in 1855. The opening scene shows an argument between Catesby and Fawkes over the fate of Lord Monteagle. Catesby wants to save his friend Monteagle, but Fawkes, who considers him an enemy, wants to see him jumped with the rest of the aristocracy. They start fighting, first with fake swords, then with bladders, before Fawkes is defeated. The rest of the show consists of clowns performing various comical scenes unrelated to the Conspiracy.

The play Guido Fawkes: or, the Prophetess of Ordsall Cave is based on the first episodes of Ainsworth's 1841 serial. Performed at the Queen's Theatre, Manchester, in June 1840, it portrays Fawkes as "someone politically sympathetic to the cause of the common people. Ainsworth's novel was adapted to film in the 1923 movie Guy Fawkes, directed by Maurice Elvey and starring Matheson Lang as Fawkes.

Cinema and television

In episode 1 of season 3 of Sherlock The Empty Coffin an attack is prepared against the English Parliament on November 5, Sherlock makes the deduction in connection with the past events in 1605.

In 2006, V for Vendetta was released, a film adaptation of this comic book, produced by the Wachowskis. The action takes place in London, in 2038, in a dystopian society where England is ruled by a fascist party. The main character wears a Guy Fawkes mask and succeeds in blowing up the Old Bailey (the central criminal court of England), and later, the Houses of Parliament on the anniversary of the failed attack of November 5, 1605. The beginning of the film contains a brief historical review of the plot and the execution of Fawkes while the second character, Evey, recites the first lines of the poem Guy Fawkes Night.


In the song Remember from the album Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon, there is a reference to the Powder Conspiracy: "please remember the Fifth of November". These words are followed by an explosion that marks the end of the song.

Video games

The character of Fawkes in Fallout 3 is a direct reference to Guy Fawkes. When asked about his name, Fawkes replies that he took it from "the man who died for what he believed.

In Hellgate: London, an attribute called Fawkes increases the chance of burning enemies using elemental firearms.

The conspiracy was used in an episode of Doctor Who: The Adventure Game.


The Guy Fawkes River and thus the Guy Fawkes River National Park in northern New South Wales, Australia, was named Fawkes by the explorer John Oxley, who, like Fawkes, was from North Yorkshire. Two crescent-shaped islands and two small rocks northwest of Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, are called Isla Guy Fawkes.


Guy Fawkes was ranked 30th by the public in the BBC television program 100 Greatest Britons and was listed by journalist Sir Bernard Ingham as one of the top 50 personalities in Yorkshire.


On the Internet, Guy Fawkes has become a meme, common on image boards such as 4chan as well as on video sharing sites such as YouTube. Members of Anonymous usually wear Guy Fawkes masks to avoid being recognized during protests, for example against scientology.


  1. Gunpowder Plot
  2. Conspiration des Poudres
  3. Salisbury écrit au futur roi : « Le sujet est si dangereux à aborder qu'il nécessite qu'on le couvre d'une pierre comme un oiseau couvre son nid[2]. »
  4. Selon les termes du testament d'Henri VIII, l'héritier présomptif est soit Edward Seymour, vicomte Beauchamp, soit Anne Stanley, comtesse de Castlehaven, suivant que l'on reconnaisse ou non la légitimité de la naissance du premier ; Arbella Stuart a les mêmes droits que son cousin Jacques.
  5. ^ Dates are given according to the Julian calendar, which was used in England until 1752.
  6. ^ Salisbury wrote to James, "The subject itself is so perilous to touch amongst us as it setteth a mark upon his head forever that hatcheth such a bird".[2]
  7. ^ The heir presumptive under the terms of Henry VIII's will, i.e. either Edward Seymour, Viscount Beauchamp, or Anne Stanley, Countess of Castlehaven, depending on whether one recognised the legitimacy of the first-mentioned's birth; and the Lady Arbella Stuart on grounds similar to James's own.
  8. ^ Iacob al VI-lea al Scoției era stră-strănepot al lui Henric al VII-lea al Angliei, și astfel nepot de văr al Elisabetei, care era nepoata lui Henric al VII-lea din partea tatălui.
  9. ^ På engelska benämns krutkonspirationen som antingen Gunpowder Plot, Gunpowder Treason Plot eller Jesuit Treason.

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