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On This Day… The Gunpowder Plot

Written by: George Chittenden : 10 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 5th Nov, back in 1605 when one of the most devastating acts of terrorism in Britain's history was foiled! The Gunpowder Plot grew out of decades of religious war and persecution dating back to Henry VIII’s reign in the early sixteenth century. When James I took the throne, he was determined to put a stop to the religious conflict in England by allowing greater toleration for Catholics. It proved easier said than done, and many Catholics became thoroughly disappointed. A man named Catesby, who would become the leader of the plotters, persuaded his friends that God had decreed that King James and his supporters must be punished.

The conspirators

The conspirators

Ex-soldier, Guy Fawkes, was recruited to take charge in the spring of 1604 and in the summer the plotters began to dig a mine under the Houses of Parliament. In early 1605 the plotters managed to lease a coal cellar underneath the House of Lords which they packed with thirty-six barrels of gunpowder. The blast would have killed hundreds, if not thousands, of Londoners and plunged the nation into a religious war. However, a week before the opening of parliament, one of the conspirators cracked and Catholic Lord Monteagle was informed of the plot. A search was performed and incredibly, they found Fawkes in the cellar, however they believed his story that the large pile of brushwood and faggots concealing the gunpowder barrels were simply supplies for winter.

News of the plot reached King James, who was obsessed with the idea of being blown up after his own father had died that way in Scotland in 1567. He ordered another search again they found Fawkes in the coal cellar, but this time with his match at the ready and the plot was foiled. They conspirators all faced the grisly fate of traitors… hanged until nearly dead, cut open to have their still beating heart and vital organs ripped out, and then sliced up into four portions which were publicly displayed!

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