The Gunpowder Plot
A later sketch of Whynniard's house (adjacent to
the House of Lords) rented by the Gunpowder plotters
||Robert Catesby was a descendant of
Sir William Catesby, Richard
III's retainer. Robert had been fined for involvement in the
Essex Rebellion. Even before the Gunpowder Plot, he had been
assossiated with another conspirator, Thomas Winter, in schemes to
encourage a Spanish invasion of England. It seems likely that Catesby was the originator of whole Plot, and that his first
recruits were John Wright and Thomas Winter.
||Thomas Percy was a second cousin of Henry Percy,
9th Earl of Northumberland and worked for him collecting rents
from the Earl's northern estates. In 1591, he married Martha
Wright, a member of a Yorkshire Catholic family. Martha's brothers
- John and Christopher - had been involved in the Essex rebellion
(1601), and joined the Gunpowder Plot.
||Guy Fawkes was the child of a well-to-do
Yorkshire family. During the 1590s, he fought for the Spanish
Catholic cause in the Netherlands (where he would have learnt
the art of "mining" - tunneling underneath enemy positions in
order to destroy them with explosives). Fawkes was brought into the
plot by Thomas Winter, who had met him when both were visiting
||Thomas Winter was born in Worcestershire; his
maternal uncle (Francis Ingleby) had been executed as a
in 1586. He had fought in Flanders and France, and in 1602 joined
the scheme to obtain Spanish support for a restoration of
Catholicism in England.
|William Parker, Baron Monteagle was a Catholic gentleman who had
been involved in both the Essex rebellion and Thomas Winter's
mission to Spain. However, on the accession of James I, Monteagle
conformed to the Church of England, and was summoned to the House of
Lords in the parliament of 1604.|
|In October 1605, Monteagle returned to his home in Hoxton,
just outside London. While he was at dinner, a letter of warning was
handed to one of his servants.|
Out of the love that 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 of your attendance at this Parliament - for God and man
have 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 contemned, because
it may do you good, and can do you no harm, for the danger is
passed as soon as you have burnt this letter, and I hope God
will give you the grace to make good use of it
To whose holy protection I commend you
|The letter handed to Lord
Monteagle's servant, 26 October 1605
[Spelling and punctuation modernized]
|Monteagle took the letter to London, and gave it to Robert
Cecil, Earl of Salisbury who was dining with other members of the
Privy Council. They in turn showed it to James I when he returned
to London, 31 October 1605.|
|Despite the letter's cryptic phrasing, James and his officials
deduced that the "terrible blow" would be an explosive one. They
searched below the House of Lords and found the firewood. They also
found Guy Fawkes - waiting in the cellar so that he could later
ignite the gunpowder with a slow match (fuse). Fawkes told them that the wood belonged to Thomas Percy|
|Because Percy was a known Catholic, the searchers returned on
the night of 4th November, and looked through the firewood with
particular care . they soon found the gunpowder found there, and
arrested Guy Fawkes.|
The Midlands "rebellion"
|Despite the failure of the main Plot, Robert Catesby with Thomas
Percy, Thomas Winter and others tried to raise a rebellion in
Warwickshire and Staffordshire.
The plotters' route
(Click map for full size version)
The plotters assembled at Dunchurch on 5th November, and stole
horses from Warwick that night. They moved on to Clopton and
then to Coughton Court, which had been rented by Sir Everard
Digby - a wealthy Catholic landowner on the fringes of the
The following night (6 November) the band reached Winter's
House at Huddington. The next morning they plundered Hewell
(Howell) Grange for weapons.
On 7th November, the plotters finally reached Holbeche (Holbeach)
House in Staffordshire, just north of Stourbridge (Sturbridge)
and near Kingswinford. Holbeche was the home of Stephen
Littleton (a relative of John Littleton - another dabbler in
the Essex rebellion).
|The Sheriff of Worcestershire,
Richard Walsh, caught up with the rebels here on 8 November.
Most of the rebels fled.
|Robert Catesby and Thomas Percy decided to take a final stand
and were mortally wounded - apparently both by the same bullet.
(Later, their heads were displayed together on London Bridge).
Both Wright brothers also died of their wounds. Thomas Winter was
hit by a crossbow bolt in the shoulder, and both he and Guy Fawkes
were executed 31 January 1606.
|Monteagle was showered with praise, rewarded with valuable land
and given a generous pension.
||Henry Percy, 9th Earl of
Northumberland was found guilty of complicity in the Plot, fined a
massive £30,000 and imprisoned until 1621.
|The Gunpowder Plot provoked the English government into a series
of anti-Catholic measures.|
|The fines for recusansy (refusal to attend Church services) were
established at £20 per month, but an
additional clause allowed the state to seize two thirds of the lands
of obstinate papists.
"... by the wicked and devilish counsel of Jesuits,
seminaries, and other like persons dangerous to the Church and
State, are so far perverted in the point of their loyalties
and due allegiance unto the King's Majesty and the Crown of
England as they are ready to entertain and execute any
treasonable conspiracies and practices, as evidently
appears by the more than barbarous and horrible attempt to
have blown up with gunpowder the King, Queen, Prince, Lords,
and Commons in the House of Parliament assembled ..."
(An Act for the better discovering and
repressing of popish recusants, 1606)
|The same legislation enacted an
Oath of Allegiance that
all Catholics could be required to take or suffer criminal
penalties. This Oath provoked an extensive pamphlet campaign between
Protestants (including James I himself) and Catholics on the nature
of political obligation.|
|On a broader, level the Gunpowder Plot proved to be the last
gasp of active resistance; thereafter, English Catholics adopted a
quietist stance. Some of Charles I's most loyal supporters during
the English Civil War were Catholic gentlemen.|
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