The Jesuit Gunpowder Plot
In 1605, London was a very different place and the Houses of Lords were the hub of all political decision-making at the time.
In the late 16th and early 17th centuries across England and the rest of Europe, Catholics were being persecuted mercilessly thanks to the Protestant ‘reformers’ who said that his holiness The Pope Paul IV, Head of the Catholic Church, was, in fact, the antichrist! Guy Fawkes and his friends were all recusant Catholics. This meant that they were forced to attend the service at the local Anglican Church and refusal to do would result in them being labelled as ‘recusant’ and fines were levied along with the removal of personal property and sometimes imprisonment. There are reports of fines levied of £60.00 and even loss of land if they refused to receive the sacrament of the Lords Supper at least once annually in an Anglican Church.
The King was expected to take the side of the Catholic’s to a small degree which would remove the need to take action but he seemed to back off with his reforms re-introducing the Recusancy Acts.
Guy was so incensed by the ongoing pseudo political rumblings in the country that he actually went over to Spain to fight for the Catholics in the 80-years war and returned some while later with Robert Wintour and the plan was created to kill the King and kidnap the 9-year old Princess Elizabeth, a Catholic and put her back on the throne.
They collected together a group of men who felt much the same about the situation in the country and hatched a plot to place 16 barrels of gunpowder under the Houses of Lords and blow them all to pieces in the most daring terrorist attempt England had ever seen.
At the same time, the Country was quite literally under siege from the added threat of the Plague which in turn delayed the state opening from October to November.
The plans were eventually uncovered thanks to a letter being sent to Lord Monteagle advising him to stay away from the State Opening which in turn was passed onto the King and the search began.
On the first attempt of the search of the undercrofts beneath the Houses of Lords they failed to find anything but on the second attempt, they came upon Guy Fawkes who gave his name as John Johnson. He was arrested on the spot and consequently tortured until he gave up the remainder of his conspirators. Needless to say, the court was a bit of a whitewash as the sentencing took a couple of minutes at the most and they were all to be put to death by being hung, drawn (dragged along the streets whilst tied to wooden pallets upside down) and quartered.
Guy, knowing that the end was in sight decided that he wasn’t keen on having his genitalia removed (ooch) and his bowels displayed for the birds and fowl to eat before being chopped into pieces and distributed to the ‘four corners of the Kingdom’ and once on the scaffold, he leapt to his death.
Here we are, over 400 years later and we still hold the same fascination for the Gunpowder Plot and of course Guy Fawkes.