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THE PLOT

Within a few weeks of the Hampton Court conference which saw harsher penalties imposed on English Catholics, the five core members of the Gunpowder Plot

Robert Catesby - Thomas Percy - Thomas Wintour - John Wright - Guy Fawkes

met together and swore an oath on the Holy Sacrament to blow up James I and the Houses of Parliament when next the Parliament sat. The conspirators first hired lodgings which were close to Parliament House, and began digging a tunnel that they hoped would take them under their target. The exercise was becoming costly and more hands were required, so Catesby drew more accomplices into the inner circle of the plot. In the ensuing months, Parliament’s sitting was continually delayed, allowing Fawkes to return to Flanders to get more powder to replace the powder which had begun to spoil.

On the 26th of October 1605, ten days before Parliament was due to it, an unknown messenger delivered a letter to William Parker Lord Monteagle at his house in Hoxton, outside London. Monteagle had been a staunch Catholic whose ardour had cooled after he had obtained favour under the new regime.

The "Monteagle Letter" was an attempt to warn Monteagle not to attend the opening of Parliament because of a great calamity that would consume it. Monteagle at once delivered the letter to Robert Cecil. On the night of the 4th November 1605, the day before Parliament was scheduled to open, Fawkes was caught in the cellar beneath the parliament buildings with the powder. On his person were found the tools necessary to fire the powder train. He was immediately arrested and brought before the King. Over the next few days, Fawkes was tortured, until gradually he began to reveal details of the plot.

At first he maintained the façade of John Jonhson, servant to Thomas Percy, but in time he revealed his true identity and the names of his fellow conspirators. In the early hours of 5th November 1605, news  spread of Fawkes captured. The remaining plotters saddled their horses and left London for the Midlands in twos and threes, except for Tresham who had decided to remain in London. The conspirators arrived in Dunchurch in Warwickshire and met with a group of followers who had been gathered by Digby ostensibly as a hunting party. This group – which numbered about 60, although this figure varied depending on the source consulted - arrived at Holbeche House on the Staffordshire border in the evening hours of the 7th November. On Thursday the 30th of January Digby, Robert Wintour, John Grant and Thomas Bates were executed in St. Paul’s Churchyard. The following day, Thomas Wintour, Ambrose Rookwood, Robert Keyes and Gay Fawkes were executed in the Old Palace Yard at Westminster.                  


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