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THE GUNPOWDER PLOT AND GUY FAWKES

THE GUNPOWDER PLOT AND GUY FAWKES

The story of Guy Fawkes and his accomplices is one filled with deception, ambition, notoriety, and religion. The main conspirators were Robert Catesby, an aristocrat, Thomas Wintour, a lawyer, Thomas Percy, another aristocrat, and Jack Wright, a friend of Guy Fawkes and the manipulative spymaster, Robert Cecil.

Religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants was raging in England and Europe. Guy Fawkes had been fighting for the Catholic Spanish army in Spain, supporting his faith. King James, a Scottish king, had made life unbearable for Catholics in the two years he had been on the throne, outlawing their faith and making prayer and worship increasingly difficult.

The conspirators were determined to kill the king and reinstate Mary Queen of Scots to the throne, reestablishing Catholicism in England, which had been weakened since King Henry VIII. They rented a basement next to the Houses of Parliament under the Palace of Westminster, collected 36 barrels of gunpowder, and planned to blow up everyone upstairs during the opening of Parliament.

However, the gunpowder unexpectedly went off before they could carry out their plan. Guy Fawkes went to source more gunpowder and support for their cause, but the more people involved, the less likely the plot would succeed. They eventually acquired more gunpowder and continued with their plan.

On 26th October, a letter was sent to Lord Monteagle warning of the plot. It is still unclear who sent the letter, but it is suspected that it may have been Francis Tresham, one of the conspirators.

The under-crofts around the Houses of Parliament were searched, and Guy Fawkes was discovered carrying a torch, matches, touchwood, and a pocket watch. He was arrested and searched, and the gunpowder barrels were found. He was taken before the King on 5th November.

Guy Fawkes was tortured to give up the names of his co-conspirators. After a full day, he gave up five names, and the rest were found in a house in Staffordshire. They were brought to trial and sentenced to death.

Guy Fawkes, Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood, and Robert Keyes were meant to be hung, drawn, and quartered, but Guy weakened by torture, leapt from the gallows to ensure he was dead before they could further mutilate his body. On 5th November 1605, Londoners were asked to light bonfires in celebration of the "deliverance from harm of their King," an annual event known as Bonfire Night.

Bonfire Night was discontinued in 1859 but was reintroduced later and continues to this day as an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends and remember the religious conflict that almost brought England to its knees.

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